Thriving Places Index challenges outdated GDP measurement

Liz Zeidler Happy City

We measure our economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), but this simplistic approach does not tell us much about quality of life. To help local authorities truly understand and improve the conditions for people to thrive, Greenhouse PR has been working with Bristol-based charity Happy City and Triodos Bank to launch the Thriving Places Index.

The Thriving Places Index is most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of local authorities’ ability to create the conditions for people to thrive. Data from 150 local authorities in England was assessed against three main categories – local conditions, sustainability and equality – supported by 48 separate indicators including health, education and work.

England’s wellbeing divide

Overall, the index reveals both a North-South divide and some stark urban-rural differences. All 11 local authorities with the lowest scores for local conditions are urban. From a regional perspective, the South East achieved the highest scores for local conditions, in contrast to the lowest scores in the North East region.

Three local authorities in the South East of England – Wokingham, Buckinghamshire and Surrey – top the table for local conditions. Bath & North-East Somerset is the highest scoring local authority overall as the only area to achieve an above-average score for all three main categories.

However, all parts of England show some areas for improvement. Happy City is calling on all local authorities to embed the Thriving Places Index in their own systems of measurement and use it to benchmark progress and encourage greater collaboration.

Creating a local buzz around the Thriving Places Index

Greenhouse PR was responsible for creating a powerful narrative around the data. Having developed media assets which highlighted the national picture and the findings from across the UK, we worked with journalists from TV, radio, online and print to help them understand the data and build strong stories.

The story has been covered by newspapers across the country, as journalists examined the Index’s findings for their area. On the launch day regional coverage included Devon Live, the Bristol Post, the Bath Chronicle, the Surrey Advertiser, the Midlands’ Express & Star, the Leicester Mercury and the Newcastle Chronicle. In many regions, local government representatives commented on the findings. The Index was also covered in several local government publications including Public Finance and LocalGov.

Happy City’s founding director Liz Zeidler was also interviewed by several local news programmes. On television this included BBC Points West, the BBC North West Breakfast Show and BBC East Midlands Today. She was also interviewed on LBC, BBC Radio Nottingham, BBC Radio Mersyside and BBC Radio Sheffield.

On Twitter, Greenhouse also helped create a debate about measuring the things that matter with endorsements from prominent economists, policy makers, activists and thinkers.

The Thriving Places Index was launched at the Local Government Association in London. The event featured inspiring speeches from people actively working to improve wellbeing across the UK, including Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales; Karen Creavin, Chief Executive of the Active Wellbeing Society in Birmingham; and Bevis Watts, Managing Director of Triodos Bank UK.

Time for change

The Thriving Places Index comes at a time when increasing numbers of economists are calling for new ways of measuring economic success. GDP’s failings came under fire just last month at the World Economic Forum, with economist Diane Coyle criticising its disregard for environmental impacts.

One of the biggest criticisms of GDP is that it often ignores inequalities. According to a recent report, 82% of all of the wealth created in 2017 – enough to end global poverty seven times over – went to the richest one per cent.

The Index gives local authorities a practical tool to help leaders address some of these issues, ultimately leading to a better quality of life for citizens now and in the future. For more information and to download the full report, visit:

The Thriving Places report launch was supported by Triodos Bank, a global pioneer in sustainable banking which only finances projects with positive social, environmental and cultural impact.

Greenhouse PR is proud to work with organisations that are questioning existing norms of how we measure growth and offering solutions to the big challenges we face. If your business is looking to communicate an idea which will deliver positive change and growth, we’d love to hear from you.