Planning for a quality life: A theoretical approach to quality of life research in community planning

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Dixon, Marilyn Emily
For many years measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been the standard to which success has been defined by cities and countries alike. Economic brilliance however, can only take us so far. Measuring quality of life (QOL) is quickly becoming the preferred way of measuring success in the built environment. But what does it mean? QOL is synonymous with terms like ‘happiness’, ‘well-being’ or ‘life satisfaction’, but includes a more holistic evaluation of them. The purpose of this research is to shed light on why it is we do the things we do, and to consider the role of a planner in a pragmatic way. All too often planning is considered to be idealistic where decisions are made on the basis of “best practices”. What this research intends to answer is; who are these ‘best practices’ looking to serve? Have we succeeded in doing what we set out to do? And to understand that just because a decision was made in the past to serve a particular goal, it may not equate to how we should be considering that goal now. What we should be asking ourselves is; what does success look like? Can we define it? Can we measure it? Are we happy? The objective of this research is not only to understand if measuring QOL can better inform policy decisions at a community level, but to understand which approach is worth taking. Some might say its subjectivity is not appropriate for informing policy or decision making. Others seem more optimistic of its potential, in that any movement towards progress should be studied, and is worth while. This research seeks to recognize the extent to which community planning impacts our QOL, with respect to the built environment, and the role government plays in decision making.
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