Meet our new Sustainable Economy Fellow: Tani Shaw

Tani Shaw is currently undertaking a PhD with the Institute for Sustainable Futures, at the University of Technology, Sydney. Prior to this Tani completed a Masters of Environmental Management with the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and a Bachelor of Business from Southern Cross University.

Tani’s motivation for research is the result of a long interest in measuring what matters: “During my undergraduate studies in the subject of macroeconomics we looked at a graph, showing growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over time.  The graph showed growth of at least four percent each year on the previous year, as the economic ideal.  As I looked at the graph I considered the natural resources that would be required to sustain this upward trajectory and the human communities and ecosystems that are affected by economic expansion. This raised questions about the idea of “progress”.  If the human race is to “progress”, what form can this progress take in relation to our natural environment, and how can we best measure this progress?  It was at this time, back in the late 1990’s, that I resolved to undertake post-graduate research.  The objective of the research would be to look at the indicators with which society chooses to measure “progress” and how we can bring to the fore indicators that seek to achieve well-being and environmental sustainability.”

This quest has led Tani on some pretty interesting searches for answers such as studying leaders of change first hand like Mother Teresa and working in Nepal at a time when it was the second-poorest country on earth but appeared to be one of the happiest, then on to north America and Europe to live in intentional communities and attend international conferences such as Bioneers.  “Answers can be found everywhere” says Tani,  “I think Australia is the best place in the world to live, but we don’t have all the answers and there is a lot to be gained by finding out how we can live great lives, have strong communities and strike the balance of sustainability with this beautiful place.  Measuring what matters at a national level is an important part of this.”

Tani’s project will kick off the research in the Sustainable Economy program, which will be a key focus for CPD.

About the project

When politicians use statistics to communicate about policy or government performance, do people understand the figures that are used?  Do they trust what is being communicated?  Do politicians measure what is most important and use this to form policy?

In 2009 President Sarkozy of France commissioned Nobel Laureate Professor Joseph Stiglitz to conduct an enquiry into the use of GDP, or Gross Domestic Indicator, as the single most important measure of success.  The recommendation that stemmed from the Stiglitz report was that GDP does not measure what matters and that there is a need for a broader set of national indicators which measure not only economic strength but environmental sustainability and societal well-being.

Tani’s new research project for the Centre for Policy Development will seek to determine to what extent politicians are measuring what matters. As part of the research Tani will be looking at which measures are most important to Australians.