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Why we need a new way of measuring how cities are creating inclusivity and prosperity for all, not just the few.

By Bruno Lanvin, Founder and CEO, D&L Partners


By 2030, sixty percent of the world will be urbanized. Around the globe, cities are solidifying their position as the hubs of innovation and commerce.  But all this progress has left a large portion of the population behind.  The gap between the have’s and the have-nots, in many cities, is increasing.

Cities are usually ranked largely on crude measures such as GDP, which tell an incomplete story.  Such rankings ignore how inclusive and equitable cities are for all their citizens.  

In terms of GDP, London, for example, is a powerhouse city, with an economy larger than that of entire countries such as Austria and Norway. But it’s also hampered by a lack of inclusivity, with over a quarter of its citizens in poverty. And wealth inequalities have ballooned in recent years, with the bottom 50% of households owning just over 5% of total wealth, and the top 10% over half.

Recent data from the OECD shows that overall wellbeing and equality for the residents of a city are closely linked.  That’s why the PICSA Index is different and the first of its kind: city rankings based on the goals of inclusive prosperity.

The PICSA Index is measured under three pillars. The first, “Prosperity,” uses empirical quality of life measures as well as GDP to form the statistical foundation for the index. The second pillar, “Social Inclusion,” focuses on personal safety, access to quality education, and internet access. The third and final pillar, “Spatial Inclusion,” examines environmental quality, affordability of housing, and access to healthcare.

The PICSA Index is also being extended to measure a combination of tangible and intangible measures. For example: How could we measure racial equality in a city? How could we measure the inclusiveness of social bonds within a city? 

Understanding these factors, and measuring them, are crucial as the stakes are incredibly high. As inequality rises, so does the dangerous influence of far-right populism and ethnonationalism. Often, blame is wrongly laid at the feet of immigrant communities, who come up against a tide of increasing hostility. No other index, to date, has focused on recognizing and rewarding the cities that succeed in mitigating these tensions. 

If local governments aim to build cities that work for everyone, why not begin by learning from those that are already on their way to getting it right?  The PICSA Index, to be launched on 21 November 2019, ranking more than 100 cities across the world who are leading the way, will aim to do just that.