What if our economy valued what matters

This old system is perversely beholden to indicators like GDP, an indiscriminate measure of “progress” that ends up rewarding the destruction of people and the planet.

Mariana Mazzucato

Jose Cabezas/AFP via Getty Images

A good example of an attempt to change ‘impact indicators’ is this article that argues its time to change the impact indicators for economic growth. The standard indicator GDP or gross domestic product doesn’t measure what truly needs to be measured when it comes to the emphasis on global 21st century sustainable growth.

As we take stock of the pandemic’s wreckage, we must use this moment to overhaul how we measure value, and thus how we organize the global economy. The goal should be to create an economy that supports the health and well-being of every person on the planet, as well as the health of the planet itself. We currently have the inverse: a system that values health only as a means to the end of economic growth.

Mazzucato here cites the reasons why we need to ‘overhaul the way we measure value.’ So how can we do this? The first step is to throw out the old measure of ‘progress’, GDP. She cites two current global projects that are presenting indices that can move the global economy from its destructive tendencies that measure and encourage growth at whatever cost to people and the planet. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics are presenting ways to change up the way we measure economic growth and social progress.

 In 2020, global GDP grew by $2.2 trillion as a result of governments increasing their military spending; meanwhile, the world still has not provided the mere $50 billion needed to vaccinate the global population.

Mariana Mazzucato here presents an argument for the importance of paying attention to the indicators we use to measure outcomes, and underscores the need to change indicators that will enable us to measure more sustainable outcomes.

Economics has hitherto measured the price of everything and the value of nothing. That must change. We need to measure the value of everything so that we can account for the things that truly matter. Health and well-being – and the care that sustains them – should become our principal measures of success.

Equity in Collective Impact

Centering Equity in Collective Impact Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2022

This article is too long. Note the important highlights below.

Illustrator: Julia Schwarz

… the single greatest reason why collective impact efforts fall short is a failure to center equity.

Collective impact has lasting effectiveness only if it is focused on changing underlying systems, not just adding new programs or services.

Disaggregate the data

Unless the data is disaggregated, we cannot truly understand problems, develop appropriate solutions, or document progress.

Describing society’s problems with aggregate data: the national unemployment rate, high school graduation rates, the number of people living below the poverty line, or the percent of neonatal fatalities, masks variations by characteristics such as race and ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, income levels.

Improve the precision of data collection and reporting practices to support more equitable analysis and more targeted solutions.

Disaggregated data are essential but not sufficient.

Centering equity in the work of collective impact requires a more holistic understanding of the life experience of marginalized populations that can come only from interviews, surveys, focus groups, personal stories, and authentic engagement.

Putting data into the appropriate context

Groups interpreting the data do not often include those with lived experience when making sense of the data. Data sets that are solely quantitative, fail to capture important context that only the people most impacted and those closest to them know, and

To address this problem, many collective impact efforts begin with “data walks,” in which all participants in the collective impact effort, including organizational leaders and residents with lived experience of the issues, review easy-to-understand visual data and together analyze, interpret, and create shared meaning about what the data say.

Power of stories

The very act of seeking out and listening to stories from the affected group can provide a foundation for building trust with community stakeholders. Active use of stories can also serve to locate and center the narrative for change in the community. This step can shift conversations about solutions from more conventional programmatic responses to more systemic solutions focused more concretely on achieving greater equity.

Catalyzing Social and Environmental Change: a conversation with Andrea Nemtin

Social Impact Advisors podcast interview with Andrea Nemtin, Executive Director of Social Innovation Canada. The full interview is here.

Summary of their conversation: What is Social Innovation the concept?

Frances Westley (2008): An initiative, product, process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system.

  1. Its an intentional approach
  2. Works with a systems lens
  3. Uses human centred design
Continue reading “Catalyzing Social and Environmental Change: a conversation with Andrea Nemtin”

Former BlackRock exec says government should be the lead actors on climate change

Now get this. A former C-level exec at Black Rock. Yes that Black Rock, resigned from his position as chief of sustainable investing, and basically throws up his hands and says governments have to throw their chips into the centre and quit playing coy, and step up to the plate. I’ve summarized the article from the Globe and Mail below.

Tariq Fancy was formerly BlackRock Inc.’s chief investment officer for sustainable investing.

Tariq makes the case for the government to step into the fray and legislate more effective actions to curb carbon emissions in Canada much like they stepped up to flatten the curve when the COVID-19 first struck. His article is behind the Globe and Mail paywall here

His argument is simple, straight-forward. Tariq was the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of BlackRock. BlackRock manages nearly US$9-trillion in assets and owns interests greater than 5 per cent in a substantial majority of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Tariq enjoyed the support of BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink who was a huge backer of socially conscious investing or what has become better know as investing through an environment, social and governance (ESG) lens. But Tariq, after a while on his job came to this conclusion:

But I quickly learned that ESG isn’t as useful to investing as I had hoped. Acting responsibly is not as profitable as advertised. Moreover, going through the investment process is a bizarre place to try to create social impact in the first place. Investment professionals are like competitive athletes: They’re trained to chase yield and profits

Tariq Fancy
Continue reading “Former BlackRock exec says government should be the lead actors on climate change”

Logic Model

This is a simple Logic Model from a project I worked on a few years ago. From the Logic Model you decide what you want to achieve, how to measure it, what the indicators would be, and how to collect the data. From the data you craft a story of your social impact to the community at large and to funders and of course to the workers and volunteers who made it all happen.