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How Does it Work

About Our Genealogy
About Our Methodology
About Social Voting and Ideals Voting

URSULA establishes a top-level goal of a universal sustainability that serves all. This can be broken down into our Three Objectives. From this goal, URSULA creates a family tree—a virtual genealogy—of sustainability. This genealogy is populated with global agreements on ideal outcomes and best practices that point towards the top-level goal. URSULA then enrolls a worldwide, online, open community to help organize, weight, harmonize and update those outcomes and practices, creating a global community standard.  Then we measure everything and anything against that community standard.
 
URSULA is able to harmonize and align all the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental data in the process, which yields a unified rating and score.  A unified score will enable us to align the market price with the true price and develop a deep understanding of the world we live in, and change it for the better.
 
Consider these examples of what could be measured, assessed and given a true score, and eventually a true price, against these community standards:

  • A product, such as a carton of orange juice, a sofa or an automobile
  • A capital asset, such as a house, factory or farm
  • A government policy, such as health care, food regulation or taxes
  • A technology asset, such as a treatment for cancer, a solar array or social media tool
  • An environmental asset, such as a rainforest, wetlands system or species population
  • A social asset or pathology, such as philanthropic giving or white-collar crime
  • An economic institution, such as the World Bank, the IMF or the Federal Reserve
  • A legal framework, such as civil rights, corporate charters or state/federal jurisdiction
  • A political institution or framework, such as the G20 Summit, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the United Nations

URSULA's approach is simple: We create a genealogy of sustainability, starting with our Three Objectives and identifying the ideal outcomes and best practices beneath them.  Then we weight the importance of those outcomes and practices, and set ranges that are then harmonized to a simple 1000-point scale.  We introduce intelligent social voting, in order to get the best wisdom of crowds input.  Finally, we take any subject, identify the factors of the subject we wish to measure, link those factors to our genealogy, and hit the calculator button.  That gives us a score.  

1. About Our Genealogy
URSULA’s genealogy of sustainability begins with a top-level goal of universal sustainability that serves all.  This can be broken down into Three Objectives:  create climate balance, restore the earth and uplift humanity.  

Next, we pre-populate it with ideal outcomes/best practices elements culled from and referenced to thousands of pages of documents.

Ideal outcomes are derived from established global principles such as:

  • Millennium Development Goals
  • The Earth Charter
  • The Global Compact
  • Global Sullivan Principles
  • U.N. Universal Declarations on Human Rights
  • U.N. Universal Declarations on Women’s Rights
  • U.N. Universal Declarations on Children’s Rights
  • U.N. Universal Declarations on Indigenous Rights
  • UNESCO Universal Declaration on Animal Rights

The ideal outcomes, in turn, are tied to best practices. Best practices are exemplified in documents such as:

  • Global Reporting Initiative
  • Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) guidelines
  • ISO 9000 and 14000
  • Equator Principles
  • OECD Multinational Enterprises guidelines

The genealogy is dynamic; always growing and highly adaptive. 

  • We use an innovative system of parents, children and siblings to organize data in the system.  For example:
    • The objective “create climate balance” is a parent statement that includes in its family child statements like “eliminate CO2 emissions”
    • “Eliminate CO2 emissions” is in turn a parent statement that includes its own child statements like “reduce tailpipe emissions”
    • “Reduce tailpipe emissions” in turn has many children that are attributes of the emissions statement, such as “ X biofuels consumed,” “X catalytic converters installed” or “X electric cars manufactured”
    • To obtain a score or rating on any subject, like an electric car, we first look at its child attributes, like “What kind of material is used on the seat?”, “How much CO2 was generated in the creation of that seating material?” or “How is the seating material disposed of?”
    • Then, we connect each attribute of the subject to the attributes and statements of the genealogy, and press the calculator button.  Because all the children calculate against each parent, the scores continue to sub-total and “roll up” until we get to the Three Objectives, and finally a score against a universal sustainability that serves all.
    • The result is a meaningful number that determines how well something serves or does not serve the top-level goal

Because the factors are weighted by an open community, the score reflects the community’s values.

Because there is no limit to the attributes or factors that can describe a subject, we can widen the aperture of our lens, and go as deep and detailed as information permits to achieve a complete and unified score. Regular updates to the site through versioning control allow for comparative scores to be set and updated as new data becomes available, while retaining system data integrity.

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2. About Our Methodology
URSULA has built data harmonization and reusability into its design.  To do this, our online open community enlists its experts to:

  • Weight relative importance of all statements or attributes
  • Create high-, low- and mid-point ranges for all data sets; these are simplified to a 1000 point scale
  • Set plus or minus levels on various measurements (some high numbers are good, others bad)

This process enables all the data in the system to be compared on a consistent 1000-point scale, properly weighted to reflect community values.

Finally, Ideals Voting by general public users on the relative weighting of statements are added to the scope via an optional feature.  This social voting helps to account for intangibles such as opinions or values—things that typically defy measurement but are still valuable and meaningful.

To get a score, a subject is passed through the genealogy.  To do that, experts look at a subject and determine what elements of the subject apply to and match the elements of the genealogy of sustainability.

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3. About Social Voting and Ideals Voting

Social Voting

Problem:
Social voting is a mathematical Wild West.  The question of how individual preferences become social preferences through a fair system continues to be a subject of debate, with many disagreements.  Different desired results, decision factors and built-in assumptions yield many, often conflicting, answers with many a fair-minded judge wondering which candidate won the election.  

There are two main types of voting systems: preferential voting, which asks voters to rank their choices in order of preference, and approval voting, which asks voters to select only those choices they want.  Each produces a list in order of the voters’ choices, and the top choice is designated as the “winner.”  The winner in a preferential system is decided by a majority (of which there are many types), while an approval system winner is decided by a plurality.  

The problem with the preferential system is that it is mathematically impossible for the winning result to satisfy all the constraints of fairness (see Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem), which can lead to paradoxical or absurd situations.  Conversely, the problem with the approval system is that it is impossible to rank preferences.  

Furthermore, the whole idea of us deciding what we prefer often depends on what else is going on.  For example, in a simple example of ice cream preference, we may rank chocolate over vanilla and vanilla over strawberry if we are forced to.  But doesn’t it depend on what else is for dessert?  Maybe chocolate with cheesecake, vanilla with apple pie and strawberry served alone.  Our brains are wired for preferences that depend on a host of different factors and do not always fit into neat little boxes, let alone complex social voting models.  

Solution:
URSULA’s system is designed to avoid a head-on collision with these paradoxes.  We first identify the factors or attributes that make up any statement, or statements that make up any objective.  Then we vote to weight them and sum the results.    For example, if we ask which major elements are most important in reducing carbon emissions, there may be 10 choices.  We do not necessarily need to know each voter’s #1 and #2 preference, but we certainly need to give a weight to each of these choices so when the data is calculated, the scores reflect the community’s values.

To do that, we have designed a voting currency that gives all experts a non-transferable number of votes to allocate to a set of choices.  Thus, in the case of emissions, a voter might have 100 votes to allocate on a weighted basis: 20% to option A, 30% to option B, 5% to option C, etc. This gives a clear and harmonized set of weights, arrived at fairly.

This takes into account the best of both preferential and approval models and leaves the paradoxes behind. Voters can select as many options as they like (0% would act as a “No” vote), but because there is a currency, they can weight their preferences, making their opinions more precise. If need be, we can even determine a single winner by plurality. 

Ideals Voting
Ideals Voting
on URSULA provides the general public the ability to weigh in on statements in a way that captures their highest values, opinions and ideals. URSULA’s partner web sites will virally distribute Ideals Voting widgets.

A few highlights of this application:

  • Voters will visit participating partner websites and vote on a given number of statements relative to a variety of general interests, i.e. climate, wildlife, social organization
  • Voters can see their vote’s impact on a results chart
  • Partner websites can customize the voting widget to highlight specific issues that are of interest to their communities

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