Dr. Ronald Colman is executive director of GPI Atlantic, a non-profit organization that set out, a decade ago, to create a Genuine Progress Index for Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is an ideal test-bed for such a project, with fewer than a million people living on a peninsula – but with a full suite of sophisticated institutions, including numerous universities and its own provincial government.
The Nova Scotia GPI, completed in 2009, provided fascinating insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the province, and into the trends that were changing it. Just one example: the GPI measured the enormous contributions of volunteers to the community's well-being – but it also noted that volunteering was declining for a variety of reasons, and that the province was measurably poorer as a result.
GPI Atlantic is part of a whole international movement to create better measurements of human development, a movement which is also the subject of this week's Sunday Herald column. GPI's pioneering work in devising an alternative to the one-dimensional measurements of the Gross Domestic Product attracted attention in places as far away as New Zealand and Bhutan.
Bhutan in particular was attempting to devise a credible and appropriate system of measurements for its national goal of maximizing the Gross National Happiness. As a result, Ron Colman became a top adviser to the Royal Government of Bhutan, where he now spends much of his time. In this absorbing conversation, he talks passionately about the experience of working on these innovative projects in two very different societies on opposite sides of the globe.