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  • Sanjukta Moorthy

How to make complex ideas more measurable

For hard-to-measure progress and indicators, there are a few steps you can use. This is useful to measure especially complex ideas like empowerment or to help a community overcome stigma against a particular group.

Let's consider getting people to perceive sex work as work.

Step 1 is to convert the idea.

Talking to people with biased ideas against sex work about how they need to accept it won't get you anywhere. Try to convert it, even in something simple like the wording. Here, simplifying it into something like 'work is honourable and respectable'. This is something most people will agree with.

Step 2 is to unpack the idea.

There's a reason why people have stigmas against certain groups or types of work. Sometimes those reasons are wrapped in complex layers of social, cultural, religious, or other values that are hard to understand from the outside.

Unpacking the idea here isn't just for the community. You also need to unpack the new idea you are sharing with them. Make it bite-sized here, which involves taking it in steps too.

Here are some ideas:

All work is dignified. Choice is important. Everyone should choose their work. Not everyone would choose the same things you would. Just because someone chooses work that you may not does not make them any less worthy of your respect.

Do you see? That last one is tough, but depending on your work to get there around behaviour change and your relationships with your communities, you can try this idea after a few months.

Step 3 is to make the idea tangible.e

Show people and demonstrate what happens when a stigma is let go of. Demonstrate what community cohesion would look like and how letting go of biases would mean that, as a community, you are stronger. Accepting sex work as work means that we are one step closer to regulating it better. This means we are more likely to have laws and systems that protect sex workers rather than the current system that causes them harm. This harm is part of the system that keeps them and their work stigmatised.

This step involves you thinking about what may be meaningful to the communities rather than values that you consider useful. Are they concerned about security and safety, and is that an issue for them? Do they understand women's rights well if most of their sex workers are women? If so, you could argue that legitimising sex work would protect the vulnerable women in their population.

How could you use these steps in your programme? I would love to hear about any challenges and successes, so let me know!

[Image credit: @sonaksha]

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