Outgrowing GDP Symposium to feature new measurement tools, dialogue

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Published 4.10.13

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When the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in 1989, the cleanup and costs associated with the disaster raised Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Presidio MBA student Gina Melekh says it’s examples like these that reflect the growing need for governments and businesses to explore and adopt new economic measures.

“It’s quickly becoming obvious to anybody that the very principles we take to measure our economy are flawed,” says Gina.

With this in mind, Gina is among a group of Presidio Graduate School students and professors organizing an upcoming research symposium Outgrowing GDP: A New Approach to America’s Accounting System on April 30.

The public event will bring together leading economic thinkers from Presidio and beyond, as well as students, to discuss the limits of GDP and how new measures can replace or complement the current economic accounting system.

Keynote speakers include journalist and author Jacques Leslie, who is a lead researcher of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. The happiness index was introduced as an indicator that measures the quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than GDP.

Dan Sevall, Presidio professor of Managerial Accounting, will present his innovative research to switch from the goal of maximizing an outcome, such as GDP, to a measure that aims to minimize an outcome.  Borrowing from the fields of behavioral finance and decision science, Dan’s work explores how economic policy would be different if we measure and aim to minimize regret.

“The good news is there are a lot of alternatives to GDP, and of course all of them come with their own pluses and minuses,” says Gina.

After the panel presentation and keynotes, students and attendees will form break-out sessions to further build out the ideas.

“There is an opportunity for participants to help co-create, engage and shape the discussion,” says Sonya Kendall, Presidio associate director of engagement.

She says the event is in line with the grad school’s mission to create more holistic models for business and government that reflect a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

“GDP is just one particular indicator. We live in a complex world where there are a lot of ways we can measure success,” says Sonya.

In addition to the one-day symposium, Presidio would like to see the GDP discussion extend beyond its walls.

In the lead-up to Outgrowing GDP, Presidio will be publishing an op-ed that makes the case for adopting new economic measures that keep score in a more humane and common-sense way.

Following the event, Gina will be working with professors to publish a white paper incorporating ideas and best practices that can be used for advocacy purposes.

The research Symposium Outgrowing GDP was made possible by the Huey D. Johnson Research Initiative for a New GDP, a grant from the  Fred Gellert Family Foundation.

We want to hear what you think.
Send your feedback and comments to pr@presidio.edu

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