Michael Porter’s Social Progress Indicator

porters diamond

I’ve been a fan of Michael Porter since I read “The Competitive Advantage of Nations” and started thinking about innovation through the lens of Porter’s diamond, so I got excited when he launched the social progress indicator.

The thing I really liked was how he constructed an indicator without GDP that performs better than GDP and provides a real narrative about how social progress is premised on fulfilling basic needs and also providing opportunity. I thought this indicator might do many of the same things South Australia’s Strategic Plan tried to do without drowning us all in hundreds of indicators.

I wondered if I could find enough other folk who get excited about this sort of thing to join me in constructing South Australia’s social progress indicator at the next Unleashed Adelaide.

Michael Porter is not the first person to suggest an indicator of success and he won’t be the last. There is no doubt that GDP as an aggregate measure of stuff is the most used and the most well known – 80years of dominance in fact. But in the latest 30 years we have had many conversations  about what measure would be better. One of my friends even wrote a pHD on it.

Here is a quick tour of some of the indicators I have stumbled across over the years:

  • The Genuine Progress Indicator does a good job of tweaking GDP by taking all the expenditure that is obviously not progressive – such as money spent fixing a vehicle after a car crash – and making it negative rather than positive. It comes up with a pretty similar story to GDP but highlights that growth isn’t as good as we think it is.
  • Gross National Happiness made Bhutan famous and appears to be based on regular surveys of the Bhutanese people.
  • An indicator like Ecological Footprint forces us to think about progress from a resource exploitation point of view but doesn’t really speak to economics and social elements.
  • oxfam-donutThe environmental model I have liked the most was the Oxfam donut, articulating the space between social needs and ecological limits.
  • I even attempted a GDP version of my own in “Pizza theory” which looked at time spent as the productive force rather than money generated. This allows us to pick up unpaid productive work such as raising children.
  • The ABS have also had a go with Measuring Australia’s Progress, but they haven’t nibbled at joining Michael Porter’s internationally comparable indicator.

So hopefully you can see from that run through why I was attracted to the social progress indicator. I would claim as its positives:

It shows that GDP wasn’t a bad indicator, but introduces nuance.

It doesn’t use GDP in any of its sub-measures, just uses GDP to show that the aggregate indicator is worthy – I think this is really important.

It has a human basis for the sub-measures chosen and the way they were put together, which mirrors various other attempts like our SASP. Here are some more links that explain Australia’s measures and the overall methodology:

Indicator launch by Michael Porter

Australia stats using international datasets

TED talk

I think it’s time to play around with this don’t you? – I’ve documented some of the main sub-indicators below and over time hope to link each to the relevant datasets.

Australia’s Social Progress Index 86.42 is made up of:

Basic Human Needs (93.73)

  • Nutrition and Basic Medical Care (99.36)
    • Undernourishment
    • Depth of food deficit
    • Maternal mortality rate
    • Child mortality rate
    • Deaths from infectious diseases
  •  Water and Sanitation (100.00)
    • Access to piped water
    • Rural access to improved water source
    • Access to improved sanitation facilities
  • Shelter (85.71)
    • Availability of affordable housing
    • Access to electricity
    • Quality of electricity supply
    • Household air pollution attributable deaths
  •  Personal Safety (89.87)
    • Homicide rate
    • Level of violent crime
    • Perceived criminality
    • Political terror
    • Traffic deaths

 Foundations of Wellbeing (79.98)

  • Access to Basic Knowledge (97.23)
    • Adult literacy rate
    • Primary school enrollment
    • Lower secondary school enrollment
    • Upper secondary school enrollment
    • Gender parity in secondary enrollment
  • Access to Information and Communications (88.78)
    • Mobile telephone subscriptions
    • Internet users
    • Press Freedom Index
  •  Health and Wellness (80.09)
    • Life expectancy
    • Premature deaths from non-communicable diseases
    • Obesity rate
    • Outdoor air pollution attributable deaths
    • Suicide rate
  • Ecosystem Sustainability (53.80)
    • Greenhouse gas emissions
    • Water withdrawals as a percentage of resources
    • Biodiversity and habitat

Opportunity (85.55)

  • Personal Rights (97.68)
    • Political rights
    • Freedom of speech
    • Freedom of assembly/association
    • Freedom of movement
    • Private property rights
  •  Personal Freedom and Choice (88.42)
    • Freedom over life choices
    • Freedom of religion
    • Early marriage
    • Satisfied demand for contraception
    • Corruption
  • Tolerance and Inclusion (78.40)
    • Tolerance for immigrants
    • Tolerance for homosexuals
    • Discrimination and violence against minorities
    • Religious tolerance
    • Community safety net
  •  Access to Advanced Education (77.70)
    • Years of tertiary schooling
    • Women’s average years in school
    • Inequality in the attainment of education

Get in touch if you’re interested in joining me…

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About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
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One Response to Michael Porter’s Social Progress Indicator

  1. Pingback: The Great Escape | changing weather by Heather Smith

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