What gets measured, gets done. And what gets valued, gets measured. So what if we replaced GDP with "Girls on Bikes"?

From GirlUp’s  SchoolCycle

From GirlUp’s SchoolCycle

Crazy headline? Not so much. Let us explain.

We found this idea from the website of WellbeingEconomies.film - who are making a documentary about wellbeing economics:

a new way of designing our economies — for the wellbeing of people and planet — is not only possible, but also our most urgent task. It means letting go of our obsession with GDP growth, making the economy work again for the many (and not only a few rich at the top), and protecting the planet that we all need to survive. In other words, tackling the major issues of our time in an integrated approach.

A topic well-explored on this site. But in interviewing the estimable Katherine Trebeck from the WeAll alliance, these doc makers came upon a rather beautiful alternative to GDP (a “Gross Domestic Product” where more stuff produced means better societies). This ignores all the downsides in mental health, environmental impact and poor self-development that GDP generates.

What’s Katherine’s alternative to GDP? She suggests: the number of girls that ride their bikes to school.

The blog continues:

Ok, this may seem very strange at first glance. What? Rather than looking at how much economic output our country is producing, let’s count girls on bikes?

Think about it. It makes a heap of sense:

If more and more girls ride a bike to school, it means it’s safer and safer to cycle in traffic.

If more and more girls ride bikes to school, it means that bikes are increasingly accepted as a means of transport.

And it means less parents’ cars — who are now doing the “parent taxi” thing (a big issue here in Germany) — are polluting the air and creating dangerous traffic jams outside schools.

If more and more girls cycle to school, it means that more and more girls are actually going to school and getting an education, period. That’s an important achievement in many countries.

If more girls are cycling to school, it means that they’ll get used to this mode of transport, it will translate to better health for them in the future, and to less pollution in society in the future.

If more girls go to school on bikes, it means that they are not afraid to be attacked by predators who do them harm.

If more and more girls ride bikes to school, more and more boys will do that, too.

If more and more girls cycle to school, it means that more of them are empowered and unafraid.

I think I agree with Katherine: This is an incredibly convincing measure of progress. And one that deserves serious consideration as a replacement for GDP. And I am not joking one bit.

More here. And see the interview with her on the Emerge website where Katherine first articulates this idea. One might imagine another example on the other side of the gender divide: What about the number of boys baking their mum’s birthday cakes?