The Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) just launched the MRV Wellbeing Survey, a new MRVPD initiative to enhance the accessibility and relevance of the MRVPD Data Report, which shares information about the well-being of local residents.
Every year, the MRVPD collects data from local and state entities, along with U.S. census data, and compiles it into one large data report on a broad range of categories, including community connection, built environment, economic opportunity, social infrastructure and the health of natural systems.
“This data tells us a lot about who we are and how we’re doing, but it doesn’t tell the full story,” said Kati Gallagher, community planner at the MRVPD.
Thus, the MRVPD created the well-being survey in order to communicate with Valley residents directly by asking residents how they’re doing. “The survey can fill in some of the gaps and provide new information that complements traditional metrics,” said Gallagher.
For instance, the survey will provide insight into more subjective topics such as “social connectedness,” by asking residents about their experience directly.
The MRVPD modeled this survey after the survey used in the Vermont Happiness Study, which was conducted by the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies, the Vermont State Data Center and Gross National Happiness USA.
One benefit of using the same survey, as Gallagher pointed out, is that the results of the well-being survey can be compared with statewide well-being results to provide greater context.
“The survey is still just a snapshot of community well-being, subject to individual perceptions and interpretations – but it can help to point us in the right direction,” said Gallagher.
Gallagher already has some ideas about the areas in which Valley residents will thrive. “We would expect the Mad River Valley to thrive in areas such as satisfaction with the natural environment and community vitality; The Valley (like the rest of Vermont) isn’t always an easy place to live, but we do excel here!” said Gallagher.
In terms of community wellness pitfalls, Gallagher expects residents to report affordability concerns. “The Mad River Valley has a challenge with affordability. We expect this to show up as lower satisfaction with access to vital services like child care, as well as professional and economic opportunities,” said Gallagher.
However, she also noted that the well-being survey may highlight some challenges that surprise us. “Here’s an example,” stated Gallagher. “Considering that over half of the housing stock in The Valley is seasonal or vacation homes, it says something remarkable that there is such a strong sense of community. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed, among other things, that there may be more lingering mistrust than many assumed. Maybe community vitality isn’t as strong as we thought? We are looking forward to hearing from the community’s response to the survey, which we expect to be insightful and eye-opening.”
The Mad River Valley well-being survey results will be shared in summer 2021 as part of the release of the Mad River Valley Community Dashboard, a new online platform aimed at increasing the accessibility and applicability of MRVPD’s annual data reports.
“MRVPD is committed to regular updates of the community dashboard,” said Gallagher. “Our intention is that the data collected and shared through the community dashboard changes and evolves with the community itself. The data must be incorporated into local decision-making to make an impact on shared challenges and to celebrate our successes, so we hope community members will share their feedback on this initiative so we, collectively, can better serve their needs.”
MRV residents can participate in the well-being survey by visiting bit.ly/MRV-Wellbeing. “The more folks participate, the more accurate a measure of well-being we create,” said Gallagher, who dropped a secret incentive to participate: “You might even win a 2021 summer pass to Sugarbush Resort!”