The city of Santa Monica has been awarded a million-dollar grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to develop an index for well-being. (You can read about the other winners of the “Mayors Challenge” in this NY Times story.)
Santa Monica has produced a slick promotional video for the effort (shot on the Big Blue Bus, buses being indicators of happiness because they help you avert the unhappiness of commuting.) While it incorrectly claims that it will be the first city to chart happiness (Seattle beat them to the distinction, and then there’s what’s been doing in the state of Vermont) it’s still exciting to see the city leaders commit to understanding, and hopefully improving, quality of life by actually factoring quality of life into the equation, rather than treating it as a sideline.
The question posed in the proposal: “How can cities use limited resources more effectively to create conditions needed for people to thrive?”
The city will be working with the Rand Corporation to develop an index that tracks the influence of physical health and community connectedness on well-being. And of course all these efforts derive from the Gross National Happiness movement that emanates from the Kingdom of Bhutan, which has been in the spotlight the last few years with an international conference at the UN and various governments (like those of UK and Brazil and Canada) committing to exploring alternative economic indicators to GDP.
Now of course, none of this makes anyone happier. (And happiness is a squishy thing to define, right?) It just makes people aware of the component parts that make a community a good, productive, proactive place to live.
One wag noted: Isn’t this something Oakland needs more than Santa Monica?