ISE Students Attend What Works 2017

Berit Hanna Czock and Dwina Soerono attend the What Works 2017


REYKJAVIK, May 27 - This semester, ISE graduate students and Landsvirkjun interns Berit Hanna Czock and Dwina Soerono attended the What Works 2017 International Summit to Advance Social Progress as part of their internship project. The summit was held at the world famous concert hall, Harpa.

The main topic of discussion at What Works 2017 was the Social Progress Index (SPI), a bench-marking tool on social progress. As Berit Hanna and Dwina explain, the SPI is a non-economic index that measures the social outcome of an economy as opposed to traditional monetary input measures such as GDP. Berit Hanna elaborates,

A country can have economic growth without social development but not vise versa. As such, monetary indices may fall short. The Social Progress Index measures 54 variables including personal well being, free access to information, the number of smart phones per capita and so on. This is then compressed into one index that shows the overall social progress of the country, state, municipality, community, or whatever domain you are focusing on.

Dwina adds in about the status of the index, stating,

The index has only been around since 2013 and is as such very new. This also means that indices created so far are up-to-date and still relevant. The current focus regarding the SPI is to promote and educate future users of the index. The tool has great potential if it is taken into society as a standard measure.

Indeed, the purpose of What Works 2017 was just as Dwina explained - to bring together leaders and change-makers from business, government and civil society to promote and discuss the Social Progress Index. Dwina spoke passionately, indicating that,

The potential for such an index is huge. It's application could be wide-spread, giving a metric for social progress across any human domain - anything from tourism to manufacturing to heavy industry and across any country. The key is the standardized framework, which is supposed to allow for meaningful comparisons across different domains. The index is still new so we will see how it will develop as it becomes more mainstream. Still, investors are starting to be socially conscious and looking at metrics like this, which is promising. 

Berit Hanna continued, indicating the atmosphere of the conference.

Everyone participating agreed that the SPI was a great tool. It's about empowering people by giving a tool to specify exactly why a country might not be performing well socially. In a sense, it increases resolution and holds governing bodies accountable for current policies and regulations. With regards to implementing, the main challenge is gathering data in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the spirit was positive in an environment full of important individuals from many different sectors. For me, it was a big honor to have Shireen Huq, co-founder of Naripokkho, a leading women's rights organisation in Bangladesh, speak at the conference.

Dwina concurred regarding the event turn-out, stating,

It was interesting to be part of an event so rooted in industry. There were few students and it was refreshing to see how real change happens. As it stands, the SPI is still at it's early stages and it needs promoting, training, and educating. The beauty of it is that with such a social index, everyone is essentially a stakeholder. And, once it is well adopted, it provides a language that everyone can speak, a standardization. Even though every industry is different and requires customization, the SPI will help create a story-line that lines everyone together.

With regards to their next steps, Berit Hanna and Dwina will be continuing their work with Landsvirkjun for their internship, having learned a great deal about the Social Progress Index.



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