Sharing the same space for just a few minutes a day with kind and friendly strangers has been shown to make us more optimistic, improve our self-esteem, and feel safer within our environment.
When we give to others or act cooperatively, the reward centres of our own brain light up in acknowledgement, but strangers aren’t always inclined to be friendly to each other, and researchers now believe our shared spaces are becoming less friendly over time; particularly in built-up communities and areas like London.
Considerations for Londoners when looking for areas to live are fairly black and white. Average house prices, proximity to amenities, travel links and resale values are all high-priority concerns when settling on a location, but what these don’t tell you is how happy you’re likely to be within your chosen community during the time you live there.
With a population of 8million+ and one of the largest metropolitan environments in the world, we wanted to give Londoners’ an indication as to which areas of their city are best to live in for social wellbeing and long-term happiness. Would the millionaires on Bishop’s Avenue in Hampstead be better neighbours than the house-sharers of Hackney? Did Brixton’s community reputation ring true for those regularly moving through it’s public spaces?
We approached Professor Dacher Keltner; Social Psychologist at The University of California, Berkeley (and ‘Emotions Consultant’ for Pixar’s film tackling social wellbeing, ‘Inside Out’). He uses a technique called the ‘Jen Ratio’ as a way of gauging the social wellbeing of any shared environment. The higher the ratio the better the social well-being of the space, and the happier you’re likely to feel after spending time in it. It’s a simple yet powerful way to predict whether a particular space will contribute to your overall happiness in the long term.
In the first social experiment of it’s kind, we took the Jen Ratio for a test drive in a large-scale, city-wide social study; brought to life in an immersive interactive experience. The Happy Forecast is a webGL-powered interactive map of London that ranks each parent postcode by the positivity of the communities that inhabit them, after 700 hours of community observation throughout all 119 borough postcodes.
The site brings ‘raw’ scientific data of the Jen Ratio to life using a familiar visual for Londoners – the weather forecast. Happier postcodes feature sunny and bright 3D models such as fruit trees, flowers and clear blue skies, whilst the less happy areas use lighting clouds, sparse trees and dark skies.
People engaged. Over 600,000 page views with no paid media support were registered from visitors interacting with the site, on average, for well over 3 minutes each.
Within the press, a total of 38 pieces of coverage were earned during launch week alone. The site featured, along with a 3 minute interview, on the ITV National News at 6pm, 7pm and 10pm. In addition to numerous awards, we received high quality coverage on outlets including BBC, ITV online, City A.M, The Huffington Post, The Evening Standard, Shortlist, The Mirror and TimeOut.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the project did spark the positivity and awareness we wanted. Social wellbeing along with how we behave towards our fellow Londoners were both well and truly part of active conversations, and for the areas that received poor forecasts, Londoners rallied, with spin-off campaigns of positivity being generated organically.
“In my many years of being in this game of happiness, this is some of the most innovative work I’ve encountered.”