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Good governance increasingly requires a data-driven
and evidence-basedapproach to policy-making.
Without proper data, indicators and analysis, policy
decisions are often made on the basis of generalized
observations and best guesses – or worse, on
rhetoric and emotion.
Benchmarking (across countries or over time) is a
fundamental tool to identify best solutions and drive
evidence-based policy and decision-making. The
current crisis is demanding the development of new
policies and changes in individual behaviours;
therefore, benchmarking is more important than ever. However, benchmarking is not
a trivial activity: it can lead to great results, but also to misleading and wrong
conclusions and actions. Therefore, it has to be carried out in the right way.
To usefully benchmark progress in society,it is necessary to answer three crucial
questions: (1) what to measure (which is ultimately a political decision); (2) how to
measure (which is more of a statistical problem);and (3) how to communicate the
measures in a meaningful way so they might actually impact behaviour.
1)What? Measurement should go beyond economic measures, including wider
measures of well-being, of social and environmental phenomena, as well as of
governance aspects. Also a multistakeholder (including statisticians) and bottom-
up approach should be developed according to national institutional and cultural
2)How? Data on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of societal progress need
to be considered, which should be collected according to common standards for
quality and ethics. Public and private data producers and benchmarking agencies
must be committed to improving their measurement standards over time.
3)How to use the results?We don’t do benchmarking per se. Benchmarking is a
step in a process which is a political one – with statistical, communication and
people’s engagement components. There is room for substantial progress in
making benchmarking results more salient and understandable for decision-
Sessions in the Annual
Meeting programme related
to Benchmarking Progress in
•Update 2009: Dealing with
•Managing Complexity: A
•Can You Trust Your Model?
•Managing Global Risks
•Reality Mining: Changing
•Science for World Leaders
The current crisis makes crucial the importance of data-driven decision-making. The
risk is that it could reduce the national expenditures for collecting and analysing
statistics. It is important – especially now – to continue to produce relevant data
gathering and further develop our ability to engage in evidence-based policy-making.
Countries could react to the crisis by too narrowly focusing just on economic
indicators and not broader measures of well-being and societal progress.
The views expressed here emerged from the Council meetings and do not necessarily reflect the
views of the World Economic Forum or those of all the Council Members, who are the foremost experts
on the topic.
The Global Agenda Council on Benchmarking Progress in Society proposes:
1.Information Charter: The Members of the World Economic Forum are among the
largest and most powerful group of users of statistics. Therefore, the Forum could
serve as a platform for all relevant public and private sector stakeholders to agreeon
the creation and dissemination of an “Information Charter”to guide researchers and
organizations that create and/or maintain datasets to comply with a few core
principles, such as: (1) the data should be maintained in an architecture that meets
specific standards of quality and structure; and (2) the data should be publicly
accessible via the Internet so that private and/or public actors could independently
assess or reanalyse prior results. Such a Charter should support the “moral
imperative” to promote public knowledge and contribute to the progress of societies.
Databases that meet these compliants could display a “Charter Compliant” brand
(analogous to “Creative Commons”) brand.
2.Accessible Database of Indicators: The “Global Project on Measuring the Progress of
Societies” hosted by the OECD could create a utility (based on an Internet platform)
where organizations and researchers can deposit “Charter Compliant” datasets. The
utility would not only be a centralized data warehouse with freely accessible and
downloadable data, but would include visualization and summarizing software that
would facilitate the ability of analysts to easily manipulate and tell stories about the
data series. We call on the maintainers of the 130 existing benchmarking indices to
post their data – including the non normalized underlying data as well as the
normalization methodology– so that it is available for free and unrestricted download
from this utility. The utility would foster technological innovation for improving the use
of data for debate and policy-making.
3.Best Practices Benchmarking Handbook: An international organization with expertise
in benchmarking, such as the UNDP, should facilitate, in collaboration with all relevant
stakeholders, the production of a Handbook to detail “Best Practices” in
benchmarking. The Handbook would:
-use concrete examples (possibly linked to the current crisis) to demonstrate the
power of benchmarking to lead social change
-include state of the art guidelines on best methods to test the quality of data and
to create reliable indicators of various dimensions of welfare
-describe standards for both reliable and consistent methods for variable definition
(allowing for cultural and other differences) and data collection
-propose common standards for quality and ethics, to be applied by both public
and private data producers.
4.Package of Communication Tools: The Package would include case studies of
success stories (and possibly failure stories) in which benchmarking positively
influenced progress in different dimensions. An alternative and complementary
approach would be to select a number of countries particularly stricken by the
current economic crisis and benchmark the different approaches, to identify the most
successful ones and those which have worked faster.These case studies would
showcase the importance of utilizing data and benchmarking as a tool to monitor the
progress in the different goals targeted.The Package would also include the best
social science on how graphic and non-graphic display of information impacts the
ability of decision-makers to consume benchmarking results.
Chair: *Enrico Giovannini, Chief Statistician, Organisation for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD), France
*Ian Ayres, Professor of Law, Yale Law School, USA
*Nicholas Burnett, Assistant Director-General for Education, United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris
Paul Cheung, Director, Statistics Division, United Nations, New York
*Kemal Dervis, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
*Soumitra Dutta, Dean, External Relations and Roland Berger Chaired Professor in
Business and Technology, INSEAD, France
*Daniel C. Esty, Director, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, USA
Edwin J. Feulner, President, The Heritage Foundation, USA
Daniel Kaufmann, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development,
Brookings Institution, USA
Joel A. Kurtzman, Chairman, Kurtzman Group, USA
Robert A. Lawson, Associate Professor of Finance, Capital University, USA
Richard Layard, Professor of Economics, Centre for Economic Performance,
London School of Economics and Political Science, United Kingdom
Simon Lebus, Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment, United Kingdom
Roberto Newell Garcia, Director-General, Instituto Mexicano para la
Competitividad (IMCO), Mexico
Juanita Olaya, Independent Researcher, Bonn University, Germany
Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health, Center for Molecular Medicine
(CMM), Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
*Abdel Monem Said Aly, Director, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic
Studies (ACPSS), Egypt
Ruut Veenhoven, Emeritus Professor, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands
Sylvester Young, Director, Bureau of Statistics, International Labour Organization
* Registered to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2009
Global Agenda Council on Benchmarking Progress in Society
Council Manager: Irene Mia
Research Analyst:Shubhra Saxena
Senior Director: Fiona Paua
Council on Benchmarking Progress in Society
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