The Social Progress Imperative, which includes both the Social Progress Index and the Social Progress Network, was incorporated as a nonprofit in the United States in 2012. 2015 marks the third year the Social Progress Index has been published, and also the third year of activity of the Social Progress Network.

In April 2013, the Social Progress Imperative launched its first research product, the Social Progress Index, at the 10th annual Skoll World Forum, held at the University of Oxford. More than two years in development, that beta version covering just 50 countries was a novel effort to measure the extent to which countries provide for the non-economic needs of their citizens.

The original idea for the Social Progress Index was conceived within the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Philanthropy and Social Investing, chaired by The Economist’s New York Bureau Chief Matthew Bishop, who took up the challenge in 2009 to increase the impact that social entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy makers can have in the world. In 2009, the Council proposed creating a new index, inspired by the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), to spur competition between nations to improve the environment for social innovation in the way the competitiveness index has done for enablers of economic growth.

Council member Brizio Biondi-Morra, Chair of Fundación Avina, secured seed funding from Avina and the Skoll Foundation to analyze the feasibility of a new index, and start-up funds from Compartamos Banco. Biondi-Morra invited Sally Osberg, President of the Skoll Foundation, and Álvaro Rodríguez Arregui, Managing Partner of IGNIA to serve on the Social Progress Imperative Board of Directors. Subsequently, Michael Green of Philanthrocapitalism joined the Board of Directors and later became Executive Director.

Much of the earliest work to help the Social Progress Imperative and the Social Progress Index take shape was performed by Fundación Latinoamerica Posible of Costa Rica, including by President Roberto Artavia Loría and team.

«What if countries competed with each other to become the most socially innovative in the world?»

Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief, The Economist

The methodology for the Social Progress Index was developed and refined under the leadership of Social Progress Imperative’s Advisory Board Chair, Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, with guidance from Advisory Board members Matthew Bishop, Judith Rodin of the Rockefeller Foundation, Hernando de Soto of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, and Scott Stern of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The conceptual underpinnings draw heavily on the work done by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi for France’s Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.