This post originally appeared June 17, 2021 on Medium

Early in my career, a mentor said to me, We measure what we treasure, and we treasure what we measure.

It was a simple play on words and a chicken-or-egg sort of statement, but the message resonated. At that moment, early in the Millennium Development Goals-era, we realized that simply counting girls in and out of school was nowhere near enough. We needed to understand the whole child. Therefore, gender mattered, but there was so much more: Was she a teenage girl from a village who spoke a language other than the national language? Did she have special needs that required actions to facilitate learning? Was she actually learning? Was she a citizen? Had her mother finished school? Did her family live above or below the poverty level? And, and, and... We needed measures—well beyond the superficial—for what we treasure.  

At the heart of ‘we treasure what we measure’ is a case for doubling and tripling our efforts to ensure no one is left behind in development data. This compels us to seek data and consider all dimensions and combinations of dimensions of the human condition to ensure that realities of everyone are brought into the light through data and treasured. And in doing so, perhaps there is hope for inclusion and equity in the realization of the broad goals for sustainable development.

  • Jon Kapp is Executive Director of Community Systems Foundation and a member of the Global Partnership's Technical Advisory Group which leads the Data Values Project.