As some may have noticed in comments on any index that I share on here, I am usually more interested in how the makers of that index collected the information and how the metrics were defined, than in the final ranking system. One of my online discussion groups “The Future of Cities” had a recent post on the fallibility of the happiness and livable indexes you see on many sites. The original post by Sam Jacob was so thoughtful, I thought I’d link it here and also send a link to the discussion. I have also added my own comment here.
His final conclusion was succinct:
We can draw on big data, on communication technologies but we shouldn’t be in thrall to it. We need to recognise the sheer difficulty of comprehending the complexity of cities and the difficulty of making them. We need a fuller understanding of the texture and depth of what life – and “liveability” – might be. We should openly acknowledge the intrinsic political dimension of the city and its fundamentally democratic nature.
As someone who offers support to those between the formal and informal economies (in regional food systems), I appreciate the thoughtful comments above on the subjective nature of metrics in terms of indexing livability and happiness levels. I also agree that using these in terms of ranking cities or any endeavor is a marketing ploy and without real value to those in that place. However, as a food system organizer, I can assert that we are in need of well-developed and shared metrics that reflect the values that we forward, such as small business economic activity (success is not always about pure job creation in other words), social cohesion (trust between parts of the community unknown to one another before that activity like farmers and family table shoppers), ecological values (building a closed loop of sustainability) and human capital (transferring knowledge and building skills). I am working on a project that will forward a set of metrics that WILL have context as to the individual place that is being measured and not be designed to be used for ranking one place against another. We hope that this will allow for success measures that derive from the work at the grassroots level of organizers and users of that community and yet can explain the transformative nature of the community food system to policy makers as well and is therefore in agreement to Mr. Jacob’s original idea. Feel free to check out the early days of this work, done through a partnership of the Farmers Market Coalition and University of Wisconsin at FMC’s FMM page