Media Advisory: 200 Social Innovators from 25 Countries Gather This Week in Iceland to Explore “What Works”

Media Advisory
Contact: Abi Weaver, Global Director Marketing and Communications, Social Progress Imperative,

Second Annual What Works Conference Opens Today
200 Business, Government, Civil Society Leaders From 25 Countries Meet to Accelerate Social Progress


REYKJAVIK, ICELAND April 24 – What Works 2017, The International Summit to Advance Social Progress, opens today in Iceland, convening social innovators from around the world through April 26 to learn from each others’ experiences and create new partnerships to advance social progress.

“The Social Progress Imperative is thrilled to be back in Iceland for a second year to host What Works, the most important social progress event of the year,” said Michael Green, Chief Executive Officer of the Social Progress Imperative, one of the organizers of the event. “We’ve brought social innovators from business, government, and civil society together from 25 countries to share success stories and spark collaborations. We look forward to hearing about the efforts that will get started over these three days to create measurable social progress in communities around the world, even in this time of global uncertainty.”

Anchored by the Social Progress Index, a powerful bench-marking tool to connect decision makers with fresh perspectives on social performance, and through focused case studies, debate and interactive workshops, participants will leave with new tools and innovative solutions, along with a strengthened network and prospective partners to help drive social change. The participants will explore how to create positive policy change at every level of government, how social performance can drive opportunities for businesses to get ahead, and how all stakeholders can work together to advance social progress.

Key topics at the event include

  • how governments around the world are using the new Social Progress Index to identify what is working and to pinpoint areas of weakness in government programs;
  • how examples of weak social performance like safety and security but also opportunity in cities have been identified and targeted for improvement;
  • how we can heal troubling divides and examine what social indicators could inform the creation of more inclusive policies; and
  • how to know which promising solutions will be useful to scale to other parts of the world.

The Summit kicks off with a pre-summit workshop “Understanding the Social Progress Index & Framework,” an interactive one-day training workshop to provide those with limited experience with the Social Progress Index, an overview of this tool, its methodology and application in a variety of settings. Experts will review the framework and dimensions that power the Index, lead discussions on the correlation between social progress and economic development, and use case studies to provide participants with a practical understanding of its use and flexibility. (Please note that this event is oversubscribed and no new participants can be accepted.)

Also on Monday, the pre-event seminar “SPI and Tourism in Costa Rica” will take place. In cooperation with Isavia and Promote Iceland, Social Progress Imperative Vice President Roberto Artavia Loria will present and discuss The Social Progress Index in Tourism Destinations in Costa Rica, including how it was awarded an international award for sustainable tourism by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Full agenda of the three days of events are available here.

“We at Cognitio know that bringing the right people together for deep exchanges and learning make all the difference to promoting successful collaborations,” said Rósbjörg Jónsdóttir, Founder and Managing Director of Cognitio, one of the event’s two organizers. “The What Works 2017 event is a major event in the global calendar for innovators who want to hear success stories and make new contacts a we work together to drive social progress around the world.”

Confirmed speakers include:

H.E. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland
Laura Abadia, Policy Manager, J-PAL Europe
Paola Annoni, Research and Policy Analyst, European Commission
Roberto Artavia Loría, Vice-Chair, Social Progress Imperative; President, Viva Trust
Bjarni Benediktsson, Prime Minister of Iceland
Matthew Bishop, Senior Editor, The Economist Group
Ruma Bose Bishop, Former President, Chobani Foundation
Matt Browne, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Alison Bukhari, Director, Educate Girls
Stephan Chambers, Director, Marshall Institute, London School of Economics
Peter Coffin, President, Breckinridge Capital
Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Mayor, Somerville, USA
Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir, Professor and Director, Program for Environment and Natural Resources
Studies, University of Iceland
Sid Espinosa, Director of Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, Microsoft
Rodney Ferguson, President and CEO, Winrock International
Michael Green, CEO, Social Progress Imperative
Shireen Huq, Co-founder, Naripokkho
Nathan Hurst, Chief Sustainability and Social Impact Officer, HP
Jón Kaldal, Journalist, Former editor, Fréttablaðið Newspaper; founder, Iceland Magazine
Amit Kapoor, Chairman and CEO, Council on Competitiveness, India
Emily Kasriel, Head of Editorial Partnerships and Special Projects, BBC World Service Group
Julie T. Katzman, Chief Operating Officer, Inter-American Development Bank
Nigel Kershaw OBE, Executive Chair, The Big Issue Group
Dr. Nitya Mohan Khemka, Director, Nand and Jeet Khemka Foundation
John McArthur, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Jens Molbak, Founder, WinWin
Minister José R. Molinas Vega, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of Technical Planning of Economic
and Social Development, Government of Paraguay
Professor Henrietta Moore, Director, Global Institute for Prosperity, University College, London
Valeria Moy, Director, Mexico Como Vamos
Decio Nascimento, Chief Investment Officer, Richmond Global
Mayor Ármann Kr Ólafsson, Mayor of Kópavogur, Iceland
Carolina Rossini, Global Connectivity Policy Team, Facebook
Dr. Inga Dóra Sigfúsdóttir, Professor, University of Reyjavik
Zachary Slobig, Writer / Editor, Skoll Foundation
Professor Scott Stern, Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
Xavier de Souza Briggs, Vice President, Economic Opportunity & Markets, Ford Foundation
Matthew Weatherley-White, Managing Director, The CAPROCK Group
John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer, Sage Bionetworks

What Works 2017 is organized by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative, creators of the Social Progress Index; and Cognitio, a private organisation in Iceland that supplies business consulting and corporate event services, with a focus on social improvements. The summit is sponsored by The Icelandic Prime Minister’s Office, Deloitte, Arion Bank, City of Kópavogur, The University of Iceland, Skoll Foundation, RIDG, and GENIS.

Media partners include Local Media Partner Iceland Monitor and Global Media Partner apolitical.