For Progress Namibia

Progress Namibia - For Progress Namibia
The aim of For Progress Namibia is to pioneer New Indicators for Measuring Progress in Namibia and create a discussion platform around what we truly value and what gives our lives quality and meaning.

In 1968 John F. Kennedy said, in his very moving speech, that “GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile”. Despite this, and the inventor of GDP, Simon Kuznets, warning us against the use of GDP as the measure of wellbeing, GDP has become the primary goal globally when we measure our well-being. An urgent need to redefine this paradigm is facing us now that we are hitting environmental, economic and social breakdowns. Justine and a few members from the Young Achievement Empowerment Group, with a small stipend and mentorship from the Balaton Group, began implementing a small entry point project in Namibia entitled “Citizen Wellbeing versus GDP: Towards more appropriate measures of Namibia’s success and progress”.

In 2012, the committee (Justine Braby, Angula Angula, Fikameni Matthias, John Mulunga, Newmann Nekwaya, Jess Lavelle) was formed to brainstorm ideas, develop and run a small survey in three suburbs in Windhoek, ranging from high income to low income. Justine used the expertise of Balaton members including Cuathemoc Leon, Laura Musikanski, John de Graaf, and Alan Atkisson to guide and mentor the work of her and her colleagues. They discussed surveys and initiatives such as the GNH in Bhutan, the Happiness Alliance ((formerly 'Happiness Initiative', a project of Sustainable Seattle), the Happy Planet Index, GNH in Brazil (youth work), and OECD, among many others, to adapt such examples to the Namibian context.

The work was aimed at being an entry point into measuring well-being of Namibia’s citizens for informed development planning and decision-making. Volunteers surveyed, using a questionnaire, door-to-door in households of different income suburbs of the capital city in Windhoek. Domains similar to GNH Bhutan were used – focusing on the following: State of Mind; Health; Time Balance; Community Strength; Education, Recreation and Culture; Area and Environment; Good Governance and Political Freedom; Material Well-being; Work. A multitude of indicators were used to measure the sufficiency of each domain and to then calculate the overall sufficiency (sufficiency meaning whether targeted well-being was reached – above 50% in sufficiency).

In all suburbs, only two domains’ sufficiency was reached, namely health and state of mind. Health status was the highest scoring indicator, whilst corruption and trust were the two lowest scoring indicators – and sufficiency was overall low. Okuryangava, a low income suburb in Katutura (the former township), was found to have reached sufficiency in the most domains (and indicators), namely health and state of mind, as well as education, recreation and culture, and material wellbeing, and had an overall sufficiency of 52%, just above Ludwigsdorf (high income, 51%). Hakahana had the lowest sufficiency, at 35%. Generally, and as expected given Namibia’s income disparities, wellbeing correlated along an income line, with the exception of Okuryangava. The relatively high sufficiency reached in Okuryangava is notable and begs for further study. Sense of community strength, unity and safety were the highest here compared with all other surveys, and social cohesion is a large component of wellbeing in human society. Work and time balance was an issue where all suburbs scored low. Overall, while income seems to be a relatively important ingredient to wellbeing, it is by far not the most important. This study was the first of its kind in Namibia, and hopes to spark a debate as to what is important to Namibian citizens, and form a basis in which further study can guide social development planning in the country. This study has recently been published in the Journal of Social Change, and can be found here.

We have received funding from the Institute for Studies in Happiness, Economics and Society, which Progress Namibia has matched, in order to present the results to one of the suburbs.The results were presented to the suburb residents of Shandumbala during a community workshop that was held on the 16th of April at the Multi-purpose Centre. The City of Windhoek, National Planning Commission, UNDP, and the Councillors Office also participated in the workshop. The residents, together with the other stakeholders, discussed the key issues, and came up with feasible actions towards working on the results.Currently, we are working on an action plan in consultation with the Councillor of Katutura-East to improve the conditions in the community. This is a step towards hopefully more interventions and the wider aim of bringing the project to the national arena (especially rural communities) for holistic and sustainable national development planning. For more details on the workshop and news as it progresses, please visit 'Our Thoughts' Newsblog for updates.

We have also recently developed a policy brief of the study.