June 19, 2012
“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things…. The Gross National Product [the primary measure of economic progress] measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile ”
— Robert Kennedy
Six Years of Genuine Wealth in Leduc (PDF copy of this paper)
This is the sixth anniversary of Leduc Genuine Wealth assessment completed in May of 2006. This was the first Genuine Wealth assessment of its kind in the world and in Canada.
This work was inspired by the words of Robert Kennedy who said that the Gross National Product — the primary measure of economic progress– may measure the money flowing in an economy but fails to measure most of the things that make life worth living. This included our sense of belonging to the community the quality of our water and land and air the way we spent our time our sense of trust and belonging to a community.
The purpose of the Genuine Wealth assessment was to provide Leduc City Council and the community with an overall profile of the quality of life, happiness, and social, economic, environmental conditions of well-being or the Genuine Wealth of the community.
This would be the first “test drive” of Genuine Wealth accounting model and process at a community level (City of Leduc) and for the entire economic region of Leduc-(which included Beaumont, Devon and other smaller communities in Leduc County). The goal was to provide the community with an economic development analysis tool and process that helps communities look at themselves in a different way: a “full length mirror” portrait of their economic, social, and environmental well-being (their real wealth).
The Genuine Wealth model was specifically designed to help communities evaluate their well-being conditions and economic progress what the word wealth that she means in the old English. The indicators of progress must ultimately aligned with what citizens most value about their quality of life. This is what the Genuine Wealth assessment delivers: a system of well-being measurement that is the basis of local governance and decision-making.
The work was initially spearheaded by Pat Klak and the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Authority to examine the key question: what makes life worthwhile in Leduc? Pat Klak had heard me speak about alternative measures of economic progress at a forum in 2003 on economic development; she was inspired by my reference to Robert Kennedy’s quote about the Gross National Product (GNP), that it failed to measure the things that make life worthwhile. She approached me to ask about developing new measures of economic progress for Leduc-Nisku economic region. The idea of the Genuine Wealth assessment for Leduc was born.
In 2005 former Leduc Mayor George Rogers gave the green light to have the City of Leduc fund the $100,000 Genuine Wealth project, with the funding also from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Edmonton Community Foundation and the Leduc-Nisku Economic Development Authority.
Mayor Rogers wanted me to find out the answers to two key questions: why do people choose to live here and why are our children thinking about leaving this community?
We began the Genuine Wealth project in May of 2005 and delivered the Genuine Well-being Report to Leduc City Council in May 2006.
It was at the start of the Genuine Wealth project in May 2006 that I first met Dominic Mishio, a 21-year old aspiring politician who was impressed with the Genuine Wealth project. He was encouraged that his community of Leduc, where he grew up, would be championing such an initiative. Dominic approached me one morning at one of the famous Leduc-Nisku economic development business breakfasts and asked for my business card. That same afternoon Dominic would be knocking at my door of my home in Edmonton wondering where I worked. I invited him in for an espresso and we talked about the Genuine Wealth project and the famous quote by Robert Kennedy that was the inspiration for my inquiry into alternative ways of measuring progress.
Thinking back to that when he met Mark at his home, Dominic notes:“ The first I noticed was that Mark’s office was actually his house. We talked about the Robert Kennedy quote and about his work in China. I also was impressed about how open and inviting Mark was.”
Dominic spoke about his desire to be a open-minded political leader always willing to learn more. He impressed me with his vision of becoming a genuine statesman rather than a conventional politician.
It started with a dialogue about what makes life worthwhile
Our first step in the Genuine Wealth assessment was to engage citizens in a dialogue about their values, needs, overall quality of life, and their vision for a better life. I tried to engage as many people as I could in the community in a conversation about what they love about their community, what they would do if they were mayor for the day, and what they would change in their personal lives to make their lives happier.
I talked to Grade 6 students, teenagers in school, seniors in retirement homes, politicians, police officers, Rotary clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations throughout the community. We conducted a Genuine Well-being survey with over 350 citizens contributing to the first quality of life survey for Leduc.
People wanted to talk and share their stories about their community. They expressed a strong sense of belonging to their community and the joy of having a small community. Teenagers shared with me their vision for their future; most were impressed that an adult had come to listen to their ideas, dreams and aspirations. I came to the conclusion and advised City Council that they should consider having a youth representation in City Council to advise them about youth issues and aspirations.
I learned why Leduc is such a great place to live play, work and play. I learned what would encourage youth to feel connected to this community and want to stay and invest their life energy, raising their own children in this wonderful community.
In parallel with the consultation with citizens and youth, I also conducted a total well-being assessment of the economic, social and environmental conditions of the community. I combed Statistic Canada, Alberta Health and other statistical data sets to come up with 117 indicators of well-being for the City of Leduc and Leduc County. I likened this to a well-being check-up like your doctor might do for your annual health check up. It gave me a comprehensive diagnosis of the objective well-being conditions of Leduc compared to the Alberta average and other Alberta communities.
The final Leduc of Leduc 2005 Genuine Well-being Report gave Leduc City Council with the most comprehensive state of well-being showing the relative strengths (community assets) and weaknesses (potential risks to well-being and happiness).
Leduc Genuine Well-being Report Results
The following summarizes the 2005 Leduc Genuine Well-being assessment findings:
The Leduc Genuine Well-being report examined the statistical and perceptual conditions of 22 well-being themes, each represented as a pedal in the above Genuine Well-being Index Flower. How do you interpret the Genuine Well-being Index Flower? The more complete or full each pedal of well-being in the flower, the better the overall conditions of well-being for that well-being theme (e.g. economic vitality and trust and belonging are in optimum condition). A short-pedaled, wilted or stunted flower pedal (e.g. ethnic diversity and population density) points to areas of weakness or areas of well-being that may need attention or improvement. The Index Flower quickly draws our attention to both the strengths and weaknesses of the community.
The following table corresponds to the above Genuine Well-being Index Flower showing the numeric scores for each of the well-being themes; the figures in the brackets next to the well-being is the number of indicators per theme:
Well-being Theme Composite Index
|1. Happiness (2)||
|2. Health and wellness (19)||
|3. Recreation and leisure (4)||
|4. Work (7)||
|5. Time use (4)||
|6. Education (5)||
|7. Ethnic diversity (2)||
|8. Trust and belonging (5)||
|9. Safety and crime (7)||
|10. Equity and fairness (3)||
|11. Community vitality (3)||
|12. Citizenship (1)||
|13. Economic vitality (6)||
|14. Living standards (12)||
|15. Affordable housing (6)||
|16. Affordable government (3)||
|17. Public and private infrastructure (9)||
|18. Ecological footprint (2)||
|19. Population density (1)||
|20. Sustainable food production (2)||
|21. Natural Environment (8)||
|22. Resource consumption and conservation (7)||
Composite well-being indices, made up of aggregated well-being indicators and organized according to the five “capitals” accounts (human, social, economic/financial, built and natural capital), are also calculated. The results show that the economic and built capital well-being indices are very healthy, well in excess of 100 basis points which means that the city of Leduc’s conditions of well-being is greater, overall, than the benchmark used for comparison (usually the Alberta provincial average). The human well-being index lags only slightly behind the benchmark while the social well-being and natural capital (environmental) well-being index are lower than the benchmark.
|Leduc Well-being Indices|
|Human well-being index||
|Social well-being index||
|Economic/financial well-being index||
|Built capital well-being index||
|Natural capital well-being index||
|Leduc Genuine Well-being Index||
An overall Genuine Well-being Index of 109.8 has been calculated; as a composite of all 117 well-being indicators, including self-rated happiness index. This suggests that the overall conditions of well-being of the city of Leduc are, on average, roughly 10 basis-points higher than the benchmarks used for the city.
Leduc Genuine Well-being Indicator Summary of Results shows the well-being conditions of over 117 well-being indicators, measuring the overall economic, social and environmental well-being of the city of Leduc. Several indicators (particularly environmental quality indicators) currently lack data though they have been identified as indicators that would be desirable to measure in future.
The summary of results shows the results of the detailed well-being analysis (ratings and scores) for each of the 117 well-being indicator organized by well-being themes and by one of the five Genuine Wealth capital accounts. The higher the well-being score the better the condition of well-being relative to a benchmark (e.g. Alberta average). The lower the well-being score the poorer the condition of well-being relative to the benchmark. Character faces are also assigned to each indicator to reflect the condition of well-being relative to the benchmark using the condition coding described above. Out the 117 possible indicators 39 were in great condition!, 36 were in good or average condition, 36 were in poor condition and 6 indicators lacked sufficient data to assess their condition.
Numeric well-being indices or scores are derived using this benchmark analysis. In addition, character faces (e.g. smiling faces) symbolizing the overall well-being condition are assigned to each of the well-being indicators. For each of the indicators, a well-being condition assessment is conducted by benchmarking (comparing) the well-being condition of the city of Leduc against an appropriate benchmark, usually the Alberta provincial average, the Canadian average, or the City of Edmonton or Calgary. It is also possible to compare the city of Leduc with other neighbouring communities such Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Strathcona County and others.
Well-being indicators are organized according to 22 well-being themes that align in part with what citizens’ value most and which are viewed as contributing most to the city of Leduc’s overall quality of life. These themes include: health and wellness, recreation and leisure, economic vitality, work, community vitality, education, diversity, trust and belonging, safety, affordable housing, efficient and affordable government, recreation infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, ecological footprint, resource consumption and conservation and more.
These results were useful for citizens and decision makers since they point to areas of both strengths and weaknesses in well-being conditions. Well-being scores tell us something about the relative strength or weakness of a well-being condition of the city of Leduc relative to a benchmark.
My presentation to Leduc City Council
On May 15, 2006 I presented the results of the Genuine Wealth assessment to Leduc City Council. Mayor Greg Krischke was chairing the meeting that evening. Council was impressed with the comprehensiveness of the assessment though also overwhelmed with the amount of statistics used to profile the community’s well-being. They enjoyed learning more about what citizens loved about Leduc and what they would change to improve quality of life. The Mayor’s primary lament was with the lack of more recent Statistics Canada data; we were unfortunately dealing with 2001 Census data with the 2006 Census underway. I noted that this was a challenge all Canadian municipalities faced and raised the question for the need for communities to conduct their own well-being census in future.
I provided Council with a comprehensive and integrated well-being assessment that identified strengths and weaknesses in the current conditions of economic, social and environmental well-being. This information would help to inform both citizens and decision makers and to help make the city of Leduc an even better place to live, work, and play. This well-being ‘audit’ provided the City with an objective analysis of the assets (strengths) and liabilities (weaknesses) of Leduc. The 117 well-being indicators of well-being, organized according to 22 well-being themes provided Council and administration with a robust account of economic well-being (household income, GDP), self-rated happiness, health, environmental quality measures, income inequality, food bank use, and the integrity of public infrastructure, to name a few. This information would help Council develop their next three-year business plan and inform other long-term plans.
In addition, I gave Council a summary of the Leduc Genuine Wealth Survey and a summary of the discussions I had with school kids, senior citizens, businesses and others in the community related to what they love about Leduc and what they would improve. Roughly 300 citizens, including youth, participated in the survey as well as in-person group discussions.
When asked about their overall personal quality of life, over 80.2% of survey respondents (n=121) said they were either very happy or somewhat happy with their quality of life. When asked about their overall happiness with the quality of life of their community, as a whole, 82.4% (n=96) said they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their quality of life.
When asked to list the key attributes that contribute most to their quality of life, respondents identified a small town atmosphere or feeling (15.2%), the convenience of shopping and other retail needs being met locally (14.1%), friendly and caring people (11.2%), parks and green space (6.7%), sport activities and recreational facilities (6.7%), and family (6.3%).
The following key reasons for choosing Leduc as a place to live included: jobs/employment opportunities (25.7%), small city atmosphere (24.0%), family/marriage reasons (17.8%) and proximity and easy access to Edmonton (10.3%).
When asked what they would like to improve in their personal lives the top four priorities of respondents include: more quality time alone (slowing down) or with family (26.5%), improving personal health, levels of energy and fitness (13.3%) and more money and financial independence (12.2%) and more leisure and recreation (6.1%).
Leduc citizens enjoy a strong sense of belonging to the community. A strong sense of belonging is the most important thing to quality of life amongst the happiest Canadian communities, in a recent study of Canadian cities. When asked to rate their sense of belonging to their community, 84.8% of respondents said they felt either a very strong or strong sense of belonging to their community.
Here is a summary of the Leduc GW Survey Results
Integrating Genuine Wealth into Leduc’s Business Planning Process
The next step in the Genuine Wealth project was to show the City how to integrate the Genuine Wealth assessment into long-range municipal development planning, strategic and business planning and into budgeting. I worked with the new City Manager, Paul Benedetto and his executive team, to show how Genuine Wealth could be used in future to guide decision making and budgeting.
Not only would such ongoing assessments be useful for civic management, it could also be used by other organizations like the food bank, the United Way and other organizations to help them guide their programs and plans; to begin to invest wisely in improving the well-being conditions of the community.
Leduc the First Canadian City with a New Genuine Wealth Balance Sheet
Leduc would be the first Canadian municipality to be empowered with a comprehensive new balance sheet of well-being that showed the strengths and weaknesses of its human, social, natural, built and financial capital assets of Leduc. In future, it would be possible to account for the returns to well-being of the investment of taxes in the capital and operating expenditures of the city.
More importantly this well-being assessment system can help identify areas of public policy, programs, services and new projects that would help to maintain or improve well-being in the community.
The Genuine Wealth work has provided Leduc with an important accounting framework for measuring progress and well-being. It is perhaps the first community in the world to have embraced the concept of building an economy of well-being; something recently promoted by the nation of Bhutan (which adopted the Gross National Happiness measure of progress) at the United Nations in New York, April 2, 2012.
Dominic Mishio, now the Deputy Mayor and Alderman, was a mere 21 years of age when the Leduc Genuine Wealth assessment was completed in 2006. He ran for city Council based on the value proposition of the Genuine Wealth assessment. Dominic understood that wise governance required comprehensive well-being indicators to ensure the optimum returns to well-being from taxes.
Dominic Mishio, believes “That having the pulse of the community’s values is the most important thing to have in mind when considering decisions of all kinds at the city level.”
Dominic understands that measuring progress based on a broader and integrated suite of well-being measures constitutes wise governance similar to what Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle counseled for Greece in their day.
Dominic, studied the work of these Greek philosophers as part of his Political Science degree from the University of Alberta. One of his favourite quotes is from Pericles who noted “If Athens shall appear great to you, consider then that her glories were purchased by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty.” His other favourite quote is from Archimedes who said ‘Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
Dominic notes: “I believe that Genuine Wealth is that lever and the City of Leduc is that fulcrum.”
Dominic is a young charismatic political leader; part of an emergent new generation of leaders that will steer our economies to towards a new economic paradigm based on well-being and happiness.
To this day, thanks to Dominic’s leadership and guidance, the City of Leduc continues to use the Genuine Wealth model to guide planning and budgeting. With all decisions he considers seven pillars of sustainability.
Genuine Wealth 2.0.
The new Genuine Wealth 2.0 is being born thanks to the creation of a new Genuine Wealth Institute formed in May of 2012 along with my colleagues Robert McGarvey, Bill Craig and Dominic Mishio. Building on the success of the Leduc Genuine Wealth project and similar economic well-being work by Mark Anielski, the goal of the Genuine Wealth Institute was formed to help design, build, and operate new economies of well-being using the Genuine Wealth model.
Genuine Wealth 2.0 will build on the experience of the Leduc Genuine Wealth assessment with important improvements. These improvements include a new and enhanced form of community engagement. With the future of conventional Census statistics from Statistics Canada in question, communities will be faced with considering how to collect well-being data. I believe this will be an opportunity to develop customized well-being census for communities interested in measuring quality of life, well-being and happiness.
From my own experience, I believe that new modalities of engagement such as the use of circle dialogue will become standard practice. I know from experience that when people sit in a circle and talk about and share their lived experience there is a great understanding of shared values of celebration of the strengths of each individual and a sense of being credible community assets. I believe that using circle process as a form of engagement is a new frontier and citizen engagement.
We can combine this approach with other new modalities of engagement including crowd sourcing, online surveys and other forms of old-fashioned engagement such as Dominic Mishio experiences when door-knocking in Leduc during municipal elections; what I call the listening season.
There are also new opportunities for measuring subjective well-being and happiness, grounded in the emerging science of happiness and well-being. There are a growing number of subjective well-being surveys being conducted including the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index in the US. While we have some quality of life surveys, they often do not capture the key factors that contribute most to happiness and well-being including a strong sense of belonging to one’s neighbourhood.
The Genuine Wealth 2.0 provides a new way of collecting and presenting both objective and subjective well-being information. We also have new ways of mapping well-being conditions using advanced GIS mapping and analytics. Most importantly by collecting information directly from citizens about their quality of life needs, their lived experience, and their expectations. New forms of engagement that compliment surveys of well-being are required.
Measuring Well-being Returns on Investment
I believe the new frontier in government accountability will be to demonstrate the returns on taxes as they relate to well-being. we are now able to assess the WROI or Well-being Return on Investment on taxes and budgets by showing the link between capital and operating expenditures by municipalities and changes in well-being conditions.
Dominic Mishio notes: “I believe, as an elected official, one of our greatest duties is to demonstrate to citizens value for tax dollars. I believe that measuring WROI is the new frontier. There is no thing more valuable than have strong analytics around the value gained by government expenditures.”
Building the New Economy of Well-being
Leduc has demonstrated that it is possible to develop this new economic paradigm based on well-being and happiness using the genuine wealth assessment tool. This community continues to lead the country and the world as a model for a well-being economy. It will continue to leverage its most important assets in ways people at social networks and its natural assets including abundant land for growing food. Mayor and Council understand that the most important value proposition for citizens is demonstrating that there is a real return to well-being from their taxes.
Dominic Mishio believe that “The future will be one where we will measure, value, manage and prioritize that which makes life most worthwhile.”
Mark Anielski is the author of The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth and co-founder of the Genuine Wealth Institute.
Download a PDF copy of the Leduc 2005 Genuine Well-being Report here.Genuine Well-being Report Leduc 2006