The Vatican Has Long Promoted Intangible Values; Can They Be Measured?

Olinga Ta’eed, Man Who Developed So-Called God Metric, Says They Can and Should

The single most important paradigm shift of this century, indeed the hallmark of our understanding of today’s new society, is that “total value” represents not only “financial value” but also “social value.”

So says Professor Olinga Ta’eed, who is on a search to capture a new currency of intangible values.

As the dollar is the currency of financial value, the search is on to develop a currency of social value – this is called Social Impact.

Professor Ta’eed is known for having developed the most rapidly adopted social impact measure in the world, the Social Earnings Ratio (S/E), a tool to help institutions measure the social impact of decisions and to benchmark across private, public, third and community sectors.

Last June, ZENIT first interviewed Ta’eed on how the motivation to make money and reduce poverty are linked.

At that time, he had been speaking at a Rome conference titled “Poverty and Common Good: Putting the ‘Preferential Option for the Poor’ at the Service of the Poor,” organized by the international pro-life think tank Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI). Speakers included senior Vatican officials, politicians, media and business leaders.

In that conversation, his “Social Earnings Ratio” (S/E) was described as the “most rapidly adopted social impact metric in the world,” but since then his work has often been tagged in biblical terms as “The God Metric” and he himself as “The Angel of Social Value.” We went back to ask him why, if this title appropriate, and how his work has progressed.

The S/E Ratio is the corollary of the single metric financial indicator, the Price Earnings Ratio (P/E); together they provide the total value of any organization with absolute clarity.

“The measurement of financial value was established long before Jesus Christ, and today translated into globally accepted tangible General Accounting Principles (eg. US GAP, UK GAP, etc) which are consistent,” the professor told ZENIT.

“But the Vatican has long promoted intangible values of love, happiness, peace, welfare, charity, generosity … How do we measure those?” he continued. “Perhaps the first question we have to ask is why do we need to, what is driving this universal agenda, and is it heresy to consider [measuring them]?”

The quest to develop a standard to measure and analyze the intangibles of life is what Olinga Ta’eed is spearheading. The process is being manifested in social initiatives and in service.

Considered an authority on social innovation, Ta’eed heads an international team targeting the annual reporting of social value of 1 billion organizations by 2020. He also serves as impact investment advisor to the Big Society in the UK, which media sources rumor to be the “hidden hand behind all government action.”

In November 2014, the entrepreneur and social activist, who has worked in more than 50 countries, was appointed in Brussels the Chairman of EU SEiSMiC Social Value that looks to resolve social problems across European urban cities through Social Innovation. Grasping the responsibility, Ta’eed appointed a Europe Editor in Rome, Raisa Ambros, to deliver the Journal of Social Value and aims to deliver the first of 10 conferences in London in March 2015.

Now with his solutions heavily in demand across Europe, Ta’eed expects to run pilots in other European countries as a precursor to a full roll out in October 2015 having already come to agreement at government level with two countries.

On measuring intangibles

“God is immeasurable, and so are his attributes,” but Ta’eed advocates that, “If we want sustainable solutions then it’s imperative we treat the measurement of intangibles as seriously and robustly as we do our financial values.”

By their very nature, Ta’eed explained, these intangibles are not easy to spot.

Pope Francis, for example, recently talking about slavery, said, “In our city there are people committing human sacrifices, killing the dignity of these men and these women, these girls and boys that are submitted to this treatment, to slavery. We cannot remain calm.”

Given this, Ta’eed asks: “So at what point can the degradation of dignity be categorized with that highly charged word ‘slavery?'”

“After all,” he continued, “current legislative frameworks on creating Social Value, Health and Wellbeing, Modern Slavery, Corporate Social Responsibility, Animal Welfare, etc. require hard numbers not only to ensure compliance but to provide management dashboards to monitor progress.” 

“Of course, the concept of ‘The Theory of Everything’ – the title of the recent film release describing the life of Stephen Hawking, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, is a compelling scientific concept to capture all of the unknowns in our world.”

“Beyond theory, however,” he added, “the maxim is that ‘what gets measured gets done’ and that in order to translate Christ’s good teachings into actionable goals we rely on instruments of legislation, governance and management which can only be achieved at scale if we can easily measure outcomes.”  

“The measurement of underlying ephemeral ‘soft’ concepts has become a barrier to changing the world which includes the necessity of IT platforms that can do it quickly, cheaply and efficiently,” the professor explained.

Ta’eed uses a simple illustration, and says:“We can’t measure love, but we can measure indicators of love.”

He told ZENIT, “A colleague recently told me how her sister’s husband expresses his love for her by bringing her samples of milk everywhere he visits. Other couples often express love relative to the size of the engagement ring, and some by physical satisfaction. We can’t measure love, but we can measure indicators of love. There is no right or wrong way – but the metric has to be able to assess all indicators as valid and compare them equitably and objectively.”

What’s happened since

Since we met him in June, Ta’eed has been commissioned to include slavery (transparency in supply chains), domestic violence, health and wellbeing, animal welfare and the Arts in his one-number S/E metric on top of what he has previously measured, which includes environment, financial, people, hyperlocality, pay disparity and tax avoidance; the list of intangibles seems to be endless.

One month later, they have in principle agreement of no less than 40 organizations representing 7 billion euro procurement budgets eager to roll out the scheme in a climate where public sector organizations worldwide are under strain.

This was achieved with no website, no campaign, and no dedicated staff. Since then, he’s recruited full time and part time staff. Starting on 12 pilots in January 2015 in the UK, Ta’eed has funded the program personally but is looking to raise €3 million to take the social enterprise internationally.

Moreover, he shared there are many developments scheduled for release in 2015.

Respecting all ideas

“Our understanding of measuring intangibles within social value is still nascent, but with its new ‘hard’ drivers of legislation and procurement at last, it’s fulfilling the promises it gave us over two decades ago – to bring real sustainable and scalable social innovation solutions to ease the ailing conditions that inflict mankind. It signals the dawn of a new age of which hopefully there will be many,” Ta’eed said, noting he is already trialling consumer applications.

“The question we need to ask,” he said, “is whether this methodology is morally defensible and somehow degrading the spiritual message which we have all promoted in much more vague terms?”

Ta’eed thinks the opposite is true; instead, he suggests, it reinforces the message of God.

He said: “It is not God, it is merely an indicator of the spiritual attributes which we should all strive for.”

“My litmus test is simple. A suffering child does not care for ethical drivers, he or she just wants relief. I focus on delivery.”

Despite describing himself as retired, Ta’eed drives his social value agenda with the same fervor of any missionary, but yet he describes his real job as caring for his adult daughter during weekdays and providing emergency crisis respite fostering for children on weekends.

***

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Original Interview: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/olinga-ta-eed-on-link-between-profit-motive-and-reduction-of-poverty

On the NET:

Video of Professor Olinga Ta’eed speech at The Third International Conference on Human Dignity, Dignitatis Humanae Institute, held at The Vatican: http://ow.ly/BgAwB

Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance: www.cceg.org.uk

Social Value in Public Procurement: http://ow.ly/CbFUa

Social Value Portal: www.socialvalueportal.com

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