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Thriving Places Index Launch: Measuring Wellbeing Beyond GDP

“If we use the wrong measures, we will strive for the wrong things” – Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz.

A focus on economic growth and GDP as an end in itself has delivered neither equitable or sustainable wellbeing. The global economy doubled in 25 years, but this has been accompanied by carbon emissions rising to dangerous levels. Inequality is reaching such epic proportions that the top 1% now have more money than the bottom 99%. There is an urgent need for new ways to measure our progress.

On Monday 19th February Happy City launched a new Thriving Places Index to help address this urgent need through providing a new local framework of indicators to measure what really counts; namely those factors which make our communities happy, healthy and well.

Significant progress has been made in our understanding of the key drivers of wellbeing and how to measure them, but until now there has been no consistent and accessible local framework that uses local level indicators to measure and inform progress towards supporting the wellbeing of all citizens, now and in the future. Happy City’s Thriving Places Index is designed to fill this gap.

Happy City have brought together a brilliant range of people and organisations around the Thriving Places Index, and at the launch event on 19th February there was an impressive panel, including:

  • Liz Zeidler and Saamah Adballah from the Happy City team, to introduce the Index and the data behind it;
  • Sara MacLennon, Head of Evidence and Analysis at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing;
  • Bevin Wallis, Managing Director of Triodos Bank UK, who have supported Happy City’s important work;
  • Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, who reflected on experiences so far implementing the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales (where the Thriving Places Index will also launch later in 2018);
  • Karen Creavin, Director of Birmingham’s Wellbeing Services, who shared her perspective of how this could be useful to inform Local Authorities and improve people’s lives in Birmingham and beyond.

Comments from the panel emphasised that there is a real appetite to do things differently from a growing number of decision makers; there is an acknowledgement that we need to move beyond an obsession GDP and look at what really improves people’s wellbeing and helps our communities to thrive. Liz Zeidler emphasised that the Thriving Places Index is not designed to be a report to sit on a shelf, but is a tool to be used – to inform action and help create change. You can watch the full launch event on Facebook.

NOW’s Director Roger Higman and Communications Manager Florence Scialom attended the Thriving Places Index launch at the LGA in London on the afternoon of the 19th February. Following the launch, Florence reflects that: 

The Thriving Places Index offers an impressive and valuable framework which will hopefully help those in Local Authorities and other decision makers across the UK pay closer attention to what is really contributing to people’s wellbeing. The Index highlights that in order to really help people to thrive we need connected and well-resourced communities which are also sustainable and as equitable. Furthermore, this Index can help communities to learn best practices from each other while also understanding and sharing their own strengths with others. Ultimately, this Index can be used to help improve people’s lives. Congratulations to Happy City and the whole team behind it”.

We really encourage you to explore the interactive website of the Thriving Places Index, with access to the full report and data from 150 Local Authorities in England:

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