In the last 500 years, and especially in the last half century, the well-being of humanity has advanced noticeably. There is no doubt that, even while population growth continues, poverty has declined. Despite this, in recent years the continuing economic expansion and the ensuing environmental damage have been distributed unequally, resulting in huge gaps in revenues and well-being between developed and emerging countries, and even within each country.


Economic growth by itself cannot fix this problem. Economic development of countries must be achieved in a socially and environmentally sustainable way. Progress toward sustainability is challenged today by prevalent inequality, climate change, migration, food insecurity and international economic and fiscal crises.


Information for Decisions and Change


The new Social Progress Index measures the extent to which countries succeed in
meeting the social and environmental needs of their citizens, rather than measuring
the level of effort made.

Better information, across all fields, is needed to deal with these problems. Recently, some significant efforts have been made at the international level to provide more useful and precise information to meet these challenges. Today, there are many new measurements and international indices that seek to help focus the attention of leaders and policymakers on priority issues. Fundación Avina has been part of previous initiatives to promote access to better information on matters such as economic competitiveness, environmental performance and social responsibility in Latin America.


But do we really have all the indicators we need to satisfy society’s needs? Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in Economics and one of the creators of the United Nations Human Development Index, has said that more precise information is essential for decision-makers to allow them to make choices among the many investment options they face.


Social Progress Imperative


From left to right: Social Progress Imperative Director of Communications
and Outreach, Jonathan Talbot; Director Sally Osberg (also President,
Skoll Foundation); Vice Chair Roberto Artavia (also President, VIVA Trust);
Chair Brizio Biondi-Morra (also member, Avina’s Board of Directors); and
Executive Director Michael Green, during a Social Progress Imperative
meeting in Costa Rica, March 2013.

For this reason, Fundación Avina, along with Skoll Foundation and Mexico’s Compartamos Bank, formed an alliance with Cisco and Deloitte for the purpose of creating the Social Progress Imperative (formerly known as the Global Social Progress Initiative), a global project whose initial concept was first proposed in 2009 by Matthew Bishop, of The Economist, during the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Philanthropy and Social Investment.

The goal of this new organization is to provide disaggregated information about human well-being and national capacity to policymakers, international development organizations, philanthropic foundations, civil society and academia. All of these sectors can then focus their investments in those areas that will most contribute to improving the well-being of every country and region around the world.


In 2012, the Social Progress Imperative established itself as an independent organization. It launched its first product, an index of national performance, in April 2013.  Looking forward, it will create regional and national networks with global reach that will ensure that this-e information gets to target audiences and informs decisions about policy and investments.

Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Imperative’s new Social Progress Index is a disaggregated index of well-being divided into three dimensions:  Basic Human Needs (nutrition and basic medical care, air, water and sanitation, shelter, personal safety), Foundations of Well-being (access to basic knowledge, access to information and communications, health and wellness, ecosystem sustainability), and Opportunity (personal rights, access to higher education, personal freedom and choice, equity and inclusion).


In contrast with many other indices, the Social Progress Index measures outcomes instead of efforts, since its purpose is to provide a clear vision of the level of well-being in each country and not the effort made to achieve well-being.


The Social Progress Imperative complements the Index by actively disseminating in each country the information produced by the Index in order to influence decision-makers dealing with policies or strategies to increase well-being and equality in each country. This approach is sustained by an in-country network of leaders, academics and media outlets, is unique to the Social Progress Imperative, and makes it an effective driver of social performance at the national and global levels.

Social Progress Imperative in 2013

The 2013 milestones for the Social Progress Imperative will be:


  1. Its consolidation as an independent organization, with a world-class Board of Directors and Advisory Board
  2. Securing the necessary funds to cover the cost of the first three years of work.
  3. The launch of the Social Progress Index covering 50 countries at the Skoll World Forum held in April of 2013.
  4. The implementation of the Social Progress Index and creation of influential networks in 10 countries, including six Latin American nations. This pilot program of the Index will serve as a measuring and planning tool for public and private institutions.