Have you ever wondered how happy your neighborhood actually is? Siddhanth Paralkar, Scott Cloutier, Snigdha Nautiyal, and Ramanuj Mitra are trying to answer that question. The team recently published an article about a decision-making tool designed for neighborhood residents to use in community development efforts. The tool, called the Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness Decision Tool (SNfH), is based on Cloutier’s Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness Index (SNHI) and has been modified to fit the neighborhood scale.
Residents, referred to as stakeholders, are given a set of questions for each of nine indicators (buildings, business and economic development, community governance, energy management, food systems, neighborhood design, transportation, waste management, and water management) and responses are scored to visually display the level of happiness and sustainability in a given neighborhood. Displaying the extent of happiness and sustainability for each category provides stakeholders with quantitative data and a visual representation to make informed decisions about where the most effort and resources should be allocated to improve their community.
Paralkar, the lead author of the article, emphasizes the “accessibility and replicability of the decision tool” that sets it apart from previous sustainability and happiness research. Unlike previous studies, the SNfH tool provides a “new grassroots approach to apply this research,” directly involving stakeholders rather than leaving community development solely to urban planners and policy makers. The tool can be modified for changes in both physical and cultural geography, further empowering residents to make decisions about the place they call home.
The tool is focused on the neighborhood scale rather than a city scale because ultimately, cities are comprised of neighborhoods. This smaller scale takes into account the incredible diversity within cities, providing a better representation of the true state of sustainability and happiness.
The article, “The sustainable neighborhoods for happiness (SNfH) decision tool: Assessing neighborhood level sustainability and happiness” was published in November 2016 in Ecological Indicators. It is available, with limited access, here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.11.009