Quantification is ubiquitous across all spheres of public life. Our public services are driven by targets and league tables, our productivity at work is measured through indicators, the performance of governments is assessed by statistics and social media is increasingly marshalled both for communicating and collecting quantitative data. The recent growth in big data projects and automated data collection has reinforced this trend.
These developments imply major shifts in governance practices and public policy more generally but especially in the work of large IOs that are usually the main producers and disseminators of quantitative data. Given the centrality of numbers to the governance of contemporary societies, we feel it is important to better understand the work of IOs. For instance, we seek to understand how IOs construct their statistical expertise, how they make decisions about their strategic alliances with other IOs and actors and in what way their quantitative work reconfigures their positioning in transnational governance.
While national and local governments gather statistics, often on economic and population level indicators, International Organisations (IOs) operate at a transnational level, gathering data in a standardised and comparable way on many different countries and regions. In this way, they have become a central and vital information source for governments and regional blocs, who rely on the numbers gathered to set targets and direct public spending towards societal, economic and geographic domains that are lagging in the league tables.
Governments aspire to reach the performance targets set by IOs and thus IOs have a direct influence on world governance. As a consequence, IOs now have power independent of the states that create and fund them.
Recent decades have seen much greater collaboration between IOs, even amongst those whose ideologies differ. These relationships serve different purposes, including what the project terms, ‘alliances of the like-minded’ in order to seek global solutions to global crises. Greater collaboration has also been pushed by donor agencies and driven by a need to increase efficiencies through resource-pooling and avoiding duplicated effort.
METRO focuses both on this interplay between IOs and between IOs and the external environment in which they are operating. METRO will reveal the ways in which the joint collection process leads to a reconfiguring of interdependencies between IOs and hence the whole field of transnational governance.