A social value bank - why?
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Why do we need a social value bank?

There is a growing movement towards the idea that societal development cannot be measured solely by economic growth such as GDP, but should also be about wellbeing. Socio-economic calculations are crucial for prioritization and decision-making, but rarely include measurable values for the social consequences of investments, including the impact on subjective wellbeing. This is despite an increasing focus over the years that societal development should move towards giving dimensions such as subjective wellbeing a significant place.

In 2013, the OECD released guidelines for measuring subjective wellbeing[1]. The release was a response to the recommendations of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (CMEPSP), a commission led by Joseph Stiglitz[2]. The commission's report clearly argued that we should move beyond GDP when measuring societal progress and particularly emphasized the importance of measuring the economic, environmental and social dimensions of wellbeing. However, despite the fact that subjective well-being had long been a topic of academic literature in 2013, at that time there was no guideline on how national statistical institutions and other relevant actors should work with subjective well-being. The OECD report from 2013 was thus the starting point for creating more accepted and uniform guidelines for measuring and collecting knowledge about well-being, particularly subjective well-being. In this context, the OECD presented a multidimensional well-being framework in which subjective well-being was a key dimension in its own right.

Since 2013, many countries have moved towards including subjective well-being as part of the core national well-being and prioritization indicators. The OECD report "Subjective well-being measurement: Current practice and new frontiers"[3], highlights that more than 70% (27 out of 38) of OECD member countries have developed national initiatives on multidimensional well-being, and among these, almost 90% have included subjective well-being indicators in their approach. The most common is a life evaluation indicator, typically in the form of a life satisfaction (LS) question.

Thus, there is a significant development of implementation policies focusing on wellbeing in several different countries and international organizations, but this development is lacking in Denmark. Overall, wellbeing economics is a new and growing field that seeks to understand the economic value of promoting wellbeing and inform policy decisions and interventions to achieve this goal. Wellbeing economics is, among other things, about investigating the economic aspects of wellbeing, and establishing methods to estimate economic (social) values for improving wellbeing or quality of life across the population or in specific population groups. 

With the Open Social Value Bank Association, we want to change this in a Danish context. We want to initiate a Danish movement towards getting well-being, including subjective well-being, even higher up on the political agenda. Part of this is about being able to supplement the traditional approaches to economic analysis of societal investments by including the direct human consequences of our societal investments. If we are to get better at prioritizing the factors we actually value, we need to be able to value them. We believe that this movement is necessary if we are to support the many major societal investments and priorities we face to be sustainable, both economically, environmentally and socially. 


[OECD, Ed., OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris, 2013.

[2] J. E. Stiglitz, A. Sen, and J.-P. Fitoussi, "Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress," 2009. [ Online].

[3] J. Mahoney, "Mapping well-being in France," OECD Papers on Well-being and Inequalities 23, Sep. 2023. doi: 10.1787/fffb2de8-en.