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“The Calvert-Henderson models unpack the existing warehouse of information on each topic and present a wealth of data in an organized, ready-to-use manner.”
The researchers on this project were presented with the following challenge in developing the Calvert-Henderson research methodology: How do we take a big issue and condense it into discrete components that can be readily understood – and used – by an educated public? How do we provide meaning and context in a society that is information driven?
Two things immediately became clear. First, we adopted a systems approach in which all 12 dimensions of quality of life are viewed as integral to national well-being. In our way of thinking, a nonlinear approach was preferable to a linear approach to more accurately characterize human phenomena in the long term. Second, we saw value in unbundling the data to make the information clear and concise without over simplifying the subject matter. This approach contrasts with macroeconomic indices that collapse the elements into a single composite index, mask how figures are calculated, and cancel out countervailing forces.
A key component of the methodology – and ultimately a unique contribution of the project – was the design of a Calvert-Henderson Model for each of the 12 indicators. The models:
- serve as a frame through which the underlying phenomena is clearly presented;
- tell a concise story about what is happening in a given dimension of quality of life;
- identify what is and is not in each indicator;
- reveal the type of data collected and the inter-relationships across data streams;
- become a starting point for citizens to quickly get a handle on an issue; and
- provide a conceptual structure for an idea to be explored in depth.
Users can access in one place a comprehensive picture of the well-being of the nation in a manner that is easy to understand and use, statistically verifiable, grounded in empirical knowledge, and rigorous in its treatment of the subject matter. The Calvert-Henderson Models unpack the existing warehouse of information on each topic and present a wealth of data in an organized, ready-to-use manner. By adding transparency and traction to current measurement efforts, we sought to advance the rigor with which quality of life indicators are designed.
Our intention is to make data on the various indicators accessible to people who have an interest in a given topic, but are not necessarily experts in the field. We assume that the general public not only wants good information about what is happening in the country, but can digest complex data when presented in a thoughtful fashion. Our ongoing objective is to ensure that the Calvert-Henderson Indicators are imbued with meaning, whereby their significance lies not in the numbers themselves, but in the larger reality to which they point.