Rating Human Development

Snapshot 2008-07-22 12-46-43.jpgThe American Human Development Project has recently launched their index, titled "The Measure of America." The study attempts to evaluate the well-being of Americans, based on various lenses that are often ignored by news agencies and development corporations when evaluating American economic and social growth. In their executive summary, they state: "The indicators most frequently deployed in evaluating public welfare in the United States—GDP, the Dow Jones and NASDAQ, consumer spending, and the like—only address one aspect of the American experience. The human development model emphasizes the broader, everyday experience of ordinary people, including the economic, social, legal, psychological, cultural, environmental, and political processes that shape the range of options available to us."

Unlike the LA Times report which I blogged about earlier this month, the American Human Development Index is a complex analysis of various elements of daily life, in an attempt to define human development in various social climates. More than a fact database, it can serve as a lens through which policy-makers can view various American populations and work through problems that are specific to that community. The executive summary (you can read the PDF on Philanthroy News Digest's article) highlights only a few of the study's finds, concentrating on vast striations, such as the difference between the life expectancy of African Americans and Asians, between the earnings of White males and Hispanic females, and between the education levels of Northerners and Southerners. One large positive of this index is that it not only presents issues, it also proposes solutions. It points out areas and populations that are in need of development, and makes suggestions as to what techniques work for spreading education, health care, etc., and where non-profits can most effectively focus.

The real question is, what does this study mean for philanthropy and donors? I think it provides a great tool for further understanding topics which one is interested in supporting, and figuring out precisely where money would be best used. I'd be interested in seeing a database to go along with this index, that would match successful non-profits to issues listed. If we could combine these two tools, I think donors would have an excellent amount of simple, yet specific information to guide their giving.

Dana Variano

Posted at 1:00 AM, Jul 24, 2008 in Performance Measurement | Permalink | Comment