Happiness as a (smart) city metric

Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing, city of Santa Monica, speaking at Smart Cities Week

Could happiness be a useful measurement for a city? Well, we think so. And last week this topic was deconstructed on a panel at Smart Cities Week in Washington DC.

Julie Rusk, Chief of Civic Wellbeing at the city of Santa Monica, facilitated the session. And with a job title like that, she was more than qualified.

Her responsibility is to measure local wellbeing within the city and identify necessary actions to build greater happiness. The framework for measurement involves maintaining an 18-member panel of international experts to customise their metrics, the gathering of data, performing analytics on the data by place (post code), people (demographics) and key urban issues. This then helps develop targeted solutions and identify opportunities for collaboration.

Justin Bibb, Senior Advisor at Gallup, presented on a pilot project out of Washington State, called Urbanova, which seeks a people-centered approach to smart cities, through a collaborative model of experimentation and innovation.

Kay Meyer, principal industry consultant for Council Global Lead Partner SAS, was next on the stage, sharing the firm's recent work around doing good with government data by starting with analytics (on existing data). It specifically seeks to advance the idea of technology, governance and legislation combining with data to benefit the human condition.

The LEED performance rating system for cities was the focus of Sarah Alexander's presentation. Sanders is Senior Vice President of Credentialing and Certification at Green Business Certification Inc. Its work on LEED for cities has paid particular attention to quality of life, and helping cultivate a new generation of high-performance communities that can be benchmarked and compared with cities around the world.

"Citizens are starting to think seriously about how to achieve personal wellbeing," said evolve24's CEO Anthony Sardella. Through the company's use of deep social analytics it has been able to track how the expectations and attitudes for citizens have changed over recent years on their perceptions of wellbeing.

Through the use of tens of thousands of data points derived from social and digital media, evolve24 has been able to gather insights and benchmark the subjective wellbeing of citizens in the largest cities in the US. Gathering these insights on what the community is thinking and feeling is becoming a powerful tool to identify strategic smart cities investments that can enhance happiness.

So, not only is wellbeing and happiness becoming an important metric of the smart city, so too is the emerging set of data-driven tools to gather, analyse and report on performance.

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