Assessing networked risks through the measurement of Social Capital – first lessons from the World Social Capital Monitor

This post has been contributed by Alexander Dill of the Basel Institute of Commons and Economics

Can trust, solidarity, helpfulness and friendliness have an impact on economic outcomes by lowering the costs for externalities such as security, peace and environmental damage? If the answer is yes, these supposedly ‘soft’ social goods should be given more attention.

The intuitive importance of the concept of “social capital” has long been recognised, but efforts to define and measure it have been less successful. In 1999, then Chief Economist of the World Bank, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz launched the Social Capital Initiative (with contributions from two other Nobel laureates: Amartya Sen and Elinor Ostrom), which led to a detailed 27-page household questionnaire being administered in a number of countries, but the complexity of the concept continued to be an obstacle to the meaningful application of results to policy and programme interventions.

So which are the aspects of social capital that should be made a priority for measurement? Social capital can be seen as relationships and social networks within groups (‘bonding’ social capital) or as social relationships, values and perceptions across ethnical, political and religious groups, also known as ‘bridging’ social capital. Bridging social capital can be seen to underpin such concepts as trust, solidarity and friendliness, and it is these phenomena which could be the most valuable to underpin the functioning of democratic, stable and resilient societies. More trusting and cooperative societies are likely to have to spend less on transaction costs and externalities.
This is why the World Social Capital Monitor started measuring eight indicators of bridging Social Capital in 36 languages and 141 countries, that serve to assess networked risks and to lowering the costs of externalities. Now the social climate, the willingness to co-finance public goods by austerity measures and taxes, the willingness to invest in local cooperatives and SME, trust, helpfulness, friendliness and hospitality can be locally scored on a ladder between 10 (high/excellent) and 1 (low/poor). You can test it yourself by scoring your town on on any Smartphone, PC or tablet.

From former surveys e.g. on trust by the WHO in 2012 (deviation 2.41 on the same ladder) we could expect a high deviation. But the deviation given by the Trust Your Place survey was much lower. In Cambodia the citizens of 18 provinces only differed by 1.5 points on average when they scored their bridging Social Capital. The poorest province of Kandal had better scores than the capital Phnom Penh. To better understand the Global distribution of Social Capital we may have a look at a comparison of interpersonal trust in four countries.

Dill Blog Image

Source: Social Capital Assessment, Basel Institute of Commons and Economics, 2012/2016

In Japan, high societal trust allowed to recover after the double disasters of the earthquake and Fukushima in 2012. The Basel Institute therefore published the results to argue against a downgrade of Japan in rating. In Ukraine in 2012 however, interpersonal trust was entirely down – and ended in the decline of economy and society in 2014 and the loss of Crimea and Donbass. At the time most of the analysts published positive outlooks on Ukraine and saw the country to becoming a candidate for the EU.

In Afghanistan trust with a score of 4.95 is the worst of the eight indicators of Social Capital but at the same level as in many Western countries.
So the level of trust can indicate high political and economic risks (Ukraine) as well as societal stability (Japan, Cambodia) and a promising base for reconciliation in a country being in war for decades (Afghanistan).

Related links

Basel Institute of Commons and Economics

Wiki article on ‘Social Capital’

Knowledge for a better world – the International Panel on Social Progress

International Panel on Social Progress
International Panel on Social Progress

How can social sciences and the humanities help in achieving better societies for all? This question is at the heart of the International Panel on Social Progress, an ambitious undertaking aiming to bring together the knowledge of hundreds of experts in order to set out the state of the art on how to foster social progress  – and they want to hear from you too.

The word ‘progress’ sometimes gets a bad rap. It’s certainly a difficult time to argue that social, economic and environmental trends inevitably move in a positive direction, and it’s also easy to find examples where development and modernization processes have brought about a deterioration rather than improvement in well-being for many people and the planet. It’s clear that social progress – understood as the sustainable and equitable improvement in well-being of all people – is not an automatic process. However, this only further underlines the importance of efforts to use evidence and knowledge to support positive social change. This is the philosophy behind Wikiprogress, and is also the driving force of the International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP), an ambitious initiative to take stock of the leading-edge of knowledge in the social sciences and humanities to assess what contributions they can make to shape a better, more just world.

Since 2015, the IPSP is bringing together almost 300 experts from every region in the world, and representing all social science disciplines and perspectives, to provide an interdisciplinary and cutting-edge view of the options available to achieve more sustainable and equitable social progress. Initiated by the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and Princeton University, the IPSP will cover the full range of economic, political and cultural issues facing societies today including democracy, poverty and inequalities, globalization, work, migration, public and corporate governance, global and environmental risks, health, conflict, religion, education, integration and diversity.

Modeled in part on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPSP will also necessarily be quite different. Firstly, it has not been commissioned by governments, but is peer-led by scholars themselves. The work is being guided by a Steering Committee and a Scientific Council of leading international scholars, and supported by an Honorary Advisory Committee headed by Nobel-prize winner Amartya Sen. Secondly, given the role of values and normative frameworks in shaping social science discourse, the Panel will not aim to produce a definitive ‘consensus’ on the right way to move forward, but will aim to be transparent about the different options available when consensus is not possible.

The ultimate outcome of the IPSP’s work will be a comprehensive report to be published in 2018 addressed to all social actors, movements, organizations, politicians and decision-makers who can play a part in fostering social progress. It is hoped that the report will also encourage and guide further research in areas where it is needed.  The first drafts of many of the chapters are now completed, and between now and the end of the year, everyone with an interest in the issue of social progress is encouraged to read the report and provide comments. There are also other ways you can get involved in this process, such as taking part in the discussion forums or answering a survey on how you see different aspects of social progress. This is an exciting and potentially hugely influential initiative, and we encourage you to take part however you can!

How you can be part of the International Panel on Social Progress

Download the outline of the report

Read the chapters of the report and contribute your comments

Join in the discussion forums

Take a short survey on aspects of social progress

Poor numbers are not sexy…

The issue of statistical capacity building in developing countries is actually becoming a sexy issue. I can’t believe I am saying this. Though, we can ask Hal Varian for his opinion on that here.
As Wikiprogress is a community with several networks looking for better indicators of well-being, I think that we need to recognise something before we go any further.
There is a crisis of official data production
Recent discussions at the OECD with Paris 21 (see snazzy new website here) and around the world here are really bringing this issue to the forefront.  However, in Bill Gates’ 2013 letter he says on page 1:
“In the past year I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal—in a feedback loop”. 
Well, that is proving to be difficult….
I recently read Morten Jerven’s new book Poor Numbers which is an analysis of the production and use of African economic development statistics. Jerven’s research shows how the statistical capacities of sub-Saharan African economies have fallen into disarray. He reports that the numbers substantially misstate the actual state of affairs. As a result, scarce resources are misapplied. Development policy does not deliver the benefits expected. Policymakers’ attempts to improve the lives of the citizenry are frustrated. Donors have no accurate sense of the impact of the aid they supply. The book outlines that statistics tell us less about African development then we would like to think. He says that the main problem is a lack of investment in statistics production. Jerven gives the Zambia example where there is one person working in all of national accounts.
That isn’t very sexy.
New demands but where is the supply?
With the rather intense debates around the post-2015 framework, it is hard to believe that producing good numbers isn’t a bigger focus of the chatter. There is more pressure being placed on the NSOs for quality data but there doesn’t seem be a strong push to raise the capacity of these offices. Developing countries faced with the buzz word “evidence based policy” are feeling the squeeze in that policies cannot be made or monitored without good data.
This isn’t a developing country phenomenon. OECD countries are also looking at ways to meet new (and expensive) demands. Data coming from sources like Google and others are beginning to compete with the NSOs because they can produce data that is timelier. In this world of instant this and instant that, people will not wait 5 years for the next survey result. 
Solutions include:
  • invest more money in producing high quality statistics (i.e. make it a priority)
  • NSOs should work with other producers of statistics in public private partnerships
  • international goals such as the post-2015 framework should have a goal for statistical quality.
  • involve citizens and local perspectives in the production process
I recommend reading Jergen’s book which is chock full of history and recommendations.  Follow the Paris 21 website for more on this topic as well. I also welcome your views on this blog.
Angela Hariche

Image from

Thoughts on European Progress

Last week, the OECD co-organised in collaboration with e-Frame (European Framework for Measuring Progress) partners and Eurostat the European Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies. This conference is a part of a series of regional conferences that will feed into the 4th OECD World Forum on “Statistics, Knowledge and Policy taking place on 16-19 October 2012, in New Delhi, India. The conference was broken down into three main thematic sections: material conditions, quality of life and sustainability. You can find the full agenda here.
On the first day of the conference there was an interesting round table on why or whether we should look at measures of well-being in the midst of a financial crisis.
Daniel Daianu, Professor of Economics, The National School of Political and Administrative Studies, Bucharest, former finance minister of Romania and former MEP said in support of the well-being measures and that take into account the inequalities that GDP misses: “fairness is needed in both good times and bad”.
Throughout the conference, the participants from policy, media and civil society mentioned the problem of “nowcasting”. GDP is a good measure because it is also a convenient measure. The timeliness of well-being data is of utmost importance. We have to figure out a way to produce this data quicker and that is expensive. Though, there are datasets that could be compiled on other well-being data (the unemployment rate for example among others) that are available more regularly.
We repeatedly heard that there are now enough alternative (to GDP) indicators of well-being and progress in Europe. The issue now is how to get these indicators used for policy. It was mentioned several times that indicators must have a policy link. For example, if the OECD Better Life Index is saying that a country is performing badly in the housing dimension, then there should be a policy recommendation that goes with it.  That of course means that the relationship between dimensions should be clearer if the aim is to increase overall well-being and not just housing.  As there aren’t well-being ministries in Europe, going for holistic well-being will have to be a team effort which will oblige policy makers, researchers, etc. to come out of their silos. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend recently who is leading a lab researching mitochondria(I had to look it up too). While I couldn’t really follow what she is doing, I did note how dependant she is on the neuroscientists and other scientists in many different fields as she is a biochemist. Her work is useless without the others. Perhaps we should look at well-being policy more like biology.  Policies in the interest of all dimensions.
But of course we are talking about people here and not dimensions. Probably the most significant issue coming out of the conference (for this blogger) is citizen participation in policy dialogue. This conference insisted that we have to find the stories that are relevant to citizens and households and invite citizen involvement in the process. At the conference, the European Network on Measuring Well-being was launched with the European Framework on Measuring Progress (eFrame). This network is committed to communication and dissemination of well-being work with a heavy emphasis on two-way communication. The Wikiprogress Africa, Asia and Latin America networks are also ones to watch. We will keep you posted on the results of this work and opportunities for participation.
Another positive sign is that in the conclusions of the conference, Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician, noted that political uptake of well-being measures and policies depends on both political leadership and public consultation. It is in this way that we can ensure that the policies being made are actually addressing citizen concerns.
For full conclusions of the conference, please click here.
Angela Hariche
OECD, Head of Well-being Networks

The Conference gathered around 270 policy makers, statisticians, academics, and other stakeholders from the European region who have a specific interest in the field. Its purpose was to deepen on-going reflection on how to measure well-being and the progress of societies, enhance the relevance of measures and analysis for addressing key policy issues, and lead to concrete outputs, such as establishing frameworks for future co-operation.

Involvement of civil society in choosing complementary indicators

A recent submission to Wikiprogress includes a document from the The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on the importance of civil society in choosing complimentary indicators (to GDP) of well-being.

The opinion document was presented at its 479th plenary session, held on 28 and 29 March 2012 (meeting of 29 March), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 172 votes to 5 with 12 abstentions. It is intended to be in an input for upcoming events RIO+20 and the 4th OECD World Forum.

The document provides a series of recommendations/conclusions to further involve civil society including:

  • The EESC would argue that the complex path leading to a new definition of well-being and the progress of societies – beyond economic growth alone – cannot be separated from concurrent European policies to tackle the renewed impact of the economic and financial crisis.
  • The gap between economic policies at both national and European level and policies for well-being and social progress has widened considerably. However, given the now widespread adoption of indicators complementary to GDP by official national statistical services, the possibility of narrowing this gap is linked to the capacity to process the large quantities of information available in terms of public knowledge and awareness. 
  •  The EESC emphasises its willingness to act as a meeting place between organised civil society and official European bodies as part of a participatory decision-making process to identify and design indicators of progress for the European Union. 

Also contained in the document is an outline of: 

  • the complex path from economic growth to progress of societies, 
  • ways to make the progress of societies the new benchmark, 
  • the gaps in information, consultation and participation in the process of preparing progress indicators, the barriers and ways to overcome them.
Access the full document here.

6 April 2012 Week in Review

Spotlight: UN High Level Meeting on Happiness and Wellbeing

On Monday, the United Nations hosted a High level meeting on Happiness and Well Being Defining a New Economic Paradigm and put happiness on the global agenda.
Speaking at the meeting, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley  said:”The GDP-lead development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self-destructive actions. The purpose of development must be to create enabling conditions through public policy for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of happiness by all citizens.”
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Happiness

Where Art, Sport and Development Meet (All Africa 03.04.2012)
Rwanda has seen phenomenal growth over the last 18 years according to a variety of indicators. An interesting measure, not normally considered in this blog, is the growth of music and sport. According to this article, there have been more musical compositions created over the last ten years than in all the previous forty.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in Rwanda

On human development
In Singapore, taxi diver earns $3000 a month (The Nation 03.04.2012)
Singapore gained independence around the same time as Nigeria, however the two countries are poles apart on the Human Development Index. This article details the many different ways in which Singapore has progressed and questions has the country developed with equality.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in Singapore

On different kinds of progress in Aceh
A return to Aceh admits hope for peace and prosperity (World Bank Blog 02.04.2012)
Aceh is recognised internationally for the devastating Tsunami that tragically swept through the town leaving a behind a path of destruction. This article looks at the violence and poverty that plagued Aceh long before the Tsunami and the positive developments over the last five years.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogres article on progress in Indonesia

On gender equality
Two thirds Young Arab Women remain Out of Workforce (Gallup 03.04.2012)
There is a consistent gender gap across the 22 Arab countries and territories, according to Gallup’s labour force participation data. About 1 in 3 young Arab Women between the ages of 23 and 29 participate in their national labor force compared to 8 in 10 young Arab men.
Contribute to the topic by creating a new article in Wikigender on Women’s Access to Employment in the MENA Region

Democracy Not Advancing Around the Globe

This is a guest from Wikiprogress Coorespondent Bertelsmann Stiftung

The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s latest Transformation Index ( shows: The quality of democracy in Eastern Europe and Latin America has worsened considerably.
Political freedoms are increasingly being curtailed in many countries around the globe. The situation has worsened in particular in many southeastern and eastern European states, as well as in Latin America. Moreover, despite many successes in overcoming the global financial and economic crisis, socioeconomic conditions in more than half of the world’s less-developed nations are inadequate or even catastrophic. Those are some of the findings from the current release of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI), which examines the progress 128 developing and transition countries are making toward democracy and a market economy. As the findings suggest, when economic growth is not channeled into greater social justice and political freedom, the chances of political repression, reactionary populism and social uprisings increase.
As the 2012 BTI’s long-term comparisons show, political rights and freedom of expression have increasingly been restricted around the globe. Of particular note are the worsening conditions in the politically most advanced regions of Eastern Europe and Latin America. In recent years the decline has been particularly pronounced in Hungary and Ukraine. Fifteen of the 38 states in these regions assessed by the BTI exhibit a decline in the quality of their democratic elections, including all Southeast European states, with the exception of Serbia. Increasingly, instances of legal infractions, bought votes, opaque campaign financing and purported fraud have been observed. Governments in a number of regions, including Europe, are increasingly restricting independent media or trying to intimidate journalists, something that has occurred in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Slovakia. In Latin America the quality of democracy has especially worsened in Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Panama.
At a low level of democratic quality to begin with, the situation has further degenerated in many countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. Basic rights have been further restricted in eight countries there, while torture and arbitrary arrests have increased. At the same time, however, many countries on the African continent are no longer threatened with becoming failed states, at least for the moment. Of the 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, governments in 18 have expanded their monopoly on the use of force since the last BTI release.
Experts believe a key cause of this decline in democratic quality is dissatisfaction with the socioeconomic performance achieved by democratic systems. People in East-Central and Southeast Europe, for example, are very aware of the different levels of prosperity between the countries they live in and those in Western Europe. This perception is heightened by the sociopolitical restrictions facing many governments as a result of limited inflows of foreign investment and the fiscal policy guidelines set out by the EU for accession candidates. The resulting loss of trust has often helped populist movements to gain ground quickly. In many Latin American countries, it is the resistance among ruling elites to reform or effectively address growing social disparities that has prompted many to seek forms of protests beyond established political channels.

Socioeconomic stagnation or regression are all the more problematic as economic development in many countries is, overall, quite positive. The impact of the global and economic crisis of 2008/2009, for example, was less dire than expected. Following minor economic downturns, most of the countries surveyed by the BTI were able to recover quickly and have stabilized overall. As the current BTI demonstrates, however, gains from economic growth have not translated into social progress, or have done so only to a very limited extent. Overall, 69 of the 128 countries surveyed have a socioeconomic level of development that the experts classify as inadequate or catastrophic.

“The BTI shows once more that economic growth does not automatically lead to more equitable social development. These are, above all, areas that policymakers must address,” says Aart de Geus, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board. Current trends in the BTI countries underscore this point, he notes. Social disparities in Bahrain and South Korea, for example, have increased, despite economic gains. In contrast, a number of countries in Latin America and Asia prove that strategic, social and economic policies can improve the situation, something that can be seen in poverty alleviation programs in Brazil and Uruguay and educational measures in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The impact of no progress can be seen clearly in the unrest taking place in Arab countries, de Geus says. Even though Egypt and Tunisia have exhibited impressive economic growth, efforts to improve social conditions have been insufficient; poverty has therefore increased, as has pessimism among young people and rural populations. The result has been the uprisings of the Arab Spring.
In part, the BTI refutes the myth of the “Asian model,” according to which autocracies can have overall economic development that is more stable, reliable and robust than functioning democratic systems. According to the BTI, this scenario holds only in exceptional cases, such as China, Singapore, Vietnam and, to some extent, Malaysia. A comparison of autocracies and democracies, however, reveals that the latter score better in all areas, on average. Even China and Vietnam are far from the level of the top democratic performers. The “transformation leader” at the top of the BTI’s Management Index over the most recent period is, for instance, Taiwan. Achieving the highest possible score in 13 out of 18 assessment areas, the island nation contrasts markedly with the authoritarian development model being applied on the Chinese mainland. Though the context of political steering performance in Guinea, Mauritania, Moldova and the Philippines differs, each show considerable improvement in this area. Madagascar, Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire and Hungary have, by contrast, registered the largest losses in this area. The worst performers in terms of political management for this edition of the BTI are Eritrea, Myanmar, Somalia and North Korea.
The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) analyzes and evaluates the quality of democracy, a market economy and political management in 128 developing and transition countries. It measures successes and setbacks on the path toward a democracy based on the rule of law and a market economy anchored in principles of social justice. In-depth country reports provide the qualitative data used to assess these countries’ development status and challenges, and to evaluate the ability of policymakers to carry out consistent and targeted reforms. The BTI is the first cross-national comparative index that uses self-collected data to measure the quality of governance and provide a comprehensive analysis of countries’ policymaking success during processes of transition.

See more on the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index

New UN report on resilient people and planet

This week, Wikiprogress is highlighting a very full report which came out recently from the UN Secretary General High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, “Resilient People, Resilient Plant: a future worth choosing” chaired by the Presidents of Finland and South Africa.
The report is written for a child born this year who will come of age in 2030 in an effort to explain how we got to this point in 2012 and how the Panel recommends to fix it.
The report is broken out into three big sections:
1) Empowering people (gender equality, human rights)
2) Transforming the global economy (green growth)
3) Strengthening Institutions (sustainable development goals, a framework for measuring progress)
Below are just a few recommendations that jumped out at me while reading. There are 56 recommendations in total to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy “as quickly as possible”.
1) There is a real emphasis in this report on getting policy makers at all levels to make decisions for the long term rather than the short. Interesting considering panel is full of politicians (or their senior ministers/advisors). There is a recommendation for an “incentive road map” in terms of the wins predicted along the way if we plan for sustainability. This is a good idea. I wish they would call it something else though. The term “road map” immediately conjures images of bureaucracy. They  could call it “Incentive Alley” or something. Though, that makes it sound like a Broadway show.
2) Fight for gender equality because without it there can be no sustainability. Nice to see this spelled out so clearly in a report that isn’t about gender equality but rather about sustainability. A lot of these reports make an e f f o r t at gender mainstreaming but in this one it seems almost effortless.
3) Create Sustainable Development Goals (the recommend progress metrics alongside absolute goals, incorporate near term benchmarks, and covering all countries in the world) AND a common framework to measure progess. These are two separate issues with different recommendations in this report though with obvious overlap. I think it is good that the goals are separated from the indicators in this paper; however, the tone of it all seems to be very top down. It will be impossible to come up with universal indicators as there is no one size fits all indicator. This is a criticism of the current MDGs as well.
4) Pull everyone out of their silos of expertise and create a new language of progress. For too long, economists, social activists and environmental scientists have simply talked past each other”. Yes, we have heard that one many many times before but nothing seems to change there. The Panel are calling for a new order so that we can finally pass the test that the earth is giving us on “the capacity of the planet to sustain us”. 
The Panel includes high level representatives from Finland, South Africa, The United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, Mexico, Sweden, Mozambique, Korea, Japan, Denmark, Spain, India, United States, Australia, Barbados, Brazil and China.
Angela Hariche

Wikigender and Wikipedia have success in their University programs.

I just spotted this article on the Wikimedia Blog. It is all about students in cooperation with their teachers and Universities, writing their final term papers on Wikipedia. We think this is fabulous. So fabulous that Wikigender and Wikiprogress also have this program. This year we teamed up with Sciences Po in Paris, students at the American University in Paris and the CIDE in Mexico to encourage students to volunteer to write on gender equality. Next year we look forward to working with Universities in Thailand and India. See the Wikigender University Portal here.

Wikimedia University student Karl says in the Wikimedia blog, ““I still maintain that this Wikipedia project made a world of difference in being able to write well, and unlike a term paper, which is thrown away at the end of the semester, all the work that goes into a Wikipedia article continues to help people even after the class ends”.

Wikigender took this one step further and made a selection of articles and published it via Pedia Press. This book contains articles on gender equality and education, migration and peace and security. You can buy the book here (who wouldn’t want that in their stocking??) or download a printed copy. For more information see  the Wikigender University Portal.

Please let us know if you, your class or University would like to join this project at

Happy holidays!


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