23.10.2013 - UNESCO Office in Venice

Beyond GDP indicators can help tackle policy challenges and trade-offs

© aenimation / BRAINPOoL : Indicator Factors - salience for policy makers

The UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), will be hosting the International knowledge brokerage workshop on 'Beyond-GDP' indicators from 28-29 October 2013 at Palazzo Zorzi, its premises in Venice. The event is organized as part of the EU-funded project BRAINPOoL (Bringing Alternative Indicators into POLicy) which aims to help increase the influence of Beyond GDP indicators in policy, by improving knowledge transfer between those creating and promoting such indicators and their potential users.

 From the very beginning of its existence, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was never intended as a measure of progress or well-being. From as early as the 1960s, there has been concern about this interpretation of GDP, both from politicians and from academics and other indicator-producers. Key areas of concern include technical economic critiques of GDP, the growing acknowledgement that GDP and similar measures tend to distract attention from ultimate outcomes such as people’s experiences of their lives, and rising awareness of the need to assess environmental impact.

What should we aim for as a society? How can we measure progress? Should we replace GDP or complement it? How can we assess the sustainability of our societies? These questions have risen up the agenda in Europe and across the world in recent years. Several high profile initiatives have all lit up the debate and many ‘Beyond GDP’ indicators have been proposed.

But what has this proliferation of indicator initiatives meant for actual policy? What impacts have they had? How can the gap between indicators and policy be bridged? These are the central questions of the pan-European 2.5-year-long research and knowledge brokerage project BRAINPOoL, funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). 

The project will assess the impact of Beyond GDP indicator initiatives, and then work with both indicator producers and potential users to help bring Beyond GDP indicators into the policy world. The central assumption of the project is that indicators, if effectively embedded in the policy-making process, are an effective transmission mechanism to connect research and policy. The project will lead to several written outputs, but integral to it will be an ongoing series of meetings and workshops and engagement with potential Beyond GDP indicator users to achieve direct impact.  The BRAINPOoL project is divided into 8 ‘work packages’ (WPs), that include research and interviews, workshops and knowledge-brokerage seminars and various action research case studies to explore ways to improve the uptake of Beyond GDP indicators.

The International knowledge brokerage workshop on 'Beyond-GDP' indicators in Venice is targeted at policy makers and stakeholders in the policy domains identified, and it forms part of WP4 (Brokerage activities). In addition to the contribution of UNESCO (Science unit), the workshop will count with the presence of the representatives of ‘Venice and its Lagoon’ and the Po Delta (candidate to become a Biosphere Reserve).

During the workshop, BRAINPOoL researchers will present key findings from the project to date, including the case studies which formed part of WP3 (Beyond GDP: Action research in practical cases). Participants will discuss how Beyond GDP indicators can help tackle policy challenges and trade-offs, with a focus on labor market policy, the green economy, and sustainable development at the local level.

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