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June 29, 2011

What is a good life?

A definition of prosperity is “a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune.” While there is an undoubted financial element to being prosperous, it suggests that money is by no means the whole picture.  The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a prosperous nation but what is that supposed to look like? What makes a good life? Oxfam Scotland wants you to tell them

Everyone needs enough money to buy life’s basics, but few really believe that, on its own, cash is enough. 

That’s why Oxfam Scotland wants to create a new way of measuring what makes a good life: one that takes money into account, but also recognises what Scottish people know – that it takes more than just economic growth to make a prosperous nation.  The Oxfam Humankind Index is about valuing the things that really matter to the people of Scotland. This might include their social relations, their health and skills, their physical environment and natural context, and their financial assets. 

To do this, we want to ask the Scottish people about those aspects of life that make a real difference to people.  Public participation in creation of the Humankind Index is absolutely central.  It means that the Index will be based on the values of a society rather than the views of an elite.  

This will, in turn, enable government to focus on what really matters, and to take more informed decisions about where society wants to go. We want to ensure that policy makers make policies that serve the real prosperity of Scotland, and are not simply policies that try to advance economic growth, regardless of the cost on communities or our environment.  It is about remembering that the economy should serve the people, not the other way around.  

In the longer term, Oxfam also wants a change in the way we judge ourselves as individuals, moving away from seeing the ‘stuff’ we have as a sign of how well we are doing to a wider sense of what makes us feel OK in our lives. 

You could say that the Oxfam Humankind Index is about creating a context not where people sacrifice their relationships and environment to keep up with the Jones’s… but where they celebrate and nurture their relationships with the Jones’s and the environment impacting on them!

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