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Susan Kistler on the OECD Better Life Index

My name is Susan Kistler. I am the Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association and author of aea365’s Saturday posts. Today, I wanted to call to your attention the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index (BLI).

OECD launched the BLI in May, describing it as a “new, interactive index that will let people measure and compare their lives in a way that goes beyond traditional GDP [gross domestic product].” The BLI compares 34 countries on 11 dimensions – housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance.

Rad Resource: Use the BLI at http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/. Go ahead, click the link, and explore. The interactive format made me want to learn more about my own country, how it compared to other countries, and the basis for the ratings. Be sure to click on a specific country to find out about what went into the ratings, and to create your own index by giving different weightings to each dimension to see what happens to the graphic.

Lesson Learned: Exploring the BLI made me consider critical questions, in particular,

  • What measures really matter to stakeholders? An article from the designers, “Designing Your Better Life Index from a Methodological Perspective” expanded my understanding of the decisions that went into indicator selection.
  • How can we report on measures in ways that allows stakeholders to prioritize what is most important for them?
  • Would reporting similar to the BLI be feasible with resources that are more modest than those of the OECD and what tools might we use to make that happen? (consider adding your ideas via comments)

Lesson Learned: Those interested in data visualization may find the BLI valuable as a case study. It is sleek, customizable, and intuitive. The design has garnered considerable attention, and generally very positive reviews for both its accuracy and aesthetic.

Rad Resource: Mortiz Stefaner, one of the designers, talks through the design decisions and variations via this great video. http://ow.ly/5kOs5

Rad Resource: Bryan Connor, blogger at The Why Axis, (a must-read blog for those into thoughtful analysis of data visualization), critiqued the Better Life Index earlier this week. http://thewhyaxis.info/oecd/

Lesson Learned: The BLI is certainly not perfect. Limited only to 34, primarily developed, countries, a large portion of the world is left out. The designers note that a major limitation was identifying the data needed for a country to be included. Other observers feel that the 11 dimensions still cannot fully capture what is truly important to a populace, such as social networks that sustain relationships, and freedom of speech. A few of the critiques may be found here: http://ow.ly/5mD9S

The above is my opinion and does not necessarily represent that of AEA. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Susan Kistler on the OECD Better Life Index”

  1. Pingback: Susan Kistler on Inspiration and Education for Data Visualization · AEA365

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