Which are Sydney’s most socially prosperous suburbs?

What social data reveals about the quality of life and wellbeing in five of Sydney’s best known suburbs.  

What do Mosman and Bankstown have in common? They’re both popular hotspots for active living, sport and fitness. Yet the types of activities you’ll find in each of these neighbourhoods are markedly different. In Mosman you’ll find people dog walking, boating and being active in public spaces. While in Bankstown gyms and fitness facilities are the most popular venues in town. 

While this might sound like a stereotype, this insight was gained from only looking at the digital footprint of these neighbourhoods.  

Recently we took a sneak peak at the social data from five of Sydney’s best-known suburbs – Pyrmont, Mosman, Randwick, Bankstown and Penrith - and what this says about the ‘Social Prosperity’ of these areas. This is a first step towards a wellbeing benchmarking tool for the whole of Sydney and cities around the world which will be launched later this year. 

The Australian Financial Review provided a summary of the value of social data for measuring how well neighbourhoods are thriving. Here we take a look in a bit more detail. 

Measuring Places

Places have personalities, just like people do. Places are important because they’re directly linked to our wellbeing and quality of life. In fact, research shows that your postcode is just as likely to determine your life expectancy as your genetic code.

Last week we introduced our Social Prosperity Standard (SPS), an evidence-based framework for measuring the quality of places through three domains of wellbeing: the Economic, Physical and Community prosperity which contribute to how well a neighbourhood is thriving.

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Neighbourlytics draws on millions of digital data points to find evidence of these determinants in our social data.

The social and cultural life of Sydney suburbs, as shown in the digital footprint.

The social and cultural life of Sydney suburbs, as shown in the digital footprint.

Fast facts

So what does social data reveal about the social prosperity of the five Sydney neighbourhoods analysed? They each markedly different strengths when it comes to quality of life.

Factors that contribute the most to wellbeing in each neighbourhood are:

  • Pyrmont: Local events and the strong business ecosystem. The Pyrmont/Darling Harbour area has more events in an average month, than Barcelona, London’s east end or, Brooklyn, New York.

  • Mosman: Physical assets such as the well loved natural and public spaces are the places people value most.

  • Randwick: Community services such as health and wellbeing services make up over a third of the activity occurring in the area. (In an average Sydney neighbourhood this would be 15-20% of total activity)

  • Bankstown: People value sports, clubs and local church and religious groups. Gyms and fitness facilities are amongst the most popular places in town.

  • Penrith: The local business ecosystem is strong, but people value public spaces more. While there are only a handful of public spaces, they’re the most popular places with locals.

The social prosperity of Sydney suburbs.

The social prosperity of Sydney suburbs.

Economic Prosperity

Unlike most traditional productivity measures which look at outputs (for example credit card expenditure), Neighbourlytics looks holistically at the economic ecosystem - how active local businesses are and how well the neighbourhood caters for local jobs. 

In this analysis, not surprisingly, Pyrmont had the strongest business ecosystem with over 70% of all places recorded relating to business activity, most of which related to destinations. Pyrmont has a very high number of events including local community organised events as well as large public and cultural events. It provides opportunities for people across Sydney to connect and socialise. Bankstown had comparatively lower proportion of overall businesses (65%), but interestingly, the most popular places were local independent stores, like sporting stores and foreign language travel agents.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with the local economy.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with the local economy.

Community Prosperity

We are healthier when our neighbourhoods provide everything that we need to support our wellbeing within walking distance. Whether its access to fresh food, a library, schools, a doctor, community club or a yoga studio.

In this analysis Randwick had a significantly high number of community services, 35% of all places were community services when 15-20% is typical for this type of neighbourhood. Sport is very popular in Bankstown where gyms, weightlifting and sporting goods stores are the most popular places. In Mosman people look after themselves through the network of yoga studios, personal training and health and happiness coaches.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with community services, programs and places.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with community services, programs and places.

Physical Prosperity

Access to parks, nature, recreation and walking are critical contributors to our health wellbeing. They help promote physical health, but beautiful places are also important for shaping our sense of emotional attachment to places.  Research by the Knight Foundation shows that aesthetics (physical beauty and green spaces) are what people value most about neighbourhoods.

Mosman had the highest proportion of natural and public spaces, and they were also the factor most valued by locals about the suburb. By contrast, Penrith had very few public spaces, but these still rated amongst the most popular places in the town centre. In Pyrmont, people value views to nature and water, which form an important part of the identity of the place. Bankstown had the lowest proportion of public places and also low engagement with these spaces.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with physical places.

Crowd-sourced images show how locals engage with physical places.

What does ‘good’ look like?

In a world of increasing data, we are looking for certain answers about how well a neighbourhood is thriving. The reality is, neighbourhoods come in all shapes and sizes. However, neighbourhoods which offer the right balance of economic, physical, community prosperity create the conditions for better wellbeing. 

Armed with social prosperity data, we can set a road map for investment and improvement in neighbourhoods

Next week Neighbourlytics will be releasing its first “Launch Cities” program that will define a scoring system for neighbourhoods to help city-makers navigate the complex and diverse challenges of neighbourhood wellbeing, to better understand local life and de-risk investment decisions. With our benchmarking tool, citymakers will be better equipped to build a future for citizens that is both socially and economically prosperous.

Lucinda Hartley

I’m an urban designer and social entrepreneur who has spent the past decade pioneering innovative methods to improve the social sustainability of cities, now being implemented around the world. 

As a co-founder at Neighbourlytics, I bring my social innovation and entrepreneurship strengths to harness big data, and deliver community insights that inform evidence-based urban development decisions. Neighbourlytics is backed by BlueChilli Group’s highly competitive She Starts program.