The annual Grawemeyer Awards program at the University of Louisville was founded on the on the belief that individual ideas can have a big impact on the world. Prizes are given in the fields of music composition, religion, psychology, and ideas for improving world order.
This year, the winners of the last category are Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Terra Lawson-Remer and Susan Randolph, who co-authored the 2015 book “Fulfilling Social and Economic Rights.” The book won the American Political Science Association’s Human Rights Section Best Book Award in 2016.
Randolph is a development economist and a professor emerita from the University of Connecticut. She said the basic question the book explores is: “How is it governments can ensure that their economies work to support people’s well-being?”
“More recently, what my research has focused on and what this book picks up, is not simply looking at the relationship between economic growth and inequality,” Randolph said. “But more substantively, trying to look at the relationship between people’s well-being as reflected in the internationally-accepted norms of human rights and economic policies.”
But, Randolph said, this requires actually being able to measure concepts like “well-being,” which aren’t necessarily easily quantified. One of the major points of “Fulfilling Social and Economic Rights” was the development of a a new tool, the Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment (SERF) Index, to measure nations’ progress toward human rights goals.
It takes into account necessities: food, health, education, housing, work and social well-being.
“Quantitative indicators and measurements and data actually help people make cases to advance issues that they are interested in,” Randolph said. “If you just said, ‘Oh, I don’t think the government is doing this well,’ but you have no evidence to back that up, it’s not going to be very persuasive.”
But this book, and the SERF Index, are intended to help individuals and organizations assess how well the policies of various governments’ economic structures serve their people, and advocate for change if necessary.
In a news release, Charles Ziegler,a University of Louisville political science professor who directs the world order award, wrote: “All of our reviewers agreed this work can inform domestic and international policies, aid in the work of non-governmental organizations and provide a way to evaluate performance in a truly comparative perspective. In short, the ideas expressed in this book can make a significant contribution to world order.”
The annual Grawemeyer recipients receive $100,000 to further their work; winners visit Louisville in April to accept their awards and give free talks on their winning ideas.