Social Progress Index – Global Data Representation Analysis

Hi Everyone,

For my first CMS.631 assignment, I have chosen a data graphic that is in line with this semester’s theme of Civic Data, which is defined as “Data about our world and how we experience it, being used with the goal of making it better for us all”. This data representation comes from the researchers at the Social Progress Imperative, whose aim is to provide substantive metrics to measure the overall “social progress” of each country in today’s world.

Link for Data Representation

Social Progress Index Data Representation
The data being shown in this information graphic is the aggregate “Social Progress Index Score”, which is made up of three core metrics: “Basic Human Needs”, “Foundations of Well Being”, and “Opportunity”, each with their own four sub-metrics which then have their own data components. This is a massive data endeavor, and many different types of standard metrics such as “Child Mortality Rate”, “School Enrollment”, and “Obesity Rates” are combined with less standard metrics such as “Freedom over life choices” and “Corruption” in order to come up with the aggregated scores. As such, the face-value data that is present is essentially a conglomeration of thousands of economic and social indicators, boiled down to a few key scores and partitioned at the country level.

I think there are multiple audiences for this type of data representation. In my opinion the main one is researchers and policy-makers, in the sense that the data tries to provide a brand new methodology and a massive amount of already finished¬†work for measuring progress as a country (and can be used at different levels of granularity) in a different, more holistic way then today’s methods. I think another main audience is that of those organizations responsible for data collection, in that it provides a clear vision of what kind of analysis and (hopefully) impact can result from certain data sets that are collected. Finally, I think another important audience for this data representation is the general population; this is because all of this complicated data curation, analysis, and representation is boiled down to a few numbers per country with a focus on visual presentation of the information, the information is presented freely online, and the Social Progress Index has been the focus of several TED talks over the last few years.

I think the there are three main goals of this data presentation. The first is to get a conversation going among the general populace with regards to what social progress means, how it is measured, and why different countries have different levels of social progress. The second is to provide decision-makers who may not be that technical with a methodology upon which to have discussions with other decision-makers and also to drive forward policy and research initiatives. The third is to draw researchers into the methodology and analysis done such that they consider the Social Progress Index as an effective metric and measurement system for how the world is changing over time.

I think that the graphic is quite effective, because it allows for different levels of granularity (which serves multiple audiences),  has a strong visual focus (colors help differentiate between metrics and shades of color help to compare different countries), and minimizes the amount of numbers presented (instead uses relative positioning via a ranking and colors to help people orient themselves within the framework presented).

Overall, I found this graphic to be very thought-provoking and incredibly relevant to the world today and the our class’ theme, and had a lot of fun looking through it. I look forward to having many more of these experiences over the rest of this semester!