A trailblazing report has unlocked a new system to measure the conditions that enable people and places to thrive.
The Thriving Places Index
While experts across the globe continue to debate whether gross domestic product (GDP) is an overly simplistic and, in many cases, deeply misleading analysis of a nation’s success, it’s taken a charity in Bristol to come up with a viable alternative.
Step forward Happy City and its pioneering team of data analysts who, since 2011, have been developing a methodology to measure the local conditions that most influence our wellbeing.
The Thriving Places Index is the most comprehensive analysis of how well local authorities are doing at creating the conditions for people to thrive. Data from 150 local authorities in England were assessed against three main categories – local conditions, sustainability and equality – supported by 48 separate indicators including health, education and work.
Click here to explore the results in your local area, and see how they compare with the wider UK picture.
GDP ‘an outdated metric’
GDP’s failings came under fire at the World Economic Forum, with economist Diane Coyle criticising its disregard for environmental impacts. At the same time, a report from Oxfam reveals 82% of all of the wealth created in 2017 – enough to end global poverty seven times over – went to the top 1%.
The Thriving Places report is supported by Triodos Bank, a global pioneer in sustainable banking which only finances projects delivering positive social, environmental and cultural impacts.
‘For too long, society has focused on the single measure of GDP, an outdated metric incapable of connecting our economy with social and environmental outcomes that determine our wellbeing and future prosperity. We cannot continue to measure success purely in terms of growth when our resources are finite.
‘Our financial system underpins our current economic paradigm but at Triodos Bank, we believe finance can be a powerful force for positive change. To redirect our banks and the flow of money in the economy, we need greater transparency on how our money is used, to understand its impact and to know where to direct it in order to create the conditions for people to thrive.
‘The Thriving Places Index gives us a clear picture, for the first time, of the places most in need of investment, pointing the way towards a more sustainable and inclusive economy – one that has a true sense of value.’
Managing director of Triodos Bank UK
A thriving Birmingham?
The report argues that truly thriving places require investment in a range of areas, including mental and physical health, work and the local economy, education and learning opportunities, the qualities of the place and its environment and the connections between people and community.
One local authority that has embraced the methodology is Birmingham. Karen Creavin, who leads wellbeing services for Birmingham City Council, commented, ‘There are 1.1m citizens in Birmingham of which 408,000 – almost half – are in the top 10% poorest households in the country. This presents huge challenges in terms of inequalities, income, life expectancy and health, but it also means there is huge potential for change.
‘The Thriving Places Index is a huge step forward in being able to measure whether our work is having an impact’, Karen adds, ‘and what we need to rethink to really improve the lives of citizens.’