Measuring What Matters for San Diego's Quality of Life

Regional dashboard connects data to inspiring sustainable actions

Did you know that in 2014 San Diego County had among the lowest bicycle commuting rates in California? Or that in 2015, we threw away the most trash compared to other counties, and we experienced almost twice as many hours of delay per driver than we did just four years ago?

Such statistics can cause concern and don’t always get communicated to the public or decision-makers effectively since data representing our quality of life are hidden in hard-to-navigate government websites and extensive spreadsheets.

Luckily, there’s a regional effort to break those statistics free of their mundane lives in databases and bring them to life in visually engaging infographics and easy-to-understand stories and solutions. The Center for Sustainable Energy’s Equinox Project is doing just that with the annual San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard.

Initiated in 2009 by a group of business owners and civic leaders, the dashboard was developed to combine a comprehensive view of environmental and economic trends with communications and outreach strategies, all aimed at advancing smart, fact-based policy in the region.

The Equinox Project’s goals are to inform, inspire and engage policymakers, decision-makers and thought leaders to take action based on the facts presented in the dashboard. The foundation of the quality of live dashboard is built on strong relationships with environmental groups, businesses and government agencies to provide a balanced snapshot of the region’s well-being. Fifteen different indicators, including air quality, water quality, energy consumption, water consumption, employment and entrepreneurship, were presented in the 2016 edition. The data was collected from more than 30 trusted partners, analyzed and then transformed into engaging graphics and presented to the public and the media.

While most people in the region believe that we can have a clean environment and a strong economy, often it isn’t until those issues are humanized and framed through the lens of their local community that the public feels connected and motivated to take action.

Informing the public is just the first step. Inspiration and engagement are the most important pieces of the effort. Even beautiful graphics representing data can fall flat without stories and solutions to provide context. Communicating opportunities to improve trends that need to be improved (like all those hours of driving delay) and identifying organizations, projects or leaders driving trends in a positive direction, helps connect the dots.

Ordinary data lacks emotional power, and emotion-based decisions without facts can lead to unnecessary consequences. Equinox Project’s dashboard hits the sweet spot of offering public data, objective analysis and inspiring images and stories to push for action.

During the past seven years, the dashboard has been presented to thousands of elected officials, business leaders and community members looking for a tool to help with their decision-making, advocacy and discussions about quality of life issues.

Lauree Sahba, chief operating officer of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation stated that the dashboard “is a powerful resource to help us think strategically about how our quality of life can be a competitive differentiator to nurture job growth.” Sherri Lightner, San Diego city councilmember, said that Equinox Project “has a reputation for common sense approaches to complex problems,” and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer added it “is a sustainability thought leader that produces research on issues important to our region and quality of life.”

Like our region’s top leaders, we’d like you to take a moment to look at the 2016 San Diego Regional Quality of Life Dashboard to see what issues are important to you, and learn more about how you can take action to make your community a better place to live, work and play.

Many small impactful actions within communities, locally and around the county, can add up to very significant and lasting change.

About Stephen Heverly
Stephen was our former manage for the Equinox Project.