March 25, 2002

Measuring Well-Being

The meeting was attended by 21 members and 14 guests


Stewardship and Environment Committee: Jim Haliburton reported the following progress on several projects:
1. The North Shore Recycling Program is doing well with 68 schools and several thousand students involved.
2. The EcoHome Project is now fully underway.
3. The Environmental Audit of BC Hydro is going ahead.
4. The Environmental Block Watch program will soon be getting underway.

Spirituality and Personal Development: Diane Jennings reported that there are now 6 members on this committee who are meeting regularly to develop a program to give support to leaders in the community.

Health and Wellness: Maggie Gold reported that a meeting had been held involving people from several agencies to consider forming the BC Integrated Medicine Association. Her personal vision is to see the integrated medicine model in every medical clinic in BC.

Youth and Education: Kristin Cassie reported that since the presentation last month the committee is working with the New Westminster School District and UBC to develop a program on values based education. They are also working to help establish the Environmental Education Centre on Saltspring Island. A presentation on this development will be the feature of the May 27 meeting of the Institute in cooperation with the Stewardship and Environment committee.


Business and Sustainability: Measuring Well-Being

Desmond Berghofer introduced the evening's program on the Measurement of Well-Being under the following topics:

1. How We Provide for Well-Being. We can provide some things we value through our own resources. For others, like health care and education, we need to pool our resources as a community and society. To ensure well-being we need a clear idea of what we want to accomplish with our pooled resources, and we need ways to tell if our collective efforts are bringing us closer to our goals.

2. How We Measure Well-Being. Currently our chief measure of social progress is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is an inadequate measure of well-being as it simply adds up all of the monetary transactions in the economy, some of which are a result of social ills like pollution and crime. Moreover, the GDP does not measure the rate at which natural resources are being used up, and it does not count the contribution to the economy of volunteer work and work done in the home by families. Our task to measure true social progress is to determine what we value as a society and to develop a set of indicators to measure progress in those areas.

3. The Canada Well-being Measurement Act. This is a Private Member's Bill introduced into the House of Commons by Joe Jordan MP. The Act would create a Standing Committee of the House to consult with Canadians on what they value as well-being. The Act would require that appropriate indicators be developed by Statistics Canada and used as measures with the results being reported through the Auditor General. We can help get this Bill passed into law by encouraging MPs and local municipalities to support it.

4. Other Work Being Done on Measuring Well-Being. The BC Progress Board has issued a first report that included some social indicators along with economic indicators. In the US the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) has been developed as a measure of well-being. Interest groups are working to develop the GPI in Canada.

Discussion Groups

Participants formed into four discussion groups led by facilitators. A scribe was also assigned to each group to record the discussion.

General Question: The groups were asked to discuss the following general question: What should we be measuring in order to ensure that we have well-being in our society? Either as a second step or as part of the first step the groups were asked to identify how particular aspects of well-being might be measured.


The groups produced a very rich report which has been prepared as a separate document entitled "Making the Stretch: A Report on What Constitutes Well-Being and How to Measure It." In general the groups described a society of people who enjoy personal well-being in good relationships, with effective government, an equitable economy, livable cities with aesthetic qualities, a healthy physical environment, good nutrition, appropriate health care, quality education, deep community involvement, and inter-generational harmony.

The groups were also able to produce an extensive list of suggestions on how well-being might be measured under similar headings to those mentioned above.

One conclusion we can come to from this work is that if you ask a group of ethically-minded people what constitutes a healthy society, they can tell you, and also suggest ways to measure it. This supports the thinking behind the Canada Act for the Measurement of Well-Being. One of the follow-up procedures that the Business and Sustainability Committee will take is to forward the full report to the group working on this initiative. We will also suggest ways that the members of the Institute for Ethical Leadership can support this effort by bringing it to the attention of elected officials and other groups and individuals working for the good of society.

Next Meeting

Date: May 27, 5.30 p.m., Vancouver Public Library
Theme: Stewardship and the Environment (in cooperation with Youth and Education)
Topic: The Environmental Education Centre of the Gulf Islands.
Speaker: Duane Sutherland, former Superintendent of Schools for the Gulf Islands

Please invite others to come and learn about this exciting initiative in Environmental Education, which can develop into a world-class initiative.