Measuring Intangible Values: Rethinking How to Evaluate Socially Beneficial Actions, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Measuring Intangible Values

Rethinking How to Evaluate Socially Beneficial Actions, 1st Edition

By Marie Harder, Gemma Burford


182 pages | 7 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138079588
pub: 2018-10-02
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This book explores the complex problem of how to measure the ‘success’ of social organisations, projects and activities. Whether improving a local situation, organizing a campaign around sustainability, or assessing the intangible effects of perceived social benefits, currently we have only have a very limited range of mechanisms for judging effectiveness. On the one hand, a market-driven logic demands that qualitative perceptions and experiences are quantified into simplified and numerically defined variables. On the other, community projects are left un-assessed, as one-off outcomes of local and situated processes that must somehow automatically ‘make things better’. For academics, researchers and other professionals working in this field this has resulted in the deep frustration of not being able to assess the things that are most centrally important: higher human values such as integrity, trust, respect, equality and social justice.

Measuring Intangible Values argues that we can make shared social values – and their measurement - central to decisions about improving civil society. But because these social values are intangible, we need to develop ways of eliciting and validating them at the local level that can capture people’s shared meanings across multiple goals and perspectives. We need to develop mechanisms for evaluating whether these values are met that use rigorous but also relevant measures. And we need to develop ways of doing this that are scalable, transferable and comparable across different kinds of organisations and fields of activity.

This book will be valuable for researchers in all social science disciplines which touch on human values, such as sociology, social psychology, human geography, social policy, architecture and planning, design and community studies.

Table of Contents


Part 1: Designing a values-based framework

1. Why values?

2. Articulating values, framing processes 3. Developing a values-based approach: the case of Echeri

Part 2: Key themes in measuring intangible social values

4. Issues in making values tangible

5. Designing processes: the criticality of deep participation 6. Values and validity

Part 3: Putting a values-based framework into practice

7. Sustainability and business ethics

8. Mapping intangible legacies

9. Towards sustainable behavior change in schools

10. Conclusion: what happens when values are central

Appendix: Set 1 Sustainable Development Indicators (SDIs) from original ESDinds Project

About the Authors

Marie Harder is a China National Thousand Talents Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai, and the founder and head of the Values and Sustainability research group at the University of Brighton UK.

Gemma Burford has been a Research Fellow in Sustainable Development at the University of Brighton, UK and previously worked in Tanzania as Founder and Co-Director of the NGO Aang Serian (‘House of Peace’).

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Sustainability

Sustainability has become one of the most pressing social, environmental, economic, cultural and political issues of our times. Yet the meaning of ‘sustainability’ remains elusive.

This series provides original insights from across the social sciences and humanities on the meaning and practice of sustainability. It offers both theoretical and practical analysis of ‘sustainability’, including social sustainability, sustainable consumption, democratic sustainability and sustainable behaviour.

These interdisciplinary books give students, researchers, policy makers and practitioners the latest thinking from international authors. This thought-provoking series draws on and is relevant to those working in a wide-range of disciplines, including environment, development, sociology, politics, philosophy, business and marketing, media, geography, and anthropology.

To submit proposals, please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development