LIVEABLE? LOVEABLE? WHAT ARE THE METRICS FOR GREAT PEOPLE PLACES?
KYLIE LEGGE | FOUNDER, PLACE SCORE © 2016
Data is a language we can all understand: A population of 150,000; 12% unemployment; 77% family households; 62% born overseas. This quantitative information begins to create a picture of a what a community looks like - but not without its limitations. Similarly, liveability indexes delivered by either the media, business, or government, have their own challenges in capturing the nuances of a liveable place; the type of place in which people wish to spend their life.
City rankings can help drive internet hits, build a city’s reputation, and increase a planner’s creative confidence. Rankings may even capture general perceptions (such as The World’s Most Romantic Cities) or reflect marketing objectives (in the case of the Lonely Planet’s annual 10 Cities to Visit.). Regardless of the category, these rankings provide an opportunity to test the general public’s perceptions of what we value in a city – both the tangible and the intangible assets that make a place somewhere we want to be.
Nevertheless, how valuable are these “Top 10” lists in reflecting how liveable a city is, and; are they actually aiming to achieve liveability?
The two most established lists are provided by The Economist, a weekly magazine and on-line media outlet, and Mercer, a global human resources consultancy. The Economic Intelligence Unit at The Economist is responsible for their Global Liveability Ranking that considers cities against 30 different factors comprising safety, healthcare, education, and the environment. The Mercer Quality of Living Ranking assesses 221 cities across the globe against 39 criteria, using New York City – oddly enough - as a baseline for relative measurement.
In both criteria, the purpose of such rankings are to provide a gauge for ease of relocation for expatriate employees, and for subsequent salary requirements determined by their employers. These all-time favourite lists were never designed to represent the local community’s value of their city often omitting the liveability or loveability of place for those who call it home. As such, causing a discrepancy between community values and perceptions of a place.
LAUNCHING PLACE SCORE
Earlier this year Place Score™ was launched. It is the world’s first place experience measurement solution which assesses neighbourhoods, town centres, and even work places experienced by those who use them: the community.
Place Score™ offers two important tools: Firstly, Care Factor captures community values based on what they consider to be their ideal environments, and; secondly, Place Assessments, which measures place attraction and attachment and provides a Place Experience (PX) score which defines a specific location’s place experience score. Together, these tools provide governments, developers, and the community with the insights to guide effective investment, measure change, and celebrate success. They also define liveability from the perspective of the end user – the communities that live, work and play in our urban environments.
This shift from consultant-led to community-led place measurement reflects a wider shift from relying on multiple industries to crowd sourcing as a legitimate research method. For example, in the last two years, an Australian real estate online portal, has shared its own liveability tool using criteria that rely on existing and accessible data; what is also known as ‘web-scraping’. This has led to criteria such as harbour views, access to a ferry and beach access being included as three of only 16 criteria being assessed for Sydney. This causes an obvious prejudice against many of the 555 Sydney suburbs that are not located near the harbour or ocean. Place Score™ not only asks the community to measure their places but has also involved them in the definition of the metrics being measured. For instance, Place Score™ asks communities what they consider to be an important aspect of a liveable city, and use their feedback to help build their tool. By adopting this approach, Place Score™ ensures that academically defined metrics are tested by the people in their respective neighbourhoods, which, in turn, is amended and added to in order to better reflect community values.
The appeal of Place Score™ isn’t just to measure competitive liveability; it can also provide an important evidence base for both strategic planning and local enhancement projects.
The new metrics for place measurement have the opportunity to truly reflect community values, while the power of technology allows communities to share their personal perspectives. Solutions such as that offered by Place Score™ are game changing putting the community in front of the consultant, empowering evidence based planning and investment, and building transparent relationships between government, the business sector, and the community.
issue 2. summer 2016