UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Thinking About Global Prosperity Measures

24 May 2018, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Photo of Matt Davies

Dr Matt Davies will give a lecture at the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) on 24th May

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Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity


Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity University of Surrey Guildford GU2 7XH

In recent years the search for post-GDP metrics has spawned a proliferation of composite indexes that aim to measure national prosperity, progress, happiness etc. These often build on early insights from the UN Human Development Index and OECD Better Life Index, but strive to include a wider range of quantified indicators and to market the insights that these indexes generate to policymakers, business and activists alike. Composite measures such as the Legatum Prosperity Index, Social Progress Index and Happy Planet Index are all valuable heuristic devices, but while often presented as objective, they clearly promote an interesting diversity of normative standpoints each marking the organisation’s vision for the future (such as the role of economic growth in engendering future prosperity). These normative ideas underpin the rational for the data selected and entered into the index and how it is manipulated. These positions are also increasingly moving the indexes from being measures of national performance that initiate discussions of how positive change might be enacted, to vehicles for promoting certain forms and processes of social change. Finally, these indexes are bound up with a range of questions around power, labelling, authority, analytic scale, global connectedness, history and other international frameworks for change (such as the SDGs) that require further consideration. In this seminar Matthew Davies will briefly introduce these indexes and how they are constructed, and then examine a range of complex issues that surround them. These thoughts will be contextualised alongside the work currently being undertaken at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity.


Dr Matthew Davies is Lecturer at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity. His work primarily focuses on understanding the complexities of resilient agricultural and environmental management in Eastern Africa, but intersects with a range of wider intellectual and methodological ideas including trans-disciplinary and citizen science based research and the application of both quantitative and qualitative data. His interest in the metrics of ‘Prosperity’ stems both from his core research focus on the integration of diverse knowledges and approaches and from his experiences in developing a metrics and methods module for the IGP’s MSc in Global Prosperity. Matthew was formerly a lecturer in African Studies at UCL, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Cambridge and the Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa.


All are welcome and no registration is required. For further details, please contact Catherine Koch.