Introducing a series of guest posts from knowledge sharing projects aiming to build a better world.

Our first post is from Philippa Lysaght from Wikiprogress – looking at progress as more than just increasing GDP.

Wikiprogress logo

When Wikiprogress launched at the 2009 OECD World Forum, there was a lot of excitement and nervousness as to how the wiki platform would develop and foster the progress community. Almost two years on and Wikiprogress has grown to play a central role in the progress movement, with many lessons learnt on the challenges and opportunities wiki platforms present. We have gathered a few of the highlights from this experience so far, along with a little background info what Wikiprogress is and what it aims to achieve.

What is Wikiprogress?

Wikiprogress is an online platform centralizing data, information, initiatives, publications, events and networks that are part of the international movement to look beyond GDP in measuring the progress of societies.

In recent years, the shift from measuring economic production to wellbeing has gained a lot of support from organisations and governments around the world. National statistics offices, intergovernmental organisations, research networks, non-government organisations and interested individuals are working to develop new and existing measures of social, environmental and economic progress.

Wikiprogress aims to provide a platform for all parts of the progress community, citizens and policy makers alike, to develop information on measures of progress by creating a robust wiki of related research and statistics. In doing so, Wikiprogress aims to foster a web community around the vision of measuring progress and provide a platform for collaborative participation.

Why wiki?

In fostering the development of progress indicators, it is important to develop a conversation with all levels of society on what dimensions of progress are important to each community.

Joseph Stiglitz, a world-renowned economist and pioneer of the progress movement, has called for a ‘global dialogue’ on measuring progress: ‘part of the objective of rethinking our measurement systems is to generate a national and global dialogue on what we care about.’ (From Measuring Production to Measuring Well-being, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Presentation to the Productivity Commission, Melbourne, July 29, 2010)

The wiki platform ensures that all voices are heard in developing progress indicators, and more importantly, fosters a multidisciplinary community to work together.

Key wiki lessons learnt so far

The wiki platform offers many opportunities and challenges; we are constantly learning more about how to make the most of the platform and how to deal with the openness it offers. Here are a few of the key issues we have encountered.

A wiki article is a process, not a product

While the purpose of a wiki article is similar to that of other articles, in the sense that it informs, the creation of a wiki article is quite unique. In creating a new article, the author does not need to be an expert in the field; they just need to begin the process of the article.

Take for example someone creating an article on the Human Development Index. The process of creating the article can begin with one simple sentence; ‘The Human Development Index is a composite statistics used to rank countries by levels of human development.’

The article is then viewed by readers who edit and develop it bit by bit to add as much information as possible. The article begins to develop, but can never be finished; a wiki article is an on going process of edition.

This was a key lesson learnt and definitely a hard one to swallow, given that the initial Wikiprogress community consisted primarily of academics and statisticians, from whom a written body of work is an entity. Previously, articles that were lacking in content would be highlighted and a flurry of activity amongst the Wikiprogress administrators would aim to fill these pages with quality and relevant information.

We have learnt to let these articles develop naturally and encourage our community to seek out articles that need cleaning up and/or information added.

Getting recognized – a key motivation

If you have read any literature about wikis, or indeed other Web 2.0 platforms, chances are you will have come across Clay Shirky- the Internet’s most excitable cheerleader.

Various studies have been done in order to determine what motivates people to contribute to wikis, among other platforms. Shirkey gives an interesting insight to this in a case study of Wikipedia. He identifies 3 key reasons why people contribute.

  1. Doing something with the knowledge you have
  2. Getting recognized
  3. Being part of something that serves to benefit the greater good

Like other wikis, Wikiprogress strives to foster these motivations to encourage contribution. This has not been an easy task and we are still very much learning how to go about this.

The second motivation, getting recognized, has been is something we have been working on for a while. We now showcase ‘recent activity’ on the Wikiprogress homepage to show the names of those who have created and/or edited an article. We are also interested in looking into a system similar to the Wikipedia ‘Barnstars’ to reward our key contributors.

Much like the development of a wiki article, Wikiprogress is on a continual path of development learning about our community and how best to foster contribution. If you have any experience or ideas that you would like to share with us on this- please feel free to comment on this blog or get in touch with us directly.

Future plans and challenges on the horizon

Central to the function of Wikiprogress is the statistical wiki, Wikiprogress.Stat, a database of progress indicators. Wikiprogress.Stat has undergone a recent growth spurt and now includes 112 indices, covering a wide range of progress dimensions.

We have the data, and for the time being we have been iframing it from Wikiprogress.Stat to our Wikiprogress articles. See an example in the Wikiprogress article on the Global Peace Index. While the iframe serves a purpose, it is not the best way of displaying data and we are now faced with the challenge of finding the right data visualization tool.

We’d like to put a call out to readers of this blog for ideas on the best way to visualize data in Wikiprogress articles. Any ideas, suggestion or feedback would be much appreciated- please direct your emails to

Content development

While we have covered several key areas of the progress movement in Wikiprogress articles, we still have a long way to go. We have some glaring gaps in the information we provide and would like to put another call out to the readers of this blog and ask for your knowledge on any of the following topics.

And on a final note…

The child well-being portal of Wikiprogress launched earlier this month, called Wikichild. We are very excited about this new development and have had a lot of positive feedback. Wikichild houses articles on the various aspects of child well-being and key indices measuring child health, access to education and overall well-being.

Like Wikiprogress, Wikichild is in a constant state of development and we would like to invite you to have a look and let us know what your thoughts are.

Stay in touch

You can stay in touch with Wikiprogress news on the Wikiprogress blog, the Prog Blog. We also hope to be keeping in touch with you via Appropedia.

We would love to hear your comments, feedback and ideas- please feel free to contact

The Wikiprogress Team

One thought on “Wikiprogress

  1. Thanks Philippa.

    I’m curious – what kind of people are inspired to contribute to Wikiprogress? On Appropedia we get a lot of people who are into DIY and Appropriate Technology, some who are passionate about a particular area of sustainability, or about tackling poverty, and a few who are inspired by the general concept of a wiki about all these things. Mostly it’s not the people who work professionally in the field – some of those people are supporters, but usually not editors.

    What’s the Wikiprogress community like?

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