Walloon Project to Measure Well-Being in Wallonia

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The Walloon Institute for Evaluation, Prospective and Statistics (IWEPS) is a public institution for the Walloon region in Belgium that aims to help the regional government in its decision-making processes.
Since 2010, IWEPS has been engaged alongside the Walloon government in the research and development of indicators complementary to GDP in order to measure societal progress and well-being in a framework of sustainable development. IWEPS proposes an integrated system of eight regional synthetic indicators, three indicators for the three classic pillars of sustainable development (economic, social, environmental), three for the interfaces (equitable, viable, livable), one indicator for governance and one indicator for well-being. The following information concerns the development of the well-being indicator.


This project is at the intersection of four major axes of thought and actions :

  1. The policy of Wallonia in regards to social cohesion, in particular its application of the Social Cohesion Plan in the cities and towns of Wallonia (Decree PCS, 2008);
  2. The Council of Europe’s Strategy for Social Cohesion, particularly the notions of collective well-being and societal progress (Farrell, 2008 Council of Europe, 2010);
  3. The need to revisit and complete conventional methods and tools for collecting, processing and analyzing data in order to understand the most appropriate, relevant and legitimate, the multifaceted, relative#1 and subjective contours of these concepts of social cohesion, collective well-being and societal progress (Ruyters, 2009);
  4. The commitment and involvement of Wallonia and IWEPS in the reflection on the development of indicators complementary to GDP, likely to reflect current societal and political priorities, such as quality of life, social justice or climate and environmental challenges (Reginster, Ruyters et al., 2013).

Objectives of the Project

The project aims to develop a tool for knowledge and governmental assistance. Firstly, as a tool for knowledge, it aims to define and measure the well-being of all (collective) and progress towards sustainable well-being in Wallonia, in a concerted effort with citizens and actors at local and regional levels, taking the diversity of territories and the representation of different social groups within each municipality into account. Secondly, it allows us to analyze the factors and their interrelationships that contribute to well-being in Wallonia and to understand the regional disparities between social groups and their perception of collective well-being. As a tool of governmental assistance, it aims to support and strengthen the implementation of local and regional development plans, especially the Social Cohesion Plan in the cities and towns of Wallonia. To this end, it envisions a methodology and the tools to develop a concerted local and regional diagnosis of the situation in terms of social cohesion, collective well-being, and societal progress; to identify the needs met and the unmet terms of sustainable collective well-being, to prioritize and establish, on this basis, a policy strategy presented in an action plan; to evaluate the impact of the action plan on the level of social cohesion and collective well-being of the population in terms of fixed objectives.


The approach taken by IWEPS builds on the conceptual framework of the Council of Europe in line with its Strategy of Social Cohesion, and its methodology “SPIRAL” (Societal Progress Indicators and Responsabilities for All), based on experimental work carried out by the Council of Europe in several European territories (cities, districts, villages) and with collective actors (businesses, schools, public services) (Council of Europe, 2008 and 2010). It provides a framework, procedures and tools that are easily applicable and transferable to give power to citizens and stakeholders in a territory to describe the well-being of their living space, to measure the contours of well-being and to define strategies for action to support the implementation of local action plans. In doing so, it creates a dynamic of collective construction based on dialogue, public debate and collective learning, which contributes to the well-being of each citizen and generates social cohesion.

Steps of the Process

  1. Defining collective well-being with the participation of citizens within each municipality. This process was carried out between 2010 and 2011.
  2. Results : 16 000 expressions/phrases to define well-being and ill-being were collected from 1 200 citizens representing a large diversity of social groups (150) within the population.
  3. Constructing local and regional indicators to measure well-being and progress using the criteria gathered from the citizens (2011-2012).
  4. Analysing and developing a tool to help in the process of reflection and collective decision-making to promote actions and to assess the Social Cohesion Plan (2012-2013)

Measuring well-being at both local and regional levels (in progress)

Application of the Process

In practice, the process is currently being developed in three phases:


The first phase focuses on the definition of well-being and progress with citizens within each municipality, in homogeneous groups (7 to 10) to encourage citizens to take the floor. These groups reflect the plurality and diversity of social groups in the population, including people who do not speak often. People are invited to reflect individually (by writing on adhesive note paper – post-its) and collectively (by sharing their perspectives and summarizing their reflections) on four open questions:

  1. What is well-being to you?
  2. What is malaise/ill-being to you?
  3. What do you or can you do as a citizen to ensure your well-being or the well-being of all?
  4. What do you think should be done or taken into account today so that future generations all have access to this well-being?

This exercise produced a large number and a wide variety of individual expressions of well / ill-being, which are encoded in each municipality and collected in a harmonized and structured database. This generates a comprehensive and complete schematic representation of the different components of well-being and their interactions, from the expressions obtained in each homogeneous group. The results are presented, validated, and completed during a second citizen encounter with homogeneous groups in order to translate a shared vision of what could be the collective well-being within the groups. The overall summary of the results (for all groups) is then presented to all stakeholders (citizens, politicians, entertainers, etc..) in each municipality in a plenary meeting which aims to promote exchanges between citizens and local actors and to facilitate a common reflection on the first ideas of concrete action and co-responsibility to promote the collective well-being of community.


In total, approximately 16 000 expressions of well-being and ill-being were collected from 1 200 citizens representing a wide variety of social groups (150) within the population. These expressions are a rich and abundant material that lends itself to different types of utilization; on the one hand, statistical operations by families, themes, and sub-themes, by socio-economic common groups or municipalities to provide comparative synthetic views on the intensity of the ideas expressed. On the other hand, these expressions serve for the lexicographical analysis and the analysis of local semantics to understand social and territorial variability in the perception of well-being. Furthermore, exercises to prioritize the components of well-being are also completed for various purposes including, illustrative purposes, the impact assessment of the social cohesion plan, and analysis of the determinants of health inequalities. Finally, the exercise has produced a summary of the components of well-being in Wallonia, organized into a nomenclature structured into four hierarchical levels:


1) Eight families

  • Access to essential resources
  • Living environment
  • Relations with institutions (public and private)
  • Relations with individuals
  • Balance within societal systems
  • Personal balance
  • Feelings of well / ill-being
  • Values / attitudes and initiatives / commitments


2) 47 Themes


Learning, Training
Revenue and purchasing power
Cultural, athletic, artistic, or leisure activities
Information and media
Immediate environment of the dwellingNatural areas and landscape
Weather and natural phenomena
Basic infrastructure
Meeting/gathering places
Local services and businesses
Observance and effective exercise of rightsDemocracy
Operation of Justice
Public management
Private management (enterprises, organizations)
Couple relationsFamily relations
Amicable relations
Neighbourly relations
Work relations
Intergenerational relations
Intercultural relations
Relations with pets
Economic balanceDemographic balance
Social balance
Environmental balance: the influence of behaviour and production conditions
Autonomy, libertyPersonal development
Interpersonal balance
Balance between activities and one’s lifestyle
Spirituality and religion
Self-worth and self-esteemSatisfaction/Dissatisfaction

3) 190 Subthemes


4) 457 Units of meaning.

The second phase consists of constructing indicators to measure well-being and progress based on criteria collected from citizens. These indicators are linked with a “scale of signification” permitting to define a path of progress. This scale is to determine, for each sub-theme of the nomenclature, an ordinal logical progression starting from a position of perceived ill-being associated with persistent non-accessibility of goods (material, immaterial, common) and moving gradually towards a situation of perceived well-being and lasting quality. This formalization of indicators in their scale of signification helps to clarify the relationship between indicators and action, as the meaning of the indicator is directly related to the type of action to be implemented.

The third phase involves the measurement of well-being and progress at local and regional levels. The measurement of well-being is aimed to provide a comprehensive and multidimensional assessment of collective well-being based on what matters and makes sense to citizens. This will combine survey data and administrative data, and objective and subjective data. It is currently being prepared and will be conducted in the near future.


At the end of the pilot project, proposals should be made for the generalization of the measure and the approach for all of the Walloon municipalities.
The whole process is coordinated at the regional level, by a steering committee (called the Regional Coordinating Committee) created at the launch of the research and consists of representatives from each of the partner municipalities (two representatives per municipality on average), the Council of Europe, IWEPS, and the Walloon Administration. This committee is the guarantor of the necessary harmonization of the procedures of the local experiences to ensure their consistency and coherency. At the local level, the approach is supported by a local group of coordination put in place in each of the partner municipalities. This group is responsible for the representation of different socio-economic groups in the local population and for ensuring that its members are on the ground and able to facilitate meetings with citizens. They must also generate support for the project with elected officials as well as the interest and participation of citizens, ensuring good communication related to the project, etc. Its composition and organization are key factors for the success of the process.



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