Michael Green, CEO of Social Progress Imperative speaking at the Impact as a Service launch event of ChangeX in Dublin

How can we make Ireland the best place to live in the world?

The Social Progress Index might provide some of the answers…

Last week, the CEO of Social Progress Imperative, Michael Green, presented Ireland’s Social Progress Index (SPI) results to Government, policy makers and representatives of the citizen sector at the National Economic Dialogue in Dublin Castle. This was a welcome and important shift at a national level towards giving social indicators equal weighting to economic indicators, which would have previously shaped all of the conversation at this event. Here, we take a look at what SPI is all about, why we think it matters for Irish communities and how it forms an important part of our ChangeX vision.

On June 21st, The Social Progress Imperative published its 2017 results. Ireland’s scorecard is impressive, ranking as the 11th most desirable place to live in the world, ahead of both Germany and the UK. It’s one of 14 countries where Social Progress is categorised as ‘Very High’, with Denmark and Finland, unsurprisingly, leading the way.


SPI is designed as a complement to GDP and other economic indicators, providing a more holistic understanding of a country’s performance. The Social Progress Imperative defines ‘social progress’ as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential. Rather than measuring how much is invested in education, health or environmental quality, it measures the outcomes – the actual impact on people’s lives.

High GDP doesn’t necessarily lead to high Social Progress, for example Costa Rica ranks very low on GDP but high on Social Progress, and Kuwait ranks higher than Ireland on GDP but is significantly lower on Social Progress.

The 2017 Global SPI includes data from 128 countries on 50 indicators and includes 98% of the world’s population!

The index isn’t designed just to fill newspapers with rankings once a year, it’s designed to drive action towards greater progress. Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, it provides a common framework for government, civil society, business and local communities to take action in the right areas at the right time and importantly to track our impact along the way.


The Sustainable Development Goals

Let’s look at Ireland’s strengths

Globally, Ireland ranks second only to Iceland on ‘Tolerance and Inclusion’. This score is a result of exceptionally high tolerance towards immigrants and the LGBTQ community and very low discrimination and violence perpetrated against minorities.  

On ‘Access to Advanced Education’, Ireland also performs strongly (6th), the result of a number of factors including the number of years of tertiary schooling and the percentage of students enrolled in globally ranked universities.

However, our relatively high ranking does not mean there are no issues to tackle and there is always room for improvement, even on our high ranking areas.

What about our weaknesses? 

Ireland registers poor results on ‘Availability of affordable housing‘ (55th) and ‘Suicide rate’ (57th), and the results highlight the lack of accessible Internet connectivity in parts of the country, all of which are very real challenges that are affecting many communities in Ireland at the moment.

Ireland underperforms on ‘Water and Sanitation’ (41st) thanks in part to the fact that just 90% of Ireland’s population has access to ‘improved sanitation’ (including flush toilets, piped sewer systems, septic tanks, composting toilets etc.), this compares to 99% of people in the UK.  Similarly for ‘Environmental Quality’ (23rd) – the data here highlights a need to do more to protect our terrestrial and marine areas as well as threatened or endangered species. 

Here’s some of the Irish scorecard, but you can dig into the full results here.

Ireland’s 2017 Scorecard

How do we take action?

At ChangeX, we believe in the power of local communities to drive social progress. We think that local communities are best placed to recognise their needs and address their challenges and that’s why we’re focused on equipping local communities with the best ideas and supporting them to start and sustain these ideas.

We also think SPI can play a very powerful role in this process. With a community level Index, similar to what has been developed in Costa Rica, we could have localised data that would allow towns and villages across the country to accurately diagnose what they’re doing well and what they need to improve upon. ChangeX could then ensure that the best and most relevant ideas are placed in the hands of these communities. Equipped with both the data and the best ideas, communities would be able to focus their energy on the highest priority issues and critically, measure their progress over time. Imagine if communities were competing with their local rivals on social progress scores!

How it all fits together

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be aligning all of the ideas on ChangeX with the Sustainable Development Goals. Our vision is that ChangeX becomes the ‘community action’ element of progress towards these goals; we’ll mobilise and support as many communities as possible to take action on the issues that are most relevant to them.

Let’s take an example…

Ireland scores low on ‘Environmental Quality’ relative to its peer group of countries. This indicator of SPI maps to Goal 13: Climate Action and Goal 15: Life on Land. This score shows that we, as a country, have work to do when it comes to protecting biodiversity and habitat, treating waste water and our greenhouse gas emissions. Based on this result, we’ll recommend ideas and support you in starting them in your community. With time, you’ll also be able to track your impact, through a combination of outcomes and progress on the relevant SPI indicator.

What’s Next?

We’re building an alliance of groups and organisations that share our vision for a community level SPI in Ireland. It’ll take a cross-sector, team effort to make it a reality and we’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback on how we get there – just pop them in the comments section below.

We’re also always on the lookout for ideas that are already having an impact and have the potential to scale through the ChangeX platform.

If you’re interested in getting involved in a local SPI let me know by email – [email protected].

If you’re working on an idea that’s already having an impact and is ready to spread through ChangeX, let us know right here.

And of course, if you’d like to take action in your community by starting or joining any of the ideas on ChangeX, you can browse ideas here.

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