Indicators of Community Well-Being and Ecosystem Stewardship

an epi/PSG Research Program

Drawing on cases in participatory research compiled through the Participatory Network, epi plans to bring to light the key indicators of community well-being and ecosystem stewardship. These indicators combined with ongoing participatory research are critical to peace, sustainability and to restoring the Earth's natural systems.

Participatory research is the only credible way to authenticate people and planet in the triple bottom line!

We expect for epi's Prosperity Indicator Program to also result in improved efficiency in public spending.  By augmenting socioeconomic measures with sociocultural ones, an expanded optic is likely to improve quality of life for many Americans. Community well-being and ecosystem stewardship can serve as a simple reference point for gauging 'progress', for optimizing economic development and for accelerating innovation.

We do not expect to see results overnight, but gradually future generations may see a restoration of earning power and quality of life enjoyed by their grandparents combined with optimal application of new technologies to ensure meaningful employment, excellent education and healthy communities. 

Prosperity indicators conventionally draw upon per capita income as a measure of quality of life. Recent research in many fields and our own experience clarifies that income is an inadequate target of prosperity.  Recent prosperity indicators include the Human Development Indicator, the Happiness Index and the Quality of Life Indicator.

By targeting participatory community engagement in deriving local indicators of prosperity, we expect to see substantive improvements in the implementation of management plans for forestry, recreation, public lands, environmental remediation, water quality, water distribution and more.

We expect for general indicators to strengthen the development of site-specific indicators an and improve decision making by regional electeds and stakeholders. When included in the decision set for local planning, such insights are likely to improve buy-in and moblize local cooperation in the implementation of management plans.  

An Evaluation of Research Methods in epi's Prosperity Indicator Program

epi will assess the best optics for reaching consensus on general and local indicators of community well-being and ecosystem stewardship.

When is quantitative research more useful and when does qualitative research offer more explanatory power in revealing the conditions that lead to community well-being and ecosystem stewardship?

Within the next three years, epi plans to offer training [link] in participatory research strategies that clearly delineate prosperity indicators as an objective for community planning and economic development.

Prosperity Indicators

PAR can improve resource management, water resource planning, urban planning and other planning efforts.  Through PAR, practitioners of citizen engagement can draw attention to socio-cultural patterns that contribute to sustainability.  In particular, epi works with others to develop and refine indicators of community well-being and ecosystem stewardship. 

Community Well-Being

epi’s use of the term community refers to place-based communities delimited by geographic features and landmarks, economic exchange, daily commute ranges, and eco­logical processes.  Human development indicators provide an understanding of the generalized foundations for community well-being and PAR informs site-specific expressions of those indicators.

Human communication networks form the fragile web that binds community.  This web is forged in the places local people meet and sustained in conversations.  For individuals residing in healthy communities, the well-being of others is as important to personal happiness as their own personal circumstance.  Connectedness ensures community resil­ience in the face of change.  Cultures of stewardship exemplify social connectedness and connection to nature.   We can all work toward peace, pros­perity and biodiversity on a global scale by sustaining “cultures of stewardship” on a local scale.

See powerpoint on "Cultures of Stewardship" presented at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2005 and at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference in 2009.

Ecosystem Stewardship

The sustainable ways in which local people relate to the natural world in meeting a wide range of ends including recreation, restorative experience, food production, energy production, habitat, and more. These patterns vary by community and within a community.  The purpose of participatory research on this topic is to understand habits and customs that work well so as to ensure development projects do not undermine what already works, but rather enhance those dynamics. 

See powerpoint on “Meaning of Local” presented at the International Association for Public Participation Conference in Ottawa in 2003.