To help people understand how the global financial system affects their well being, I came up with a very simple quality-of-life index based on one question: what percentage of the people in your place believe that a child can leave their home, go to the nearest place to buy a popsicle or other snack, and return home alone safely?

Your answer gives you the Popsicle Index or Solari Index of your place.

The Popsicle Index is the % of people who believe a child can leave their home, go to the nearest place to buy a popsicle or snack, and come home alone safely. For example, if you feel that 50% of your neighbors believe a child in your neighborhood would be safe, then your Popsicle Index is 50%. The Popsicle Index is based on gut level feelings of the people who have intimate knowledge of a place, rather than facts and figures.

The purpose of the Popsicle Index is to inspire continous conversation and learning in every neighborhood and village on earth about what it means to feel safe and secure where you live and work, to be phyically free to wander and roam without concern and to identify and shift the people and things that contribute or drain that feeling.

Maybe a passersby can be trusted to leave my child alone, but she drives like a maniac through our neighborhood. Maybe a child is physically safe going to the local store, but his parents are concerned about the chemicals and unknown substances in snacks these days, or the influence of older kids hanging around the store. Maybe the family is too poor for the child to have the money to go buy a treat. Maybe she will be perfectly safe going to the market alone, but die of a preventable disease for lack of basic healthcare. Or maybe there is no market nearby, or any jobs either, so parents commute to someone else’s neighborhood to work and shop and bank.

This leads to discussion about our ability to create sustainable businesses and jobs and how quickly all the money is leaving our neighborhoods, the drain of inflation, manufacturing and investment moving overseas, credit card, mortgage and consumer debt as well as what the national debt and state budget cuts are costing, along with dwindling healthcare benefits and retirement security, the fate of local family farms and businesses, natural resources and the local water supply, and generally how hard everyone is working just to make ends meet while expenses are rising faster than income.

As the conversation unfolds, it is clear that the drain we are experiencing is spiritual, legal and financial — how we experience a negative return on investment economy that is out of alignment with the well-being of our families, communities, and planet; an economy that is organized around the Dow Jones going up from our Popsicle Index going down.

As the conversation unfolds, friends and neighbors begin to understand what is important to each other and to sense opportunities to help each other increase our individual and collective safety and resources. We begin to see our obligation to act and invest in ways that support a rising Popsicle Index both locally and globally.

Now I ask . . . if the Popsicle Index in your place is less than 100%, what will it take to raise it to 100%? And who can help you realize that possibility?

This leads to a discussion of the Solari Opportunity, which is an invitation to create financial wealth from our Popsicle Index going up…all the way to 100%.

—Catherine Austin Fitts