A GLOWING footprint: Developing an index of wellbeing for low to middle income countries

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Susan J. Elliott
Jenna Dixon
Elijah Bisung
Joseph Kangmennaang


Our world faces unprecedented, intense and rapid change. As such, it is difficult to fathom how we might monitor related impacts on the wellbeing of population(s) affected. In the past, the world has typically relied upon measures of economic health or wellbeing such as gross domestic product (GDP). As the world ends its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and embarks on a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, questions about where we as a global society should continue our investments in wellbeing and efforts to measure those outcomes are now up for debate. These questions are particularly poignant for those populations most vulnerable to change: low to middle income countries (LMICs). This paper reviews existing “beyond GDP” measures of population wellbeing as a foundation for developing a truly global index of wellbeing (GLOWING) that can be used by LMICs to document change, and measure the impact of policy, across space and over time. The paper describes a proposed index of wellbeing that is simple, meaningful, and built on the use of available secondary data at the ecological level. It is built on the foundation of the innovative Canadian Index of Wellbeing, and hinges on plans for a proof of concept inEast Africafollowed by a scaling up, all of which is founded on the twin pillars of capacity building and empowerment.

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Author Biography

Susan J. Elliott, University of Waterloo

Full Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Management; cross appointed to the School of Public Health and Health Systems