Monday, 22. February 2010 21:28
For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about objectivity and what it means for this work. As a consultant working in the intersection of strategy, evaluative inquiry and leadership development, I sit in a privileged place working with leaders of organizations who strive to make a difference. My view of the world, regardless of my training, has and continues to be influenced by my experiences as a woman of color.
As the Social Innovation Fund takes off and conversations abound about the rigor and “objectivity” needed to prove impact to support going to scale to affect social change, I am trying to figure out what objectivity really means and why does it matter?
To inform my thinking, I spent some time on the Internet looking for a definition. The On-Line Dictionary of the Social Sciences offered the following:
OBJECTIVITY. This term is used in two distinct but related ways:
- The first refers to the actions of a social scientist: assuming a position of disinterestedness or impartiality, or being open-minded in the assessment of evidence. Objectivity is thought to be central to the procedures of the scientific method.
- The second meaning refers to the nature of the statements people make: a statement can be objective as opposed to the scientist being objective. An objective statement is one that can be agreed upon by others regardless of their backgrounds or biases.
Two phrases stuck with me from this definition: 1) a position of disinterestedness or impartiality, and 2) a statement, which can be agreed upon by others regardless of their backgrounds or biases.
As our world continues to get smaller, while the issues we deal with become increasingly complex and the inequities we face grow larger, to what degree should those of us in positions of influence be interested in the outcome.
Moreover, does not one’s background and experiences allow one to “see” things that others will not see?
Is there such a thing as “facts” that everyone will see the exact same way when it comes to assessing “impact?” Is it more important to surface our backgrounds and biases, and to acknowledge them as we strive to find common ground when interpreting “facts” and to have the greatest impact possible?
Is it more realistic and honest to accept that we all bring our backgrounds and biases to how we interpret situations and determine facts?
In addition, if so, what strategies do we use and commitments do we make to our clients and ourselves to make explicit how our backgrounds and biases affect how we see the “facts?”
I am still thinking it through.
What role does objectivity play in your work?