Internationally, many jurisdictions have taken steps to incorporate quality-of-life and wellbeing measurements into their political, socio-environmental, and economic decision-making. Jurisdictions explicitly doing so at the national level include New Zealand, Iceland, Scotland, and Germany. By incorporating and implementing cross-sectoral approaches to improve wellbeing for their citizens, these countries are equally assessing the economic, social, cultural, and environmental contexts in which they make their political decisions.
While each country has incorporated wellbeing indicators into their decision-making differently, there are commonalities: aligning policies with the overall aspirations of citizens; increasing social equitability; focusing on mental health; improving wellbeing for children; supporting minority and Indigenous aspirations (and related community-specific concerns); building productive nations; and transforming economies away from a dependence on fossil fuels.
Countries that have made significant progress in implementing wellbeing measurements in government decision-making, have done so according to collaborative and evidence-based approaches using frameworks based on data from various government departments and advice from experts in each relevant sector. Sharing information and working together with trust and transparency across all sectors, namely government, non-profit, academic, and private, will ultimately lead to improved wellbeing of all citizens.
Wellbeing frameworks have been adopted at a municipal level as well, including in Canada, incorporating local or regional priorities. As one example, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta has undertaken two community wellbeing surveys that were used to create, evaluate and update their Social Sustainability Community Plan. Several other regions in Ontario have undertaken similar surveys. Engage Nova Scotia partnered with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing to create an Index Report in 2018. They have now conducted a complementary Quality of Life Survey, the results of which will be used for regional planning and priority setting. The Saskatchewan Index of Wellbeing has helped provide insight into how Saskatchewan people are doing.
Most municipalities’ planning and budgeting processes already incorporate elements of wellbeing, such as recreation facilities, outdoor spaces, safety and crime prevention strategies, and housing development. By more intentionally applying a wellbeing lens which encourages municipal departments and communities to work collaboratively to address complex issues, municipal leaders can ensure their decisions are benefitting and addressing what really matters to their citizens.
A thriving society should be the end-goal of good public policy and the investments we make to support it. By using wellbeing as the lens for decision-making, more innovative social policy will emerge that benefits all citizens in multiple ways. It is a way forward for creating a society that better responds to our needs and values.