Our society is obsessed by financial measures, encouraged by government and business. To make positive change, let's flip it around and measure them on what's important to us, 'the people'.
My good friend, David Liversidge, wrote the following on how a small change in media reporting could bring big positive benefits to more of us. I read his article, and thought it was too good not to share.
Financial measures such as exchange rates and share prices are reported in every newspaper and at the end of many news programmes. Has anyone stopped to think whether these are the most important measures?
The level of the stock market has little link to most people’s well-being: longer working hours, worse commutes, increased personal and national debt, population growth, climate change, growing levels of depression and mental health problems, increased pressure on our young people to ‘succeed’ and ‘look beautiful’, worsening levels of social injustice and disappearing natural habitats and species. No wonder many are feeling unhappy with the governance and political status quo of the last few decades.
Governments and businesses use metrics and set targets to create change, but the wrong measures can have dangerous and unforeseen results. Focusing on never ending economic growth in a world of finite resources is not sustainable.
Why do we only measure financial prosperity when there are so many other forms of well being? We should judge and measure what is most important to us as a society.
Many will argue that the rich developed world has to continue to grow to compete with the developing nations. But that’s like saying a person in their forties should try and compete with a growing teenager on their terms. It’s time to move on from our national mid-life crisis and show some leadership by being a role model for what comes after we have ‘finished growing physically’.
Imagine how powerful it would be if, at the end of every news programme, they reported: - numbers of people in poverty or subject to abuse - portion of land mass that is green and the loss of species - percent of people with cancer/dementia - hours that parents were able to spend with their children or loved ones?
What are our goals as a group of people living together?
That is of course something we need to collectively decide, but perhaps we could start by combining Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with Kaplan & Norton’s Balanced Scorecard (used in business to refocus management away from raw profit and onto qualities such as ‘learning and development’ and ‘serving the customer’).
We can change the way we judge our leaders and create the motivation for them to change their policies and priorities.
“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”
Thomas S. Monson.
What would a “Scorecard for a Balanced Society” look like?
Here’s an example. Our media could report these items regularly and give intelligent analysis on what our targets should be and whether things are improving or getting worse.
So what can YOU do (in the time between two sips of coffee at your desk)?
If you’d like to see important measures regularly reported on the news instead of share prices - to start a wave of change for good - please ask your favourite news service. It will take less than three minutes of your time - I’ve given links to the major news companies below and included some draft text you can copy and paste (or modify).
It will just take one interested journalist, or enough people to give feedback and the ball may start to roll.
Please click one of these links and give the suggestion while you’re thinking about it.
I would like to see more meaningful measures than stock indices and exchange rates published regularly on your website and news programmes. Things that relate to our overall well being, and that mean more to the majority of people - financial measures generally only interest the wealthiest minority. It is well known that what gets measured and reported tends to improve, so let’s choose something that encourages positive change. Example measures would include loss of habitats and species, carbon emissions, education standards, number of cases of race/hate crime, % of people below the poverty line, number of cases of child abuse, career satisfaction, time spent with family, health statistics, personal savings and pensions levels and national debt. A more detailed article on this idea is available at nlong.org/balanced-society/.