A Giving Carnival has been organized by Sean Stannard-Stockton on measuring social good, or "outcomes" from a gift, grant, or social program. I count myself lucky that it is not my professional responsibility to measure outcomes. I can understand the pressure to do so, to be "accountable," and to have "benchmarks," "balanced score cards," "leading indicators," and the like. But I wonder if outcomes measurement does not lead to unimaginative grants. If the grant maker knows that something has to be measured, won't the grant be retrofitted to that measurement index? "Bring out weight and measure," wrote William Blake, "in a time of dearth." To the extent that we are dying spiritually from an excess of utilitarian means/ends logic, and are trapped in an increasingly airless world of what is managed, assessed, and optimized - how can we blow it all apart, and enter a world of which we can as yet not even dream, a world where we are citizens again, moral and spiritual beings who cannot any longer be kept in our prescribed seats as producer, consumer, accountant or scorekeeper?
Up to a point, yes, let's measure results and fund what works. Let us keep good accounts, on our green ruled ledgers, with "gift" on one line and set against it on the opposite side, "results." Let us stay in role as good shopkeepers until the final trump of doom. Beyond a certain point, though, let's realize that the holy spirit when it moves across the land, in the work of poet and prophet, will blow all that down, like dead wood - results, business plan, accountability, all of it. Shelley wrote an Ode on that, about the West Wind. We measure results, first of all, in what stirs within us, the monstrous birth we would stifle. A leading indicator of success, a measurable one, would be thousands of accountants running naked through the streets prophesying. I could use some company out here.