Rethinking What We Value


Rethinking What We Value

This hive connects research around the topics of measurement, wellbeing economics, prosperity, planetary boundaries, inequality, and the common good.


The Good-Enough Life

Our fellow Avram Alpert on his latest book about accepting our limitations and leading more fulfilling lives.

  • Why does “greatness-thinking” interfere with wellbeing?
  • What are the differences between a good-enough worldview and the greatness worldview?
  • How do we build a good-enough life for all?

Beyond GDP

To capture societal thriving, new research includes solidarity, agency, and sustainability.

  • What does “recoupling” mean in practice?
  • Can we quantify the benefits of agency and solidarity during the pandemic?
  • How do we measure non-monetary values?

Reconfiguring Prosperity

Towards a Socio-Economic Transformation for Wellbeing within Planetary Boundaries

  • 50 years after “Limits to Growth”: Where do we go from here?
  • How do we get to a reconfigured understanding of prosperity?
  • Which concrete implementation efforts are necessary?
Policy Brief

Real Wealth

Our colleague Katharina Lima de Miranda on designing new measures of economic and social wellbeing beyond GDP. A policy brief for the G7.

  • What are the multidimensional metrics of prosperity that best reflect social and economic progress?
  • How can such an integrated response help the G7 and the global community to build back better?
  • Why is it crucial to incorporate people’s voices and values in the new measurement approaches?

The Seminar Series is part of the Socio-Economic Transformation program and draws on the networks of the Global Solutions Initiative, including the Council for Global Problem-Solving and the Young Global Changers.

For questions regarding the seminar series or to receive a calendar invitation to future events, please contact Gabrielle Bieser at


  • Moving Beyond GDP through Comprehensive Wealth Accounting

    Session 7 | 26.06.2023, 15:00-16:00 CET

    Politicians, investors, businesspeople, and the public around the world look to GDP as the primary judge of how well their countries are doing. For most of the post-World War II era, GDP growth has been taken as a sine qua non of progress. Countries have been said to be moving in the right direction when their market economies, as measured by GDP, were expanding. If growth was weak or, worse, negative, alarm bells would ring and a change of course would be called for. Governments, quite literally, lived and died on the basis of their success in growing GDP. This is changing, however. World leaders increasingly agree that countries need to move beyond GDP as their central measure of progress. This talk will explore some of the avenues “beyond GDP” currently under consideration. It will explore one of these avenues – comprehensive measures of national wealth – in detail and argue it offers considerable potential for displacing GDP from its place in the centre of the decision-making radar screen.

    Rob Smith is an environmental statistician and economist known for his conceptual and empirical work linking the environment and the economy, particularly related to the concept of natural capital and its use in measuring sustainable development. Rob worked for more than 20 years at Statistics Canada, Canada’s national statistical agency, helping build its leading environmental accounts and statistics program. In 2013, Rob left Statistics Canada to form Midsummer Analytics, an Ottawa-based consultancy focused on environment-economy analysis

    Go Deeper
    Click here to find out more about the IISD’s work on “Measuring Wealth to Promote Sustainable Development”.

  • Replacing GDP by 2030

    Session 6 | 17.04.2023, 15:00-16:00 CET

    Rutger Hoekstra will discuss a strategy on how to replace GDP as the key indicator of society. As part of this, he will present an interdisciplinary synthesis of the main Beyond-GDP metrics created in the last 50 years. The basis for this synthesis is a Brundtland/Stiglitz conceptual framework which distinguishes WISE: wellbeing (current), sustainability (future wellbeing), and inclusion (distribution of wellbeing, within and between countries). WISE indicators, the WISE accounting system, and WISE models will be discussed. The talk will also cover the 4-year WISE Horizons project which Rutger coordinates, and he will also discuss various relevant EC and UN processes that will help to accelerate the development of a post-growth society.

    Rutger Hoekstra is an Associate Professor at the Institute for Environmental Sciences, Leiden University. He is an expert in “Beyond-GDP”, specialising in the role that input-output modelling can play in shaping post-growth societies. He is author of Replacing GDP by 2030: Towards a common language for wellbeing and sustainability published by Cambridge University Press. He currently leads WISE Horizons, a large European project, which is developing indicators, accounts, and policy models for Wellbeing, Inclusion, and Sustainability (WISE). Rutger has a PhD in environmental economics and has worked with/for Statistics Netherlands, United Nations, OECD, World Bank, European Commission, European Central Bank, national ministries, NGO’s, KPMG, and large companies.

  • Measuring Well-Being Beyond GDP: The OECD Approach

    Session 5 | 27.03.2023

    How well are economies doing for people? How sustainable is our way of living? Are societies thriving with purpose? These are the key questions that the OECD’s work on multidimensional well-being is addressing. To fill the gap between standard macroeconomic statistics and indicators that have a more direct bearing on people’s life, the OECD has been comparing and benchmarking countries’ performance on current well-being and sustainability since 2011. Through the Better Life Index and the How’s Life? Report, the OECD is documenting whether life is getting better for people in OECD and selected partner countries. The Better Life Index and the How’s Life? Report is underpinned by the OECD Well-Being Framework which encompasses key economic, social, relational and personal aspects of well-being, their distribution across the population as well as their drivers over time. The analysis builds on a set of over 80 indicators which covers current well-being outcomes, inequalities thereof, and resources for future well-being. The Better Life Index, an interactive web tool, also collects views and preferences on well-being to understand the relative importance of well-being dimensions across the globe.

    Dr. Romina Boarini is the Director of the OECD WISE (Well-Being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity) Centre, where she promotes the OECD’s position as a leading international institution in the area of well-being, inclusion, sustainability and equal opportunity, and contributes to strengthening OECD research and advice on the Beyond GDP Agenda; policies for well-being; inclusive growth and SDGs.

  • Measuring the non-financial performance of firms through the lens of the OECD Well-being Framework

    Session 4 | 28.11.2022

    Focus: Vincent Siegerink (Economist in the OECD WISE Centre) spoke about the need for businesses to take up and align measures of well-being with those in use by governments. He showed which steps the OECD has taken to strive towards harmonization and talked about initiatives to pilot well-being surveys, which are an instrumental step in unlocking more data about well-being in firms.

    Discussion: Well-being surveys are useful for all types of companies as well as for public employers and government agencies. The importance of packaging data in different ways for different audiences was discussed, as was the need to include future generations as stakeholders. Being able to provide a more granular perspective on well-being is extremely valuable, as aggregation has its shortcomings. What does data on the effort made by companies to advance their social performance say about their actual performance?

    Conclusion: The past decade has seen impressive steps by governments and national statistical offices to better measure people’s well-being and use such information in policy and decision-making processes. For businesses, too, measuring well-being is a valuable exercise, for example to inform sustainability management practices, provide investors with better data on stakeholder impacts, and make a contribution to societal goals. Ideally, governments and businesses should rally around a similar set of metrics, which would allow data interoperability, rendering the measurement of well-being more informative. Metrics should also evaluate the actual performance of businesses as opposed to only evaluating the effort they (claim to) make.

    Go Deeper: Here you can find an OECD paper on the topic.

  • Multidimensional Well-Being and Poverty Measures as Policy Tools – Insights from Bhutan

    Session 3 | 24.10.2022

    Focus: Dr. Dasho Karma Ura (President of the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies) and Dr. Sabina Alkire (Professor of Poverty and Human Development, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford) presented on the scope, methodology, and policy-potential of Multidimensional Indices of Poverty and Well-Being with a particular focus on the case of Bhutan – the first country to have developed both a multidimensional happiness index and a multidimensional poverty index as official statistics and policy-tools.

    Discussion: The methodology underlying both measures and the ways in which they can inform both national and subnational policymaking were discussed. This included how Multidimensional Indices of Poverty and Well-Being complement existing statistical efforts and measures and how they can they be used to guide effective policies for the equitable reduction of disadvantages to advance the well-being of all.

    Conclusion: Indices such as MPI and GNH are useful in giving some degree of empowerment to individuals and providing more personalized measures of wellbeing. However, further thought is required on how to deal with people's vastly different conceptions of “what makes life worthwhile” as well as on whether the components making up these sorts of indices are substitutable or not.

    Go Deeper: Here you can find OPHI’s book on Multidimensional Poverty Measurement and Analysis as well as their latest Global MPI 2022 report.

  • Earth for All – A Survival Guide for Humanity

    Session 2 | 19.09.2022 

    Focus: Per Espen Stoknes (Project Lead, Earth4All) presented their newly published book which challenges the current linear, neoliberal, growth-at-all-costs economic approach and promotes policies to move beyond GDP for a safe, secure, and prosperous future.

    Discussion: Questions that were raised and pondered on included how to represent the quality of democratic institutions in a quantitative model, how to build democratic institutions and social trust, and how to connect short-term democratic cycles with long-term narratives and institutions that are capable of countering the short-termism of everyday politics.

    Conclusion: Policy solutions are bedeviled by questions of fairness and therefore equal participation in finding solutions is extremely important. Citizen’s assemblies are a great example of how to do this. Narratives that will reach and persuade people as well as help to align people’s values with taking necessary action are equally crucial.

    Go Deeper: Here you can find more information about the book Earth for All: A Survival Guide for Humanity and an Executive Summary available in multiple languages.

  • Societal Responses to Covid-19: Evidence from the G7 Countries

    Session 1 | 16.05.2022

    Focus: Dennis J. Snower and Katharina Lima de Miranda introduced the SAGE Dashboard – a tool for measuring the wellbeing of societies beyond GDP – and presented insights from their recently published paper which examines the effect of the pandemic on solidarity, agency, GDP, and environmental performance (SAGE for short) in G7 countries.
    Discussion: The diverse effects on S and A experienced by different countries during the pandemic suggest that governments’ social policies have an important role to play alongside economic and health policies in coping with the pandemic. The interactions between economic prosperity, social prosperity, and environmental sustainability are important to monitor and there remains a need for more and better-quality disaggregated data.
    Conclusion: This first session provided an introduction to the work taking place at TNI and GSI to advance the creation of a more holistic measure of prosperity and connect the measurement agenda to policymakers.

    Go Deeper:
    Here you can find their paper on Societal Responses to Covid-19: Evidence from the G7 Countries.


Wolfgang Tillmans, To look without fear

What do we value? In other words: What matters to us? How can we appreciate what is around us? How can we look without fear? Without prejudice? Without judgement? How can we be fair? Or, rather, how can we be free?

This is the project of Wolfgang Tillmans whose images we feature on this page. His oeuvre, from the earliest pictures of the gay nightlife of Berlin to the most abstract images created in larger-than-life format, has always been about this: the freedom to be who you are. His images are transgressive and gentle – and the values that he puts forward, emphasizing diversity, quality of life, time, a sense of love and harmony, are values that could guide a society in a meaningful way.

These values could also be at the center of other parameters of life within a society – measuring prosperity in a different way, as the project of THE NEW INSTITUTE attempts to do. Tillmans’ images can serve as a guide to how this life, this society, a new economy could look like.

A canon of his work is currently at display in New York’s MoMA, the title of the show is “To look without fear”.

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