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South East Business Leaders debate new approach to measuring the success of the South East

09 May 2017

It’s not new to suggest that using gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of a society's success has run its course. South-East Business Leaders met recently to discuss whether the recently launched Vibrant Economy Index produced by Grant Thornton aims to be the elusive yardstick that really measures how the whole of society is being enriched and what business’ role should be.

The Vibrancy Index is designed to show that a successful economy is about more than financial success and economic return. Their index identifies six broad measures: prosperity; dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community trust and belonging. For each of these a ‘basket’ of national statistics together aim to measure these objectives. 

Panellists Brett North from Elekta, Jeremy Taylor of Gatwick Diamond Business and Jonathan Sharrock of Coast to Capital responded with their view of how this analysis impacts business in the region, discussing its validity and the importance of the relationship and connectivity between places.

The South East Business Leaders Forum is co-hosted by DMH Stallard, Grant Thornton and HSBC and meets twice a year giving local business leaders a chance to network with their peers and discuss key issues facing business in the region.

“Vibrancy is of course multi-dimensional: places are vibrant in different ways,” explained Rob Turner, Associate Director, Grant Thornton. “The most vibrant place may not necessarily be the one that has the highest average score across the six baskets – a place with a lower average score but a balanced equilibrium across all areas may be considered more vibrant. It is also important to consider that progress is personal and local, as well as national. It can mean different things to different people in different places, which inevitably means that initiatives to increase the vibrancy of a place need to be more sophisticated than ‘increase GDP’.”

Jonathan Grant, Partner at DMH Stallard, comments: “It was interesting to hear the panel and audience reflections about our region and its scoring on the index. Most recognise the relative success and prosperity of the area, but the limitations of infrastructure and travel were also noted as limiting factors, particularly for those with UK national business.”

“It’s clear that traditional measures of economic success do not get behind the complex dynamics which exist in any region, be it national or local,” added Jon Maile, Partner at Grant Thornton. “The Vibrant Economy Index has provided a great platform to measure more widely the strengths of the South East, but also to critically analyse what is holding back its full potential. Its power is to spark debate, which can only be of value to the South East.”

Leaders agreed that this analysis could help to identify those areas where new policies and action could have a real impact on shaping a vibrant economy and making success sustainable. It could help business, planners, local government and community groups be realistic about the limitations of the impact of their actions.

Business leaders are welcome to join the Forum and should contact katherine.m.potter@uk.gt.com to find out more.

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