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What would your perfect country be like?

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Since 2016, The Bartlett's Institute for Global Prosperity has partnered with the BBC World Service to provide the research for its award-winning radio series exploring policies from around the world that achieve inclusive and sustainable prosperity.

What would your perfect country be like?

Professor Henrietta Moore, Director of The Bartlett’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), in the studio for the recording of My Perfect Country.

The reason why My Perfect Country worked is because instead of just listing problems, it looked at successes and asked a simple question: could they work elsewhere?

Professor Henrietta Moore

In May 2016, the BBC recorded a special episode of its award-winning radio programme, My Perfect Country, at a session of the United Nations in New York.

Broadcast two months later, the episode included contributions by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and people who had instigated groundbreaking economic and social projects in India, Uganda, Estonia and Costa Rica, alongside its regular hosts – broadcaster and journalist Fi Glover, entrepreneur and philanthropist Martha Lane Fox, and Henrietta Moore, Director of The Bartlett’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP).

The show’s position on the World Service schedule meant it was already reaching millions of people around the world, but this event placed it at the heart of the global conversation about social and economic policy as the UN began to implement its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

From curbing smoking in Australia, to tackling water shortage in Bermuda, the programme uses this list of targets as a springboard to examine issues of global significance, looking at specific pioneering initiatives and bringing in voices of people working to implement change, rather than just remotely placed policy-makers.

What would your perfect country be like?

Recording the show with regular hosts broadcaster and journalist Fi Glover, Professor Henrietta Moore (centre), and entrepreneur and philanthropist Martha Lane Fox.

Sharing successes

“The reason why My Perfect Country worked is because instead of just listing problems, it looked at successes and asked a simple question: could they work elsewhere?” says Moore. The IGP – an innovative research institute focused on improving people’s quality of life around the world – carries out the research that grounds the show, and its trans-disciplinary, solution-oriented approach to intractable global problems has been central to the programme’s popularity.

Moore points to an episode about dealing with the suicide rate in Michigan in the United States. “The way those people made an impact was instead of asking themselves, ‘can we reduce suicide rates from 16% to 12%?’, they asked what would it take to make the suicide rate zero,” she says.

It’s about bringing people more people directly into the conversation about what’s needed and what will work for the future in the UK and beyond.

Professor Henrietta Moore

Drawing on the IGP’s ethos, the programme proposes new ways of thinking, new institutions and new modes of delivery, rather than simply seeking to improve the status quo. For example, an early episode looked at Costa Rica’s efforts to become the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021, by attempting to reverse deforestation and create new national parks, as well as generating 99% of its energy from renewable sources.

“It’s not enough to just imagine that we’re going to be able to control or manage climate change by restricting anthropogenic emissions,” Moore says. “It’s a much bigger challenge than just stopping what we’ve been doing, fixing the past.”

Broadcasting these ideas on the radio was a way of taking the conversation out of universities and government meeting rooms, and generating public conversation about the kind of world we would like to live in. In an effort to take this further, the IGP is working to move this discussion from the air waves to the real world.

“In the UK, we will be rolling out a series of town hall discussions, which will have a similar flavour to the My Perfect Country programme,” Moore says. “They’ll be asking people to engage in ideas about how things can be improved locally, and what will be needed to get things moving. It’s about bringing people more people directly into the conversation about what’s needed and what will work for the future in the UK and beyond.”

The Institute for Global Prosperity challenges the prevailing understanding of prosperity. It values voice, and believes experience informs decision-making and empowers communities. Using research and social, economic and technical innovation it reframes questions and develops new approaches to improve lives. It is part of The Bartlett, UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment. Find out more: https://ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/igp

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