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Measuring What Matters – The Latest On Australia’s Wellbeing Framework

With the recent release of Australia’s wellbeing framework plans, My Mind News takes a closer look at what is being proposed.

Measuring what matters

Last month, Australia’s Commonwealth Treasury released its latest Measuring What Matters statement, marking an important step towards better government decision-making and a shared vision for the Australian population. But it is only the first step.

Australia’s Treasurer Jim Chalmers had long talked about broadening the country’s measures of success beyond the traditional ones of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, and unemployment.

The wellbeing framework announced in July attempts to bring those ideas into being. The need for different economic thinking is demonstrated in many ways, including the current housing crisis, worsening climate change, biodiversity loss, and increased financial stress and mental illness.

The new Framework consists of a dashboard of 50 indicators, grouped under five themes, which seek to broaden Australia’s collective ambition beyond things such as GDP.

A new national wellbeing framework

Developing a wellbeing framework aligns Australia with many forward-thinking democracies, including the five members of the Wellbeing Economy government partnership: Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales.

However, creating such an economy requires more than a dashboard.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a global collaboration of people and organizations working for a wellbeing economy, has developed five “tests” of a genuine wellbeing economy –

  • Does the economy provide everyone with what is needed to live a life of dignity and purpose?
  • Does the economy restore, protect, and cherish the natural environment, and is the economy guided by the principles of interconnection and indivisibility of human, animal, plant, and environmental health?
  • Does the economy value activities and behaviors by contributing to social and ecological wellbeing?
  • Is the economy designed to ensure a just distribution of income, wealth, power, and time?
  • Is the shape and form of the economy locally rooted and determined by people’s active voices?

From metrics to meaningful change

Encouragingly, the statement says measurement is only the beginning. It tells the next step will be integrating the Framework into decision-making.

“Consistent with our international counterparts, we will seek opportunities to embed the Framework into government decision-making. This will involve guidance for agencies to inform policy development and evaluation.”

This won’t be easy. While the metrics in the Framework will help track progress and spark action aimed at reversing negative trends and building on successes, international examples tell us it’s hard to use a framework created from 50 different metrics to determine what to do.

It can turn compliance into a box-ticking exercise when what’s really needed is a paradigm shift.

Learning from others’ failures and successes

Wales found a way around this through a national conversation that eventually led to the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. That act requires public bodies to use sustainable development as a guiding principle and to work to achieve seven goals that reflect the values and aspirations of the Welsh people.

Those goals include prosperity, resilience, health, equality, global responsibility, cultural vibrancy, and connection – not dissimilar to the themes in Measuring What Matters. The Welsh goals differ from those in Australia’s Measuring What Matters statement. They have a democratic mandate, and all Welsh public authorities are legally obligated to work towards achieving all of them.

Realizing the potential of Measuring What Matters will require the support and vigilance of the Australian people. Australians and the government must be willing to experiment and sometimes fail. It took Wales three attempts at developing a wellbeing framework before it landed on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

It is encouraging that the Australian Treasury and the Treasurer are openly saying that what was released last month is only the start of a conversation about measures of progress. Measuring what matters, when the people have been robustly engaged in defining what matters, is a vital precondition for the economic system change Australia needs.

What do you think about a national wellbeing framework? Do you believe that such plans can make a difference? Tell us more in the comments.

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