Shared history, shared goals: World Economic Forum 2018

Birthed after the World Economic Forum (WEF) and put into practice in 2013, The Social Progress Imperative has a storied history with the action, thought leaders and ideas being ruminated by the luminaries present at the WEF annual and regional meetings. Initially, a concept of a better measure of societal progress than GDP, the Social Progress Index over the past six years has created more than a moment, but a movement towards worldwide social progress. With this in mind, we have been keeping a close eye on the discussion and talks going on in Davos, noting the important trends and discussions guiding the way towards a better world in 2018.

Globalization problems, globalization solutions

 Throughout the annual meeting this week, many of the sessions were devoted to how to solve, or conversely, how to promote globalization and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Opinions were conflicted on the role globalization plays in the economies of countries, and how it affects people throughout the world. Does it help or hinder a country’s relationship with its people? Does it create greater social progress, or does is deteriorate it? How will it help the global community reach the SDGs, or doesn’t it? These are all questions that world leaders asked and ventured to answer.

We, as an organization, have asked ourselves these very same questions. As an avid supporter of the SDGs, the rationale behind them, and drive to ensure they are met, we’ve outlined how the Social Progress Index is uniquely positioned to help achieve the 2030 agenda. As a tool, the index can be used to assist world leaders to measure and achieve real change to complex problems. We believe it is vastly important to continue the conversation about the SDGs at global forums, like Davos, to aid governments, business leaders and politicians in finding solutions to what change needs to be conducted throughout the world.

During the 21st Century Social Compact session, for example, attendees were challenged to question how the world can close the gap between the haves and the have nots, when inequality has hit an all-time high. Panelists, including Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank and Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia asked, “does our social compact need a new jumpstart?”

President Santos said that Colombia has been outlining the rights and the duties of the citizens of its nation, but has struggled to figure out how it can be guaranteed that everyone in a society has a chance at a good life. Work is needed on the measurement front to assure that every child born in Colombia today, has a fair chance at equality.

President Santos hit on something that already has happened in his country – wellbeing measurement. Our network of partners in Colombia also created an index comparing the quality of life in 10 major Colombian cities, empowering mayors and private sector leaders with better data and allowing comprehensive comparisons of each city’s strengths and weaknesses. To see this work in action, take a look here.

The fulfillment of global children’s dreams was a theme of Jim Yong Kim’s message as well. He wants to see a world where every child is capable, prepared and offered the chance to reach whatever dream or goal they have. He, the child of refugees from South Korea, said educational attainment, and the ability of his family to immigrate to the United States after a brutal war, was the biggest factor for his success. He emphasized that all countries should continue to see the hardships of others as an opportunity to showcase their empathy, and help the global community.

Jim Yong Kim’s message was well received by the audience, and is a global movement we’ve been working to ensure all children throughout the globe are measured and accounted for. Improvements in research and calculation have allowed us to explore new applications of the social progress framework with the Youth Progress Index, our first disaggregated analysis of quality of life for a specific demographic. This index, which will officially launch in early 2018, comprehensively measures the quality of life of young people in 102 countries around the world, with partial data available for 52 countries.

India speaks, world leaders listen

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present and accounted for at WEF this year, with a keynote that included a call for greater global cooperation on multiple social progress issues, including climate change and strengthening democracy.

At a panel presented by Quartz, Saving Globalization from Itself, various tenets of social progress in India were discussed and debated. Chanda Kochhar, CEO ICICI Bank, one of the largest in India, emphasized that they have been working on “economic inclusion”, a key piece of the SDGs and social progress, of poor, rural villages in India. The bank picked regions throughout the country and digitized payment systems and opened bank accounts for their residents, to help ensure they had access to financial institutions and were part of the financial economy. A step forward in progress and inclusion for a country just starting to measure its social progress.

As an economic leader in the Indian region, NITI Aayog held a session which spoke about the role real-time data management plays in helping social progress and economic development. The recently published Social Progress Index for the states of India showcased how important measurement and data is to the government of India’s progress towards the SDGs.

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Wednesday said some states in India have improved in terms of ease of doing business, as well as social progress. Real-time data is one way India is helping capture how reforms and policies are helping the population. He explained how real-time data measurement is proving to be a game-changer in improving many aspects of social progress, including outcomes in health, education and financial inclusion for the people of India.

He said the government is using indexes, like the Social Progress Index,  to achieve development goals and making states compete with one another.

In India, we supported the development of an index for 28 states and one union territory led by the Institute for Competitiveness, India, with insights from government think tank NITI Aayog, The Social Progress Index: States of India is enabling governors to pinpoint their state’s weaknesses and structure their budgets accordingly, allowing India to become the first emerging economy to comprehensively track SDG performance on the state level.

To see the entire published report on the Social Progress Index of India, please see here.

America is on their mind

To say the focus this year at WEF is the United States would be a vast understatement. Many panels were devoted to the progress and the state of America as a whole. The ideals and subjects talked about this week will be addressed in our forthcoming Social Progress Index for the United States, which will be released in the first quarter of 2018. The index has mapped the true state of the United States, measuring 12 different components, and 53 indicators to showcase the social progress of each individual state of the US.

At the Left Behind in the United States panel, moderated by USA Today, the breadth of subjects stretched from identity politics, to the deepening divide all the way to economic insecurity. Many aspects of the Social Progress Index’s framework and issues including education, broadband access, and inclusion, were discussed and heavily debated.

Improved access to education was also key tenant to progress in the United States, as Mike McGavick, CEO of the Excel Group elaborated on. He said one the biggest areas that the US could invest in to drive progress and social well-being is expanding early childhood education, which he defined as children who are nine months to three year olds to give every American child a heads up, which is part of our new Social Progress Index: United States.

This week’s panelists are not the only global leaders with thoughts of the United States at the tip of their tongue. World leaders, activists, policymakers and journalists alike have spoken widely about the need for a comprehensive measure of social progress in the US. Between the ideological division in society, to the growing concern of inequality – the need for a comprehensive measure of societal well-being and progress has never been more important. In the US, we are developing a 50-state Social Progress Index and venturing to provide every city in the country with similar insight that will for the first time enable governors, mayors and county officials compare their social and environmental performance, learn from high-performing peers, address disparities and re-establish the US as a global leader in social progress. As one of the largest economies in the world, searching for solutions to the problems that are prevalent in America, is paramount to overall social progress.

The role business has in inclusiveness

 Last week, Laurence Fink, the Chief Executive Officer of BlackRock sent a memo that was heard around the world. A Sense of Purpose it was entitled. It’s call was simple, for global businesses to put people and societal well-being in line with their quest for profit.

“To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”

Deloitte Global Chairman David Cruickshank, who serves as a board member of the Social Progress Imperative, echoed these thoughts in an intimate discussion about “Prospering in the Digital Economy, and the Society of the Future” which he had with Duncan Tait, Chief Executive Officer of Fujitsu. They revealed that in a recent survey conducted and released by Deloitte, The Global Readiness Report, 87% of executives believe that the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, will lead to more equality throughout the world. One of the key takeaways from this discussion was that businesses are going to play a greater role in moving social progress forward than governments in the future and that business and society are inextricably linked – one cannot thrive without the other.

Our work with the business sector has been an important and growing area of application for the Social Progress Index. Global organizations like Coca-Cola, Natura, Cargill, and Deloitte have partnered with us to see how their influence can impact change in the areas that they do business. Creating a more inclusive world requires all sectors to work together to better the lives of the citizens of the world.

To read the more about the business case for inclusive growth, Deloitte has prepared a comprehensive report here.

Forward movement, forward progress

While the snowfall in Davos may have taken the limelight and captured attention in the beginning of the conference, the ideas presented by world leaders in government, business and development were what stuck with us. From momentum and attention devoted towards achieving the SDGs by 2030, to how policymakers are addressing globalization and social progress, to how governments are utilizing data and measurement to help influence their policies to create a more inclusive society.

The Social Progress Imperative may have been created nearly six years ago at WEF, but the spirit of movement of social progress is alive and well, and most importantly doesn’t show it is slowing down anytime soon. We are proud to be in the good company of luminaries who are trying to change the lives of all global citizens.