New Report - Identifying “What Matters” for Community Wellbeing with the Irish PPNs
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the EPA Research 351: Identifying “What Matters” for Community Wellbeing with the Irish Public Participation Networks. The Public Participation Networks (PPNs) were established through the 2014 Local Government Reform Act in order to “provide a mechanism by which citizens can have a greater say in local government decisions which affect their own communities”.
This report presents the findings from an action research project in which a toolkit to develop visions of community wellbeing was co-designed with four PPNs.
One of the functions of the PPNs is to develop municipal district-level “visions” of community wellbeing. This report presents the findings from an action research project in which a toolkit to develop visions of community wellbeing was co-designed with four PPNs.
A fundamental role of public policy is the protection and enhancement of the wellbeing of citizens. Wellbeing is central to the measurement of welfare trends and “genuine progress” at national and local levels. Wellbeing accounts for the emotional and behavioural dimensions of citizens and places value on the non-monetary benefits of a range of socio-economic and environmental conditions. Therefore, wellbeing can be used in the economic appraisal of policies as well as in the strategic design of various policy interventions, but the potential for this has not been fully realised at a national or local policy level in Ireland.
Through a series of community workshops in Cork, Longford, Roscommon and Wicklow, 2203 separate suggestions on “what matters” to communities across six wellbeing domains were collected for this research study. The 2203 suggestions were synthesised into “visions” for community wellbeing that were structured around the six wellbeing domains of social and community development; environment and sustainability; work, economy and resources; health; values, culture and meaning; and participation, democracy and good governance. The research project aimed to inform policy by highlighting how bottom-up measures of community wellbeing can be adopted and how this can be used to design both local and national policies.
The findings from this research informed the design of a community wellbeing toolkit, which is being rolled out across the 33 PPNs across Ireland. The research also made recommendations around using measures of community wellbeing to (1) inform the PPN annual workplan, by designing this around “what matters” to communities, (2) inform the advocacy work of the PPN representatives who sit on local authority strategic policy committees, (3) support informal scrutiny of local government policy by PPNs from a wellbeing perspective and (4) generate ideas for local proposals for community initiatives that can improve subjective and objective wellbeing.