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Durham Student wins Rising Star Competition

(3 November 2017)

The winners of a major new economics competition, The Indigo Prize, have been announced, with Durham Geography student Alice Lassman winning the ‘Rising Star’ prize of £10,000 for her entry. The competition celebrates radical and creative thinking in how we measure our modern economy and saw entries from students, professors, engineers, entrepreneurs and leading academics from the UK and around the world, including entries from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Harvard University, and a sixth-form sociology teacher.

New Economic Measures

 Entrants were invited to submit a 5,000-word answer to the following question: “How would you design a new economic measure for global economies that fully acknowledges not only social and economic factors but the impact of creativity, entrepreneurship and digital skills? How should your new measure be used to improve the way we measure GDP in official statistics?”

Commenting on her award, Alice said: “In the last week of my summer holiday I sat down and decided to write a response to the essay question. My response, entitled ‘GIIP Index’ (Global Integration and Individual Potential) looked at nations from two perspectives: through its individuals and the activity they generate, and by their standing on the global stage. I believe that economic development should reflect the nature of development itself: dynamic, evolving, and context-specific.”

An unbelievable experience

“A few weeks ago I found out I had been shortlisted in the top five entries of over 50, including entries from academics from Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard universities, the UNDP and think tanks.

“Recently I went to London to present my ideas in front of prestigious judges like Lord Mervyn Davies, Lord Jim O’Neill, Stephanie Barton, Lord O’Donnell and other exceptional industry leaders such as Brent Hoberman OBE, founder of lastminute.com, and the ONS.

“It's been such an honour to have been named a ‘Rising Star’ in the field and awarded the runner-up prize. I've also been featured in the Telegraph, CityAM, was taxied off to Newcastle to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and by The Sunday Times to discuss why Geography is so important as a pluralistic discipline in approaching 21st-century economies. It's been an overwhelming and unbelievable experience and I still can't really digest what's happened over the past few weeks!”

Darren Morgan, Head of GDP at the ONS, who was present at the finalists’ pitch, said: “The ONS has taken an active interest in the Indigo Prize – the ideas presented have been fascinating and we’re always looking at new ways of measuring our economy. The entries have been very diverse, thought-provoking, and cover the full spectrum of how to measure a modern economy. We’ve seen a rise in the importance of measuring new capital – social capital, human capital, and non-financial assets.”

Developing my ideas

Alice added: “The essay gave me a chance to articulate thoughts that I'd had about GDP and economic development for a while, and the people I have been introduced to as a result has certainly created an impetus to take an active part in this way of thinking. There is a long way to go before my indicator can be fully accepted in measuring economies, so perhaps this is something I can research and extend here in Durham as part of my degree. It's also really proved to me just how vital geography is as a discipline: that understanding individuals and the complex web of culture, heritage, history, ethnicity, conflict and wealth that defines their beings is the best indicator for our potential as a race.

“My GIIP index aims to target just this: a recognition not only of countries but of each human being, of people, our smallest and most vital economic units. Movements across borders are becoming increasingly fluid, spaces across which people and ideas travel much smaller and nations less defined. Hence, people are the only way we can see the true potential of not only the national but world economy."

Taking a lead on global policy

“I hope to revisit these ideas as I move into my career and work to bring about a change in this area so that countries left behind on the global economic and political stage can rightly be rewarded for their achievements. I'd like to take a lead in global policy a few years down the line, so this is hopefully just the beginning!”

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