Measuring Social Sustainability: A Community-Centred Approach
- 1.3k Downloads
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.
KeywordsCommunity Wellbeing Quality of life Sustainability Indicators
The people who have contributed to the development of this questionnaire are too numerous to list, but to give a sense of the reach of our indebtedness to others we list the researchers who were involved in the Papua New Guinea project: Albert Age, Sama Arua, Kelly Donati, Jean Eparo, Beno Erepan, Julie Foster-Smith, Betty Gali-Malpo, Andrew Kedu, Max Kep, Leo Kulumbu, Karen Malone, Ronnie Mamia, Lita Mugugia, Martin Mulligan, Yaso Nadarajah, Gibson Oeka, Jalal Paraha, Peter Phipps, Leonie Rakanangu, Isabel Salatiel, Chris Scanlon, Victoria Stead, Pou Toivita, Kema Vegala, Naup Waup, Mollie Willie, and Joe Yomba. In addition, given the issue that the PNG project involved many languages across 50 villages in five provinces, we need to thank in particular, Gerard Arua, Vanapa, Central Province; Monica Arua, Yule Island, Central Province; Viki Avei, Boera, Central Province; Sunema Bagita, Provisional Community Development Advisor, Milne Bay Province; Mago Doelegu, Alotau, Milne Bay Province; Clement Dogale, Vanagi, Central Province; Jerry Gomuma, Alepa, Central Province; Alfred Kaket, Simbukanam/Tokain, Madang Province; Yat Paol from the Bismark Ramu Group, Madang Province; Joseph Pulayasi, Omarakana, Milne Bay Province; Bing Sawanga, Yalu, Morobe Province; Alexia Tokau, Kananam, Madang Province; and Naup Waup, Wisini Village, Morobe Province. They became our formal research leaders in their respective locales and guides to language nuances.
Parts of this research were supported under Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme, and for that we thank the ARC.
We also gratefully acknowledge the comments and suggestions of three anonymous reviewers in the preparation of this article.
- Bramley, G., & Power, S. (2009). Urban form and social sustainability: the role of density and housing type. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 36(1), 30–48.Google Scholar
- Elkington, J. (1997). Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom-line of 21st century business. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.Google Scholar
- Field, A. (2005). Discovering statistics using SPSS. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Fraser, E. D. G., Dougill, A. J., Mabee, W. E., Reed, M., & McAlpine, P. (2006). Bottom up and top down: analysis of participatory processes for sustainability indicator identification as a pathway to community empowerment and sustainable environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management, 78(2), 114–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gasparatos, A., El-Haram, M., & Horner, M. (2008). A critical review of reductionist approaches for assessing the progress towards sustainability. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 28(4–5), 286–311.Google Scholar
- Hettelingh, J., Vries, B. J. M. D., & Hordijk, L. (2009). Integrated assessment. Principles of environmental sciences. Springer: Netherlands.Google Scholar
- Human Development Report Office, (2010). HDI 2010 index. Available at: http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/Lets-Talk-HD-HDI_2010.pdf.
- Inglehart, R. (1977). The silent revolution: changing values and political styles among western publics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial societies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Inglehart, R. (1997). Modernization and postmodernization. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Inglehart, R., & Basanez, M. (2000). World values survey. USA and Mexico.Google Scholar
- James, P., Nadarajah, Y., Haive, K., & Stead, V. (2011). Sustainable communities, sustainable development: other paths for Papua New Guinea. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
- James, P., Stead, V., Nadarajah, Y., & Haive, K. (2011). Urban and peri-urban communities: Vanagi settlement, central province; Divinai village, Milne Bay province; Kananam community, Madang province; Yalu village and surrounds, Morobe province. Local–global Papua New Guinea: Projecting Community-Life, 5, 18–62.Google Scholar
- Krajnc, D., & Glavic, P. (2005). A model for integrated assessment of sustainable development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 43(2), 189–208.Google Scholar
- McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6–23.Google Scholar
- Mulligan, M., & Shaw, J. (2007). What the world can learn from Sri Lanka’s post-tsunami experiences. International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, 3(2), 65–91.Google Scholar
- Scerri, A., James, P., Humphery, K., & Mulligan, M. (2009). Towards meaningful indicators of wellbeing—community arts, inclusion and avowal in local–global relationships. In S. Fleming (Ed.), Leisure and tourism: international perspectives on cultural practice (pp. 67–78). Liverpool: LSA Publications.Google Scholar
- United Nations. (1992a). Agenda 21. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Rio de Janeiro: UN General Assembly.Google Scholar
- United Nations. (1992b). Rio declaration on environment and development. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Rio de Janeiro: UN General Assembly.Google Scholar
- Veenhoven, R. (2009). Happy life years in 143 nations 2000–2008. World database of happiness, Rank report 2009-2a.Google Scholar
- Wilson, J., Tyedmers, P., & Pelot, R. (2007). Contrasting and comparing sustainable development indicator metrics. Ecological Indicators, 7(2), 299–314.Google Scholar