Michael Green: Measuring social progress, not wealth

We’re thrilled that Michael Green, Executive Director at the Social Progress Imperative (SPI), will be delivering a lecture on measuring prosperity at IGP on Thursday, 20 October.

SPI is a US non-profit prototyping new ways of thinking about and measuring societal success based on a range of social outcomes. An economist by training, Michael has co-authored landmark publications such as Philanthrocapitalism: how giving can save the world (2008) and The Road From Ruin: a new capitalism for a big society (2010), in which he sets out a new model for social change built on partnerships between wealthy businesses, governments and community organisations. He was formerly a senior official at the Department for International Development.

As part of his work at the SPI, Michael has created the Social Progress Index in 2014. Going beyond measures of GDP to assess a country’s social performance, the index asks three fundamental questions about every society:

  1. Does everyone have what they need to meet basic human needs (food, basic medical care, water, sanitation, shelter and personal safety)?
  2. Does everyone have the building blocks of a better life (education, information, health and a sustainable environment)?
  3. Does everyone have the opportunity to improve their lives (rights, freedom of choice, freedom from discrimination and access to higher education)?

This assessment shows interesting results, which vary widely between countries and don’t necessarily correlate with GDP per capita. What Michael and his colleagues found is that societies that do not deliver these three elements to everyone equally will score lower in the Social Progress Index.

The index also allows for a global assessment of societal well-being. The 2016 results show that globally, access to food and medical care as well as basic education is very high (88.63 and 85.03 respectively), which was a key focus of the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015).



However, scores in the area of opportunity, particularly in relation to personal rights (39.15), tolerance and inclusion (40.59) and access to higher education (50.63) are worryingly low. These are areas that don’t improve with rising wealth and are particularly affected by conflict, war and insecurity.

What does this mean for our ambition to create global prosperity for all?

Watch Michael’s talk below and, if you’re an MSc student, make sure to join his guest lecture on 20 October.