Since 2011 SIAP has collaborated with Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution, to develop a multi-dimensional index of social wellbeing for Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. The work is part of an international movement to move beyond economic productivity as the only measure of a society’s welfare and toward a model based on human development and social justice. The team's approach differs from previous work in that they identify cultural resources as an intrinsic to social wellbeing; they examine culture’s potential to influence other aspects of wellbeing; and they focus on neighborhood rather than region or nation-state.
SIAP's research is also part of an international conversation about the value of the arts and moves beyond the debate over the intrinsic v. the instrumental components of cultural value. The question is no longer whether the arts promote social wellbeing. Rather, opportunities for cultural engagement and creative expression are integral to wellbeing. Just as we'd never talk about wellbeing without considering health, housing, income, security, or social connections, so too we must see the arts as central “to a life [people] have reason to value.” At the same time, a multi-dimensional tool allows assessment of cultural infrastructure as a contributor to other aspects of social wellbeing and community vitality.
In 2014, building on their work in Philadelphia, SIAP with Reinvestment Fund began the Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City project. The work involved development of a 10-dimension social wellbeing framework—which included construction of a cultural asset index—for every neighborhood in the five boroughs. The social wellbeing tool enables a variety of analyses: the distribution of opportunity across the city; identification of areas with concentrated advantage, concentrated disadvantage, as well as “diverse and struggling” neighborhoods with both strengths and challenges; and analysis of the relationship of “neighborhood cultural ecology” to other features of a healthy community.
The research report--and accompanying briefs--present the conceptual framework, data and methodology, and findings of the two-year project conducted between 2014 and 2016. The project was supported by the Surdna Foundation, the New York Cultural Agenda Fund in the New York Community Trust, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Reports from 2017
The Social Wellbeing of New York City's Neighborhoods: The Contribution of Culture and the Arts, Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert
Culture and Social Wellbeing in New York City: Highlights of a Two-Year Research Project, University of Pennsylvania Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) and Reinvestment Fund
Reports from 2016
Culture's Contribution to Social Wellbeing & Neighborhood Vitality, University of Pennsylvania Social Impact of the Arts Project and Reinvestment Fund