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Social indicator work and efforts to measure societal progress have been part of the Canadian landscape since the late 1960s. And yet, this field of research has received only periodic public attention, insufficient interest during economic slowdowns, and modest traction at the national level.

Atkinson Foundation (AF) recognized the need to create an independent and credible national voice to measure the economic, health, social and environmental wellbeing of Canadians. Several historical events lead to the development of the CIW:


  • AF convened a group of index experts from across Canada, including Statistics Canada, asking "What would it take to create a tool that truly measured Canadian wellbeing?" AF gained full support for the creation of an index, recognizing that such a long-term initiative would require financial support for research, communication and publicity, and a management structure.


  • AF supported the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) project "Asking Citizens What Matters for Quality of Life (PDF)". The project involved consultations with 346 participants in 40 discussion groups across Canada.
  • Working with CPRN, AF developed a prototype of quality of life national indicators. Read the Indicators of Quality of Life in Canada: A Citizens' Prototype (PDF).
  • AF convened a cross-Canada roundtable of leading indicator experts and practitioners. Participants recognized the need to elevate the profile of wellbeing measurement from local, provincial, and regional levels, to a national platform.
  • AF hosted a national conference of over 60 indicator experts, practitioners and potential users from government, academia and community. Key participants later helped establish a Canadian Research Advisory Group (CRAG) committed to developing the CIW.
  • CRAG began work on the first five domains of the CIW: Living Standards, Healthy Populations, Community Vitality, Education, and Time Use.


The CIW developed and conducted three rounds of a highly regarded public consultation process to pilot test the concept of the CIW, engage key stakeholders, and seed a community of users.

  • Round 1: EKOS conducted 19 focus groups in 14 communities (approximately 250 participants) across Canada and conducted 14 one-on-one interviews with opinion leaders. Read the report on round one public consultations (PDF).
  • Round 2: Capacity Strategic Networks conducted 13 roundtables (approximately 185 participants) across Canada. Read the report on round two public consultations (PDF).
  • Round 3: AF invited a small group of policy advisors and community leaders to a Toronto workshop to discuss preliminary findings from the domain reports and to introduce a prototype of the composite index based on indicators from the available domains.




  • CIW Network moved to permanent home within the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo (January).
  • Release of the Environment domain report (April).
  • Release of the first complete version of the CIW's signature product, the CIW national composite index (October).





  • Formalize a group of Research Associates to assist the CIW in advancing research and knowledge about the wellbeing of Canadians. 


  • Conduct the sixth CIW Community Wellbeing Survey in Oxford County, ON (reports released, July and September).
  • Release of the third CIW national composite index report "How are Canadians Really doing?" (TBD, November).
  • Release of a set of five regional wellbeing reports for Ontario (TBD, November).