The city of Santa Monica has won a $1-million prize for its project to measure the wellbeing of residents and visitors and embed it in policy making.
Santa Monica is one of four runners-up in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition to inspire American cities to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities to improve the well-being of the nation. Philadelphia, Chicago and Houston were the other $1-million prize winners, while the $5 million grand prize went to Providence, RI.
“The Mayors Challenge is dedicated to the idea that cities are the new laboratories of democracy,” said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “If an innovative program or policy can work in one city, it can spread across the country and even across the globe.”
With its project, Santa Monica will become the first city in the nation to measure wellbeing at the local level, and use that information to drive the city’s decision-making process in order to address critical wellbeing gaps in the community, city officials said. Santa Monica will also receive a sculpture created by world-renowned designer Olafur Eliasson to commemorate each of the Mayors Challenge winners.
“Participating in the Mayors Challenge has been an intensely rewarding experience. We are thrilled beyond belief to be one of the winners,” said Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor. “Now that the door is open to implementing the big idea we’ve been thinking and talking about for months, I can’t wait to get started. Our Local Wellbeing Index is going to be a game-changer, not just for Santa Monica, but for cities across the country and beyond.”
Santa Monica will team with top national and international researchers to create a Local Wellbeing Index. The project will incorporate wellbeing factors such as economics, education, health, social connectedness, and physical environment.
City officials note that when the index is applied it will guide city staff in its policy setting, decision making, and resource allocation processes to help ensure that tax dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently to create the conditions needed for people to thrive.

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