November 20, 2012


"Sapporo Smile Index" - a Driving Force for Policy Implementation

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.122 (October 2012)

Recently an increasing number of local governments in Japan have been developing new indexes, as we reported in the article "Creating Happier Communities: Over 22 Local Governments in Japan Preparing a 'Happiness Index' to Measure Progress" in JFS Newsletter No. 121 (September 2012). These local governments are trying to find creative ways to establish new indicators which measure not only the size and growth rate of the economy, but also the happiness of citizens, while highlighting policies that enhance and support happiness.

Creating Happier Communities: Over 22 Local Governments in Japan Preparing a "Happiness Index" to Measure Progress

One outstanding example is Sapporo City, the capital of Hokkaido Prefecture. This city, with a population of over 1.9 million, is engaging in an initiative called the "Sapporo Smile Index". Its aim is not simply to measure the well-being of the citizens, but, by integrating the index into its policies, the city hopes to use it as a driving force to promote policy implementation. Since this full-scale initiative could be a model case for other municipalities, we would like to explain it in some detail.

Sapporo is currently implementing policy based on a mid-term plan, the Third Sapporo City-Building Plan (FY 2011 to 2014), which identifies high-priority measures and projects for this period. When formulating this plan, the city government took into account opinions received from citizens in the course of everyday work, and also made efforts to gather citizen views in various ways. Questionnaire surveys were carried out on long-term general city planning and about on-demand educational programs for children; city planning symposiums and citizens' meetings to discuss a strategic vision for city planning were held; and public comment procedures were implemented. At each phase of the planning process, the city published relevant materials and invited citizens to submit opinions through brochures and the Internet, in an effort to incorporate citizens' views and requests as far as possible into city planning.

As part of this effort, Sapporo set up the "Sapporo Smile Index," which identifies clear and specific targets for various categories of stakeholders, such as citizens, businesses and administrative agencies, with the aim of encouraging them to achieve the targets. Its name indicates the hope that achieving targets will make citizens happier, resulting in more smiles.

The following are the five major policy targets of the Third Sapporo City-Building Plan: 1. A city where children are full of smiles 2. A secure city where people can live with peace of mind 3. A vigorous city full of energy 4. A city where people work together for the environment 5. A city where citizens are economically and culturally self-sufficient

To achieve these five policy targets, the city identified 13 priority issues, for which five to nine indicators, or a total of 86 indicators were selected (all indicators are shown in this PDF file). In selecting indicators, the city wanted ones that would be easy-to-understand, intensive and representative. It also took into consideration targets already set in existing departmental plans.

For each priority issue, two types of indicators were established under the categories of "Citizens' awareness and action indicators" and "Social performance indicators." This was one of the particular features of the "Sapporo Smile Index." The former category is supposed to show a trends based on numerical data obtained from periodic questionnaires about citizens' awareness and action. The latter is based on statistical data or data obtained from the city's own surveys.

As an example, let us examine the priority issue "Creation of a good environment for bearing and raising children." Citizens' awareness and action indicators for this issue include "the percentage of people who think the city is good environment for bearing and raising children," while social performance indicators include "the number of children waiting to get in day-care facilities."

The city also set a target level for every indicator to be achieved by fiscal 2014, the final year of the Third Sapporo City-Building Plan. The target levels were established in view of current indicator values, existing departmental plans, progress status, and the situation of other municipalities. Slightly higher targets have been set for some indicators in the hope of encouraging greater effort.

Setting up an index by itself cannot promote city-building initiatives. With the "Sapporo Smile Index," however, the city measures actual achievement by conducting surveys on a regular basis, and feeds the results back into managing annual progress. The results will also help the city implement its planned projects effectively and efficiently, while revealing the level of accomplishment of policy measures.

Progress management in FY 2012 for the Third Sapporo City-Building Plan, which came into effect in 2011, the evaluation results for individual priority issues under the five policy targets are available on the city's web site. You can find a list containing all indicators, each of which has a target level and an achieved value. (only in Japanese)

Status of the "Sapporo Smile Performance Index"

The following is a summary of progress so far. As outlined above, this performance index consists of a total of 86 indicators under 13 priority issues: 45 "Citizens' awareness and action indicators" and 41 "Social performance indicators." Results show that the levels for 48 indicators (55.8 percent) improved from the initial 2010 values, and the target level has already been attained for 19 indicators. Remaining steady are 11 indicators (12.8 percent), while achievement levels dropped for 16 indicators (18.6 percent). Though levels for indicators related to tourism such as "the number of annual visitors" and "the number of foreign guests staying overnight" decreased due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, levels for most indicators are trending upwards.

Thus, we find that Sapporo's efforts constitute a good example of a local government using a happiness index as a driving force for urban planning and development, and also a means to inform and obtain feedback from citizens regarding political measures in a highly transparent way. We have high expectations for Sapporo's implementation of their plan and further evolution and development of their index.

Written by Junko Edahiro