What if…?

GDP measures everything, said presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy in March 1968, “except that which makes life worthwhile”. And so, at the end of January, Kindred ran an event designed to think about what we value, how we measure things in the economy that make life better for us all – and how we can dare to think differently.

Socially-trading organisations frequently work in areas that make life better for their communities. Capturing the social value of that work is key in terms of Kindred’s model of investment – so our first event of the year asked ‘what if there was a better measure of the health of the economy than GDP?’ 

The afternoon’s event used a revolving panel, to reflect the diversity and expertise of our STO community, and the pro-social organisations that support it. Our facilitator, PLACED director Jo Harrop, offered our volunteer panellists to choose a question at random – or to expand on the previous person’s answer. After each round of questions, three new volunteers took their place on the panel.

Here are ten key takeaways from the conversation: 

  1. What we decide is productive and what’s not is a choice. GDP was a choice. We can decide what we want to measure in our local economies.
  2. There needs to be inclusive economic growth, including what we can’t measure: foundational economy, things done informally, offline, volunteering – these things are absolutely integral to a fully functioning and well-balanced economy.
  3. We have to measure the basics, ensuring every child born has a home they can afford, food, heat, enough education, enough health. Then you can dare to dream. If we want to quantify things, that’s where the energy has to go.
  4. You can actually measure the value of care. With One Day, an economist said care brings £500m into the economy in LCR, and paying unpaid carers would bring £1.2bn into the economy. You can measure it, so start recording it.
  5. We need a good basket of joyous measures. What price do you put on peace of mind? How do we measure happiness, how do we measure the infinite?
  6. How do we re-skill: teaching that confidence, letting people know they are able to learn at any point in their life, that they’ve got something to offer. It’s about finding ways of developing confidence for people. We need to encourage people to be curious but ultimately it’s about confidence and giving people the courage to dream, and say ‘what’s my life for?’
  7. We should think about why we measure things, rather than how. We’re too hung up on getting the measurement right. 
  8. Politicians look at the real world through the lens of GDP – we have to change the lens.
  9. It’s not how you define value, it’s how you define business. Businesses in Liverpool are so different. Finding a framework to measure them all against is difficult. 
  10. We need to keep the conversation going and take it to other places and other communities. The more conversations the better. Together we are mighty.