Can we measure the wellbeing of a ‘community’?

annemarie_bagnallThis week we hear from Anne-Marie Bagnall, Reader at the School of Health & Community Studies and part of our Community Wellbeing evidence team. Anne-Marie explains the thinking behind our new scoping review of community wellbeing indicators.

Jump to the scoping review and table of indicators

Last month we shared our local authority indicators to help understand local needs for wellbeing data. Today, we’re sharing a range of indicators, frameworks and measures of community wellbeing that have been used by government agencies and NGOs in the UK over the last five years. You might be asking yourself: aren’t these the same thing? What’s the difference between measuring community wellbeing and overall wellbeing in a local area?

Although the UK government has been assessing wellbeing at the national level –  including economic performance, quality of life, the state of the environment, sustainability, and equality – these measures don’t necessarily capture ‘community wellbeing’.

Our local authority indicators capture individual wellbeing in a given area, but this is not enough to measure the wellbeing of a community as a whole. Community wellbeing takes into account all of the individual wellbeing factors, plus things like intra-community relations, inter-generational connections and social capital.

Community wellbeing is less well defined and understood as a concept, in part because it can be complex and contested. But it’s also due to the fact that indicators measuring a community’s wellbeing may be described using other terms, such as “social capital” or “liveability”.

The scoping review we’re publishing today highlights the theories and concepts that underpin them, as well as useful list of terms used to describe community wellbeing.

Our goal is that this report and indicators help make it easier to understand and start measuring community wellbeing, as has been the case with individual and national wellbeing.

And despite the lack of clarity about what exactly community wellbeing is, we have managed to unearth 43 indicator sets, comprising 273 raw indicators of community wellbeing. The graph below groups these indicators into 25 domains of community wellbeing, showing how often the different domains were mentioned. Most indicators are focussed on health and wellbeing (11%), while economy, inclusion and relationships were also popular fields.

fig2-cwb.png

To delve deeper into the definitions of, and important questions about, community wellbeing, you can read our conceptual review coming out later this summer. Or, have a look at our theory of change slide set that suggests a way for organisations and community groups to approach improving local wellbeing.

This list of indicators isn’t exhaustive, and we’d love to hear from you if you know of any that should be included. You can email us at evidence@whatworkswellbeing.org.

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