A: The Social Progress Imperative defines 'social progress' as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.
Inclusive growth requires achieving both economic and social progress.
A: If you don’t measure, it is hard to make the most rapid progress. More and more people recognize that GDP alone is not an adequate guide for national development strategies. The Social Progress Index brings a new rigor to this effort, not by changing the way GDP is measured but by creating a complementary lens on national performance. Our goal is to measure social progress directly, comprehensively, and rigorously. Measuring social progress guides us in translating economic gains into advancing social and environmental performance in ways that will unleash even greater long-term economic success.
A: No. Our model shows that economic growth is strongly correlated with social progress, but the direction of causality can go from social to economic and other factors are important too. Hence economic development alone is an incomplete development strategy.
We want to break down the barriers that have separated thinking about economic development and thinking about social progress, to help countries design development strategies that are more holistic and more effective. The Social Progress Index allows countries to investigate the relationship between economic and social development much more rigorously and understand some of its root causes. The Social Progress Index will also help us understand how social progress can actually drive long-term economic success. See our chart below of Social Progress Index 2015 overall performance for each country compared to its GDP per capita.
A: No. Happiness is complementary to the Social Progress Index since there is a significant conceptual distinction to be made between the measurement of happiness or subjective wellbeing and the measurement of social progress. The Social Progress Index is not a measure of happiness or other forms of life satisfaction, but of actual life outcomes. However, there are fruitful lines of inquiry that use the Social Progress Index to understand the causes of happiness or wellbeing.
After controlling for GDP, there is a statistically and quantitatively significant impact of the Social Progress Index on life satisfaction. However, it is important to note that the relationship between subjective well-being and the Social Progress Index is complex. We have undertaken preliminary analysis of the relationship between subjective well-being and each dimension of the 2015 Index. Once one controls for GDP, there is no separate impact of the Basic Human Needs or Foundations of Wellbeing dimensions on subjective well-being; there is, however, a quite robust and independent impact of Opportunity on life satisfaction.
The Social Progress Index is an aggregate index of social and environmental indicators that capture three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The Index measures social progress strictly using outcomes of success, not how much effort a country makes. For example, how much a country spends on healthcare is much less important than the health and wellness actually achieved by that country, which is what outcomes measure. The image below shows the component-level structure of the Social Progress Index 2015, which has 12 components (shown) and 52 indicators (not shown). Click on the image to explore the index.
On September 25th, 2015, 193 world leaders came together at the United Nations to agree on 17 Global Goals to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years: end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet. These goals will affect every single life on this planet, but they’ll only work if every single person knows about them, and holds their leaders to account.
The Social Progress Imperative partnered with Global Citizen and Project Everyone to create The People’s Report Card, a tool powered by the Social Progress Index to track the world’s progress on achieving the Global Goals—and so far we’re only achieving a C minus. C minus is not good enough at school, so it’s certainly a poor grade for the whole world’s efforts to defeat poverty and provide every global citizen with the means for a good life.
To achieve the Global Goals, we must do better, and the good news is that we can. The People’s Report Card provides the citizens of the world with the means to hold their leaders to account to help our world get from C minus to A in the time it will take children now starting school to emerge with their own final grades.
A: As expected, there is a broad correlation between economic development and social progress: Norway is on top and Chad at the bottom of the overall rankings. However, there are big differences in social progress for countries at similar income levels. And even for countries that score well, the granularity of our model means that key challenges ahead are highlighted.
We find that social progress is not completely explained by economic success. For example:
The Index demonstrates that economic growth is not sufficient for social progress. Countries that want better lives for their citizens need to go beyond economic growth alone in designing their development strategies.
*The Social Progress Index uses the World Bank definition: “GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States. GDP at purchaser's prices is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources. Data are in constant 2011 international dollars."
A: Social Progress Index 2014 was the first 'full' version of the global Social Progress Index to be released. The 2013 version was a beta version that we put out for testing with a limited sample of 50 countries. The basic 12-component structure of the model is basically unchanged between the three years. A few modifications were made at the indicator level, mainly to remove discontinued indicators.
Additionally, there are several indicators that are unchanged conceptually, but are not directly comparable to previous years due to improvements in how they are measured or a switch to more up-to-date sources. As a result, the 2015 Index is stronger but the results are not comparable to either 2014 or 2013 results.
A: Scores are all based on a 0-100 scale defined at the component level. This scale is set by using the best and worst scores theoretically possible on each indicator for the 100 and 0 values. For indicators which have a large absolute range or no maximum or minimum, we identify the best and worst global performance on each indicator by any country since 2004 to set the maximum (100) and minimum (0) bounds. A simple average of the four components creates each dimension score, which in turn aggregate to a Social Progress Index score, for each country, using a simple average of the three dimensions. As a result, Social Progress Index scores are benchmarked against realistic rather than abstract measures. This scale will also allow us to track absolute, not just relative, performance of countries over time on each component of the model.
Relative performance on the Social Progress Index 2015 refers to whether a country performs weakly or strongly compared to the 15 countries nearest to it in GDP per capita.*
In the Social Progress Index 2015, the relative performance is categorized as one of the following:
More information on how this calculation is constructed can be found the Social Progress Index Methodology Report.
Rank refers to performance for a country in comparison to all countries in the full Social Progress Index. For the Social Progress Index 2015, that sample is 133 countries.
*To reduce the effects of yearly GDP fluctuations and maintain stability in country groupings, average GDP PPP between 2010 and 2013 is used to determine country peer groups. A full description of how strengths and weaknesses relative to GDP per capita are calculated is in the Methodological Report (p. 21).The Social Progress Index uses GDP data from the World Bank: “GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States. GDP at purchaser's prices is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources. Data are in constant 2005 international dollars." http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.KD
A: There have been numerous efforts to go beyond GDP to improve the measurement of national performance. In designing the Social Progress Index we acknowledge the intellectual debt that we owe to these other efforts. As discussed in more detail in the Methodological Report, our work draws on a rapidly expanding academic and practitioner literature focusing on both individual and a few broader assessments of social progress. Our work has been guided by the objective of complementing and extending this work. (For an insightful framework and contemporary discussion of both the challenges and progress in moving “beyond GDP,” see Marc Fleurbaey and Didier Blanchet, “Beyond GDP: Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability.” Oxford University Press, May 2013.)
The Social Progress Index is distinct from other wellbeing indices in its measurement of social progress directly, independent of economic development, in a way that is both holistic and rigorous. Most wellbeing indices, such as the Human Development Index and the OECD Your Better Life Index, incorporate GDP or other economic measures directly. These are worthy efforts to measure wellbeing and have laid important groundwork in the field. However, because they conflate economic and social factors, they cannot explain or unpack the relationship between economic development and social progress.
The Social Progress Index has also been designed as a broad measurement framework that goes beyond the basic needs of the poorest countries, so that it is relevant to countries at all levels of income. It is a framework that aims to capture not just present challenges and today’s priorities, but also the challenges that countries will face as their economic prosperity rises.
The Index has four key design principles:
The Social Progress Index builds on but is distinct from other efforts to define and measure wellbeing. We briefly explain our analysis of each of these measures below.
Human Development Index (http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/hdi/)
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of human development, providing a single statistic to capture both social and economic development. It is based on just four outcome indicators: life expectancy, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and living standards (through the proxy of GDP per capita). The HDI excludes environmental indicators. Though the HDI covers 187 countries, the limited range of indicators mean that its descriptive and explanatory value is limited for upper middle and high income countries.
Millennium Development Indicators
The Millennium Development Indicators track progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed upon in September 2000 by leaders from 189 nations. The eight MDGs are supported by 60 indicators that are a mixture of social, environmental and economic measures. The indicators mix inputs and outcomes. The focus of the MDGs is extreme poverty and the problems of lower income countries.
Multidimensional Poverty Index (http://www.ophi.org.uk/policy/multidimensional-poverty-index/)
The MPI assesses the nature and intensity of poverty at the individual level along three dimensions: health, education, and living standards. It is based on measures of social outcomes only, using 10 indicators. The MPI covers 91 countries and is primarily focused on countries with extreme poverty.
OECD Better Life Indicators
The Better Life Index aims to paint a comprehensive picture of wellbeing by looking at people's material living conditions and quality of life. It is based on outcomes indicators and is structured around 10 dimensions combining social, environmental and economic indicators. It is currently available only for the 34 countries of the OECD and indicator availability means that it could not be extended to include countries at all levels of income without revision to the model.
Gross National Happiness (http://www.gnhc.gov.bt/)
GNH is the national approach to measuring wellbeing of the Kingdom of Bhutan and is designed to “achieve a harmonious balance between material well-being and the spiritual, emotional and cultural needs of our society”. The GNH model mixes economic, social, environmental and cultural indicators, including inputs as well as outcomes. The GNH model is designed to be relevant to the cultural norms of Bhutan; it is not intended to be an internationally comparable benchmark. Many countries are now developing national wellbeing frameworks.
Happy Planet Index (http://www.happyplanetindex.org/)
The Happy Planet Index aims to measure the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. It uses three social and environmental outcome indicators: experienced wellbeing (based on survey data), life expectancy, and ecological footprint. It currently covers 151 countries.
Genuine Progress Index (http://www.gpiatlantic.org/gpi.htm)
The Genuine Progress Index, based on a capital accounting framework, recognizes the value of human, social, and natural capital alongside manufactured and financial capital. It also assesses the economic costs of liabilities like crime, pollution, sickness, and natural resource depletion. While it has been used at different geographic scales, it has been used primarily in Canada.
A: This year, the world will reflect on progress achieved in the last fifteen years toward the Millennium Development Goals and will launch the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new set of ambitious targets to steer the world’s development priorities. The 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals are even more closely aligned.
The post-2015 MDG efforts are focused on ensuring that the poorest countries in the world make rapid progress on some basic indicators. That is valid and important. We are focused on a broader set of countries and a broader set of measures that include ones useful for evaluating countries with more advanced social progress. We are also looking to a broader variety of actors to play a role in advancing social progress, or at least not emphasizing as much as the post-2015 MDG work will the role of governments over the private sector or social entrepreneurs.
A: To explore the relationship between income inequality and social progress, we compared the Gini coefficient, a commonly-used measure of income inequality, to the Social Progress Index. The top performing country on the Social Progress Index does, indeed, have one of the lowest Gini coefficients (0.250), meaning that it is one of the most equal countries in the world, measured in terms income. Yet, when we look across all countries, the somewhat surprising finding is that there is little relationship between Social Progress Index scores and the Gini coefficient. Specifically, we find only a loose negative correlation (-0.38) between the two -- that is, only a weak trend that, as inequality increases, social progress decreases.
When we look at the percentage of people living in extreme poverty, however, we find that poverty is negatively and significantly correlated (-0.84) with social progress. This result is statistically significant and holds even when controlling for GDP per capita. It holds for all three dimensions of the Index.
These initial findings suggest that the two-way relationship between social progress and various measures of income inequality and income poverty are complex. The Gini coefficient appears to be a weak guide for a social progress agenda. Income poverty measures, although better, raise important issues about the direction of causation and the degree to which anti-poverty programs should focus on income or the wider capabilities of the poor. We will delve further into these issues in future reports.
A: No. By focusing on outcomes rather than inputs we have avoided the problem of ranking performance based solely on amounts of money spent on social programs. Our findings also show that economic development and social progress are linked but are not synonymous. Why some countries achieve higher levels of social progress at the same level of income as others is the result of cultural factors, resource endowments, business practices and government policy. The Index will allow us, over time, to investigate these different factors as we see which countries progress most rapidly on different components of the model. Read more about some of the initiatives using the Social Progress Index to improve wellbeing.
A: One of the major questions facing businesses is how to understand and measure the social impact they create. Do they create, or destroy, economic and social shared value** through their business? The Index will help measure the non-economic contribution that businesses make to a country and inform business strategy. Recent analytical work by Deloitte has demonstrated the connection between social progress and Foreign Direct Investment.
Applying the Social Progress Framework at the community level in Brazil, Coca-Cola Brasil and Natura have joined forces for the first time to illuminate social conditions in Amazon communities. The two companies have already developed social actions with Amazon communities and buy their products. Now, in partnership with the community, they want to better understand their reality and commit to their socioeconomic development. The initiative will provide insight into the wider social impact of business.
A: Emphatically yes! The Social Progress Imperative wants the data we publish to be used and disseminated. We only ask that you credit the Social Progress Index and that you do not imply that we endorse your new product. Please contact us for further details.Please also consider embedding our data on your website using this code:
<iframe src="http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/data/spi?embed=true" frameborder="0" height="3749" width="960">
A: We have included every country for which we could find enough data of consistent quality across enough indicators. To calculate a Social Progress Index score, countries must have no more than one missing indicator per component. In 2015, 133 countries met that standard. New in 2015 we are including on our website data for 29 additional countries that have too many data gaps to have an overall Social Progress Index score, but which have enough data for nine out of the twelve components.
We would love to include every country in the world by working with partners to extend data coverage.
A: The Social Progress Index is an aggregate index of 52 social and environmental indicators that capture three dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. The Index measures social progress strictly using outcomes of success, not how much effort a country makes. For example, how much a country spends on healthcare is much less important than the health and wellness actually achieved by that country, which is what we are measuring.
A: There are no other indices that measure social progress directly, independent of economic development, in a way that is both holistic and rigorous. Most wellbeing indices, such as the Human Development Index or the OECD Better Life Indicators, are still heavily reliant on GDP or other economic measures. These are worthy efforts to measure wellbeing and have laid important groundwork in the field. However, because they conflate economic and social factors, they cannot explain or unpack the relationship between economic development and social progress.
A: For each of the components of the model we conducted literature searches to understand all major published points of view and then did an extensive search for suitable indicators. From a long list of possible indicators we then tested for internal validity (does the indicator capture what it purports to measure?) and geographical availability (is the indicator available and reasonably up to date for most or all of our countries?).
One of our goals is to encourage the production of better data. For example, we know that enrollment data is not a good measure of quality of education, since it is not a good indicator of learning outcomes. Expanding the OECD PISA framework on learning outcomes to more countries would be a huge step forward. In our 2014 report we highlight priority areas where data needs to improve urgently, such as on housing, mental health, and violence against women.
A: The Social Progress Index consists of three dimensions: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity. Each dimension is composed of four components, and each component contains between two and five indicators. For more detail, please consult the Methodological Report of the Social Progress Index 2015.
A: The Social Progress Index draws on data from many different sources. The Social Progress Index 2015 was compiled with data from the following organizations:
Academic Ranking of World Universities; Barro-Lee Educational Attainment Dataset; Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Data Project; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Freedom House; Fund for Peace Fragile States Index; Gallup World Poll; Heritage Foundation; Institute for Economics and Peace Global Peace Index; Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; International Telecommunications Union ; OECD Gender, Institutions and Development Database; Pew Research Center; QS World University Rankings; Reporters Without Borders; Sustainable Energy for All; Times Higher Education World University Rankings; Transparency International; UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics; UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation; United Nations Development Programme; United Nations Population Division; WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation ; World Bank; World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report; World Health Organization; World Resources Institute; and Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network.
A: We calculated a Social Progress Index score for all UN-recognized countries for which there was no more than one data gap in any one of the 12 components. We also calculated as many component and dimension scores as possible for all countries with sufficient data for at least nine of the twelve components.
A: Through national partnerships—the growing Social Progress Network—we are building a global “network of networks” promoted by the Social Progress Imperative. Under this umbrella, early adopters are engaging in initiatives that use the conceptual and methodological framework of the Social Progress Index as a starting point for action in their countries.
Strong progress has been made in Latin America, where dynamic networks have emerged since the publication of the beta version of the Index two years ago; especially in the Brazilian Amazon, Pará State, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, with the national government in Paraguay, and in Colombia, with a special focus on cities. In 2015, the Social Progress Network is expanding to the European Union and the United States, collaborating with international organizations like the European Commission and subnational governments like the State of Michigan.
In August 2014, the Brazil Partner Network produced the first subnational Social Progress Index, covering the 772 municipalities and nine states that make up the Brazilian Amazon. The Social Progress Imperative enthusiastically encourages the creation of subnational Social Progress Indices and provides guidelines to ensure consistency across efforts in different places, while allowing for customization that will improve the relevance and usefulness of the results.
A: No. Gross National Happiness as an idea has been pioneered by the Kingdom of Bhutan to incorporate a range of measures of national wellbeing, including the psychological wellbeing of the population. Other countries are adapting this approach to create their own wellbeing frameworks, each of which is specific to that particular country and culture. GNH is an important step in measuring wellbeing, but it does not provide comparable results across countries. It also mixes economic indicators with non-economic indicators.
A: The Social Progress Imperative is funded by leading philanthropies and corporations. Please see our Sponsors page for more details.
The Social Progress Imperative is committed to organizational transparency. Please see our most recent tax return.
A: Yes. The Social Progress Imperative is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization incorporated in late 2012 as a 501(c)(3) in the United States.
A: All employment or internship opportunities are posted on our Employment page.
A: The Social Progress Imperative does not currently accept donations online. We look forward to doing so in the future.
A: There are several ways that individuals can help support the efforts of the Social Progress Imperative to advance social progress around the world.
Social media: We are in the early years still of convincing a critical mass of people to consider measurement of social progress as important as measurement of traditional economic factors. Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and help us connect with your social media connections. Tell us when you see something relevant to our work, or sign up to receive occasional notices when we could use your help to promote particular messages or news.
Media: Consider writing an op-ed or letter to the editor of your favorite newspaper or magazine. We need your help to spread our messages.
Volunteer: We are a small team with global ambitions. If you are interested in contributing your time to our effort, please use our comment form and let us know. We can probably figure something out, particularly if you're flexible.
Intern: Consider applying for one of our occasional internships to work in our Washington, DC, or San Jose, Costa Rica offices. Check the Employment page to see if we're actively recruiting.
Help us monitor media: Particularly for languages other than English, Spanish and Portuguese. See a story about our work? Use our comment form or tell us on social media to help us gauge our effectiveness and get our work in front of even more people.
Receive our newsletter: Consider signing up to receive our occasional email newsletter to understand our major milestones and plans.
A: Are you a social innovator? Do you want your commitment to make a difference in people’s lives? Join us and find your place in the Social Progress Network!
Social Progress Leads—You have leadership skills, institutional support, convening capacity, long-term view, and don’t dismay. Do you want to launch a Social Progress Network?
Social Progress Fellows—You have communications skills, knowledge and expertise on social development, belong to a community of practitioners, are policy-oriented. Do you want to help us spread the word?
Social Progress Network Managers—You have networking skills, access to different communities, are action-oriented, and horizontal collaboration is your mantra. Do you want to help us manage a network?
Social Progress Methodological Experts—You have technical skills, know the context, are policy-oriented, and believe in open-data open-source movements. Do you want to help us generate actionable metrics?
The movement to complement traditional economic measurement with innovative tools to advance social progress is growing. Applying the Social Progress Index conceptual and methodological framework is working as a way to highlight challenges and bring new partners together to drive change in communities around the world. Join our network of partners in government, business, academia, and civil society who are using the Social Progress Index tool as a catalyst for action.
A: To achieve our mission we need to go further than just measurement alone, and equip leaders and change-makers in business, government and civil society with new tools to guide policies and investments. This is being pursued by building a Social Progress Network of partners in government, business and civil society who want to use the Social Progress Index tool as a starting point for action in their countries.
Partner organizations in the Social Progress Network also use the Social Progress Framework (the Index structure applied to areas smaller than countries) to raise the voices of the real social progress experts, citizens who know their own needs best and the change-makers who are working on the ground with communities. The framework helps them articulate their concerns and get the attention of leaders in politics, the private sector and civil society.
A: As of April 2015, the Social Progress Network is most active in the Latin American countries of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Trinidad & Tobago. We are actively expanding into the European Union, the United States, and Canada, as well as Malaysia. We have received requests for partnership from countries in every region of the world and are building our own capacity to take advantage of this interest.
A: Unfortunately, we simply do not have the human or financial resources yet to respond in every country to the incredible interest in our emerging movement.
In 2015, we are expanding from a solid base of activity in Latin America to focus on North America and the European Union, including launching a Social Progress Index covering the entire EU at the NUTS-2 level late in the year. We plan to establish a presence in other regions in later years.
If you would like to be part of helping us advance social progress in your country, please get in touch.With your help, we might be able to expand even faster.
A: The Social Progress Framework is the main structure of the Social Progress Index - three dimensions of Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, Opportunity; and four components for each dimension, which is also applicable at sub-national levels such as regions. The broad categories (three dimensions, by name; and twelve components, by name) examined are the same as in the Social Progress Index, but the indicators within each component will vary based on available data.