The Imperative

The world has never seemed so complicated; the challenges facing us never so insurmountable. We all—businesses, governments and civil society—need a better way to solve problems. But together, we’ve never had such a valuable opportunity, or the collective imperative, to improve the lives of so many.

The Social Progress Imperative (SPI) is changing the way we solve the world’s most pressing challenges by redefining how the world measures success and putting the things that matter to people’s lives at the top of the agenda.

The Social Progress Index revolutionizes the solving of societal problems by enabling leaders to systematically identify and prioritize issues. The Social Progress Imperative’s network empowers leaders to convene all the right local actors, global partners, and subject-matter experts necessary to develop and deploy meaningful solutions. Together, the index and the network empower local actors to both identify shortcomings and deliver the solutions to improve them.

Traditional measures of economic growth no longer answer the most important questions.

The Social Progress Imperative offers a holistic, 21st century assessment of the health of society—the Social Progress Index.

Relying only on a country’s GDP as the measure of progress provides an incomplete picture of human and societal development because it overlooks factors like access to electricity, health, property rights, and religious tolerance.

The Social Progress Index is used in tandem with GDP to provide a holistic assessment of a country’s overall progress.

The Social Progress Index examines social and environmental indicators that capture three distinct dimensions of social progress: Basic Human Needs, Foundations of Wellbeing, and Opportunity.

The Index has four key design principles:

  1. Exclusively social and environmental indicators: The index focuses on indicators like indoor air pollution and women in school, not family income or individual employment.
  2. Outcomes not inputs: The index assesses performance on indicators like access to electricity and suicide rates, not inputs like policies, laws, or levels of funding.
  3. Actionability: The indicators used are specific enough, such as access to improved sanitation facilities, to pinpoint exactly what needs to be changed or maintained.
  4. Relevance to all countries (societies): The index has been designed to measure performance of societies at all levels of income and on any continent.

Social innovators across sectors are developing powerful tools based on the Social Progress Framework.

  • In the Brazilian Amazon, Social Progress Index data at the municipal level is being used to guide business investments aimed at solving social and environmental problems.
  • Coca-Cola Brazil is demonstrating the usefulness of the Social Progress Index to businesses interested in improving the communities where they work.
  • The national government of Paraguay is setting a target for Social Progress Index performance alongside GDP targets.
  • Fundacion Paraguaya is leveraging novel technology to incorporate household survey data into a Social Progress Index for some of the poorest families in Paraguay.

 The Social Progress Imperative empowers social innovators in all sectors by providing innovative tools based on the Social Progress Index to measure social progress.

These tools empower actors from across sectors to come together, speak a common language and drive measurable change.

Governments, businesses, and civil society organizations use the Social Progress Index to identify the most pressing needs of their communities and describe them in a common language, and prioritize resources to focus on the most urgent needs. The Social Progress Index is a tool to measure the social impact of those efforts.

The Social Progress Imperative is supported by global funders including Cisco, Compartamos Banco, Deloitte, Fundación Avina, Rockefeller Foundation, and Skoll Foundation.

The Social Progress Imperative incubates action networks in countries and cities around the need to drive real change at scales ranging from local communities to the global economy.

The Social Progress Network consists of partners in business, government and civil society that help further the goal of measuring and advancing social progress. a. More than 100 organizations from different sectors in a dozen countries ranging from social enterprises in Malaysia to mining companies in Brazil have already joined the global Social Progress Network.

Latin America is a great example of the Social Progress Network’s success. Our framework is now being used in a variety of ways: a. The Social Progress Index for the Brazilian Amazon project showed that it is not necessary to cut down the rainforest to achieve high levels of social progress. b. SPI data is being used to set main social priorities of a group of businesses working to implement “shared value” business strategies in Brazil, especially in the municipalities of Carauari, Manaus and Parintins. c. The efforts of local Social Progress Network partners in Paraguay working with the national agency responsible for public nutrition led the Ministry of Finance to double the funding for universal nutrition to school-age children.

The Social Progress Imperative broadens the conversation to get more people in more sectors thinking about the role they can play to advance social progress by joining emerging action networks.

Members and cohorts of local action networks are empowered to launch specific initiatives for which they are best resourced and positioned to make real change. The #Progresso Social Brasil network launched two simultaneous initiatives:

  • The nonprofit Imazon leading the creation of a regional index targeting priority areas for intervention at a regional level.
  • Coca-Cola leads an initiative to identify priority areas of intervention in specific communities across the region. Call to action: The movement to complement traditional economic measurement with innovative tools to advance social progress is growing.

Applying the Social Progress Index is working to highlight challenges and bring new partners together to drive change in communities around the world. Join our network of partners in government, business and civil society who are using the Social Progress Index tool as a catalyst for action.