International School of Geneva

International Guest School

The Real Progress Indicator Application (RPI App)

Measuring a country’s progress is vital for the wellbeing of its people. However, a crucial primary step is figuring out what and how to improve in a society in order to grow. In the past, we have looked at growth, be it economic, demographic, social.

Comparing progress between nations can aid leaders and the people know what could be improved in their region, and more importantly, how that could be achieved. However, while there exist several metrics today to measure a nation’s progress and development, the current indicators we have to determine a nation’s progress are not enough; it remains difficult to provide a holistic assessment of its growth. The most widely used metric, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is flawed, as it does not account for many societal factors which are important when measuring progress. Society’s obsession with GDP has focused our energies towards the accumulation of material things. We have grown accustomed to increasingly accelerating economic growth on a finite earth. As Robert Kennedy explained, GDP “measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Recently, there has been a shift away from such synthetic measures as their shortcomings have become apparent. This has become especially evident during the Covid-19 crisis, where we have come to appreciate good health, fresh food, clean air, job security. GDP cannot continue to be our measure of progress. Progress does not just mean change; it means change for the better. There is thus the need to address the task of living sustainably in a community with purpose, trust and dignity striving for personal excellence.

While there have been many alternative measures to GDP/GNP (World Happiness Report, The Legatum Prosperity Index, Human Development Index, Inclusive Development Index etc) there are hardly any indices which are applicable and actionable to any individual at the micro-level.
In today’s climate, we need an alternative: not only growth but sustainable growth, and one that is applicable at any scale. The Real Progress Indicator (RPI) is a way to realign our development with this principle. It provides an in-depth analysis by combining around 30 indicators into an innovative index. These are split among four key components that together holistically account for the multi-faceted needs of society: Culture and Education, Sustainability, Development, and Trust in Institutions. The components have been carefully selected in order to consider a wide variety of factors contributing to a nation’s wellbeing, and as such, give information that GDP or HDI cannot.
The summarised progress can be viewed in the RPI App, which has a free version as well as a premium, detailed version. Accessible to all who sign up, it is nonetheless mainly geared towards real-estate services, re-location businesses, central governments, regional and local policymakers to help them decide where to make new investments and evaluate the outcomes of their previous policies.

Their YES! topic

How should we measure progress?

by Sarah Smith, University of Bristol

For decades, a country’s or a region’s progress was measured in terms of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). But politicians’ near-obsession with GDP has been at the expense of rising inequality and has arguably contributed to the current climate crisis.

It’s time for a new measure that values what matters.

One approach has been to turn to measures of happiness. Bhutan was the first to adopt a Gross National Happiness Index as its measure of progress and the UK now publishes official measures of happiness.

It’s hard to argue against governments caring about how happy people are; but happiness is affected by day-to-day factors that politicians can’t control. Happiness is also an individual-based measure that may ignore factors that are crucial for a sustainable future for society as a whole.

An alternative is to combine multiple indicators that capture the key ingredients for a better and sustainable future – such as the United Nation’s recently launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This is a comprehensive approach but the general nature of the goals makes it hard to track progress.

SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely) measurement

Devising a good way to measure progress is a challenge. There needs to be agreement about which indicators to include. There needs to be a practical way to measure progress against each indicator (eg how do you measure gender equality?). There also needs to be a way to combine individual indicators into an aggregate index – do all count equally or are some more important; what happens if there is a trade-off?

The challenge is to come up with an initial idea for a new measure of progress for the area.