connect / 2014

The Wellbeing Project: Working together to create a city of wellbeing

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Santa Monica Cradle to Career, led by City of Santa Monica in partnership with SMMUSD

Through The Wellbeing Project we will work together to define, measure, and actively improve wellbeing in our community.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Through The Wellbeing Project we will work together to define, measure, and actively improve wellbeing in our community.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Santa Monica

What is your idea/project in more detail?

The Wellbeing Project is a game-changing update to the way a community understands its strengths and challenges. The Local Wellbeing Index will harness the power of data to drive action. By reflecting a community back to itself in a genuine, dynamic, data-driven way, city government will have information needed to make better decisions, allow social impact service providers to directly address community needs, and empower residents to take charge of their own wellbeing. This common platform will make it easier to work together to create a city of wellbeing by strengthening community health, cohesion, trust, accountability, and connections. Ultimately, we hope this collective impact strategy will be open and scalable to other cities.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

1: Define community wellbeing and the Local Wellbeing Index. Under the advisement of an international, interdisciplinary panel of experts, the City is working with RAND and the New Economics Foundation (nef) to create the analytic framework for the Local Wellbeing Index, a new science-based measurement tool with real-world use. This framework is directly informed by needs expressed by primary end users (City staff). The framework outlines specific things we want to know about our community. Grouped into 5 dimensions (Community, Place, Learning, Health, and Opportunity), these things will tell us who Santa Monica is and how Santa Monica is doing. Through deep listening, we will work with Daylight Design to determine how users might engage with the data, resulting in wireframes for the platform that will bring the index to life online. 2: Measure community wellbeing. The index will be fed by a blend of administrative and subjective data. Using the framework, indicators will be mapped to data collected by the City and other sources, and from people via a new survey instrument. We will also explore the potential of social media as a viable source of data. RAND researchers will analyze the data and refine as needed, and develop the backend data management system. We will also build out the wireframes for the MVP version of the platform that will visualize the data, give it meaning, and engage users. 3: Actively improve community wellbeing. The City project team will work with RAND, nef, and Daylight Design to engage primary end users (City staff) and other user groups (community partners and residents) to identify uses for the index. The goal is to use the index to strengthen community connections, trust, accountability, and cohesion. We anticipate that the index will aid City decision-makers; assist change agents identify and provide services that meet community needs; and empower residents to take charge of improving their own wellbeing and connections with each other. The successful uptake of The Wellbeing Project and sustained use of the index will require building momentum within the community through innovative engagement strategies, including the regularly refreshed and enhanced platform that will bring the index to life online. Ultimately, we envision The Wellbeing Project as being open and scalable to other cities interested in gaining a deeper understanding of their community in order to drive collective impact strategies to improve wellbeing.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Santa Monica is a community facing change. Without a common understanding of who the community is and how we connect with one another, fear of change has created artificial barriers between people. Local government is uniquely positioned to make decisions and provide information that could directly facilitate partnerships and improve connections, yet we currently lack the information needed to do so. By creating a way to reflect a community back to itself in a genuine, data-driven way we believe we can begin to move beyond perception and anecdotal information; and that having a better understanding of ourselves in relation to our community will surface similarities and common concerns that will encourage people to work together to improve connections with each other and the world around them. In the short term, The Wellbeing Project is a way to recalibrate the conversation from reactive to proactive, to focus on collective impact and positive change. By 2050, we hope that The Wellbeing Project and the Local Wellbeing Index will have spread to communities beyond Santa Monica, creating a network of like-minded cities bonded by a similar approach to identifying and addressing community needs. Having information needed to promote positive communication, and a platform that engages and connects city staff, service providers, and residents, will strengthen our community, our collective resilience, and our ability to manage change together.

Whom will your project benefit?

The Local Wellbeing Index will not be a static report that sits in a drawer. It will be a dynamically-refreshed tool with real-world use. While Local Wellbeing Index will no doubt have broad application, there are three primary end user groups for The Wellbeing Project:

City staff (to guide decision-making and resource allocation) Local nonprofit organizations (to help identify needs and guide development of social impact programs) Community members (to empower people to take charge of improving their own wellbeing) The way in which people access, understand, and plug into the Index will be critical to the success of The Wellbeing Project. Central to this will be an engagement platform that brings the Index to life online. The north star vision for this platform includes features that will make data-driven decision making possible; give data meaning; and engage the community. Ensuring the successful uptake of the platform will require outreach strategies that will build awareness and momentum among the primary end user groups. These strategies should go beyond local government’s traditional one-way approach to outreach. By tapping into the local creative and tech sectors for ideas and implementation, outreach for The Wellbeing Project will become a community-driven effort with a broad base of support. While the ways in which end user groups are engaged may vary, they will be based on the same principles of deep listening and do-it-together collective impact.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

City Project Team: This interdepartmental group brings diverse interests and expertise to guide the successful implementation and uptake of the project. Participants come from the City Managers Office, Community & Cultural Services, Information Systems, Santa Monica Public Library, Office of Sustainability & the Environment, and Planning & Community Development. In addition, staff from all Departments have been actively engaged in the project, ensuring that the end result will be representative of the broad range of work done by our full service city. This collaborative approach is helping us connect the dots between our work through the lends of wellbeing, setting us up for effective use of the index once it’s ready. RAND Corporation & New Economics Foundation: These partners are leading development of the index, including the analytic framework, survey instrument, and backend data management system. As one of the world’s leading think tanks, RAND brings a depth of expertise in research, data collection & analysis. Based in the UK, the New Economics Foundation has been working at the epicenter of wellbeing research, measurement & application for decades. Working together, this team has helped the City assemble and convene an international panel of experts to advise on the project. Panel of Experts: This advisory group allows us to tap into the international wellbeing knowledge bank. Panel participants represent a broad range of disciplines, including economics, behavioral science, public health, public policy, sustainability, and technology/data science. Daylight Design: This team has been engaged to apply human centered design principles to tease out critical questions, challenges, and opportunities inherent to this project. Through deep listening, research, and synthesis, Daylight helped us create the guiding principles and vision for how and why users would engage with the index. During the user experience visioning process, Daylight’s work had a catalytic impact, helping all aspects of the project move from ‘what’ toward ‘how.’ Bloomberg Philanthropies: The project was conceived of thanks to Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, a contest to ignite innovation in local government. As 1 of 5 winning cities, Santa Monica continues to benefit from guidance and advice of this expert team.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Number of public transit riders
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
  • Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Local government is uniquely poised to facilitate partnerships and directly impact LA2050’s Connect metrics, but we need a starting point. The first step in moving the needle on specific metrics is to create a baseline understanding of current conditions. From there, we can set goals and work together on strategies to achieve those goals. This is what The Wellbeing Project is seeking to accomplish. The mission of LA2050 is closely aligned with the values built in to The Wellbeing Project, and the Connect metrics are already embedded in the analytic framework for the Local Wellbeing Index. We will collect data and provide information specific to these Connect metrics. With a baseline understanding of community needs, we can identify and prioritize collective impact strategies to advance metrics related to civic collaboration, volunteerism, government responsiveness and accountability, and participation in lifelong learning opportunities and meaningful cultural experiences.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

For The Wellbeing Project, success is defined as creating a deep, meaningful understanding of community wellbeing that will guide City staff in making decisions, help local agents of change create social impact programs and partnerships to address community needs, and empower residents to take charge of their own wellbeing and strengthen connections between each other. While we don’t yet know what the Local Wellbeing Index will reveal about the level of wellbeing in our community, we have embarked on an endeavor to move the concept of wellbeing into the mainstream. Increased understanding of the conditions that contribute to wellbeing of people and desire to take action are two aspirational measures of success. The spread of this project to other cities interested in using meaningful data about the wellbeing of people to inform decisions and collective impact is a longer-term goal. Translation of these aspirational goals into measurable outcomes could include the level of engagement with the index, the volume of data received from community members, the number of initiatives or decisions based upon information provided by the index, and the number of cities that have expressed interest in or implemented wellbeing measurement in their communities. It could also include an increase in the number of partnerships formed between service providers and program supporters/donors to deliver services that address specific needs as identified by the Local Wellbeing Index. The ultimate, long-range sign of success would be an uptick in specific areas of wellbeing in need of improvement, as indicated by the Local Wellbeing Index.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

The Wellbeing Project was inspired by Santa Monica’s Cradle to Career initiative (SMC2C), which brought the City, community leaders and concerned residents together to better understand how our children are doing and how we work together to support youth and families. SMC2Cs first major output was the Youth Wellbeing Report Card, a multidimensional measure of how Santa Monica youth were doing. This highly informative case study has taught us about wrangling data to fuel community-based social impact initiatives. During ideation for this project, we paid particular attention to the lessons learned through SMC2C, and the Youth Wellbeing Report Card served as a rough prototype for the Local Wellbeing Index. SMC2C also laid important groundwork for this project by establishing lines of information sharing between major institutions like the City, school district, and Santa Monica College. In addition, the 2014 report card update involved piloting an interactive data visualization platform, helping us learn more about working with data to yield meaningful information upon which action can be based.

We’ve also learned from our City’s experience advancing sustainability. It wasn’t that long ago when sustainability was a largely unknown, fringe concept. Today, it’s part of our operations and collective consciousness. Moving an aspirational concept like sustainability into the mainstream exactly mirrors a challenge/goal faced by this project. Like SMC2C and this project, the City’s sustainability movement started with creating a data-driven understanding of the community’s performance related to the environment. From data flows action. The sustainability initiative has leveraged grassroots partnerships to advance and promote specific messages and goals. The strong support network formed through this effort exemplifies collective impact. No one person or entity can make sustainability stick. Pushing this work forward has required hard work from many organizations and facilitation by the City.

Through these examples, we’ve learned that change doesn’t happen overnight or in a vacuum. It requires meaningful information, regular engagement, the ability to demonstrate progress at regular intervals, and broad community support in order to stick. The Wellbeing Project has also identified ways to assist both initiatives by creating structures that will support centralized data management, automated analysis, and an online engagement platform to connect data with action.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Implementation of The Wellbeing Project is underway. Although this is a big project, we are well-poised to achieve success within 12 months. Specifically, we have:

Created internal infrastructure needed to support project implementation. Engaged key partners to assist us in developing the Local Wellbeing Index. Assembled an international panel of advisors. Conducted extensive research and synthesized a horizon scan into a whitepaper. Completed the index framework and started to map indicators to data sources. Developed a build-ready vision for what the index will look like and how users will engage with it. Started conversations with primary end users to inform them about the project and identify potential uses for information provided by the index. Identified communication and implementation strategies. Established social media presence. Cultivated relationships with a network of project supporters, both within the community and beyond. Created a manageable, phased plan to roll out the index that will allow us to test and refine it, while building momentum within the community. Additional documentation illustrating work done to-date, including a video about the project, the whitepaper, and the panel of experts is available on our website. During the next 12 months, we will continue to collect data, analyze it, build the engagement platform, and roll out the index.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

The Wellbeing Project is seeking to do something that’s never been done before: create a tool using administrative and subjective data to measure community wellbeing; and then use the information to inform city decision-making processes, facilitate partnerships, and empower residents to create change. To-date unforeseen challenges have arisen and we’ve worked around them - that’s the nature of innovating. Advancing innovation within local government has been and will continue to be a challenge. Resources are strained, our current work never stops, and people are used to doing things in a particular way. By engaging with city staff about the project early and often, and establishing an interdepartmental team of project supporters, we have laid significant groundwork to aid us in continuing to move forward. Bringing Daylight Design on board for the user experience visioning process was particularly helpful in this respect. Their human centered design approach and deep listening skills not only cultivated additional project support within the city organization, it also resulted in making the aspirational vision more concrete and tangible. As we move towards building out the wireframes for the online platform, we will have continual opportunities to re-engage with staff to present this clear vision and show progress over time. Public perception, participation, and engagement will be another challenge. Simply communicating about what wellbeing is, what the project is, and its utility has been a challenge. People confuse ‘wellbeing’ with ‘wellness.’ We’ve also uncovered a key tension between individual wellbeing, community wellbeing, and the City’s role or investment in the wellbeing of people. To address these communications challenges, we’ve established guiding principles, which include clearly stating that improving community wellbeing is a do-it-together effort. The City is not the purveyor of wellbeing, but we can present data, facilitate partnerships, convene forums, and engage community members to advance this initiative. Again, the user experience visioning work completed by Daylight Design will help us address this challenge going forward as we build out a highly engaging and intuitive platform that will bring the index to life online. To accompany this, over the next year we will need to identify and implement communications and engagement strategies as we roll out the index.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach