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