Gross National Happiness Objective Indicators PDF Print E-mail

We are developing objective indicators for the Happiness Initiative. The purpose of the objective indicators are to provide a whole picture of the well being of our area along the 9 domains of happiness.  As with the survey, the objective indicators are relevant to any city or region.

PRELIMINARY Happiness Index Objective Indicators.
This set of objective indicators complements survey results to provide a comprehensive assessment of the well being of a region. We recognize the indicators are not perfect and plan to review the selection as data becomes more available, allowing for better indicators.  We are developing data for the indicators and secondary indicators to portray a fuller picture within a domain. The methodology for the indicators is below. Data will be posted by the middle of 2011.

Material Well-being

  • Poverty Rate
  • County Gross Domestic Product

Environmental Quality

  • Green House Gas Emissions
  • Air Quality (VOC emissions recorded in National Inventory Emissions Data)
  • Solid Waste


  • Voter turnout as a percent of eligible voters
  • Tax fairness: Income tax and consumption taxes: percent of total taxes paid by income levels


  • High School graduation rates
  • Government spending on early education: K-8

Community Vitality  

  • Volunteer rates
  • Violent Crime rates

Cultural Vitality

  • Multi-racial neighborhoods (gentrification, social cohesion, inclusiveness)
  • Public funding of arts and sports

Psychological Health

  • Domestic Violence Rates (child and spouse)
  • Rates of mental illness per 1000 populations (issue of undiagnosed, of changes of definition in DSM)

Human Health

  • Health Index from Mapping of America ( life expectancy, infant mortality and people without health insurance)
  • Obesity

Time Balance

  • Commute time (Mean Commute Time)
  • Work Time (extreme working hours, 50 a week or over, average annual hours of work, vacation days)

Objective Indicator Methodology
The objective indicator team began with our fourth set of regional sustainability indicators to collect indicators, then looked at other local and non-local indicator projects. We organized the indicators along the domains using the criteria of fit and data availability. We used a two pronged approach to narrow the indicators for each domain: Crowd sourcing  with non-experts and a relational survey of experts. Crowd sourcing was done reaching out to the non-expert and asking them to rate each indicator for fit to the domain using High, Medium or Low scores.  A relational survey was conduced to gauge the affinity of the indicators within a domain with the other domains as well as aspects of sustainability, well-being and compassion not explicit in the 9 domains.  Experts previously engaged in Sustainable Seattle and other organizations indicator work were surveyed.

The team then narrowed the indicators down to 2 main indicators for each domain with 5-7 other indicators. A technical review committee was formed. They were chosen for their expertise in one of the 9 domains.  They were surveyed to determine whether the indicators fit the criteria and were the right indicator to show the whole picture when coupled with survey results. The team made the final selection of indicators based on technical review committee responses. The team collected data.

Our criteria for indicators selection was:

  • o Replicable – useful for any city
  • o Reliable – creation & data gathering
  • o Consistent –year to year & form (apples to apples)
  • o Timely – data for the current time period
  • o Understandable – for all people
  • o Relevant – reflect reality of users
  • o Scalable- small-scale analysis
  • o Useful – can you do something? can policy be changed? can it guide planners?
  • o Simple – easy to use
  • o Honest – about the issue and the purpose

Objective Indicator Technical Review Committee:

A review of objective indicators by experts representing the 9 domains of happiness is currently underway. If you would like to be considered for  the technical review committee, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Lance Bennett
Olof Palme Visiting Chair
Department of Political Science, Stockholm University
Professor of Political Science and
Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication
University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Director, Center for Communication & Civic Engagement

Karin de Weille
New World Habits Exchange Founder

Abigail Echo-Hawk
Seattle Woman's Commissioner
University of Washington Tribal Liaison for the Institute for Translational Health Sciences

Tim Jones
Instructor of Political Science and International Studies at Bellevue College

Barbara Lawrence-Piecuch M.B.A.
Suquamish Tribe
Child Support Enforcement
Program Assistant/Case Manager

Lang Marsh
EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.
Former Director of the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality.
Former Commissioner and Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Former director of the Government Law Center at Albany Law School

Next Generation Consulting

Donald Miller
Professor of College of Built Environments, University of Washington
Chair of the Ninth International Symposium on Urban Planning and Environment at Sun Yat-Sen University

Rebecca Ryan
Next Generation Consulting

Vicki Robin
Vicki Robin & Associates

Alex Suarez Ph.D., M.S.C.P.
Antioch University Seattle

Objective Indicator Team:

Ken Cousins, PhD
Ken Cousins has a Ph.D. in the Politics of Natural Resource and the Environment, and an M.A. in Political Economy (both from the University of Maryland), as well as a B.A. in Ecological Agriculture from The Evergreen State College. His work focuses broadly on sustainability issues, including the global dynamics of green markets and social labeling, ecological economics, and mapping activist networks. He has been active in the sustainability movement for over two decades, working with the Forest Stewardship Council-US, GreenFestival, Sustainable Cascadia, Eat Local Now!, and Seattle Innovators, as well as Seattle-based SCALLOPS affiliates and Transition Network groups. He believes sustainability – broadly realized – is necessary for a healthy, just, and vibrant civil society.

Mario Sanchez, MS Information Management
Mario joins Sustainable Seattle as the group undertakes its latest Happiness initiative! His main interest resides in designing information solutions that are value-sensitive within their context, allowing him to fill his need to dwell on the chaotic interplay of concerns in the domains of information systems architecture, information aggregation, knowledge value creation, workflow process utilization, interface usability, and business intelligence.  He is a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Information Management program at The Information School of the University of Washington.  After a 10+ year career at Amazon.com, taking on progressive responsibility analyzing, managing and optimizing workflows, he's focusing his time on structuring a process change management outsourcing concern, SPAKL Designs. Mario's collaboration in HI is founded in: wanting to exploit the complex information relationships that arise from the survey responses; understand how responses are tied to Indicators and Dimensions of Happiness; and, realize how public agency stakeholders could leverage these opinions to base policy changes.

Jim Cory
Cory is the founder of and lead analyst at Horizon Mapping, providing consulting services to nonprofits regarding web development and mapping online. Before 2008 he worked for the commercial GIS consulting firm GeoAnalytics, Inc, where he designed and built spatial databases and wrote programs to integrate enterprise databases. Prior to that he worked at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources doing GIS database and application development. 

Andrew Cozin
Andrew relocated to Seattle in 2009 after receiving a degree in Environmental Studies from Ramapo College in New Jersey. At college he organized a rideshare database, and helped conduct a CO2 baseline analysis for the school. As a member of the Student Sustainability Task Force he worked to bring energy and cost saving solutions to his college campus. He is a huge fan of melodically dissonant rock and jazz music, and enjoys reading non-fiction books in his spare time. Originally a drummer, Andrew has since picked up guitar and composes his own music.

Tim Flynn
Tim graduated Cum Laude from Arizona State University with a major in Sustainability, concentrating  on ecosystem ecology.  He has experience working in conservation management, trial maintenance, and habitat restoration. Tim has also worked with municipalities handling more administrative tasks such as community involvement, grant writing, and educational outreach. While completing an internship with the city of Tempe, AZ Tim assisted in the implementation of a pilot composting/green waste program.  Reporting directly to the senior management and presenting findings to the AZRC (Arizona Recycling Coalition). Tim has always had a love for the outdoors and was taught at a young age to respect nature and all that surrounds us. Tim is an avid outdoor sports enthusiast who enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee, hiking, biking, camping, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and exploring the back trails.

Laura Musikanski, Sustainable Seattle Executive Director
Laura is a lawyer with an MBA and certificates in Environmental Management and Environmental Law and Regulations from the University of Washington. She was an entrepreneur for over fifteen years, launching a product that supported her family and spurred the generation of other small businesses along the West Coast. Laura spearheaded a program to integrate sustainability into business school curricula in the Northwest, founded a club for second career students at her law school, and volunteers as a CASA, advocating for neglected  and abused children and Gay and Lesbian Liberation Front, an advocacy organization for African LGBT community. She has also volunteered at New Beginnings-Ending Domestic Violence.

John de Graaf, Take Back Your Time, Executive Director
John de Graaf is a documentary filmmaker with more than 15 national PBS specials, including the popular, Affluenza. The De Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, named for him, is presented annually at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, California.   He is the co-author of the best-seller Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic (now in ten languages) and the editor of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America.  John is the Executive Director of Take Back Your Time and also serves on the board of the national environmental organization, Earth Island Institute.  He was the founder of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival and is currently writing a new book, What's the Economy For Anyway? (Bloomsbury, 2011).  He has taught at The Evergreen State College. For Sustainable Seattle, he is the co-coordinator of the Seattle Area Happiness Initiative.

Eldan Goldenberg, Sustainable Seattle Director of Operations and Sustainability Training And Resources
Eldan comes to Sustainable Seattle with experience as a training manager at EOS Alliance, and as a teacher of I.T. skills to jobseekers.  Along the way, he earned a Master's in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems, and rode a bike around New Zealand.  When he's not at work, Eldan tries to spend as much time as possible hiking, sailing and skiing around Cascadia, and photographing everything.


Objective Indicator Technical Review Committee:
Coming Soon


If you would like to be part of this project, please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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