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Genuine Progress Indicators Conference

Baltimore, MD

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Cylvia (Hayes),… and thank you all for joining us.  A special word of appreciation to Lew Daly of Demos and Stuart Clarke of the Town Creek Foundation for making today possible.

It is a special honor to be joined by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, whose work continues to inspire our action in Maryland.

We have at least 18 states represented here today.

This is movement is growing,…and to achieve Genuine Progress, we need to expand this awareness to more states.  I’d love to host all 50 here someday. We also have to deepen our own public understanding and use of GPI in states where we profess to have embraced it.  We can only change the national dialogue with meaningful, state-level action.

In many ways, we Marylanders, think of ourselves as pro-growth Americans — and before you get “wiggy” about that term, let me explain:  Like you, we believe in growing jobs and growing opportunity.  Like you, we believe in children growing healthy, growing educated, and growing strong.  We believe in grandparents growing old with dignity and with love.  We believe in growing trees, growing sustainable Bay fisheries, growing food locally to feed our citizens.  And we believe in growing prosperity for every generation.

But not all growth is good.

If we are going to solve the great engineering challenges to humankind,……if we are going to move from economies of global depletion to economies of local regeneration:

We must be willing to make better choices.  And we must embrace a new, more entrepreneurial, more collaborative, more performance-driven style of leadership.

It’s somehow appropriate that we would meet just across the street from Inner Harbor – where there is some great shopping – hint, hint.  If you will close your eyes for a moment, imagine being here in 1814.  Washington has been burned to the ground and British General Robert Ross has declared “I am going to march on Baltimore and dine there” – because even then we had great restaurants – “and then I’m going to burn it to the ground.”

Well, the people of Baltimore had something else planned. Against the overwhelming “shock and awe” force of its own day, we stood firm. The Star Spangled Banner — the giant flag that was hoisted over Ft. McHenry as the British guns finally fell silent — was stitched together by black and white hands. The common thread was the thread of human dignity: the dignity of home, the dignity of work, the dignity of every individual.

Genuine Progress

“Genuine progress,” like the Star Spangled Banner, consists of many strands and stripes and a constellation of stars – all part of one whole.

No one stripe or one star makes a full flag – unless you happen to live in Texas.

We choose to use the tool of a Genuine Progress Indicator, because no one benchmark, no one measure, no one indicator paints a full picture of a city, state or country’s progress.

We would not be satisfied if we opened up our kids’ report card only to find a grade in just one subject.

GDP is an important measure, but it cannot be the only measure.  It’s a decent test of our country’s cholesterol, yes.  But we still need to know about our blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, and so forth.

Our country’s GDP has doubled over the last three decades.  Yet, things like income inequality,… middle class opportunity,… the amount of poisonous carbon pumped into our atmosphere: these graphs simply aren’t moving in the right direction.

What does GDP tell us about pollution being pumped into our air or flushed into our waters?

What does it tell us about how many little boys are dealing drugs on street corners?  Or how many little girls have to dodge hypodermic needles in their playgrounds?

What does it tell us about how much harder moms and dads are working, only to bring less home in their paychecks?

What does it tell us about the time we lose with our families, stuck in traffic?

What does it tell us about the quality of our poetry?  The sounds of our music?  The grace of our art?

What does it tell us about the progress we are – or are not – making in confronting the greatest challenge to human existence on this planet since the threat of nuclear annihilation?

GDP tells us what we are producing.  But it totally neglects what we are using up.  There is a difference between income – which is fleeting – and wealth, which is lasting.

To make genuine progress, we must be willing to adopt a more holistic definition of progress itself.  To seek an honest assessment of whether our graphs are moving in the right direction – or in the wrong one.

A system without feedback eventually fails. And our country, our states, our cities – they are all systems.  Life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. Period. Full stop. Perhaps, there is no better description of the intent of GPI. Its purpose is to further the conditions that are conducive to life.

A New Sort of Leadership

Things that get measured are things that get done.  The ultimate test of any public policy is whether it works.  Spare me your ideology.  Does this work for me and my family?   That’s the question we seek to answer by measuring all these separate but connected indicators.

It is a question not of whether we are moving our states left or right, but whether we are moving forward or back.

In this search for answers, this new Information Age has given us the ability to measure Genuine Progress with insight and accuracy never before dreamed of.  But acting upon this intelligence will require all of us to embrace a new type of leadership.

Ideological, hierarchal, bureaucratic leadership – these are the old ways of organizing human endeavor.

Our times call for leadership that is entrepreneurial.  Collaborative.   Accountable.  Performance measured.  Relentlessly inter-active.

Leadership which is willing to open-source information in order to unlock individual community-based solutions – on a massive scale.

Leadership which understands the power of human dignity and the strength of our diversity.

How We Govern in Maryland

This is how we govern in Maryland.

With greater collaboration than ever before, we are using technology to create common platforms,…   facilitating and coordinating and catalyzing thousands of individually responsible actions.  Actions that advance the common good of genuine progress and prosperity for all.

It is impossible to steer or speed a ship without a compass or controls.  Therefore, we set public goals,… we measure government performance and on a weekly basis,… and we put our findings online for all to see.

We set the goal of recovering 100% of the jobs Maryland lost during the Bush recession.  And to date we’ve recovered 91%.

We set the goal of planting 355,000 acres of Bay-saving cover crops last year.  And in fact, our farmers planted more than 413,000  – beating our goal by nearly 17% if you’re keeping score at home.

We set the goal of saving lives by driving down infant mortality 10%. We exceeded that goal – driving it down 16%. Now, we’ve set a new goal of driving down infant mortality another 10% by 2017.

We also set the goal of reducing Maryland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 25% by 2020.  And to date, frankly, we’ve made insufficient progress.  Right now we’re only at 5%.

By setting goals and measuring performance, we are essentially asking the timeless human questions of :Where are we going?” And “How do we know we’re getting there?

It’s for this very reason that we choose to integrate GPI into our decision-making.

We first put Maryland’s Indicator together in 2010.

In these years since, we’ve continued to combine 26 performance measures spanning economic, social, and environmental progress.  We measure the value of higher education.  The cost of crime.  Income inequality.  The cost of ozone depletion.  The value of volunteer work – and dozens of additional indicators.

Today, we are further integrating the GPI into our decision making across the board.   And, we’ve formed a new partnership with Demos and TownCreek to take this to the next level.

As you do the same in your own states, we are very interested in learning from you and collaborating with you.


We have within our power as states, as communities, as individuals, the ability to achieve rising standards of living,…Better educated children,…More affordable college,…A more highly skilled American workforce,…Safer neighborhoods,…A safer and more resilient Homeland,…Healthier people,…A more sustainable balance with nature.

But this will not happen on its own.

Changing a culture takes time.  And it isn’t easy.  We have so much that we can learn from one another.  If we are truly going to shift the dialogue away from a GDP-centric conversation, and to a more holistic one – none of us can do it alone.

Thank you all very much.

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