SANTA MONICA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, after over a year of research, data collection and analysis, the City of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project released key findings from the local Wellbeing Index, a groundbreaking tool for local government designed to assess a community’s overall wellbeing. The release of the findings will help shape city priorities and serve as a baseline for city government to engage community members and strive to improve collective wellbeing.
In 2013, Santa Monica was one of five cities that won Bloomberg Philanthropies’ inaugural Mayors Challenge. The Mayors Challenge is an ideas competition that encourages cities to generate innovative ideas to solve major challenges and improve city life. The City of Santa Monica received $1,000,000 to develop and implement the first local Wellbeing Index.
The Index was created in order to scientifically identify and assess the current wellbeing of Santa Monica. The Index provides a higher resolution portrait of how well decisions and policies work, and to what extent they are creating positive progress. Based upon wellbeing science and emerging research, the Index brings together data from wide-ranging sources, across multiple dimensions, to provide a comprehensive picture that will guide local action. The results will allow the City of Santa Monica to consider new data about how people are doing – real and measurable factors – into its decision-making.
“By applying the science of wellbeing to local governance, we are looking far beyond the standard economic performance measurements, and creating a more complete and meaningful understanding of our community,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown. “In pioneering this innovation, we can more effectively improve the life experiences of our own residents, using an unprecedented level of data-driven knowledge about wellbeing to shape public policy.”
The Wellbeing Project brought together the leading minds in the science of Wellbeing from RAND Corporation and U.K.-based research institute New Economics Foundation (nef) to develop the Index. In collaboration with a global consortium of experts including representatives from the Brookings Institution, United Nations Development Program, several renowned universities and wellbeing research groups, the city developed a framework to measure wellbeing. The RAND and nef teams explored an expansive collection of data taken from city departments and external data sources, a representative survey of over 2200 residents and localized social media. The data was analyzed to provide key findings across five areas – environment/place, health, economic opportunity, learning and community connectedness. Further breakdown identified wellbeing indicators based upon demographic strata including qualifiers such as geography, gender, age and ethnicity.
“Nothing like this has been done before,” said Anita Chandra senior researcher for RAND Corporation. “Other wellbeing efforts have mostly focused on the subjective experience alone and have not merged in city data with survey and social media information to capture a more holistic view of the wellbeing environment.”
The Wellbeing Index, with over 100 distinct data points, revealed many findings across the five dimensions (all available at www.smgov.net/wellbeing), a sampling of some of the key highlights include:
- Strong civic engagement with large numbers of people voting (79%) and volunteering (38%)
- Yet 41% of residents feel their civic influence is limited and 36% report feeling disengaged from the city
- 66% of residents live within a five minute walk of goods and services
- Just over half of residents said they could count on their neighbors, well below the US average of 80%
- Seniors showed the highest level of personal wellbeing and those ages 45- 54 years old showed the lowest levels
- One in five younger adults (ages 18- 24) reported loneliness all or most of the time; one in three reported concern about missing rent or mortgage payments
- Of more than 159,000 tweets analyzed related to economic opportunity in Santa Monica, over 16,000 were about earnings and affordability, nearly 46,000 about opportunity and more than 97,000 about jobs
- Residents were also concerned about affordability for future generations, with more than half feeling that it is unlikely that their children will be able to stay in Santa Monica
- True to life in Los Angeles, getting around – traffic and mobility - emerged as the most-cited concern (23%) by Santa Monicans on an open-ended question about opportunities for wellbeing improvements
- Bike use was up by 67% between 2011 and 2013 and residents reporting commuting by bike rose from 2.3% to 3.7% between 2010 and 2013.
The key findings will provide a baseline of wellbeing so that the city can improve policies, focus resources, catalyze partnerships and ultimately work towards strengthening the quality of life for the community. Next steps include: launch of a new online platform to promote broad dissemination of the Index; presentation of the findings to the City Council to inform the upcoming budget; a series of staff workshops to analyze findings and develop policy and program responses; communication about the Index to key community, neighborhood, business and civic groups; and refinement of the data collection process to further develop the Wellbeing Index.
“We’ve been on an incredible journey to arrive at this critical milestone,” said Julie Rusk, Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services, City of Santa Monica. “But really, the value of a local Wellbeing Index is only just beginning. As our collection, distillation and analysis of data improves, the picture of how our community is doing will become that much clearer to us all. The data we generate can be used to build a powerful new tool to improve our communities and foster an environment where we can collectively thrive.”
At the core of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge is the idea of innovation in government and replicability.
According to James Anderson, head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Santa Monica won the Mayors Challenge with a timely vision to better understand how its residents were faring – and to create data that enables policy makers and civic leaders to more effectively focus resources and efforts. This is an area of broad interest to cities, which are looking for increasingly sophisticated ways to measure and address needs in their communities. Santa Monica is leading the way for others to follow.”
For more information on The Wellbeing Project and The Wellbeing Index, visit www.smgov.net/wellbeing.