Let’s assume you wanted to foster a sustainable and vibrant community over time, and you wanted to be publicly accountable to that goal along the way. What would you do? The city of Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia, came up with 13 indicators of what they believed to be a sustainable community, and then dared to publish their progress for all to see. The Sustainable Community Progress Indicators (SCPI) project is an attempt to focus the efforts of a city and its citizens toward making real progress. Says the mayor:
If we were to think about whether our lives are better or worse now than they were 10 years ago, many of us may consider the state of our health, what our bank balance is compared to what it was like, whether our children are happier than they used to be, or the number of good friends we have.
The SCPI project seeks to make similar assessments about the sustainability of our community. We know that the quality of our community’s life does not merely rest upon its economic condition. While we recognise that economic factors are important, it is clear that our well-being is also heavily dependent on the environmental, social and cultural conditions that support us.
So, what do these measurements look like? Take a peek! Each of the 13 indicators is described and detailed, and each gets a happy face, neutral face, or sad face depending on the community’s progress.
Of course, to measure things like ”connectedness” or ”diversity,” you need to get creative. My favorite such effort is ”smiles per hour,” where certain streets, intersections, and public areas are ranked for their cordiality between strangers. How, exactly? Here’s how:
A ‘Smile Spy’ volunteer walks on a defined section of the street (averaging 400m) for a 15-minute period keeping their faces up and their expression open. In that time everyone who passes them on their side of the street is counted. People who smile, nod, or make any kind of positive greeting are counted separately. These two numbers are converted into a percentage, and this becomes the Smiles Per Hour rating for that section of street. Therefore the highest rating a street can get is 100 and the lowest is 0.
Imagine if arts organizations tried to express with clarity the outcomes they hoped for, and then measured those outcomes over time…even in small, simple, and slightly whimsical ways like this. How much better could we become at our jobs? And how much clearer would our constituents be about what we hoped to accomplish?