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March 1, 2013

RAND Is Helping Santa Monica Measure the City's Overall Well-Being

The RAND Corporation is helping its hometown of Santa Monica, Calif., become the first city in America to use a measurement of overall well-being to drive public policy.

The effort represents Santa Monica's entry in the Bloomberg Philanthropies' Mayors Challenge, which asks cities to find unique ways to address the most daunting problems facing American communities. The winning city receives $5 million and four others will get $1 million each.

"The idea of a well-being index hits RAND's sweet spot in that we can help create a system that evaluates large amounts of data that measure economic, social, civic, and health well-being," says Anita Chandra, who is leading RAND's role in the effort.

Rather than creating new data sources, the well-being index will use a wide variety of already-existing data, including crime rates, unemployment rates, traffic patterns, school attendance records.

When the project is complete, Santa Monica's city government will incorporate the index into its policy and resource allocation decisions. If the index shows, for example, that one-third of Santa Monica's ninth graders feel isolated and disconnected, the city's human services manager would consult with educational partners to identify proven methods of strengthening teen resiliency.

Pinpointing such problems could also encourage more targeted involvement by social and private-sector organizations.

The city expects that the index could also boost public awareness of well-being and of measures that people can take to improve their own well-being.

In a separate competition, the Huffington Post is asking its readers to vote by March 6 for their favorite entrant among the 20 finalists in the Mayors Challenge. The winner of The Huffington Post Fan Favorite Contest will win $50,000.