We were delighted to see Georgia Levenson Keohane’s “Is GDP Dead? post in the “Weekly Wonk” on April 16, 2015 as it very much reflects the paradym shift of focus that has been front and center in the Measure of America series since its first publication in 2008.
Measure of America pioneered shifting the focus in the United States from asking the old Gross Domestic Product (GDP) oriented question of “How is the economy doing?” to the more relevant human centered question of today: “How are people doing?”. Authored by Sara Burd-Sharps and Kristen Lewis Measure of America is widely recognized as a ground-breaking initiative.
Momentum continues to build around many dimensions of the social changemaking movement and its great to see others picking up on and extending this significant human centered paradym shift around how we look and see societies today.
Of course using more human centered viewing lenses tends to change the picture of how well the United States is really doing. That data-driven change of perspective will hopefully continue to help drive change at the level of city, state and federal governments.
From the Humantific perspective, what is often missing from articles such as “Is GDP Dead?” is mention of what happens after the new data-driven sensemaking pictures have been created. After significant challenges have been unearthed how are they to be addessed? We know from our real-world experience that simply putting new data-driven pictures in front of leaders is, most often, not by itself enough to drive real change that sticks.
As part of this movement leaders are beginning to realize that “Asking the right questions” is useful but no where near robust enough. Awareness is rising in the social change arena that without cocreated changemaking the best of data-driven intentions will often fall short. Linked together SenseMaking and ChangeMaking can provide the robust , adaptable and learnable tools to get the job done.
Today the goal of the data-driven social progress movement has many permuations but generally drives towards creating a more human-centered, life-centered world in the present and for future generations. It is a SenseMaking and ChangeMaking movement that Humantific is happy to be part of…:-)
Ten Key Quotes from Is “GDP Dead?”:
The Old Way of Seeing:
1. “Gross Domestic Product (GDP); what has become the official, if flawed, measure of a nation’s standing in the global economy.”
2. “By focusing exclusively on economic growth, GDP misses – or worse still, externalizes –the costs and value of a number of critical elements of well-being…”
The New Way of Seeing:
3. “a new trove of data offer[s] a holistic snapshot of the health of societies across the world.”
4. “…the [Social Progress Index] SPI offers a rigorous, granular and more meaningful alternative to the gospel that is Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
5. “The United States, the world’s wealthiest country in GDP terms, ranks 16th in “social progress.” Compared to our economic peers, we underperform on a number of dimensions, particularly those related to health: life expectancy, premature deaths from diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular and respiratory failure, fatal car accidents, and even maternal and infant mortality rates.”
6. “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first UN Human Development Report, created by Mahbub ul Haq and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and informed by Sen’s work on human capabilities and positive freedom.”
7. The HDI has also laid the groundwork for a number of different approaches to measuring quality of life, among them, the OECD Better Life Index, gauges of happiness, and important assessments sustainability, among them the Sustainable Society Index.
8. “…it is important to note that “social progress” does not always correlate with higher GDP—sometimes even when we get richer, things can get worse.”
9. “The SPI is a measure of inclusivity and distribution; as with other alternative indices, a country cannot improve its progress score by simply boosting GDP.”
10. “The SPI is also part of a larger revolution – across business, civil society, and government – to measure what matters. Asking the right questions is a critical step towards getting us to better answers and social outcomes, which would be progress indeed.”