19 May 2021
The Sasin lecture series continues with a presentation by Metawe Thamagasorn, Ph.D., the Project Manager at Impact office, Sasin School of Management. The development of the Social Progress Index (SPI) for Thailand’s provinces aims to measure the lived experience of Thai people throughout the country. It is designed to capture how well the primary issues of society are catered for and includes health, safety, shelter, education, rights, and freedom. The SPI is a tool that aids leaders in their decision-making by providing information to prioritize investments better and allocate resources more efficiently. It promotes a data-driven and stakeholder engagement approach in setting policies and strategies, fostering transparency and good governance. The lecture began by looking at the global results for social progress in 2020. This placed Thailand with a rank of 79 out of 163 countries. Dr. Metawe then presented data showing that social progress doesn’t necessarily correspond to GDP PPP per capita, especially in middle and lower-income countries. Dr. Metawe revealed the SPI for Thailand has improved over the last decade, with its score rising from 68.65 to 70.72. The country also fared well against global scores on most issues except opportunity. The SPI framework was then explained in more detail. It consists of three dimensions, each with a series of indicators. These consist of basic human needs, the foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity. The global SPI framework consists of 50 indicators and allows for measurable outcomes to assist in noting problem areas and changes in society. Looking at Thailand’s scorecard, Dr. Metawe noted issues such as water and sanitation, personal safety, access to basic knowledge, and personal rights. This study is the first sub-national measurement of the SPI index in Southeast Asia. Dr. Metawe outlined the project’s objectives, which included: the development of the subnational index, engaging stakeholders, and establishing a Social Progress Thailand Network. The project began in April 2020, and the plan is to finalize the SPI framework in May 2021. Then, in June or July, Dr. Metawe hopes to launch the SPI and publish its findings and methodologies. The presentation then moved on to the SPI framework and methodology. Dr. Metawe defined social progress and then explained the SPI Framework Design Principles before moving on to look at the data itself. She explained that the majority of the data analyzed came from government sources. This data was assessed and examined to see how well it would fit into the SPI framework. Then Dr. Metawe explained the series of steps needed for the index calculation. These included standardization, component and dimension scores, and the formulas used to calculate the index scores. Preliminary results revealed the Thai provinces with the highest and lowest SPI scores – Nonthaburi (62.03) and Narathiwat (39.26), respectively. Interestingly, the lowest scores were primarily located in the west of the country. These scores were compared to the Human Achievement Index (HAI), developed by UNDP Thailand, which is not directly comparable due to the difference in selected indicators. The scorecards for a few individual provinces were examined, with an overview of Bangkok, Nonthaburi, and Narathiwat and an assessment of strengths and weaknesses. The provincial data was then charted to see the SPI score in relation to GPP per capita. To ensure the SPI is a helpful tool, a series of multi-sectoral consultation meetings took place to provide input on various topics. An SPI chatgroup was also established and included participants from government sectors, NGOs and foundations, and other interested stakeholders, who shared data and discussed framework improvements. Once the initiative is launched, Dr. Metawe has a few potential developments in mind, including a more detailed SPI for Bangkok, training and workshops for government sectors and non-profits, and additional research. The presentation ended with a lively Q&A that covered a variety of topics. It will be fascinating to see what the SPI tool reveals and how it will be used in the future.