Quality of life overall is improving, but personal rights and safety, and tolerance an inclusion are all showing a troubling decline, according to the recently released 2017 Social Progress Index, a tool that uses key indicators in the areas of basic human needs, foundations of well-being, and opportunity to measure the relative performance of nations, regions, and even cities. In its fourth edition, the index can now compare 128 countries to reveal trends on both a macro and micro scale, patterns that could make clear the path to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

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Topline macro global trends from the past year: quality of life overall is improving, but personal rights and safety, and tolerance and inclusion are all showing a troubling decline. Overall the world is underperforming on social progress when you look at what the average GDP per capita suggests is possible. It’s not all doom and gloom though, Skoll-funded social entrepreneurs are working actively in each of the ten countries that have shown the greatest improvement in the last four years.

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, sat down with Skoll Editor Zach Slobig to talk through the value of the index as a tool for social entrepreneurs, decision makers, and ordinary citizens.

Zach: It seems to me that this index provides a useful common language for a range of stakeholders, a way to determine where the most work needs to be done. What are your thoughts on how the index can be useful or insightful for ordinary people?

Sally: SPI is designed so that ordinary citizens can get a very quick read on how well or poorly their countries perform in areas that matter to them: health care, education, rights. The tool can also provoke citizens to demand accountability from the decision-makers responsible for strengthening institutions they care about.

Zach: And how is this tool useful to social entrepreneurs specifically?

Sally: When people think about their governments, and about being citizens of a state or a subnational unit, a city or a region, what do they care about? It’s their schools, their water supply, their access to healthcare, their rights and freedoms. Social entrepreneurs focus on driving new, sustainable solutions in all these areas and more. SPI provides a clear picture of how well a society and its institutions are performing, which helps social entrepreneurs understand—at both the macro and more specific levels—where their interventions fit.

I think of someone like Vicky Colbert and Escuela Nueva, the educational reform work she did in Colombia; eventually her model was adopted and became that country’s policy. Madhav Chavan and Pratham are having a similar impact on India’s educational system and its accountability. It’s models such as these that challenge a dysfunctional status quo and drive sustainable societal progress.

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