Measuring Wellness in City Design

Anyone from a marketing or sales background is likely to have heard of Porters 5 Forces. Michael Porter is an economics guru from Harvard Business School and has been a key global influencer in economic theory and business strategy.

Porter has now turned his attention to something deeper – the value and productivity of a caring economy. Launched on April 11th 2013, the Social Progress Index is Porter’s take on how we should place value on many of the social aspects of our nations that to date have not been driving components of macroeconomic decision-making.

There are a few social or wellness measurement tools around, but this one is the newest and there’s something about the messaging and structure that appeals. This site [click on image below] includes a chart ranking various countries by their social progress. When you visit this site take some time to explore the ‘Definitions’ menu as this provides the full detail of what each social metric is about.


You can drill down to detailed country data – if you dare, check out Australia’s scores on ‘obesity’ and ‘ecosystem sustainability’… some opportunities to improve I say. [the site is well structured and easy to navigate, so jump in!]

I find this new index an exciting one in that it is global, is based on comprehensive social needs, and demonstrates that there is a world [or at least most of it] of opportunity for us to apply our skills locally and in developing nations.

For mine, the fun part will be in turning these indices into design criteria, e.g. for Australia to improve its score on ‘obesity’, what design criteria could we establish for new developments? To improve our score on ‘ecological footprint consumption’, how should we be planning our cities? [Sadly our Eco category score dragged our overall score down by heaps].

I’ll leave you with two things to ponder;

  1. How might we apply this type of analysis to our towns and cities [rather than just nationally] in order to help them remain competitive in our geographic regions?
  2. The data and analysis is one step, and perhaps the easier part of the deal. As with all data analysis and modelling, the real challenge is in knowing how to use that information to inform the design process. I can think of a range of existing rating tools that address to varying extents some of these social indicators… so to some extent we have a head start. Have a look at some of the criteria and ask yourself [not ‘do I feel lucky’] ‘how would I design this master plan to deliver this outcome?’

Lots to do. If anyone has the time to overlay this onto any of said rating tools please let me know, otherwise my curiosity will demand that I do it myself.


One response to “Measuring Wellness in City Design

  1. Hi Digby,

    Here’s another one that would be a great project for the Collaborative! You and I are going to need to have lunch or coffee soon to talk about how we deploy our resources to make tracks quickly on these ideas!!

    Let me know what works – I’m away the week of the 13th, so if next week is a possibility, that would be good, as our next Collaborative meeting is the 14th, and we could call for recruits at that meeting.



    Mary Casey

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