The Year in Review and The Year Ahead 2022

Do younger generations have the same opportunities as the rest? What work will the world need to do to recover from the impacts of Covid-19? This year, we challenged ourselves to ask more questions and find answers that reinforced our mission: To use data to influence policies and investments to better serve all of humanity.

To achieve this, we had to look at things differently. This year we worked on analyzing several fronts such as social progress, sustainability, generations, regions, and the impacts of Covid-19 to see their interrelation and share some of our best work yet. The Social Progress Imperative’s network has continued to drive progress with localized indexes, where some focused on health and equality. We did in depth research on the relationship between social progress and climate change and published our first report. We further developed our Covid Response and Recovery Tool and scaled it around the world to help national governments. In Costa Rica, they used the tool to build their vaccination strategy. Now, 70% of Costa Rica’s citizens have at least one dose of the vaccine.

These are our highlights of the year:

2021 Social Progress Index and Climate Change Report:  On average the world is improving, but it is slow and uneven. We improved the most in access to information and communication, but we see a growing trend of people’s rights declining around the world. In our new report on social progress and climate change, we discovered that social progress doesn’t have to come at the cost of sustainability. Countries that emit much less greenhouse gases than others at the same level of development also do better than countries of similar wealth, in health, education, gender equality, personal rights and inclusiveness.

You can read the 2021 Social Progress Index or download the Climate Change Report for free.

The Covid Integrated Risk and Response Tool: Using social, economic and mobility data we have rolled out 7 Covid response tools for Costa Rica, Argentina, London (UK), Mexico and the state of Puebla, Ecuador and South Africa. The tool helps develop local strategies to reduce the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic.

Our work in Costa Rica: 
In Costa Rica, in partnership with INCAE Business School and collaboration with national and city governments, we developed a multidimensional tool that captures the socioeconomic risk to help decision-makers understand the crisis beyond the immediate health and economic impacts. It is used by Costa Rica’s President and mayors across the country to monitor the pandemic, prioritize actions and resources, and guide the closing and reopening of communities based on a holistic understanding of risks. This has quickly become a cornerstone of the government’s data-driven pandemic response strategy. Now, it’s also integral to the vaccination strategy; using the information to guide the vaccination strategy, in collaboration with the association of journalists, the Ministry of Health, the Catholic church, private sector and local governments. We started in May with 35% of people with at least one dose, to 70% the second week of December. Now, Costa Rica has registered consecutive days without deaths. That is literally from index to action to impact in the worst crisis of our generation.

Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador:
Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador developed with CIPPEC, Como Vamos and Grupo Faro respectively, the IRR Tool to emphasise the importance of data informed decision making in the changing context of Covid-19. Whilst difficult, when they desire, governments have the capacity to improve and advance more intensive information gathering to amplify the efficacy of responses.

Facebook Partnership:
As an organization with a rich history on the application of innovative data, we’re always up-to-date with new sources that arise. To aid decision makers in the crisis, Facebook released mobility data amongst a range of other products which we saw as a perfect opportunity to apply within the IRR Tool. Used as a way to monitor the pandemic and indicate economic recovery, our application led us to a creative partnership with the global tech giant who we are now collaborating with to expand our work in Europe.

The People’s Report: Over 17,000 underrepresented voices worldwide shared how the pandemic transformed their lives. We connected people with world leaders to start new conversations around achieving the SDGs and shape government policies based on real needs.

Youth Progress Index: We shifted the focus to future generations. The index measured the quality of life of young people in more than 150 countries, enabling public authorities, businesses, and civil society organizations to identify and prioritize their most critical needs.

Conversations that really matter:

European Path to Sustainability and Social Progress Event: We brought policy and business leaders in Europe together, to address how both to continue to make progress happen while reversing the effects of climate change. We had a dynamic and lively discussion with next steps forward on the European Green Deal at the heart of it.

What Works in Tourism: Government, business, and NGO leaders gathered in Iceland to discuss tourism as a driver for social progress, and how the industry can recover and move towards greater sustainability, in the wake of Covid.

What Works 2021: Speaker guests

Global Action Summit: We hosted a session at this exciting Summit bringing together a high-level group of leaders focused on using the capital markets as a force for good.

Christiana Figueres interview: What’s next after COP26? We had the privilege of having Christiana Figueres as a guest on the INCAE Business School Podcast to analyze COP26’s final agreements.

Stanford Social Innovation Review: Our CEO, Michael Green, participated alongside other social change leaders in the Nonprofit Management Institute session: Better Than Normal, How Nonprofits Are Building Back Stronger in the Wake of Local and Global Crises. He shared insights around our current state of social progress and how data could transform our future.

T20 Towards Humanistic Metrics of Success for G20 Economies:  This is our fourth participation in the G20-T20 process. We measured success and progress with dimensions beyond GDP where all policy actions will be centered on people. 

Localized indexes:

Our regional analysis brought strong outcomes. We developed some country and city-specific indexes where we could comprehend their social issues in detail.

The Orange County Equity Map in California, United States 

The Orange County Equity Map (OC Equity Map) is a data platform that spotlights social and health disparities in Orange County neighborhoods across multiple dimensions with a specific focus on the impact from COVID-19.

Mexico ¿Cómo Vamos?:

The Mexican Social Progress Index measures by state the country’s social performance independent of economic factors. Some shocking results reveal that in 2019 and 2020, some states declined in social progress by -4 points for each percentage point that excess mortality increased due to Covid-19.

South Africa Youth Progress Index 

On an annual basis, South Africa creates a sub-national index, focusing on social progress at a provincial level. However, this year we observed how the youth face particular challenges to their wellbeing that we haven’t seen recently. We launched the Youth Progress Index to understand the threats and opportunities better and analyze their quality of life.

Iceland Social Progress Portrait 

​​For the 4th time, we published the Social Progress Portrait. Based on 57 indicators, It shows the progress of three municipalities developing this measurement tool in Iceland. Kópavogur, Reykjanesbær and Árborg municipalities showed improvement when looking over the last five years.

Urban Health Index in London with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust NHS Foundation Trust 

The Urban Health Index provides information on 68 neighbourhoods in Lambeth and Southwark and captures more than 42 indicators related to basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity. You can read here how they are making a change in the communities.

Brazilian Amazon Index

Seven years ago, we partnered with Imazon to create the first local index of Brazil’s Legal Amazon. This year, they analyzed 772 cities and the index revealed that since 2018, areas of intense deforestation have stagnated in their social progress. Half of the twenty cities with the worst rates of social development are in Pará, a historically leading state in deforestation.

Looking ahead 2022:

We are working on taking the Social Progress Index to the next level. We seek to create opportunities for cities, states, and regions to benefit from this information and improve the quality of life of their communities. “Think globally and act locally” has never been so crucial for accelerating the SDGs. 

Moreover, if we want to build a sustainable world, we require the support of all the stakeholders. That is why we will continue to create spaces for discussions, debates, and analysis to develop solutions together.

These are some of the projects we are creating for 2022:

  • The US Social Progress Map: It is the most comprehensive collection of social and environmental data of all 50 states and the 500 largest US cities. Equipping city leaders with community insights that provide a common base of truth is crucial for movement on policies and investments that make real impact.
  • Our work in the UK: We have recently published the beta version of the Leeds Social Progress Index, and we are also developing an index for the Lichfield District in the UK.
  • Warsaw Social Progress Index: We are working with the City of Warsaw in Poland to develop a Social Progress Index for their 18 districts. The Warsaw districts SPI is expected to be launched in the first half of 2022.
  • What Works 2022: Government leaders, businesses, and civil society will gather in Banff, Canada May 31st-June 2nd, to discuss the world’s most pressing issues and bring solutions in a bid to identify, replicate and scale what works.
  • 2022 Social Progress Index: Get ready for our global index! You will be able to identify areas of need and trends that are helping countries progress. Every year, we analyze more than 50 social and environmental indicators for more than 165 countries. From South America to Asia, we have managed to create an impact in dozens of countries, which have used the global index creatively and have achieved to transform their society. With the Covid-19 crisis, the index becomes even more helpful and relevant as we will see the impact that Covid-19 had on the world’s social progress.

Finally, we want to hear from you. If during the year you used our Index, IRR tool, or any other work, we would love to know more about it and share it as part of our community’s highlights of 2021. You could email us at or tag us on our social media.

Thank you to everyone involved and for making all of the projects a reality. We will continue working to accelerate social progress in every region, country and city. If you would like to know more about our work and get involved, please subscribe to our newsletter. If you don’t want to miss out on our daily news, you could follow us on social media.

 Cover image designed with resources from Freepik and the Noun Project

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