Measuring Social Sustainability: A Community-Centred Approach
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- Magee, L., Scerri, A. & James, P. Applied Research Quality Life (2012) 7: 239. doi:10.1007/s11482-012-9166-x
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Efforts to measure social and community sustainability confront a series of methodological dilemmas. We present four key distinctions that tend to orient such efforts: between objective and subjective assessment; between “communities” as the sum-of-their-parts, or as holistic and distinct entities in themselves; between present and future aspects to be measured; and between use of “top–down” and “bottom–up” indicators. We then propose a questionnaire for sustainability assessment in light of these. We administered the questionnaire to various communities in the Middle East, South and South East Asia between 2006 and 2010, and present descriptive summaries and a factor analysis of the results here. The results serve two aims: to augment existing qualitative research conducted in the respective areas, and to test the validity and reliability of the instrument itself. Several limitations of the questionnaire emerged during analysis, which we discuss. The results also show strong correlation with national Human Development Index figures for the communities surveyed and moreover, point to several interesting attitudinal divergences between the communities sampled. We conclude with an outline of a revised sustainability assessment instrument that has application for research looking to bridge the gap between psychological orientations towards wellbeing, on the one hand, and sociological or organizational studies on sustainability, on the other hand.