Frequently asked questions
8. To change entrenched disadvantage, we need more than ‘better measures’: so how will ANDI make a difference in practice?
1. Shouldn’t ANDI be a government rather than a community project?
No. One key reason for having an independent community and expert driven system of national progress measures is that governments can be reluctant to produce fair and honest measures of national progress which might reflect poorly on government. Recent survey research in Europe, for example, shows that the majority of people do not trust government statistics, and believe that politicians and public officers misrepresent official data for political purposes and conceal statistics critical of government.
2. How can national progress and wellbeing be measured?
Systems for measuring national progress generally come in three main types:
(1) GDP adjusted systems (‘Type 1 systems’)
(2) Subjective wellbeing systems (‘Type 2 systems’)
(3) Progress domain frameworks systems (‘Type 3 systems’)
These systems define a comprehensive (or ‘holistic’) framework of the key elements or components (usually called ‘domains’) of progress and wellbeing and provide key measures of progress in each of these domains. Typically these domains include both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ wellbeing domains (examples of the latter include, health, education, work-life, justice, governance, environment). The key domains and indicators are usually selected either by experts and statisticians alone or in consultation with the community to determine the priorities of progress and wellbeing most important to the community. This is the most common system and, we believe, the most effective. Examples include; the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW), the ABS’s Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP), the OECD Better Life Index, the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), Italy’s BES (‘Equitable and sustainable wellbeing’) project and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index.
‘Dashboard’ and ‘Index’ reporting systems
A further difference between ‘Type 3’ systems is in the way information is reported. ‘Dashboard’ systems present an array of statistics across all the progress and wellbeing domains without any attempt to combine them or weight them for relative importance, though some of these systems do highlight whether things in this indicator or domain area have got better or worse, for example with a red, yellow or green light and some identify ‘leading indicators’. (ABS MAP is such a system.)
Weighted and unweighted indexes
The overall index can be unweighted (that is, all the component indicators and domains are treated as being equally important for progress and wellbeing) or ‘weighted’ – where different weightings are given to its component domains and indicators that correspond with the importance of their contribution to progress and wellbeing, overall or in a particular domain. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is an example of an unweighted index; the OECD Better Life Index (BLI) is presently unweighted but designed so it can be weighted according to the preferences of citizens as to which domains are more important. A criticism of unweighted indexes is that they imply that all indicators and all domains are equally important; but there is much evidence to show that some factors (such as health, life satisfaction, education and work life balance) are more important than others for wellbeing. A criticism of weighted indicators is that weighting often represents a value judgment or cannot be proved valid scientifically. On the other hand, many people agree that an index is a simple and effective communication tool, and using an index can ‘point the way’ to the more detailed story that underlies the index.
3. How is ANDI different from ABS Measures of Australia’s Progress?
ABS’s Measures of Australia’s Progress (MAP) project has been developed over 14 years and is regarded as one of the best models in the word of a national statistical office progress measurement system. So what are the key differences between ANDI and MAP?
NOTE: In June 2014, the ABS announced that it will discontinue MAP due to budget cuts. This makes ANDI all the more important.
4. How is ANDI different from other progress measurement projects?
ANDI is an attempt to build a national progress and well-being index that is based on international best practice. Its features will be drawn from all of the best models (such as the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, MAP and the OECD Better Life Index) as well as some "local” features that go beyond these projects in areas where we believe we can make improvements.
ANDI is a ‘Type 3’ system (see Q2 above), with a national progress framework comprised of 12 domains: Children and youth wellbeing; community and regional life; culture, recreation and leisure; governance and democracy; economic life and prosperity; education, knowledge and creativity; environment and sustainability; justice, fairness and human rights; health; indigenous wellbeing; work and work-life balance; subjective wellbeing and life satisfaction.
Most of these domains are found in the best international systems, but we have also included two additional domains, children and youth well-being; and indigenous well-being.
Like the CIW, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index and Italy’s BES, the selection of ANDI’s domains and major indicators will be based on an extensive process of engaging the community and experts; however ANDI will do this on a scale that is significantly larger than most other progress measurement systems (directly engaging 500,000 Australians across the country).
ANDI will be a combined “index and dashboard system”. However unlike (for example) the CIW, it will be a weighted index, with weightings provided according to a system of ranked importance contributed to by both citizens and experts and based in part on the OECD BLI system (except that in ANDI’s case, weightings will be based on a scientific national survey).
ANDI will be different from other progress measurement systems in two further respects: first, it will produce not only an index of overall progress and well-being, but indexes of progress and well-being in each of its 12 progress domains, with these produced annually in a different month and accompanied by status reports and policy recommendations. (The CIW produces an annual report of this kind and occasional reports on some domains but not indexes).
A second key difference is that with ANDI, progress will primarily be measured according to a set of benchmarks which define our ‘goals’ in each of the key areas. In this way, we will be measuring progress against ‘where we want to go’ rather than just ‘where we have been’ (as in MAP, the CIW and a number of other systems, which measure progress historically through a set of statistical snapshots over time). This means that ANDI will be a measure of our progress towards the future we want, and a way of describing that future. It will therefore be a measure of true progress.
Finally, as with the CIW and (since June 2014) the BLI, ANDI will be designed so that it can ultimately be used at the state, regional and local community levels. This means that all levels will be able to use a similar framework to describe progress and well-being and it will enable comparisons between different regions and localities, with very significant policy benefits.
5. If ANDI has many members, why does it need trust funding?
Most of our partners are community organisations which have in-kind resources (person power, networks, volunteers, websites etc) but not cash. We will be seeking their contribution of these resources and the overall value to ANDI could be very substantial. We will also be asking all partners to pay some annual subscription, according to their means. But we do not expect this to yield a great deal of income: say an average of $1000 per partner (adjusted for income) which will still only total less than $100,000 p.a. Over time, we believe we can recruit ‘major partners’, as above, for example, large corporations, able to pay a more substantial annual subscription.
But it is at the start-up period, around 5 years, when the major costs will be incurred, that we need grant income. On the research side, we expect to be raise our estimated budget of about $14 million from combined research sources. However the core of ANDI is its national community engagement program; for this we will need about $6.6 million, most of it in the first 3 years. We believe this is an appropriate area to seek trust funding for, and because many trusts are attracted to funding a new community initiative, and working collaboratively with other trusts, we hope to build a funder ‘coalition’ to support ANDI’s community engagement program.
6. How will ANDI be sustainable after its start-up grants?
Ensuring ANDI’s sustainability is a key goal. We plan to set up an expert advisory group on this issue with representatives from Social Ventures Australia, Macquarie Foundation, and SEFA (Social Enterprise Foundation Australia), ACIL Allen and Ernst and Young. We will develop a robust and diversified strategy.
The greatest expense for ANDI will be the front-end set up costs. After the initial period of intensive development (about 5 years), when the main systems are set up, there will be significantly fewer costs, mostly in the form of periodic and maintenance costs, and these costs will be mainly borne in the research area. However, every five years it will be necessary to engage with the community again.
We are examining a number of options to ensure ANDI’s sustainability, including:
7. Isn’t ANDI a political rather than a welfare or research project?
ANDI is not a political project in the sense of being ‘partisan’ or ‘party political’; but it is a public policy project and a democratic project. It is about developing better definitions and measures of progress for Australia in order to bring about better policies and greater wellbeing; and it is about engaging Australian citizens and communities, and our best experts and researchers, in the process, to identify the kind of progress and wellbeing we aspire to as a nation.
In this respect, ANDI is very much part of an international democratic and public policy movement presently led by the OECD and the United Nations and by countries such as Canada, Italy and Bhutan. The issue all these organisations and countries are confronting is: how to develop better measures of society’s progress than GDP and how to engage citizens and stakeholders in the process.
But let’s be clear, ANDI is not a ‘value free’ project. We have three clear, foundational values or assumptions that the project is based on:
8. To change entrenched disadvantage, we need more than ‘better measures’: so how will ANDI make a difference in practice?
Measurements are certainly important in today’s world. And making sure that we are measuring the right things is a big start to ensuring that we tackle the real problems and get to the right solutions.
However, ANDI has not been designed simply as a measurement system. It has three connected stages: community engagement (in deciding what matters); research (in developing the best measurement systems); and "knowledge mobilisation”.
This third stage is really the pointy end of ANDI and its main purpose. We aim to ensure not just that we have measures that reflect our real goals and values over the long term, but just as importantly, that those measures are used and applied systematically in practice: that they are understood and owned by the community, discussed continuously by the media and regularly applied in planning and policy making by government.
This third stage is where the Canadian Index of Wellbeing is currently at after a decade of development and it is where the OECD and other international groups are now starting to focus: how do we put these new measurements into practice. For example, the CIW is now developing provincial and city based wellbeing indexes and the OECD recently released regional wellbeing measures.
That is why, for example, ANDI plans to produce not just one aggregate well-being index, but an index in each of 12 domains of progress and wellbeing, released in a different month. The purpose is to keep the different aspects of progress, wellbeing and the quality of life in Australia continuously on the public discussion agenda.
So ANDI agrees that measurement isn't by any means the only solution to long-term structural problems of disadvantage, though it is one important component of the solution. Changing what we measure affects what we understand and ultimately what we do.
9. What actual benefits and products will ANDI create?
Better information: ANDI will provide clear, regular, reliable and independent information and reporting about the condition and progress of people, communities, society, government, the environment and the economy, in all areas of life that are important to Australians.
Stronger democracy and citizen engagement: By engaging citizens in all walks of life across Australia in the meaningful task of identifying what matters for our future, and what should be measured, ANDI will help create a shared vision for Australia’s future and a means to re-connect with citizens who are often alienated by political processes.
Better government and greater transparency: By measuring ‘true progress’ in key fields against our enduring national goals and values, ANDI will provide an important tool for governments and other organisations for long term planning and policy evaluation and to improve scrutiny and transparency of government itself and the quality of public debate.
10. Could ANDI be used at the state or local level?
Potentially, it could to a quite significant degree, depending on the design of the national project (i.e. with eventual local use in mind) and on the available data (i.e. the extent to which the national data we use can be disaggregated down to local/community level). There are a number of good international examples of how national models are also able to be used at state/provincial and local community level.
1. The Canadian index of Wellbeing was developed at a national level but is now working with provincial (i.e. Ontario) and city (Guelph) level governments to develop progress and wellbeing measurement frameworks and processes based on CIW data, framework and community engagement process;
It also needs to be stressed that that the success of local use in part depends on the availability of national data at a local level. Clearly some data is only collected or available at a national or perhaps state-level and not at a city or local community level. But conversely, there is quite a lot of local data (e.g., from local schools hospitals courts welfare agencies) which is available locally but not nationally.
11. How will ANDI benefit the philanthropic sector?
1. ANDI’s 12 domains of wellbeing between them cover almost all of the areas which form the main concerns of philanthropic bodies in Australia.