Statewide event launches public involvement in the Genuine Progress Indicator—Vermont’s historic new law that moves the state toward sustainable well-being
This spring, Vermont’s legislature was the first in the nation to pass S.237, “An Act Relating to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)”. This breakthrough effort augments the purely monetary measure of Gross State Product (GSP) with a more complete set of economic, social and environmental indicators that monitor the well-being of the state and its people. The new GPI will be a major step toward insuring well-being with a broader range of goals and new measurements to assess success.
As Noble Prize winner Joseph Steiglitz noted ““What you measure affects what you do. If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t do the right thing.”
To jump-start the GPI initiative, state policy makers, researchers, nonprofit leaders and members of the public are invited to Measuring What Matters in Vermont slated for Wednesday May 30th from 9am – 4 pm at UVM’s Davis Center in Burlington. The cost is $40, including lunch.
The conference is dedicated to exploring the ways and means of measuring progress toward maximum well-being for Vermonters. The event aims to engage public organizations that track alternative indicators, and to recruit public involvement in the discussion.
The conference is presented by The Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Gross National Happiness USA, and Common Good Vermont.
Conference sessions highlight international and state-level work being done to improve and track well-being with reports from the United Nations, the State of Vermont and innovative nonprofit partnerships. Collaborative working sessions, guided by case studies and structured exercise, will inspire participants to think differently about the work they do and how they measure their impact. Speakers are experts in these four models and in applying well-being indicators.
During lunch, keynote speaker Anja Rudiger, Program Director at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiatve, will introduce the People’s Budget and tie it into alternative indicators of economic, social and environmental well-being.
To Register for Measuring What Matters: http://gnhusa12.eventbrite.com
The new GPI law calls on state government to work with the Gund Institute at UVM to “establish and test a genuine progress indicator that will assist state government in decision-making by providing an additional basis for budgetary decisions, including outcomes-based budgeting; by measuring progress in the application of policy and programs; and by serving as a tool to identify public policy priorities, including other measures such as human rights.” The first version of GPI is due in January 2013.
Eric Zencey, the Gund Institute’s Coordinator of the Genuine Progress Indicator Project explains: “Vermonters deserve a sturdy economy, a healthy environment, and vital communities. All three are necessary to attain the maximum level of sustainable well-being. This is the first step in a process. At the conference we’ll create a Vermont Data Working Group to inventory and pool relevant data and help us to compile an accurate GPI. This will begin the discussion of how we can improve indicators for planning and program that moves us toward a GPI Plus.”
“The passage of the GPI bill,” says Tom Barefoot, Conference Coordinator and a leader of GNHUSA (Gross National Happiness USA], “means that we need to get down to the work of identifying the specific elements of well-being that we’ll measure, and how these measures can be integrated into public policy. GPI offers a fairly standard set of wellbeing indicators, but the legislature expressed interest in going beyond those to include other aspects of wellbeing that are important to Vermonters. Ultimately, these indicators need to be translated into benchmarks that both the state and its large non-profit community can aim at in their work.”
The third group in the mix, Common Good Vermont, works with statewide partners and the Benchmarks for a Better Vermont initiative to teach Vermont nonprofits how to manage their performance and measure their outcomes. Project coordinator Lauren-Glenn Davitian adds: “If we are going to move the needle on the issues that are important to us, Vermont’s nonprofit sector needs to connect its work to state government’s big picture goals. This conference will help us build the bridge between those goals and the work being done “on the ground. We are very excited to invite our nonprofit colleagues to the table.”
“Common Good Vermont’s program, Benchmarks for a Better Vermont, is a natural complement to the work that’s being done on GPI and GNH,” Zencey says. “And it embodies common sense: to know whether you’re delivering the services you say you’re delivering, improving the life of Vermonters, you’ve got to measure results, and hold yourself accountable to them.”
The GPI builds on previous work. Students and fellows at the Gund compiled a GPI for the state of Vermont that extends to 1950, giving a baseline from which current progress and policy can be measured. In 2010 GNHUSA hosted the first-ever-in-the-US international conference on alternative indicators, and its chosen model, based on the Gross National Happiness indicator used in Bhutan.