Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Beyond GDP: Day Two - Opening Remarks

I'm back in the States, and using a standard QWERTY keyboard -- I loved Belgium, but had a hard time using the Benelux keyboard layout. I think I've corrected most of the typos in the previous posts now. Any mistakes from here on out are mine and can't be blamed on the hardware.

Back to a discussion of the conference. They have a video online discussing key issues raised in the conference, and will be posting the archived webcasts soon. We began Day Two with a presentation by Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament. While he said that decisions about which indicators and instruments to use should be left to the experts and statisticians, the implications of the discussion are much broader. He continued:

Recent years have shown us that climate change and unchecked economic growth can have irreversible negative impacts, and it is clear that the GDP as a measure of a nation's overall growth does not reflect the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens. Clearly we need indicators that take a more holistic approach to understanding the economy, social realities, and the environment.

Jeremy Bentham said, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.” This demands that we reconsider the measures we use. We need to consider what we want for our future and the future of our grandchildren. Globalization will provide great opportunities for the European Union if we take charge and proceed in a sustainable fashion, but globalization has side effects that we cannot brush aside.

We must move beyond GDP. For too long we have equated GDP and the welfare of nations. We need a paradigm change in thinking. Since the 1950's, economic growth has increased substantially, but so has pollution and loss of natural resources. We need a new leitmotif that we can involve in other policy considerations. We need to build new measures based on shared values with human beings at the center. The European Union is a community of values, among which is concern for a clean and healthy environment.

I fully support the initiative of this conference. We as legislators need a set of indicators for our policy work so we can make decisions based on the right kind of information.

The message started the second day with a high degree of optimism, tempered by the thought that 12 years ago a similar conference in the same place called for the same things -- new measures to understand the social and environmental impacts of policy decisions and new ways to define and measure progress. Perhaps, however, the mood of the world and its priorities have shifted enough to make new national measures of progress a reality.


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