Opinion: Does this measure matter?
In our January 21 issue, I wrote about Sechelt’s place in this year’s ranking of “British Columbia’s most economically resilient communities.” The answer was thirteen out of 50. Does this result and the scoring system itself measure what really matters when it comes to resilience?
What does comparing one community to another really tell us? With the scored criteria determined by others, is this a snapshot of progress on what each community considers important for its future? Or is it akin to a magazine or social media survey to calculate your “completed bucket list items” or “iconic destinations visited”: a momentary distraction that gauges your contribution against that that a random list identifies as a “must do” or “iconic”. ”. Grab it to see how you compare, share it if you like, or forget it and move on.
The metrics used by research firm Environics Analytics to create the list aligned well with parts of the Sechelt Council’s current strategic plan. The first consideration in both was economic prosperity. According to the results of this year’s survey, households in Sechelt are doing well financially compared to those in other communities. This sample of “households” does not include those who are homeless. While the same measurement criteria applied to all the communities surveyed, taking into account the situation of people without a fixed address could give a different picture.
Other similarities between what the elected officials of Sechelt set themselves as objectives to achieve and the criteria measured by the survey were related to the growth and habitability of the community. But in ratings growth, is higher always better? According to the survey; Yes. Judging by comments at recent public hearings that I covered in Sechelt and elsewhere on the coast, this is not always the case.
Assessing softer metrics like a “sense of community belonging” is a little trickier, but in my opinion, essential for assessing how a community is navigating in these turbulent times. Although this is a recurring theme in municipal strategic plans, measures on these elements have only been added in the last two years to the resilience assessment process.
Since the survey compared local government areas, I was surprised that criteria such as the financial and structural health of municipalities were not assessed. Details on changes in property tax rates, municipal debt levels and financial reserves, infrastructure deficits and staff turnover are available. Collating data on these criteria into a rating could provide insight into how well local governments are managing public resources. In Sechelt (and many other local government areas), the strategic plan aims to improve performance in these areas, as an area for which they have clear responsibility. This strikes me as an important and measurable theme of resilience that was missing from the survey (and I made this comment to the research firm).
Each community is unique. Everyone has their own sources of pride, problems and challenges as well as the aspirations they are working towards.
A comparative survey is like a snapshot. It shows how all-inclusive appeared at any given time and can be distorted by whoever is behind the lens. Whether this metric really matters depends on how much weight we give to these thoughts. When I consider resilience, I think communities need to look at themselves and what they need to do to prepare for the future. To quote Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest surviving species, nor the most intelligent, but the one that best adapts to change.”