EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

3.4. Social Metrics


3.4. Social Metrics

According to the Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS):

"Social sustainability occurs when the formal and informal processes; systems; structures; and relationships actively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and livable communities. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected and democratic and provide a good quality of life."

When we talk about environmental metrics, we focus on well-being of environment; when we talk about economic metrics, we focus on well-being of economy. Hence, the social metrics should be measures of well-being of society or particular groups of people involved as stakeholders. While understanding the importance of sustainable development, people do not still want to give up wealth, capabilities, convenience of life. Although changes in lifestyles and consumption habits can be considered a necessary sacrifice, social analysis seeks to reveal the ways of social transformation that would be less stressful, yet more efficient in reaching sustainability goals. Comparison of different avenues for development would require establishing social metrics.

The following dimensions can be identified in the social context:

Quality of life - basic needs are met and a good quality of life for all members is fostered at the individual, group, and community level (e.g., health, housing, education, employment, safety).

When evaluating a technology project, one can use the following questions as a checklist to see how the development affects or improves:

  • affordable and appropriate housing opportunities for the target group;
  • physical health outcomes for the target group;
  • mental health outcomes for the target group;
  • education, training, and skill development opportunities for the target group;
  • employment opportunities for the target group;
  • access to transport for the target group;
  • ability of the target group to meet their basic needs;
  • safety and security for the target group;
  • access to community amenities and facilities for the target group.

Equity - equitable opportunities and outcomes for all its members, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community.

Check how the technology project will:

  • reduce disadvantage for the target group;
  • assist the target group to have more control over their lives, socially and economically;
  • identify the causes of disadvantage and inequality and look for ways to reduce them;
  • identify and aim to meet the needs of any particularly disadvantaged and marginalized people within the target group;
  • be delivered without bias and promote fairness.

Diversity – co-existence of different viewpoints, practices, ethnic, cultural, racial groups in the community.

Check how the technology project will:

  • identify diverse groups within the target group and look at ways to meet their particular needs;
  • recognize diversity within cultural, ethnic, and racial groups;
  • allow for diverse viewpoints, beliefs, and values to be taken into consideration;
  • promote understanding and acceptance within the broader community of diverse backgrounds, cultures, and life circumstances.

Interconnected/Social cohesions – establishment of processes, systems, and structures that promote connectedness within and outside the community at the formal, informal, and institutional level.

Check how the technology project will:

  • help the target group to develop a sense of belonging in the broader community;
  • increase participation in social activities by individuals in the target group;
  • improve the target groups’ understanding of and access to public and civic institutions;
  • build links between the target group and other groups in the broader community;
  • result in the provision of increased support to the target group by the broader community;
  • encourage the target group to contribute towards the community or provide support for others.

Democracy and governance – ensuring democratic processes and open and accountable governance structures.

Check how the technology project will:

  • allow for a diverse range of people (especially the target group) to participate and be represented in decision-making processes;
  • facilitate a clear decision-making process understandable by staff and stakeholders;
  • have a budget sufficient to ensure adequate delivery by qualified, trained staff;
  • ensure that the use of volunteers is appropriate and properly governed;
  • have duration sufficient to achieve the desired outcomes;
  • have Plan B - what will happen when the project ceases.

Maturity - an individual accepts the responsibility of consistent growth and improvement through broader social attributes (e.g., communication styles, behavioral patterns, indirect education, and philosophical explorations).

Check how the technology project will:

  • be dependent on the responsible decisions of individuals in the target group;
  • require additional knowledge and education of stakeholders.

Most of the social metrics are hard to quantify. In assessments, we have to develop a rubric that explains the low and high values on metric scale and choose a reference system for consistent comparison.