Rethinking 'Progress': an Evaluation of the Wellington Region Genuine Progress Index
There is widespread and long-running discontent with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of progress for society. A number of alternative measures have been proposed, including the Genuine Progress Index (GPI). A GPI has been developed by local government in the Wellington region (New Zealand) to facilitate a rethinking of conventional notions of 'progress'. The Wellington Region GPI (WRGPI) is modelled upon the Nova Scotia GPI, which is a pluralistic index consisting of environmental, social, economic and cultural indicators with either physical or monetary values. The study explores a 'good practice' approach to public participation in the development of the GPI, and provides an overview of the context within which it fits. A synergistic link was found between the Nova Scotia GPI framework and the framework provided by the Local Government Act community outcomes process. Despite this synergy, and the commitment to the GPI on the part of local authorities, a number of challenges emerged from the context. These include the poor integration of the existing community outcomes into institutional decision-making, a weak institutional commitment to the economic valuation procedure of the GPI, and the desire on the part of the present local government minister to reduce the scope of local government. In light of these challenges, a 'good practice' approach has been developed with a normative component: deliberation, influence & inclusion, and a methodological component: purpose, process & context. Deliberation was stressed as a particularly important tool to facilitate institutional and social learning around the WRGPI and to build the value case and a constituency for the WRGPI across the local authorities and community, and therefore increasing the likelihood that conventional notions of 'progress' will be replaced with more holistic ones. While this case study provides insights into the challenge of integrating a GPI into local governance, it is still too early to judge whether the initiative will emerge as a viable alternative to the GDP for the Wellington region.