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Is there a formula for happy communities?

New report shows how local authorities can improve the wellbeing of their residents

Photograph of Professor Lord Richard LayardA report from the Wellbeing Project, jointly led by Professor Lord Richard Layard (pictured), from the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE, shows that if people can control the circumstances that affect their lives their wellbeing will be improved.

According to Professor Richard Layard, LSE, wellbeing is created by the influence of family relationships, financial situation, work, community and friends, health, personal freedom and personal values.

If people can take an active role in their local community and change it - the result is their wellbeing is improved.

Neighbourliness + Empowerment = Wellbeing: is there a formula for happy communities?, is a joint initiative by the Young Foundation, the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and Professor Lord Richard Layard, from the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE. It examined initiatives in three local authorities in Hertfordshire, Manchester and South Tyneside.

Using case studies of projects such as Westfield Sure Start Children's Centre in Hertfordshire, Community Guardians in Manchester and the We Asked, You said, We Did Campaign in South Tyneside, the findings show that neighbourhood and community empowerment has three effects which increase wellbeing:

  • Providing greater opportunities for residents to influence decisions affecting their neighbourhoods
  • Promoting regular contact between neighbours
  • Helping residents gain the confidence to exercise control

Key findings of the report:

  • Initiatives which allow citizens to take action for themselves and make a tangible difference to their neighbourhoods are more rewarding than activities that involve attending public meetings or council meetings
  • Giving residents meaningful power 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. All council staff should acquire these skills - and not just community workers

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 and guaranteed apprenticeships.

Click here to download a copy of the report Neighbourliness + Empowerment = Wellbeing: is there a formula for happy communities?| PDF

For more information and a full press release visit www.youngfoundation.org.uk/node/782|

Contact

Natalia Chan, Young Foundation, on 020 8980 6263 or by emailing natalia.chan@youngfoundation.org|

LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7060 or by emailing pressoffice@lse.ac.uk|

Notes:

The Local Wellbeing Project

The Local Wellbeing Project is an innovative three year initiative jointly led by the Young Foundation, the Improvement and Development Agency, and Professor Lord Richard Layard, from 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. This work remains the most comprehensive exercise to date on public policy from a wellbeing perspective. For more information visit
www.youngfoundation.org|

11 June 2008

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