Monday, 24 November 2014

Wikiprogress focus on youth well-being

In the coming months, Wikiprogress activities will focus on youth well-being, as part of the Web-COSI vision of “statistics for all”, starting with an online discussion taking part from December 1-15, and the launch of a new Wikiprogress Youth Portal. Kate Scrivens, Wikiprogress Manager, gives an overview of the upcoming events and initiatives.

There are more youth living in the world today than at any other time in human history. There are now an unprecedented 1.8 billion adolescents and young adults aged between 10 and 24, making up over a quarter of the world population, according to a special report published by the United Nations Population Fund this year. However, despite making up such a significant share of the world population, young people’s voices are not always heard in measurement and policy debates, where the concerns of older adults often predominate. Finding ways to better integrate young people’s concerns into policy, and ensure their well-being needs are being met are therefore pressing goals for society. As the UN report puts it, “A world in which a quarter of humanity is without full enjoyment of rights is a world without the basic building blocks for change and progress.”

In the coming months, Wikiprogress will be focusing on youth well-being, in order to explore the concerns of the younger generation in more depth and also to improve the way that the site caters to young people’s needs. This is part of Wikiprogress’ involvement with the EC-funded Web-COSI project, which aims to improve the involvement of all parts of society with well-being and progress statistics.

Online discussion
From the 1-15 December, we will be hosting an online discussion on youth well-being, inspired by the European launch of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index this week. Its aims will be to map out the main issues for youth well-being and to identify some of the key organisations and initiatives working in the field. The discussion will address the following broad questions:

  • What is the state of youth well-being today?
  • What are the most important dimensions of well-being for young people?
  • What policies have had the most impact on youth well-being in the past? Provide examples of successful initiatives.
  • How can we ensure that young people’s needs are reflected in the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda?

We are looking to hear from students and young people from around the world, to gain different perspectives on this issue, as well as to hear from experts and practitioners who have experience and knowledge of youth well-being.

Online debate in early 2015
Following on from the online discussion in December, Wikiprogress intends to pick up on some of the key issues and explore them at more length and in more depth through an online debate being hosted in partnership with CATALYST – another EC-funded project. The debate will run for several weeks, gathering input to feed into a report on priorities for youth well-being and policy that can be presented to decision makers. We’ll be writing more about this debate as the time gets closer.

Wikiprogress Youth Portal & Wikiprogress University
In order to make the content on Wikiprogress more accessible and relevant for young people, we have developed a new Youth Portal on the site. The aim of this portal is to bring together resources that are of particular interest to young people who want to find out more about measures and policies to foster well-being and social progress. It will highlight videos and other accessible content, as well as putting a spotlight on activities and initiatives working on youth issues. It will also bring together information on opportunities to get more involved in the activities and events of the Wikiprogress community, such as Youth Conferences and volunteering and interning opportunities.

A major part of the Youth Portal is the new Wikiprogress University programme. Wikiprogress University is intended to be an online space where students can:

  • Find out about opportunities to contribute to the platform, or establish a partnership between their university and Wikiprogress.
  • Access educational resources that explain about key issues in the area of well-being and progress measurement.
  • Find out about courses and training that would allow them to develop useful skills for working in the fields of well-being policy, research or advocacy.

Wikiprogress University and the Youth Portal are both works in progress, and we welcome ideas and suggestions to make the projects as useful to young people as possible, and we will welcome all contributions to our online discussion and upcoming debate.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these activities, if you work for an organisation that specialises in youth issues, if you are a student or administrator for a course on well-being or progress issues, or if you have any ideas for content or news to put on our Youth Portal and social media sites (Facebook and Twitter) we would love to hear from you – just email or tweet us @wikiprogress.

Kate Scrivens

Friday, 21 November 2014

A chance to design the way forward for education

This blog by Michael Ward of the OECD invites you to provide your views, on a set of indicators for measuring progress towards education targets for sustainable development, post 2015.

Want to get involved in shaping the future of education? As the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) reach their 2015 deadline, several international groups, including the OECD, are formulating a new set of goals and targets for sustainable development… and we’d like to know what you think.

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), a UN-appointed task force, has proposed an agenda for development that includes goals for education, and educators from around the world have developed a set of specific education and learning targets that are closely aligned with that agenda.

The task now is to develop indicators so that progress towards achieving these new goals can be monitored.

To that end, a Technical Advisory Group, co-ordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and including members from the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, the OECD, UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank, has proposed a set of indicators, which you can find 

We’d like to hear from you

What do you think about the indicators?

Until 30 January 2015 you are invited to comment on each indicator or to respond to these questions:

1. For each target, does the report identify the best indicators that are most aligned with the concept and are already being tracked in a large number of countries?

2. What new indicators could be developed to be more closely aligned with the proposed targets and have the potential to be globally comparable?

3. For each target, please identify or propose the two most important indicators.

4. Are there key issues that the document has not addressed satisfactorily or other issues that also need to be taken into consideration?

Please visit the 
UIS website for details on how to submit your comments.

To ensure that the consultation is open to as many people as possible, we invite you to spread the word among your networks and social media, referencing #Education2015.

After 30 January 2015, the Technical Advisory Group will review the list of indicators based on your feedback. The final proposal will be submitted for endorsement at the World Education Forum in Incheon (Korea) in May 2015. The final documents will then form the basis of the discussions at the UN General Assembly in September 2015 on the new UN goals for education.

Join the discussion on twitter via @EFAReport @UNESCO @WBEducation @OECD_Edu @UNICEFEducation and #Education2015.

by Michael Ward
Senior Policy Analyst, Development Co-operation Directorate

This post first appeared on the OECD Educationtoday blog site, here

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Wellbeing of Nations: Meaning, Motive and Measurement

This blog by Paul Allin, Professor at Imperial College London, discusses a new book that explores the meaning of wellbeing and why it should be measured, the authors look at over 200 recent initiatives and summarise the different approaches taken in this area. 

The desire to explore and understand the territory ‘beyond GDP’ is gaining momentum all the time as we seek more relevant and meaningful measures of wellbeing and progress.  The topic features not only in ProgBlog and WikiProgress, but increasingly in social media channels and in many on-line forums.  A new book “The Wellbeing of Nations” reflects this interest and records many local, national and cross-national initiatives to build measures of wellbeing and progress that go beyond purely economic measures, and the headline measures of GDP and GNP in particular.

The authors, statisticians based at Imperial College London, take the view that national wellbeing – how a country is doing – embraces quality of life, the state of the environment, development and sustainability, as well as economic performance. All  these aspects are important to people, so measures of real progress need these dimensions. (The same applies if attention is focussed on a city or a neighbourhood, rather than on the nation overall).

The book opens by asking what is national wellbeing, and why measure it?  These are not new questions, as we can see from a “short” history of national wellbeing and its measurement, from Plato in Ancient Greece through to current developments to replace the Millennium Development Goals.
Looking across some 200 or more recent initiatives, several different broad approaches to measuring wellbeing and progress are summarised in the book.  These range from making greater use of the full national economic accounts, including with extensions beyond the core accounts, through various sets of social and environmental indicators.  Survey-based data on personal wellbeing are also now being collected by some national statistical offices and other organisations, either as a new overall measures of wellbeing, or to include with other measures.

However, the fundamental point for the authors is to ask what we mean by wellbeing and progress, and how we will use new measures.  A key message is that we are still learning how to use wider measures in public policy, business decision-making and in everyday life.  Until we establish the requirement for new measures, we are unlikely to be able to construct measures that will last in the way that GDP has done.

The UK Measuring National Well-being programme is featured as a case-study in the book. The authors are two of the technical advisors to the ONS work. In the photo above, author Paul Allin (on the left) is seen presenting a copy of the book to Glenn Everett, his successor as director of the programme, during a recent meeting in the UK Office for National Statistics. 

The authors conclude that there is much research and development around the world to help understand what people mean by wellbeing and by wider measures of progress.  There are a variety of motives for going ‘beyond GDP’, including concerns about sustainability as well as current quality of life.  Robust and valid measures are starting to appear.

However, the authors report that they “have not found full, clear or widely accepted” answers about the meaning of national wellbeing, the motive for measuring it, and how it should be measured.  There is more to be done and more that should be done including, they suggest, widening the system of national accounts (SNA) to become a system of national wellbeing accounts.  This should be taken forward by the international organisations involved in SNA working with the many other organisations and developers who already have a stake in all of this.

Allin P. and Hand D.J. (2014) "The Wellbeing of Nations: Meaning, Motive andMeasurement", John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. 

Paul Allin, CStat, FRSA
Visiting Professor, Department of Mathematics, Imperial College London

Monday, 17 November 2014

A data revolution for children

Katell Le Goulven, the Chief of Policy Planning at UNICEF Headquarters explains why data is central to UNICEF's work for children , as illustrated by the stories in this blog. 
  • The field of early childhood development is being redesigned thanks to recent evidence from neuroscience demonstrating how nature and nurture are inextricably linked during the early development of the human brain.

In Rukoro neighbourhood, Musanze, Rwanda, cell phones powered RapidSMS are being used to register and monitor expecting mothers. If there are any questions, complications or updates, health workers simply send a text to their local clinic and receive a response within minutes. 

 Learn more about UNICEF’s work on data for children and MICS.

Investments in data on children were bolstered a couple of decades ago by the World Summit for Children where world leaders committed to “establish appropriate mechanisms for the regular and timely collection, analysis and publication of data required to monitor relevant social indicators relating to the well-being of children”. And, later on, by the Millennium Development Goals.
Advancements since then have been significant. In 1990, 29 low- and middle-income countries had trend data on child malnutrition. Today 107 do, largely thanks to data collected via increasingly sophisticated household surveys.
More recently, the digital age ushered forth an era when the amount of data is rising exponentially; new data analytics allow us to answer different types of questions than was previously possible; and new technologies helps us do some of what we do, faster and cheaper.
Mobile data helped report 18 million births in Nigeria in 2011-12, and bring down the time to trace and reunify disaster-affected families in Uganda from weeks to hours. SMS surveys have helped reduce malaria medicine stock-outs by 80% in Uganda and young people are engaging in shaping decision making on HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

The recently coined “data revolution” refers to the potential of this ever-expanding and evolving data ecosystem to improve human well-being. These opportunities, however, will not automatically translate into something positive for all. To be sure, the data revolution also raises fundamental rights issues related, for instance, to having an identity and being accounted for, privacy, legitimate use, ownership, participation, and equity and non-discrimination.
These, in turn, question the suitability of our current data policies and governance structures.
People’s well-being should be at the heart of how these policies evolve. And particular attention should be given to children and youth because many risks affect them more specifically. Across the world, children and youth are growing up in a digital world, and data about them will be tracked for much of their lives. While data may help save the lives of many, others may not be aware that their interaction with technology is creating profiles that could impact their future.
A few days ago, I participated in a meeting of experts asked to prepare a report on the data revolution for the UN Secretary-General. During two days, specialists from the statistics, big data, open data, academia and the UN worlds brainstormed on the definition of the “data revolution” and its role to fill in persisting data gaps, to enhance accountability, to track progress towards sustainable development and to empower people.
While participants brought different perspectives to the table, all acknowledged the role of data as a key driver of sustainable development. Consultations held on the second day put the spotlight on the role of data for fostering openness and inclusion and unpacked the opportunities and challenges associated with big data.
These consultations continue online. You can join the conversation and help design a data revolution that works for the benefits of today’s children and of future generations. Submit your ideas here.
Katell Le Goulven is the Chief of Policy Planning at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.
This blog first appeared on the UNICEF Connect blog, here

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

We are in the midst of a statistical revolution

This blog, by Donato Speroni , looks at how two important conferences  sum up ten years of work in this area.  

“We have to find a new narrative that goes beyond the Beyond GDP research” 

This sentence by Enrico Giovannini, in his key note speech at theMoving beyond GDP in European economic governance” expert conference in Brussels on 10 October, summarises the state of the art. We have the well-being indicators, developed at national and international level in the last ten years; we are in the midst of a “statistical revolution” that will give us new instruments to measure progress and compare it between nations; but all this formidable data sets will be of limited use if it is not transferred into new political goals. Yes, but which goals?

In theory, we know what we want: that the economy continues to grow, but that growth should be inclusive (leaving no one behind) and sustainable (without compromising the ability of future generations to have a better future). But is this really possible?

Two visions clashed in the Brussels conference, captured in the strategic moment of the passing of the baton between the old and the new European Commission. The first view, more optimistic, believes in the effective possibility of promoting a sustainable and inclusive growth to ensure the well-being of citizens.

The second, more drastic view, thinks that in Europe the time for growth is over and supports a more rapid and dramatic change in lifestyle and investments. Through this discussion, the search for new statistical parameters has stimulated political debate on the vital issue of the European contribution to a better world.

Provided by the BRAINPOol project

It is clear that "to pursue a sustainable and inclusive growth" or "to change the development model" involve alternative policy priorities, different numerical targets and indicators. For example, if the goal of sustainable growth can be achieved with a gradual change (along with many other interventions) from fossil fuels to renewables, the alternative strategy requires a faster innovation in the pattern of development and results in accelerated efforts to change both the energy mix and the level of energy consumption. Very briefly, on the one hand we have a gradual reformism, on the other hand a revolution; it is clear that these processes cannot be measured with the same parameters, because it is not just a problem of quantity indicators, but also of different goals.

"Growth is structurally disappearing from the European Union?"

Even if we do not endorse Serge Latouche’s “Happy degrowth” theory, we need to know which results are realistically achievable in the situation we will have to face in the next few years. Tony Long of WWF presented at the Brussels conference an elaboration on the average growth in France over the past decades, which shows increasingly poor results. In his view, the new European Commission should initiate long-term macro-economic analysis, to answer the question: "Growth is structurally disappearing from the European Union?" The relationship between employment and technology is another important question to which we are unable to respond. Co-President of the Club of Rome Anders Wijkman pointed out that up to ten years ago productivity and employment grew in parallel, but now the productivity improvements have no longer a positive impact on jobs.

For many people, however, "growth is like a religion," said the Belgian Philippe Lamberts (Member of European Parliament, Green). "Many people are not willing to accept the facts (for instance about climate change) because they live in their own world". On the other hand, as pointed out the same Wijkman, even those who are convinced of the need for change are not in a position to express a narrative of transition: there is no comprehensive proposal on how to move from the existing mechanisms into a system actually more sustainable and inclusive: we have a collection of good intentions but few effective decisions and measurable effects.

The uncertain outcome of this process derives also from the fact that the European economic crisis puts us in uncharted territory, as it become evident in another conference -  the Strategic Forum 2014 on Intragenerational and Intergenerational Sustainability, organised by the International Economic Association (IEA) and the International Statistical Institute (ISI), together with the  “High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress” (that is, the working group hosted by the OECD and commonly called "Stiglitz 2"), supported by the Bank of Italy, the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF)  and SAS, that was held in Rome on September 23 and 24. 

Many of the documents, downloadable from the Forum programme, can help us to understand what is happening in Europe. In a series of very interesting slides, Martine Durand from OECD showed the long-term costs of the recession: even in countries that, on the basis of 2013 data, seemed to have passed the crisis, the conditions of households and the level of investment have not returned to pre-crisis levels. Not to mention the social effects of the lack of confidence in governments and the decrease in the level of satisfaction with life, especially noticeable in the country’s most in need such as Greece and Italy.

From the meeting emerged a stronger concern for sustainability. The social one first, which reflects a situation perhaps even more dangerous than environmental sustainability, for there are many signs that we are heading towards an explosive world (the "perfect storm"). Not only because of the conflicts that already afflict countries in Europe or those geographically close to us, but for the internal contradictions in our economic system: the lack of an adequate safeguard for human capital; the growth of unemployment induced by new technologies that cannot be underestimated and that shrinks the middle class; the frightening increase in inequality in our systems: all issues that go beyond the everlasting controversy about the limits of the public budgets.

It is not even enough to advocate greater investments in schools, because we must first understand what types of schools can prepare young people to find a satisfactory role in this new world, as pointed out by the governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco with a short but effective intervention.

In conclusion, I think that the work done by statisticians and economists in these ten years gave us the tools to build a better world, with more inclusive and sustainable well-being for all. But now we need a vision: we have to decide which world we want, to realistically consider the limits of growth, and how we can build it.

Donato Speroni