If you are like me where you only visit your hometown a few times per year then you may understand when I say “visiting my hometown is filled with moments being relived through deep reflections that evoke varying emotions.” Well, last summer, on one of those rare trips, I met up with a childhood friend and immediately my mind started jogging down memory lane.
My friend updated me on the good, the bad, and even the dead. Beyond the discussion, I quickly observed that my friend had a new and positive outlook on life. He spoke about attendance at remedial classes, a bid for a career in music, an intent to study few subjects, and his newly acquired skills gained through working in a restaurant.
My intent is not to sound like a pessimist, but I marveled at his optimism. You see, if I were to summarize my friend’s background, as I recall, I would say that it models the profile of the typical gangster in Jamaica. My friend’s single-parent family lived in a very volatile and impoverished community close to my neighborhood. Hecame from a large family of six siblings. Two siblings were cut down by gun violence in gang-related shootings not long ago. Of course, other factors such as little formal education and an inner city reality were all in the mix.
It was within this context I wondered; How could one who grew up so detached from the formal education system become such a believer in it? What could have stimulated this heightened level of self-confidence?; Were these constructive moves financed legally?; and Who sold him this dream?
Curious, I asked him about the classes that he is attending. He mentioned that he is enrolled in classes through the Citizens Security and Justice Program (CSJP) and proceeded to describe the program — not knowing that I was fully aware of it. After the discussion, I concluded that he was still probably unemployed, but very much trainable. The positive impact of CSJP has led my friend to dream of a legitimate and prosperous tomorrow.
A recent OVE assessment of the IDB citizen security programs gives a generally positive evaluation of Jamaica CSJP I and II. Jamaica was commended on the implementation modality. Nevertheless, the issue of inadequate reliable data to attest to the effectiveness of the interventions continues to cast a cloud of darkness over its unmeasurable positives i.e. ambitions stimulated, dreams created, discipline enhanced, exposure broadened, etc. These unmeasurable positives, usually reflect in testimonials and surveys, hold little weight in the world of statistics. But can we ignore or discount the impact that CSJP has had on one life -even though my friend is still unemployed? Just as how “calculated goodwill” is a recent concept in accounting, have we just not yet reached the point where statistical methods fairly capture the enriched intrinsic positives of projects like CSJP? And are we simply just not at the point where we can reasonably Measure the Value of the Dream that was sold?