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For the Social Outcomes Conference we were joined by our keynote speaker Professor Joseph Stiglitz and hundreds of people from across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Professor Stiglitz noted that "in our world of enormous inequality, GDP could be going up and yet most people could be experiencing a lower standard of living", and this can ultimately undermine trust in government. As an alternative, he argued for adopting a broader set of metrics to judge the wellbeing of society, and find ways to reflect these metrics in the way institutions operate, both at the macro level and at the level of service delivery.

"If you measure the wrong thing, you will do the wrong thing" - Professor Joseph Stiglitz

This was followed by a panel discussion with experts from both academia and practice. Avnish Gungadurdoss from Instiglio offered a slight twist on Professor Stiglitz’s view, suggesting ‘What gets measured gets done if you are accountable for it’. This was picked up by Professor Rodney Scott (UNSW), who discussed the approach adopted in New Zealand of a more democratic approach to developing the well-being framework. The new framework affects budgetary decisions and has introduced government accountability for delivering policies according to well-being objectives. And Beata Javorcik from the EBRD reinforced the importance of this kind of approach, noting that while measurements will never be perfect, transparency will help mitigate some limitations.

As we brought an incredibly insightful discussion to a close, our Academic Director Mara Airoldi neatly summed up the session with a call to change the way we think about measuring (and thereby acting on) the things that matter to people:

“The goal is to shift norms, and the challenge is to bring everyone together towards this common goal.”

Listen to the audio recording of the session.