Better Servants of Development: Improving Surveys as Sources of Indicators of Public Safety

A Paper from the Indicators in Development, Safety and Justice Project

Many development organizations would like an indicator of public safety that motivates governments to look beyond crime and solve the social problems that compromise people’s sense of safety. Surveys can be the source of more robust and discerning indicators of “public safety,” but they can also intimidate governments by enlarging the scale of the problem to which they try to respond and by discrediting administrative systems for measuring crime.

If development organizations wish surveys to drive a more inclusive agenda for safety, they must tame these political provocations. They must also use surveys that scratch beneath the surface of public opinion and perception, connecting experiences to beliefs and reinforcing rather than weakening the systems of knowledge about safety and justice that tend to dominate government action. The paper, Better Servants of Development, draws on the results of recent surveys in Sierra Leone and Jamaica to describe three strategies by which development organizations can overcome these challenges, strengthening both the validity and utility of surveys, and focusing attention on the margins instead of the mean... MORE

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