City of Melbourne Melbourne City Research International City Comparisons




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City of Melbourne


Melbourne City Research

International City Comparisons




www.melbourne.vic.gov.au

March 2011

Contents



Executive summary

Introduction

Purpose

Discussion

What the comparison studies say about Melbourne

People cities and liveability

Prosperous cities

Knowledge

Creativity and innovation

Sustainability

Connected cities

Critique of benchmarking and liveability surveys

Overstating outcomes

Treating city comparisons as progress indicators

How the aims behind city comparisons affect rigour

Subjectivity of method, analysis and conclusions

City comparison studies hide findings within complexity

Weighting

Volatility of currency

City ranking is not within City of Melbourne’s control

Integrity and compatibility of data among cities

Public policy limitations of city rankings and indexes, specifically

How City of Melbourne can use international city comparison studies

Existing alternatives for measuring city performance

Future Melbourne Community Plan monitoring

An Australian National Development Index

International benchmarking with the World Bank

Using Community Indicators Victoria to monitor progress

Conclusion

Appendices

References


Acknowledgements

This research report was written by Nick Casey, Melbourne City Research.


Executive summary


There is a growing number of national and international city awards, indexes, lists, ranks and studies which purport to benchmark cities against one another in various categories. These studies often receive widespread media attention and consequently are of particular interest to the City of Melbourne for their potential to influence the city’s reputation or suggest ways Melbourne’s rankings might be “improved”.


Many of these city comparison studies suggest it is possible to assess complex issues and policy responses by reducing them to a single indexed score or rank. This report argues that in many cases such an approach is flawed for the following reasons:

• the aims and audience of are often narrow, biasing the selection of indicators

• small survey samples and subjective measures are used and hence the results do not reflect the quality of life for the majority a city’s citizens


Very few of these studies are actually city benchmarking exercises and hence should not be used as such. Consequently they have little or no value as progress indicators for city monitoring or as tools to inform public policy.


The City of Melbourne should be justifiably proud that Melbourne continues to be assessed as amongst the best cities in the world from a range of different perspectives. However the methodology behind different international city accolades and comparison rankings should be understood to keep their results in perspective and ensure they are used appropriately. In many cases this use should be limited to promotional activities only


Finally, this paper discusses some alternatives to monitor the progress or the performance of the ‘city’ over time or compared to other cities. These alternatives most often involve locally developed indicators and point to some existing frameworks that are better suited to City of Melbourne’s needs to benchmark or measure progress, including:

  • Future Melbourne Community Plan

  • World Bank Global City Indicator Facility

  • Community Indicators Victoria and

  • The Australian National Development Index.



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