A report from the Local Wellbeing Project shows how neighbourhood and community empowerment can improve wellbeing.
The report finds that neighbourhood and community empowerment has three effects which increase wellbeing
- providing greater opportunities for residents to influence decisions affecting their neighbourhoods
- facilitating regular contact between neighbours
- helping residents gain the confidence to exercise control
Key findings Edit
- Building social networks and encouraging neighbourly contact are important outcomes of empowerment. Even though this is difficult to measure, they should be valued and resourced.
- Empowerment initiatives that are action focused and allow citizens to make a tangible difference to their neighbourhoods are often more rewarding than empowerment activities that involve attending public meetings or council meetings.
- For most residents, being empowered requires significant barriers to be broken between them and ‘distant’ decision makers, who can seem inaccessible and ‘out of touch’ with what is happening within neighbourhoods.
- Some of the most important skills for staff in public institutions revolve around building relationships with citizens. Often this role can be confined to community workers – it needs to be mainstreamed.
The report represents one of several strands of work developed through the Local Wellbeing Project. Others include
- work on parenting
- environmental sustainability
- emotional resilience for 11 to 13-year-olds
- wellbeing of older people
- guaranteed apprenticeships.
About the Local Wellbeing Project Edit
The Local Wellbeing Project is a three-year initiative involving the Young Foundation, the Improvement and Development Agency, and Professor Lord Richard Layard from the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance. The project is aimed at testing out practical ways of improving public wellbeing in three very different areas of the UK – Hertfordshire, Manchester and South Tyneside.
Case study Edit
Mancunian Agreements, Manchester
Mancunian Agreements involve local people and agencies taking responsibility and action to improve their neighbourhood. One such agreement was reached between the local authority and The Friends of Blackley Forest, a community group that has been working to improve Blackley Forest – a nature reserve in north Manchester.
The Friends group is a collection of like-minded residents who are determined to transform the forest into an asset for local wellbeing. The Friends have the passion, knowledge and a vision for the forest, but lacked the resources to achieve it.
In order to match much needed resources with local vision and passion, a Mancunian Agreement was put in place between the council and the Friends, which addressed problems such as safety and security, access and management of the forest, community involvement and marketing. Fundamental to the agreement, is the notion that local people and agencies each agree to take action on particular issues.
Since the agreement, more local people, groups and schools are using, learning and caring for the forest. The hard work of the Friends and local agencies has resulted in a place where residents of Blackley and further afield can feel safe, enjoy the local environment and experience positive affects on their wellbeing.
Related topics Edit
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- Participatory carbon budgeting
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- Sustainability for all
- Open involvement
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- How can Community Strategies be turned into Sustainable Community Strategies?
- Do our top sustainability organisations get active citizenship?
- Young Foundation. The report *'Neighbourliness + Empowerment = Wellbeing: is there a formula for happy communities?' June 2008, is downloadable via the website
- IDeA, press release June 11 2008