Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Happiness and Misery Indicators

I ran across a fascinating discussion running over a series of blogs about capitalism, happiness, economics, and indicators. A hat tip goes to the Philanthropy 2173 blog, which not only is where I ran across the story but which is also a serious conversation about philanthropy that takes its title and mission from Woody Allen's movie, Sleeper.

Economist Stefan Bergheim wrote for Deutsche Bank Research, 25 April 2007, The happy variety of capitalism: Characterised by an array of commonalities (PDF). In the article, he
identifies ten indicators for a happy society, from a cluster analysis of 22 countries and looking for the commonalities:

  1. High degree of trust in fellow citizens
  2. Low amount of corruption
  3. Low unemployment
  4. High level of education
  5. High income
  6. High employment rate of older people
  7. Small shadow economy
  8. Extensive economic freedom
  9. Low employment protection
  10. High birth rate

This list has raised some eyebrows, from the Economist blog saying "That's Enough Happynomics" and calling the research "bizarre" to a spirited exchange on the New Economist blog: "Ten Indicators for a Happy Society". One respondent pointed out that the U.S. already has a Misery Index, so why should it be a reach in public policy to develop a Happiness index?

Another referenced Richard Layard's lecture, Happiness: Has Social Science a Clue? (PDF), which seemed interesting so I'm passing it on.

So here's the question. Does your community indicators effort seek to quantify happiness? If so, how? if not, why not?

(Here's the Philanthropy blog article that introduced me to the piece: "Success Isn't Always in the Metrics")

I've written earlier about on Measuring Happiness, Satisfaction with Personal Life, and Measuring Personal Happiness -- I suspect that there's a great deal more we could be doing with community indicators than measuring civic involvement, government performance, or the sustainability of the external environments, even though these are all critical things to measure. Bergheim suggests that there is a direct public policy framework and priority related to social happiness we can measure and influence. That's something worth thinking about.


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