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Welcome to the Social Progress Index

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The buoyant sentiment post elections at the Bombay Stock Exchange has even conservative industry experts predicting that the Sensex is not too far behind hitting the 30,000 mark. To borrow a phrase from social media lingo, the ‘Modi-fication’ of India’s business community –at home and abroad – is only a Budget away from being complete.

A few weeks from now, when we will all be discussing our GDP growth and the new surge in the BSE Index, let’s keep one eye on a new index some forums are talking about called the Social Progress Index (SPI). And before everyone starts sprinkling it into their social media updates and hashtagging it on Twitter, The wp Journal team is happy to be the first to break it down for you.

So what exactly is the Social Progress Index?

Launched by the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, and inspired by the writings of noted economist Dr. Amartya Sen, among others, the Social Progress Index (SPI) is the new way to measure social progress that goes beyond the prevailing metric of development, Gross Domestic Product. The index measures the progress of a nation beyond its GDP that is sometimes considered too one-dimensional to provide a true sense of the progress. Specifically, SPI tracks social and environmental outcomes that include access to schools, healthcare, a clean environment, general well-being, sanitation and nutrition. This new index could help policy-makers, the private sector, and social entrepreneurs, attend to the decision-making process with a more holistic vision, and specifically, enable corporates to sharpen their focus and come up with out-of-the-box ideas that also have sizeable impact while identifying areas for wp activities.

An interesting finding of the index, is that social progress tends to slow down in rich nations as growth continues. Prosperity brings new challenges like obesity, environmental pollution, and waste, which are areas where wp activities can be focused, especially in urban centres of fast-developing countries like India.

Where does India stand in SPI?

India on the Social Progress Chart
India on the Social Progress Chart

India stands at an unenviable 102nd position in the list of countries included in this index. Under the Basic Human Needs criteria, India does well in providing nutrition and basic medical care, but lags behind in providing shelter for its homeless. Similarly, India excels at providing maximum access to basic knowledge, but would benefit from greater investment in more people gaining access to information and communications. In providing opportunity for its citizens to improve their position in society, India outperforms, and scores highly in personal freedom and choice, yet rather predictably, falls short in tolerance and inclusion.

So is SPI just another pop quiz?

Like any other social index, the SPI too has had its share of criticism where experts says that one can prove all sorts of things by selecting suitable sample. While that may be true, such new development indices that go beyond GDP measurement will have value for the social sector, and the wp community, to build sustainable models that give back in value more than what they absorb in cost.