“Building prisons may help the economy, but slows down social progress,” said Michael Green

Michael Green and the Global Shapers community at CIVI-CO

Can you imagine evaluating and comparing countries by how citizens are treated? For the English economist Michael Green, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) measures the economic performance of a country, but not the wellbeing of the population. Does the population have enough food? Are people able to read and write? Do people feel safe? Those are questions that GDP does not answer. “A country’s economy can grow along with social progress.” In September, the Humanitas360’s team received Green for a breakfast with members of the Global Shapers community in São Paulo.

Green is one of the creators of the Social Progress Index, a tool being used to measure the development of a country by addressing current issues such as population ageing, obesity and climate change. “GDP was created in the 1930s to measure economic performance, which counts bombs and prisons as progress,” Green explained, “In order to face the challenges of the 21st century, we need new measurement tools, new ways to validate the success of countries.”

The Social Progress Index works with more than 50 indicators, creating a scale from zero to 100. The survey primarily includes issues of basic needs, such as access to food and drinking water, shelter and safety. Secondly, the survey verifies whether there are policies of environmental conservation, whether the population has access to education, information and healthcare. Finally, the indicators verify the opportunities citizens have to improve their quality of life, if their rights are protected and whether there is freedom of expression, whether there is social discrimination, and access to technology. “The Social Progress Index revisits the concept of development, considering not only GDP, but also inclusive sustainable growth, which brings real value to people’s lives,” said Green.

Before eating his last cheese bread at the breakfast, which took place at the rooftop of CIVI-CO (a space that brings together social entrepreneurs and houses the São Paulo office of H360), Green talked about the importance of creating regional indexes, “How come doesn’t São Paulo have its own index yet? You can even create a Social Progress Index per regional city hall,” said Green. He went on to explain that, based on a detailed report about the real quality of life of citizens, various public institutions, private initiatives and civil society can work together to develop a plan of action to improve everyone’s lives.

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