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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

There are probably more rankings or indexes of nations than nations themselves. As humans we appear to have a primordial need to order and rank ourselves on multiple scales from tallest to richest to most intelligent and this compulsion extends to everything about us, including our countries. Many rankings of countries focus on economic competitiveness (Forbes, World Economic Forum etc), others focus on quality of life (European Commission, Mercer), others still on innovation (2thinknow) but that’s only the tip of the iceberg – there’s a useful list of country / city ranking in a recent post from The Place Brand Observer.

Good CountryThe meetings industry has a few rankings too, most notably the International Convention and Conference Association (ICCA) index that ranks countries and cities by the number of meetings hosted there. Many of our industry magazines publish annual lists of “most popular destination for incentives” or “new and emerging destinations for events”. In short, there are no shortage of lists. At SoolNua we even have our own lists. We run a weekly ranking of Ireland based, MICE influences (scored mainly on  Klout score) and we’ve just launch the second #worldICECREAMindex of destinations. Last year’s #worldICECREAMindex had entries from over 25 countries and attracted over 30,000 visitors to the site. In a hotly contested finale between Ljubljana and Bournemouth, Ljubljana eventually won.

World Ice Cream IndexAmidst the hundreds of serious and fun rankings of nations, however, there’s one that stands head and shoulders above all of the others. It’s the one, in my view, that matters most as it ranks countries according to decency, neighbourliness, global citizenship, contribution to humanity. It’s the brainchild of Simon Anholt – a veritable veteran of country indices – and it’s called the Good Country Index. The latest version of this vitally important ranking has just been released and deserves the attention of politicians, diplomats, business leaders, social entrepreneurs, cultural bodies, NGOs and, in particular, anyone involved in destination marketing.

Simon Anholt’s explanation of the thinking behind the Good Country is worth quoting directly:

Problems like climate change, pandemics, migration, human trafficking, terrorism and economic chaos … are too big and connected for any one country to fix them. America can’t fix climate change. Italy can’t fix migration. Mexico can’t fix drug trafficking. Greece can’t fix the economic crisis. We need to co-operate and collaborate much more closely if we’re going to make the world work.

But, most of the time, we don’t. Why not?

Well, because the seven billion people who created all these problems are organised in two hundred tribes called nations. Each one is run by a government that’s totally focused on the national interest: what will make us richer, happier, safer, stronger? They don’t worry too much if that makes others poorer, unhappier, more vulnerable, weaker because, well, they’re foreigners. And foreigners can’t vote.

Can this ever change? Yes it can. It will change when we, the people who keep those governments in power, wake them up and tell them the world has changed, and their jobs have changed with it.

That foreigners aren’t aliens, they’re humans just like us, and we care about them.

That countries aren’t islands, unconnected to the rest of the world: they’re all part of one system. If it fails, we all fail.

There won’t be winners and losers, only losers. And the evidence of that simple truth is accumulating all around us, every day.

That’s why the Good Country was started: to change how our leaders run our countries. To help them understand they’re not just responsible for their own citizens, but for every man, woman, child and animal on the planet. To tell them they’re not just responsible for their own little slice of territory, but for the whole of the earth’s surface and the atmosphere above it. And to help them act like they mean it.

Anholt’s statement above would make an excellent editorial in a anti-Brexit newspaper with its exhortation to look beyond national interest, beyond territory and borders, beyond what we regard as “ours”. It’s refreshing, inspiring and uplifting to read this at a time when the greatest country in the world is edging closer towards electing a president who has openly advocated exclusion on the basis of religious belief and ethnic origin. But how does Anholt measure a country’s factor for “good”?

Good country


On the Good Country website Anholt explains that “good” is used as the opposite to “selfish” (as opposed to bad) so the Good Country index is really about a country’s altruism, willingness to share, its net positive contribution to the greater good of the human race. It is measured across 7 categories – Science & Technology, Culture, International Peace & Security, World Order, Planet & Climate, Prosperity & Equality and finally Health & Wellbeing. Within each of the 7 categories there are 5 datasets relevant to the category in question. For example,  under  “World Order” there are datasets connected with per capita donations to charity, numbers of refugees hosted relative to the size of the economy, number of UN treaties signed etc. Data comes from the likes of the UN, the World Bank, UNESCO etc.

Good Country


The Good Country index is evidence based, extraordinarily detailed and highly objective. However, in the same way that no psychological profile can ever capture the totality of a person, no index or measurement can fully characterise a country. Anholt freely admits this but is completely right in his contention that The Good Country makes a start. So what countries rank high on the Good Country index? Unsurprisingly they are also the countries that tend to top many other rankings. 8 of the top 10 are European countries and the other 2 are members of the British Commonwealth (Canada and New Zealand). There are many small countries (populations < 10 million) in the top 15 and, surprise, surprise all the nordic countries are in the Top 20 with Sweden in top spot.

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua, a specialist agency offering marketing, strategy and training to destinations, hotels and venues. He is a fiercely proud citizen of Ireland but believes passionately that we should do onto other countries as we would have them do unto us. 

Check out Simon Anholt’s TEDTalk on Good country here 








2 thoughts on “Why it’s important to be a Good Country

  1. Very interesting! Thanks Padraic, all the best from sunny FFM!

  2. Padraic this is fascinating, we see ourselves as strong on culture and planet and climate and weak on Peace and Security when in fact the survey shows exactly the opposite. Thanks for sharing

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