About Thriving Places Wales

Thriving Places Wales is based on Happy City’s ground-breaking Thriving Places Index, which measures how well areas are doing at growing the conditions for equitable, sustainable wellbeing. Data Cymru have worked with Happy City, and the five Public Service Boards across Gwent, to adapt the tool for the different context and data available in Wales.

It is designed to provide a robust reporting framework to support decision-makers in local areas to improve lives on the ground and to help shift the focus, place by place, towards measuring what matters.

The work is based on many years development work in consultation with experts from around the world, academics, practitioners and diverse local communities The conditions included in the framework are what have been shown to be most important for individuals, communities and areas to thrive. They define sustainable well-being as providing equal opportunities to thrive for present and future generations. Thriving Places Wales offers an alternative view of well-being compared to financial and deprivation-based indices.

Thriving Places Wales uses a broad range of 55 measures that reflect the increasing understanding that well-being is a multi-dimensional concept, determined by many diverse factors. These factors tend to be causally connected to each other to create a ‘web’ of conditions that impact on people’s well-being.

Thriving Places Wales has been developed in partnership between Data Cymru and Happy City, and is based on Happy City’s Thriving Places Index.

In broad terms, Thriving Places Wales is designed to ask a fundamental question - What is it all for? What are politics, economics, business, education, health services, community, civil society for? What are we all trying to achieve? Clarity on the answer to this question enables us to design our economy, our political and public life, our public services, our communities and the streets we live in, to deliver.

Thriving Places Wales puts the conditions for well-being at the heart, but also gives equal importance to growing a more equitable distribution of those conditions and ensuring they are delivered in a way that does not compromise the capacity for future generations to thrive. It has been designed as a practical tool, that can be used to help leaders who want to ensure the sum of all our efforts is a better life for today’s and tomorrow’s generations.

Thriving Places Wales is designed to show how well areas fairly and sustainably provide the conditions that create well-being.

Based on the Thriving Places Index model developed by Happy City and used for the English upper tier local authority areas, the set of measures used in Thriving Places Wales have been developed by Happy City, Data Cymru and the five Gwent Public Service Boards to reflect the Welsh context and the availability of suitable data sources. 25 of the measures used in England are available for Welsh local authority areas from the same source. The remaining 30 measures in Thriving Places Wales are not used in the English Index.

The measures used are grouped into three dimensions – Local conditions, Equality and Sustainability (Level 1).

The Local conditions dimension is divided into five domains – Place and environment; Mental and physical health; Education and learning; Work and local economy; and People and community (Level 2).

The five domains in Local conditions and the Equality and Sustainability dimensions are further divided into 25 sub-domains (Level 3).

Each sub-domain is made up of one or more measures. There are 55 measures in total.

Local authority areas scores are calculated for each dimension, domain and sub-domain.

Thriving Places Wales uses z-scores to ‘normalise’ the data to create the measures.

The z-scores are converted to a scale between 0 and 10, with 5 representing the Wales average. A score of 10 indicates exceptionally good conditions for well-being and a score of 0 indicates exceptionally poor conditions for well-being. Any z-scores more than 3.5 standard deviations away from the mean are considered outliers and their scores are capped at either 0 or 10. Thriving Places Wales only contains one measure (CO2 emissions in Neath Port Talbot) that has been capped.

Scores are shown in five bands:

  • higher than 6.5;
  • 5.5 to 6.5;
  • 4.5 to 5.5;
  • 3.5 to 4.5; and
  • less than 3.5.

Thriving Places Wales covers both urban and rural local authority areas. A separate index for rural and urban areas is not appropriate in Wales because many local authority areas include both rural and urban areas. As much of the data used is not available at a geography lower than local authority, Thriving Places Wales cannot be calculated for smaller areas.

The conditions that create well-being will be different for urban and rural areas. For example, the extent to which citizens walk or cycle to work, in comparison to using ‘non-active’ transport (e.g. driving a car) is likely to be greater in urban areas than rural areas. This does not necessarily mean that rural areas will be doing worse than urban areas in this respect. Such consideration will be important when interpreting the results and comparing the scores of different local authority areas.

Thriving Places Wales joins existing measures of local conditions in Wales, most notably the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD). WIMD is an established index that provides a robust assessment of the areas where there are concentrations of people experiencing deprivation. Its strength lies in the fact that it can do so down to the Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) geography.

Thriving Places Wales is not intended to compete with or replace WIMD. Instead it is complementary to WIMD in understanding well-being locally. It can help identify thriving places, rather than focusing only on concentrations of deprivation. It includes assets, rather than just deficits. Some of the indicators used in WIMD are also used as measures in the Thriving Places Wales, albeit at the local authority level.

As might be expected, the two indices correlate very strongly. As complementary indices, together they provide a fuller picture of local well-being.

In Wales we also have a national indicator set. This set has been developed for measuring the nation’s progress towards the achievement of the seven well-being goals. While having a national focus, some of the national indictors are available at a local authority area geography. Where appropriate, these have also been used as measures in Thriving Places Wales.

Across the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is also looking at well-being data. This work is part of their Measuring National Well-being programme, which looks at societal and personal well-being. The programme includes measurements of individuals across 43 indicators covering health, relationships, education and skills, what people do, where they live, their finances and environment.

Thriving Places Wales is a place-based tool. It is designed to be used by those interested in local places - to explore local strengths and needs, to help guide decisions and make priorities around a shared framework of progress. While it usefully facilitates comparisons between areas, this is not its key purpose.

Thriving Places Wales is a practical tool for implementing local policy and action that delivers on well-being. When embedded in local processes, it can be a powerful influence on the shape of local development. By assessing the conditions for thriving communities at a ‘whole-place’ level, different local actors – from civil society, local government, academia and business, to citizens and small community groups – can collaboratively tackle even very entrenched problems. It provides a consistent and comparable way of agreeing, measuring and tracking progress towards shared goals, a ‘common currency’ across and between sectors and geographies.

It is not designed as a performance framework tool. The measures cover many different services and different providers at a local, regional, national and international level. Thriving Places Wales does not measure the success, or otherwise, of individual organisations in Wales and it should not be used as a league table of local authority performance.

Thriving Places Wales should not be used to directly compare areas in Wales with areas in the Thriving Places Index for England. The methodology used in each country is the same, but different measures are used to construct the sub-domain, domain and dimension scores.

We will be publishing further details about the construction of the tool, the measures used and the methodology employed. In the meantime, please use the contact us facility in this tool if you have any questions.

We plan to continue to add content to this website in the coming months. This content will include more detail on the methodology, the measures, more analysis of the scores in Thriving Places Wales (including bespoke analysis, for instance on the relationship between urban and rural areas), and papers to provide support and guidance to users.

Thriving Places Wales is currently constructed using 55 measures. Updates to these measures are available at different times through the year.

We plan to update Thriving Places Wales annually, in line with developments to the overall Thriving Places Index updates. The timing of this update will consider the timings of the updates for individual measures among other factors. The first update is planned for early 2019.

We expect future releases of Thriving Places Wales to make use of new and improved data sources as they become available. We will also want to reflect any further work undertaken to develop the Index in England, where this is appropriate for the Welsh context.

Happy City Logo

The charity and social enterprise was set up in 2010 to challenge the belief that economic growth was the only measure of success in society. It offers a place-based model of change that puts the wellbeing of current and future generations centre stage. It does this by developing new measures of progress and delivering training, projects and campaigns to help embed them into how places work. Based in Bristol, Happy City is now working with organisations large and small from the public, private and community sector, right around the UK.

Their Happy City Index was piloted in 2016, and covered nine cities across England. This Index was revised in 2017 into the Thriving Places Index, which gathered data at an upper-tier local authority level in England.

The Index was a collaboration between Happy City and New Economics Foundation with input from academics and policy makers across the UK.

This model was then adapted by the Public Service Boards representing the five local authority areas in Gwent in partnership with Happy City and Data Cymru to form the model used in Gwent, and subsequently to create Thriving Places Wales.

For more information see the main website here http://www.happycity.org.uk/

Or the Thriving Places Index website here http://www.thrivingplacesindex.org/