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Perception matters

Human perception is derived from emotions that are altered by a sense of security and safety, risk, wellbeing, and happiness. A citizen’s lifestyle when trying to engage in night life could be tainted by the constant fear of being robbed due to a previous assault, simultaneously increasing an individual’s expense on security to assure a safe environment. These patterns of behavior translate subjectivity. Likewise, the legitimacy of government actions to everyday citizens can be assessed by direct forms of participation or voter turnout rates as well as by the general amount of trust placed on a country’s institutions. Trust is a relative measure. Decision-makers and service providers are extremely interested in the collection of real time data derived from perceptions of the citizens they strive to serve. Both qualitative and quantitative perception surveys and studies are becoming increasingly important and widely used. Such surveys can take the form of focus groups, interviews or perception surveys, experimental analysis, public opinion techniques, which capture what respondents believe, think and feel and are thus are able to provide information about their beliefs, values, behaviors, attitudes, opinions, expectations and experiences, knowledge and awareness of particular issues.

Sustainable development and prosperity are both tangible and intangible concepts, which vary by time, context and location. Measuring the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets, the UN-Habitat City Prosperity Initiative uses its respective CPI indicators, adapted to a perception data framework, to enrich the platform’s current measurements. A perception framework can provide data and information in areas where statistics do not exist or are not appropriate for measuring subjectivity. As the English author, Aldous Huxley wrote: “There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”

The City Prosperity Initiative - Perception Index

The CPI-Perception tool offers a complementary and / or alternative method to understand and monitor the sustainability conditions of cities and their communities. It introduces real time analysis of opinion and current understanding of inhabitants and stakeholders of a city’s prosperity, possibilities to implement adequate plans, actions and policies for improvement. Governments will receive a systematic feedback based on how people understand and feel about the different dimensions of prosperity of the city, facilitating a greater collaboration between the government, private sector and civil society.