Waylaid Dialectic

March 1, 2016

Development neologisms: saccharin ‎stats

Filed under: Random Musings — terence @ 7:13 am

Saccharin stats: sweet looking numbers often found in the PR of multilaterals and NGOs. Numbers which don’t bear up to much scrutiny.

Example: “Thanks to our work 300 million people have been treated.” “With your help we have sent over 20,000 children to school in Somewhere province.”

Musing: A speciality of the aid world, numbers either based on outputs rather than outcomes (vials of treatment procured, rather than actual people cured). And which conveniently ignore the counter-factual (were treatment rates going up before organisation X arrived). Numbers which also don’t ask too many questions about the quality of the data they came from (very nice the government of Distant-land said they spent your money on treatment, but did they? Really?).

To be fair to aid, sweet is what Joe Public and Jim Politician want, initially at least (outside the borders of the World of Aid, people like simple tales), and getting real data costs a lot. The risk is, I think, people stop believing eventually. One of the main problems of Saccharin the sweetener is that too much leaves a bitter after-taste.

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