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Quality of Life Indicators

Communities around the world have developed local statistics to measure their collective well-being. Starting in the 1970's, more and more communities realized that so-called economic indicators -- like Gross Domestic Product, employment statistics, average family income, etc. -- could be high or rising, while the quality of life experienced by people could be quite low. Even seemingly affluent communities realized they were haunted by drug abuse, environmental decay, a frantic pace of life, alienation, mounting health problems, and so on. So they decided to create statistics of their own, ones which would more accurately reflect the felt sense of their community's health and well-being. As alternatives to Quality of Life, many communities choose indicators related to Sustainability or Healthy Communities.

All statistics provide informational feedback for reflection by the organization, community or society gathering the statistics, and therefore are an important resource for collective intelligence. The more these statistics reflect the true needs and aspirations of the community and the harmonious relationships between the community and the world around it, the more co-intelligent those statistics can be considered. The movement to gather indicators of community health, sustainability and quality of life is a vital part of building a co-intelligent culture.

(For an example of a city creating its own quality of life indicators, see Measuring Community Health. For a national example, see The Underdeveloped Happiness Kingdom.)





National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation's "Community Indicators" page


Who's Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Global Economics -- a very moving film about the measurables and immeasurables in our lives, and how economic measurements and policies affect them.


Redefining Progress has also developed a national measure of quality of life, the Genuine Progress Indicator.

Sustainability Measures offers many resources about sustainability indicators


Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, edited by Hazel Henderson, Jon Lickerman, and
Patrice Flynn. Here are detailed, sensible ways to measure a dozen diverse aspects of our
national well-being, so we as citizens can tell if things are getting better or worse, and take

Community Indicators Handbook. Indicators are quantifiable measures of
economic, environmental and community sustainability. Book outlines the
process for indicator development, identifies selection criteria, profiles
community indicator programs, and provides access to extensive resources
for indicator program development. Available from Redefining Progress (above)

Maureen Hart's Guide to Sustainable Community Indicators Explains how to identify good indicators for your community (including for specific topics and sectors) and introduces key principles to use when thinking about sustainability. Includes a list of almost 700 indicators already being used in various communities.

see also

Up is not always up by Tom Atlee

How Less Work can Make the World Better by Tom Atlee