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Michigan will measure what matters most to neighborhoods … providing basic human needs … to gauge progress

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By Jackie Berg

Although Detroit’s post-bankruptcy progression is all but certain, there is no clearly defined path leading to neighborhood prosperity … yet.

With questions of Detroit’s fiscal stability behind it, the city’s collective will to survive must now be met with an equal, if not greater conviction to thrive, according to supporters of a new Social Progress Index (SPI) unveiled at the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference (MPC) this week.

Oakwood_Heights_DetroitMichigan is the first state to be measured by the index.

The effort will require a laser-like focus on the things that matter most to its citizenry, say supporters of the index. Those supporters include Mark Davidoff, chair of the MPC and Michigan managing partner at Deloitte LLP; Harvey Hollins, director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives, and Justin Edwards, Social Progress Imperative representative.

What matters most to many community leaders may not be limited to economic growth. Although robust economic growth often translates to community wellbeing, that isn’t always the case.

That’s the gap that worries Davidoff and others.

Before we can fully access our neighborhood’s wellbeing we must answer the questions that really matter.

Do I have enough to eat?

Can I get a bus to work?

Am I going to find a good school for my child?

Today, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most commonly used tool to measure community health. That may not be the most appropriate one for the 21st century, says Davidoff, who is a leading advocate of the SPI.

resizeThe SPI is designed to measure social and environmental outcomes such as access to basic human needs, health and education and the ability of people to improve their own lives. It serves as a complementary measure to more typical economic prosperity indexes, like the GDP.

The SPI was launched globally earlier this year. It measures 99 percent of the world’s population across 52 indicators of social and economic outcomes. In total, 131 countries were ranked according to these findings. While the U.S. ranks first according to GDP, our country ranks 16th on the 2015 Social Progress Index. Davidoff says it’s a more “human” barometer that will measure the things that matter most to us. A wake-up call indeed.

“To achieve sustainable growth, we, as a society, should consider looking beyond GDP as the sole measurement of progress and success in policy and financial governance,” says Davidoff. “We have the power and responsibility to create a positive impact on society by bringing together private, public and civil sectors for collaboration that drives social change. That notion is at the root of this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference as we guide the region in moving forward with ‘One Michigan Voice.’”

Mark Davidoff

Mark Davidoff

Earlier this year, the state of Michigan entered into an agreement with Social Progress Imperative to align the framework of its urban agenda with the framework of Social Progress Index. The initiative is collaboratively supported by Deloitte LLP, the University of Detroit Mercy and Passion in Philanthropy.

Although the SPI has particular application in Detroit’s post bankruptcy recovery, it represents an additional tool for Michigan cities to gather and examine information what is uniquely important to their constituency.

“This is not a cookie cutter tool,” says Davidoff. The SPI provides a revolutionary framework for community leaders to identify access and examine their progress in areas that typically remain unexamined.

“Governor Rick Snyder began his first term in 2011 with a 10-point plan to ‘Reinvent Michigan.’ One of the points in his 10-point plan is to restore cities,” says Hollins. “While the creation of jobs and businesses is critical to the restoration of cities, other challenges like transportation, healthcare, crime, daycare and education can be equally important.”

A better picture is needed to resolve problems and the SPI will help community leaders better manage and deploy resources to resolve issues, says Hollins.

A full report on the social progress index findings in Michigan will be available to the public later this year. Detroit Unspun will share that with you.

— Jackie Berg is publisher of TheWeigh.

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