Pulse Framework & Background


More than just a survey, The Happiness Pulse is a truly ground-breaking, alternative measure combining academic rigour, technology and community engagement in a highly interactive process. It engages, informs and enables people to transform their own lives, in simple, low-cost, low-carbon, high-happiness ways.

The Happiness Pulse, is an accessible, informative online tool that measures three key areas of personal wellbeing: how people feel (BE), how they act (DO) and how they relate to others (CONNECT), as well as exploring how citizens engage with life in their city.   It is designed to be engaging and informative for individuals whilst giving vital data to business, community and city leaders on how they can better support improvements in wellbeing

Together these elements help paint a detailed picture of how people are feeling and functioning in their lives and communities. This information can then be used to drive better decision making at an individual, community and city scale.

Within each element there are validated indicators to assess the key elements that together make up our overall wellbeing.

For more details on the original philosophy underpinning the Happiness Pulse and our 2016 piloting of the survey click here.

For an overview and explanation of our question selection and sources, together with our scoring formula click here

Background to the Happiness Pulse

There is growing interest in a greater focus on wellbeing, with a widening evidence base demonstrating the strong links between wellbeing, resilience and success.  Research consistently demonstrates the impact of wellbeing on both positive outcomes such as education, health, self care, independence, productivity, confidence, pro-social behaviours and employment, as well as it’s safeguarding qualities against depression, self harm, addiction, anti-social behaviour and more.

Happy City’s Happiness Pulse digital tool was designed to provide cities with a fundamentally different measure of progress.  It has two main aims: to change WHAT we measure at a local level and HOW we measure it.

The Pulse changes the WHAT by putting well-being at the heart of local decision making.  It goes well beyond a simplistic measure of ‘life satisfaction’ and instead explores the more detailed reality of people’s lives and the ingredients for the to flourish.  It draws out information about how people are feeling and functioning in their lives and communities – a sense of connection or belonging, meaning and purpose, trust, vitality, optimism and more.  

The Happiness Pulse also challenges the HOW by reversing the oft experienced pattern of measurement as an extractive industry – one that keeps citizens at arms length and where those who need data go in, ask questions, and disappear, with results entirely invisible and inaccessible to those being ‘studied’.  In contrast, the Happiness Pulse is as useful to the most disadvantaged citizen as it is to the Mayor.  It offers people the chance to measure their own well-being in accessible and engaging ways that help them understand their happiness, explore it and then find simple, low cost ways to improve it.

An Engagement tool not just a measure

The Happiness Pulse is an online well-being survey.  It is designed to be informative and easy to use at the same time as providing users with a comprehensive measure of their well-being.  Users are given instant feedback, advice and signposting on a range of well-being areas.   Try it for yourself here

Replicable, comparable & part of a wider project

The survey can be used as a wellbeing measure and social impact evaluation tool for community organizations, workplaces and larger organisations, such as schools, hospitals and universities.  The core wellbeing domains of Be, Do and Connect are consistent across all these uses, building a substantial data set from which to understand norms, patterns and comparisons. Find out more here

In addition to providing users with this comprehensive measure of well-being, organisations or sectors can add bespoke modules to measure specific factors related to their work.  The Community Pulse is the most popular additional module, which allows data to be captured about how individuals interact with their community.  For more details click here.

We also have other sectoral modules, for example, in 2016 we developed a “Happy University” module with the Student Services department of the University of Bristol, which added questions on student life, pressures and opportunities, to the core wellbeing domains. We currently have interest in developing sectoral modules for Housing, Health, Environment/Nature, Older people and Culture.

Rigorous AND engaging

Happy City designed the Pulse in 2014 in partnership with the New Economics Foundation and a global Advisory Board, with national representatives from the ONS UK National Well-being Programme, University of Cambridge Well-being Institute, Public Health England (PHE), Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the United National Development Programme (UNDP).

A prototype was piloted in Bristol in 2015 and the online tool had a city-wide pilot in 2016. See the report on the pilot here.  There is interest in the tool from cities across the UK and beyond.

In 2018 a major pilot of the Pulse across five Local Authority areas of Wales is underway, including the first language translation of the Pulse.  Results will be published in Spring 2018.

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