Social Progress Index

A few days ago I read an op-ed at Project Syndicate by Harvard professor Michael E. Porter titled “Why Social Progress Matters“. In it he defends the case for seeking social progress not as opposed to economic progress but to complete it.

Where there is an imbalance between economic growth and social progress, political instability and unrest often arise, as in Russia and Egypt. Lagging social progress also holds back economic growth in these and other countries that fail to address human needs, build social capital, and create opportunity for their citizens. Countries must invest in social progress, not just economic institutions, to create the proper foundation for economic growth.

In order to measure social progress he introduces the Social Progress Index (SPI), created in collaboration with Scott Stern of MIT and the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, which measures 133 different countries in up to 52 indicators from child mortality, to affordable housing, tolerance for homosexuals, freedom of speech, greenhouse gas emissions… see them below:

Social Progress Index indicators.

Social Progress Index indicators.

I invite you to play with the tool available at Social Progress Imperative website. You can see what place your country of origin or residence ranks in each of the indicators, the consolidated indicators or the more global SPI (DEN #8, NL #9, GER #14, ESP #20, FRA #21).

Coming back to Porter’s article, it is important to note:

Focusing on social progress in this way leads to better development strategies, and builds political support for the controversial steps sometimes needed to increase prosperity. Rigorous measurement of social performance, alongside traditional economic indicators, is crucial to starting the virtuous circle by which GDP growth improves social and environmental performance in ways that drive even greater economic success. […]

[…] Paraguay, for example, has adopted the SPI to guide an inclusive national development plan for 2030. And the SPI is being used not just at the national level, but by regional and municipal authorities as well. States such as Para in Brazil, along with cities like Bogota and Rio de Janeiro in Latin America and Somerville in the US state of Massachusetts, are starting to use the SPI as a measure of development success.

This year, the European Commission will roll out regional SPIs across Europe. […]

[…] Measuring social progress offers citizens and leaders a more complete picture of how their country is developing. And that will help societies make better choices, create stronger communities, and enable people to lead more fulfilling lives.

I see that the debate on inequality is picking up, the concern for climate change is widespread, interest in sustainable development goals is rising… hopefully all these converge into increasing social progress and the dividends of the technological advances can be enjoyed by more. I see this SPI can indeed be an interesting and useful tool.

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