What is Beyond GDP? And how are Beyond GDP indicators used?

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BRAINPOoL (Bringing alternative indicators into policy) is an EU-funded project aimed at identifying and overcoming the barriers to ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators being used in policy.

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What is Beyond GDP? And how are Beyond GDP indicators used?

  1. 1. What is Beyond GDP? And how are Beyond GDP indicators used? Funded by:
  2. 2. The Project BRAINPOoL (Bringing alternative indicators into policy) is an EU-funded project aimed at identifying and overcoming the barriers to ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators being used in policy. During the project we’ve carried out research and interviews, conducting workshops and knowledge-brokerage seminars and carrying out various action research case studies to explore ways to improve uptake of Beyond GDP indicators.
  3. 3. What are indicators for (in general)? • Instrumental use – Identifying and understanding problems – Analysing policy options – Evaluation • Conceptual use • Political use – Legitimisation – Tactical – Symbolic
  4. 4. Outline • Defining & understanding Beyond GDP • Categorising Beyond GDP initiatives • Impact to date of Beyond GDP
  5. 5. Our definition of Beyond GDP indicators… “those indicators and indicator sets that have been proposed as necessary and central to the measurement of societal progress in a broad sense, other than those indicators, such as GDP or the unemployment rate, that are already playing this role.” BRAINPOoL WP1 report
  6. 6. It is a response to a real and to a measurement problem… • There is a bias in policy making towards striving for GDP growth that may make resolving critical political problems more difficult, e.g. – How do we improve lives in an era of low growth and squeezed finance? – How do we create good jobs for people? – How do we reduce inequality? – How do we avoid political extremism? – How do we deal with climate change and other threats to sustainability? • This bias is exacerbated by the prominence of the metric itself – The ability to maximise GDP growth defines ‘economic competence’ – Perceptions of ‘economic competence’ drive elections – Therefore particularly strong incentives to maximise GDP
  7. 7. …resulting in two interdependent challenges • Adoption of a new headline measure of progress (or a small set of such measures) – This can balance GDP and thus indicate a more balanced political programme • Moves towards a more balanced political programme – The effective management of trade offs leading to better quality growth (equitable, sustainable, high well-being) Prima facie, BRAINPOoL is about the first of these, but they are interdependent: headline measures drive policy but real policy implications make indicators salient.
  8. 8. The real and measurement problem just defined focuses the discussion – as illustrated in the following charts
  9. 9. The bias to GDP maximisation as means to increasing well-being… Policy Intervention Growth Well-being
  10. 10. …will not be corrected by parallel objectives, which already exist… Economic Policy Growth Well-being as understood by economics depts Other Policy Interventions Social/ environmental objectives Well-being as understood by other policy depts
  11. 11. …as do the relevant indicators… Economic Policy GDP Other Policy Interventions Social/ environmental indicators
  12. 12. …but by a more integrated policy process Policy Intervention GDP ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators Well-being – now and future (sustainability)
  13. 13. …allowing policy makers to target good quality growth… “Whatever policy objectives you have, you should set them into an integrated policy framework which has as an overarching goal the increase in people’s well-being” , OECD Researcher Policy Intervention ↑ GDP ↑ ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators ↑ Well-being – now and future
  14. 14. …not bad quality growth Policy Intervention ↑ GDP ↓ ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators ↓ Well-being – now and future
  15. 15. …and in some instances to sacrifice growth. Policy Intervention ↓ GDP ↑ ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators ↑ Well-being – now and future
  16. 16. Outline • Defining & understanding Beyond GDP • Categorising Beyond GDP initiatives • Impact to date of Beyond GDP
  17. 17. Categorising Beyond GDP initiatives Indicator factors Domains Dashboard Economic Social Environ mental Aggregati on Single indicator Compound indicator Aggregated Composite Objective Subjective Index
  18. 18. Intended impact Intended Users International Level of Impact Public National Politicians / Policy makers Local Relationship to GDP Adjust Supplement Replace Experts
  19. 19. Intended impact • • • • Beyond GDP or not? Policy or debate? Democratic engagement Internal or external signalling
  20. 20. Main indicator types • Adjusted GDP indicators – – – – – – – – Objective Composite International All users (but first the public) Adjustment Beyond GDP Debate Sometimes signalling Economic Social Environ mental
  21. 21. Main indicator types • Quality of life – – – – – – – Objective Dashboard or index National Public and policy-makers Complement Usually Beyond GDP Sometimes policy, sometimes debate Economic Social
  22. 22. Main indicator types • Subjective approaches – – – – – – – Subjective Subjective Single number WB International All Replace/complement Not always Beyond GDP Policy and debate Economic Social Environ mental
  23. 23. Main indicator types • Sustainable development / Progress / National WellBeing – – – – – – – Subjective and objective Dashboard National Policy-makers (and public) Complement (and include) Not always Beyond GDP Policy Economic Social Environ mental
  24. 24. Main indicator types • Local initiatives – – – – – – – – Subjective and objective Mix of domains Local Policy-makers and public Complement Not always Beyond GDP Policy & debate Democratic engagement Economic Social Environ mental
  25. 25. Outline • Defining & understanding Beyond GDP • Categorising Beyond GDP initiatives • Impact to date of Beyond GDP
  26. 26. The initiatives studied (of ~80) Domestic Material Consumption Happy Life Years OECD Handbook of Subjective Well-Being UN Commission for Sustainable Development
  27. 27. New indicators have been used to shift debate by outsiders … • Ecological Footprint, a greater understanding of our global impact • QUARS in Italy, which was one of the forerunners of the official BES • HPI in the UK, opened space for ONS initiative • Subjective well-being, highlighting that there are limits to the benefits of growth
  28. 28. …and are getting some traction in some policy circles… • Many are being used for assessment purposes – GPI in Maryland by State govt, QUARS in Italy by town and regional govts – Quality of life indicators for cities in New Zealand by local authorities – Ecological footprint (e.g. Wales, Ecuador, UAE) • There have been some associated policy changes – Focus on farmland birds in UK, after Sustainable Development Indicator set – Delivery of public health projects in USA, after Gallup-Healthways WellBeing Index – Delivery of projects working with homeless in Belgium, after SPIRAL – Alcohol policy in UK based on well-being data • There have even been some clear measurable impacts – Reduction in infant mortality rates, in Jacksonville, Florida – Reduced recidivism, again resulting from Jacksonville Community Indicators
  29. 29. ... but mainly at local or regional level – not in economics depts • Local successes are easier because – It is easier to bring stakeholders together – Citizens feel more connected with their locality – It is easier to bring different parts of local government together – The focus is spatial planning and local services, not the economy • Hence some of our examples – Jacksonville Community Indicators in Florida, SPIRAL, Toronto’s Vital Signs • National examples are not ‘Beyond GDP’ impacts – Alcohol, public health, service delivery, farmland birds So that’s the challenge for today!
  30. 30. Saamah Abdallah, nef (the new economics foundation) saamah.abdallah@neweconomics.org Tomas Hak, Charles University Environment Centre (WP1) tomas.hak@czp.cuni.cz Charles Seaford, nef (the new economics foundation) (WP3) charles.seaford@neweconomics.org , James Jordan

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