Sustainable community indicators is a topic that sounds more difficult than it really is. What
it really comes down to is this:
These are all issues of concern for a sustainable community.
- What is the quality of life for all members--human and non-human--of a community now?
- How does the quality of life compare to life in the past and in the future?
- How do we measure quality of life?
- Do people have good jobs that pay for their basic needs?
- Is environmental quality a health concern?
- How involved are people in making their community a better place to work, play and
Sustainable community issues include issues of health, education, welfare, economy,
environment, transportation, public safety... in short, all the different parts that, together,
make up a community. Together, with all our diverse needs and desires, we all make up
Creating sustainable communities requires that we understand how our needs and desires
are intertwined: a healthy economy helps to make housing affordable; environmental
quality affects human health; poverty and health affect how well students learn; well educated
workers are necessary for a healthy economy. All these different issues and needs are linked.
Together we need to find ways to meet those needs so that our communities can continue to
improve and prosper.
There are five primary purposes for this workshop:
This is meant to be an interactive session, not a lecture. If you have questions,
please feel free to ask them. Remember that there are no dumb questions, only things that
haven't been explained well enough. This is not rocket science. Sustainability is
something that everyone can understand.
- To give each of you a common understanding of the meaning of some terms related to
sustainability, such as: sustainable community, sustainable development, sustainable community
indicators, community capital, and weak and strong sustainability;
- To help you see how your professional or personal concerns are linked to
other issues in ways you may not have considered before;
- To show you all the ways that indicators can be used to help move a community
- To provide you with information and materials so that you can go back to your
organizations and constituents and help them understand how to move towards a sustainable
- To provide you with examples of other communities that are working on issues of
Now I would like to go around the room and have each of you give your
name, the type of organization you represent, and a short phrase (2 to
7 words total) that describes the issue that you think is key to
quality of life. "Sustainable communities" or "Sustainability" is not
an appropriate answer; the purpose is to get specific topic areas.
(Note: The facilitator or helper writes each issue on a flip chart at
the front of the room. The facilitator should go first to show by
example that the issue statement is to be kept brief. For example,
the facilitator might say, "My name is Maureen Hart and I work for the
Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. For me, quality of life is
having clean water to drink and clean air to breathe." Other examples
include: time with family, recreation, green space, a good job, and
good health. This has to be kept short, particularly if there are
more than 15 people present since this part of the workshop should take less than
20 minutes. If people start to take too long, gently remind them that
you are looking for a 2 to 7 word phrase.
The purpose of this introduction period is three-fold: First, to give
the presenter an idea of the interests of the group. Participants'
answers can direct the presenter toward specific examples to use
throughout the day. Second, the introduction allows everyone
attending to understand the wide range of topics that are involved in
quality of life issues. Third, the list of topics will be used as a
basis for group exercises later in the day.
Some participants may come up with general phrases that could mean
many different things to different people. Examples include: economic
progress, economic opportunity, economic growth. The participants
should be asked to elaborate on exactly what they mean by the phrase;
for example, jobs for everyone, good income, etc.
Once everyone has had a turn, ask the group to look at the list of
types of organizations represented and identify the types of organizations
who are not represented. Categories may include: youth, homeless, low
income families, arts, business, developers, religion, and the medical
The first thing every group needs to realize is that sustainability
projects are most successful if they represent a very diverse cross
section of the community. This may make dialogue more difficult
initially, while trust and respect are built, but diversity is very
necessary. If there is time, have the group discuss ways to bring
those not represented to the table.)