Place and wellbeing - the critical link
Lauren Pennycook, Carnegie UK Trust, tells us a little bit about their research Turnaround Towns, which is demonstrating that our sense of place is inextricably linked to our wellbeing. Lauren will be speaking at The BIG Question 2017.
The places where we live are critical to our wellbeing. The physical and social structures of our cities, towns, villages, and valleys provide us with economic and social opportunities; formal support systems in local public services; and informal support systems in the relationships with our friends, families, and neighbours. From small rural settlements to large urban cities, in upland, lowland, and coastal communities, where we call home provides us with a unique sense of place, identity, and shared history which shapes the local narrative about where we live.
But, in contrast to the local narrative, the national and regional policy narrative of towns is largely negative, and one of decline. Towns are typically defined and categorised in relation to other areas, as ‘satellite’, ‘commuter’, or ‘dormitory’, or by their past, as former coal or post-industrial, in need of regeneration, resilience, or future proofing. This narrative has framed national policy which, in times of austerity, often targets communities experiencing the poorest outcomes for place-based investment; focuses on economic powerhouse cities; or supports rural geographies with their own unique challenges. But how are towns supported in public policy? How can they successfully turn around their fortunes?
Our recent research, Turnaround Towns, brings together eight case studies of international towns that have found themselves facing tough times, but have transformed themselves to create flourishing communities that people are proud to be a part of. The research demonstrates that substantial economic and social change in towns can be achieved by clear action, directed and delivered at a local level. While each of the eight towns featured in the report are very different, there are common factors across these diverse places which, to varying degrees, were vital to their transformation. Considering local policy settings and structures, this session will explore how these lessons can support towns in Wales to realise their own turnaround successes, and improve the wellbeing of citizens.