An initiative to measure the "happiness" of Eau Claire residents is nearly complete. The next step is to use the results to improve quality of life in the city.
The Eau Claire Happiness Initiative is the first of its kind in the state and unique in the U.S.. Citizens take a survey rating 10 different happiness domains like psychological well being, health, time balance, and governance. Results are tabulated and handed off to local government, non-profits, and community groups to improve problem areas. John DeGraf is the outreach coordinator for the nationwide Happiness Initiative. He says the effort is about changing people’s perception that happiness equates to dollars and cents, “We’re talking about long run quality of life and contentment for people, people who feel good about their lives and I think city officials are concerned about quality of life.”
There are about two dozen cities across the country that have adopted their own versions of the Happiness Initiative, including Richmond, California, Portland, Oregon, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In Eau Claire around 1,500 people took the happiness survey. Dr. Don Mowry Chairs the Social Work Department at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is working with the Happiness Initiative there. He says while residents may look to local government to fix problems, everyone needs to chip in to improve their quality of life, “It’s actually all of our responsibility to do something about those things around us that ignite our passion and get us wanting to make change.”
While results aren’t final, Mowry says Eau Claire residents say they’re relatively happy. Difficulty balancing work and family was the number one complaint. The final report is expected in a few weeks.