Understanding “Quality of Life”

After seeing Cornelia Butler Flora present at a Minnesota Rural Summit a number of years ago, I decided to look into her work in more detail. One of the things I found was a piece that she had written as Director of The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development. It was titled, “Quality of Life Versus Standard of Living,” and it presented a couple of ideas that I have found invaluable over the years when framing civic engagement conversations and strategies.

The first is that people often confuse these very different concepts: standard of living, and quality of life. Standard of living is essentially determined by how much stuff you can afford to buy. Quality of life, on the other hand, is sometimes more difficult to quantify or even articulate very easily.

My other big take away from the article was that quality of life, in all of its complexity can be measured both qualitatively and quantitatively. This is important to know because if money doesn’t buy happiness (or a high quality of life), then we should know how we might implement strategies to improve quality of life in the community and measure the impact of our actions.

Some of Flora’s more recent work has focused on the development of the Community Capitals framework, which facilitates planning for and measuring community or organizational change. Cultural capital, human capital, social capital, political capital, financial capital and built capital work together to sustain healthy ecosystems, economic security, and social well-being.  Our understanding of how these capitals inform and interact with one another is important if we are interested in holistic approaches to contributing to positive community change.

We are pleased to be co-hosting a webinar featuring Dr. Flora on Tuesday, September 27, titled, “Using the Community Capitals Framework to Understand and Measure Community Impact.”  We hope you will join us and begin to look at new ways to understand how your partnerships can contribute in meaningful ways to healthy, vibrant communities.

John Hamerlinck

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