GWI makes pitch for new measurement of wealth
The town and its partners will be working on a plan to bring forward a “well-being index” following a presentation by Mark Anielski of the Genuine Wealth Institute at council’s regular meeting last month.
Anielski, who worked with former Alberta treasurer Jim Dinning, has developed a new way to measure progress, taking in traditional accounting principles and adding in social and human capital to measure a community’s true wealth. The Genuine Wealth Institute proposed to work with the town over two years in a two-phase project for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.
“We’re in a new era … of economics,” he told councillors. “We’re in the middle of the storm right now. The wise communities understand their assets,” he said.
Anielski said his measure takes into account human, social, natural, built and financial capital. Shared community asset mapping is critically important.
“We would like to work with any community that thinks that’s important,” he said.
Anielski likes to involve high school students in how the community is doing. He said in September, for example, high school students could take on the project in leadership or social studies.
“Now the kids get to take my model and design their own well-being survey and they get to think about how are we going to … ask these questions,” he said.
In an interview following the presentation, Anielski said the model engages citizens in articulating why they like the community and how it could be improved “and in particular, in terms of well-being and happiness,” he said.
The City of Leduc adopted the model in 2007. Anielski said it has been merged into the business plan. Citizens have the opportunity to provide feedback on what is going well and what needs improvement. Those ideas are then incorporated into the next version of the city’s business plan.
“They’re constantly looking at how well-being is changing over time,” he said.
Anielski said because a large percentage of the public sector doesn’t operate with a balance sheet, it’s difficult to measure where governments – and the communities they represent – stand, especially when it comes to community and social aspects.
“People always complain about taxes … and we want more economic growth. But what about a change in well-being? … How is well-being changing over time? That’s what we’re talking about, a different return on investment,” he said.
Mayor Judy Dahl said since town representatives have heard Anielski’s presentation (at Alberta Urban Municipalities conferences and earlier this spring at community feedback sessions) before, town officials are eager to take the model and apply it to the community.
“What we’ve realized is that we need to start to build and operate our community on well-being and happiness, so that we have a desired outcome for a high quality of life. We find that with the fast pace of society today, that we have to measure the things that are most meaningful,” she said.
While formal plans have yet to be worked out, Dahl said she envisions an annual social report to the community, with an emphasis on engaging citizens.
“It’s really important that we be able to measure that well-being of the return on investment,” she said.