In a year unlike any our nation has previously faced, 2020 began by taking us at whiplash speed through a series of connected, compounding crises—any one of which could take years to recover from.
And while no single measure can possibly capture how we are experiencing these crises, one reliable indicator begins to tell the story: thriving.
Thriving is our north star.
Our best hope for equitable recovery and resilience is to organize local and nationwide action around a single unifying and measurable expectation: All people and places thriving—no exceptions.
Thriving conveys our commitment to create communities where all people have a fair chance to participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.
What Will It Take for Everyone to Thrive Together?
The Art & Science of Thriving Together
Over the past several decades, the art and science of designing systems for thriving has matured into a vibrant frontier of knowledge, policy, and practice. Other countries, as well as a growing group of cities and major institutions, have embraced equitable well-being as their chief concern, backed by budget authority and transparent living standards. More remains to be discovered, but the work of advancing well-being for people and places is becoming increasingly practical.
What is well-being?
It helps to distinguish two related ways of viewing well-being:
Personal Experiences: Individual perspectives and experiences that affect how we think, feel, and function, as well as how we evaluate our lives as a whole.
Vital Conditions: Properties of places and institutions that we all depend on to reach our potential.
Our freedom to thrive depends on having a consistent set of vital conditions, such as clean air, fair pay, humane housing, early education, routine health care, and other pragmatic necessities. Personal experiences may rise and fall from birth to death. However, vital conditions persist over generations.
Our single best measure of well-being is Cantril’s Ladder. This simple two question scale asks people to rate their well-being on a ladder from 0 (worst possible life) to 10 (best possible life), both now and in five years. When combined, those ratings reveal who feels they are thriving, struggling, or suffering.
This measure is routinely tracked both across the US and around the world by groups such as Gallup, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the World Happiness Report, which enables standardized comparisons over time and geography. Gallup alone has polled more than 3 million people over the last decade.
Vital Conditions for Well-Being and Justice
Vital conditions are the properties of places and institutions that we all depend on to reach our full potential.Vital-Conditions-Summary-Table
Vital conditions shape the exposures, choices, opportunities, and adversities that we each encounter throughout our lives. Each vital condition is distinct and indispensable. Together, they form an interdependent system that shapes opportunities for people and places to thrive.