SXSW 2011: The ROI of Relationships

You CAN measure the ROI of relationships – personally, and professionally, and this seminar will show you how. No spreadsheets needed for this lecture, and only minimal algebra. Bring a cocktail napkin, a flair ink pen, and learn how to calculate the net present value of your future mate, your pet, or the 8,299 followers of your company’s Twitter feed. Yet ROI alone will not tell you the ultimate value of your relationships. What other indicators do you need to be looking at to predict whether or not you, your future mate, your pet, or your followers will be happy with the relationship in the long run?

Strong relationships depend on other factors – connection, a sense of fairness, health, humor, fun, the ability to learn and evolve together, and a sense of overall engagement with each other, and with life. At a more macro level, communities need to understand the equity they are building not just economically, but socially and environmentally as well. As the social graph reveals a huge volume of data about our actual relational behavior, we have an opportunity to pause for a moment: to consider the value system reflected in how we measure each other, ourselves, our relationships in the world. Participants will walk away not just with a clear and precise method for how to measure ROI, but also a holistic framework for measuring return on social behavior.

Vote for this panel at the SXSW panel picker.

How to Tally Green Jobs: Do Bikes and Biodiesel Count?

At Open Forum for Inhabitat:

The recent weak news on the unemployment front leaves some of us wondering: Where are all of the green jobs? 

The U.S. Department of Commerce made an attempt to answer this very question and set a benchmark to measure the size of the emerging green economy by the number of green jobs it has created. The answer in the report, “Measuring the Green Economy,” depends on how green you want your green economy to be.

The report found that green products and services made up between 1 and 2 percent of the US economy in 2007, the last year that business census data is available. That translates to somewhere between 1.8 and 2.4 million private sector jobs.

Why such a gap in measurement? The Commerce department is solving a classification challenge that has plagued previous efforts to set benchmarks and counting green industry and job creation. This is because not everyone can agree on the definition of a green job.

For example, for solar energy panel installation or recycling of paper products there is little debate – these are green jobs, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and conserving resources.

However, the installation and management of nuclear power plants cause endless debate in environmental circles. On the one hand, nuclear power plants do not depend on fossil fuels and result in limited carbon dioxide emissions. But on the other hand, the mining of uranium is an energy intensive process, nuclear waste is radioactive and toxic, and Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters remind us that nuclear energy is not without risk.

Biodiesel is another product that pits clean energy investors against deep green environmentalists. Yes, biodiesel reduces the need for fossil fuel, but the agricultural and refinement process to make certain types of biodiesel are considered to be highly resource-intensive and emissions-producing.

Other, less controversial products like bikes and used books and clothing are often not included in economic reports tabulating the value of the clean energy industry. Yet the use of bikes and the reuse of books and clothing can contribute to reduced reliance on energy and materials.

The Commerce department’s categorizations – with a “narrow” and “broad” definitions of green, is curious. The lower estimate of 1% fits the sector of the economy that generates little debate regarding their greenness, while the larger estimate of 2% is based on the broader definition.

By allowing for flexibility in its measurement and analysis, the report is able to effectively benchmark the state of the emerging green economy – modest, slow growing, but growing nonetheless.



The GDP Killers

ROIEPS, and GDP are acronyms under attack.

From big picture to smaller picture, these acronyms all give order of magnitude value to the financial return of our efforts as humans on this earth.

I’m going to start with the big picture, GDP, and look at the developing alternatives to a one number view of a country’s well being.

GDP: Gross Domestic Product which is the value of private consumption, gross investment, government spending, and total exports minus total imports. Consumers drive this measure of global growth, with 60-70% of GDP in the US made up with purchases of things and services over the past 50 years. Recent reports on sluggish GDP lament slack consumer demand, and cross fingers and hope that resurgent future consumer behavior will “save everything.”

So why is such a number so hated? GDP is under suspicion for not measuring the true standard of living of an economy, leaving out relative shifts in worker income at home and abroad, the effects of all this spending on scarce environmental resources, not to mention the relative happiness of the citizens.

A number of replacement metrics have been set forth by government groups, activist organizations, countries, and economists looking recast what economic health really means. All of them seek to develop a new metric for economic vitality, translated into a squishy, hard-to-measure value like happiness, equity, and environmental health. Always interested in the efforts of those that wish to put numerical values on the most squishy parts of life, I’ll be investigating the following GDP alternatives:

Happy Planet Index (HPI)

Human Development Index (HDI)

Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)

Gross National Happiness (GNH)

GINI Coefficient (Gini)

Which one will replace GDP headlines in the WSJ or in your future Flipbook Social News Feed?