George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. He once remarked “It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics.”
Sadly this confirms that my intelligence is not what I might have hoped. It’s very rare that I find statistics anything other than dull.
But perhaps I need to think more about what lies behind the statistics.
As part of our monitoring the Our Generation project, we use questionnaires and look at numbers of people engaged with the project. Even though these tools give us a good overall picture of what we have achieved, for me they never really capture the personal impact our project has on the people who take part.
One of our volunteers was referred to us some time ago as someone who could potentially benefit from our service. She was matched to a mentor and together they worked on building up her confidence.
To begin with she was apprehensive about leaving her home. Initially we worked towards the goal of her being able to travel to our office for meetings and then progressed to meeting other service users and volunteers. Over time, her confidence increased to the point where she completed our volunteer training course and became a mentor for others.
Now she is now able to travel independently. She enjoys weekly aqua-aerobics, is a committee member with her local social club as well as volunteering for our project, supporting other people to improve their lives.
In an email she recently wrote to us, she wrote:
“I was at the eye clinic last week and unfortunately they have changed my status from partially sighted to severely sight impaired/blind. The doctor says there is nothing more they can do. I will gradually lose sight in both eyes due to cataracts and can’t be operated on due to the glaucoma but thanks to all at Scope I’m able to take each day as it comes because im now in a much better frame of mind and feel much stronger. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being there for me.”
So next time I see in a report that “service users expressed an improvement in Life Satisfaction from an average of 4.5/10 to 7.5/10” maybe I’ll be able to see past the numbers to the real stories that lie behind them. Those can be genuinely moving.