The Community Wellbeing Framework – An Introduction

The Community Wellbeing Framework - An Introduction



so this is a very exciting moment for us with a Conference Board of Canada we've been doing a tremendous amount of research around how do we go about understanding community well-being and measuring the idea of community well-being ultimately it's about affecting our professions architecture urban planning engineering interiors landscape and try and and inform decisions and inform the conversations with communities and this report provides a bit of a methodology and also a set of indicators and metrics but we do see that as much as this is a culmination of a tremendous amount of research it's also a starting point it's a moment when we're launching a bigger conversation with communities with a lot of our clients with a lot of the people that we work with to test these ideas and see how they work out in the field and do some pilot projects so we see that there will be a version two in a version three and a version 4 as the years unfold so it is a very exciting moment but it's also an exciting and as much as it is about extending that conversation much broader listening how's everyone doing your property caffeinated good you got some fruit got going awesome so I want to start just by telling you a little bit of a story about five years ago or there abouts we went through a soul-searching exercise and literally asked ourselves why do we get up in the morning and I'm sure each one of you individually and within your own organizations have done a little bit of the same just like why am I doing this why do I get up every morning and and and why does it matter and and the exercise really led us into trying to understand what's the purpose of our projects what's the purpose of our disciplines what's the purpose of the you know the different sectors that we're working within and we came up with a statement and it sounds straightforward took us a while to get there but it really speaks to the notion of hey there's a craft that we love we love design we love planning we love city building right we love these things and there's a sense of purpose in it all right it's really about meaningfully improving the well-being of communities and truth be said if if it's not about that like why why do it right why get up in the morning so woohoo great we had a statement what the hell does that mean right we all of a sudden discovered we really had no idea what community well-being meant how did we know we were doing it how did we know we were in fact meaningfully improving well-being right and many regards it's not unlike where the conversation around sustainability was maybe 20 30 years ago sounds great we want to be sustainable what the hell are we talking about nobody knew at that point how to measure it how to go about understanding if we were doing it or not today we can measure the carbon footprint of everything right that cup of coffee like we know the carbon footprint of that well-being is an ocean of that in many regards the maturity around that conversation is more or less at that stage there's a lot of intuitive notions of where it makes sense and there's a lot of people starting to think about it but truly as an industry we don't know what we're talking about so hence we we decided that we would team up with a Conference Board of Canada and why because they do things that we don't do they're experts around research they're experts around developing robust research methodologies they come at it from a perspective of indicators and economists and the types of things that really complement what we do and we developed a methodology like how do we go about doing this kind of a research and we started about two years ago and it started with doing a literature review of over 3,000 pieces of literature and at that point we discovered wow actually there's a lot of thinking that is emerging on a number of different fields right so United Nations has indicators around community well-being which are great but they tackle things that may not affect as much the decisions that we're making on a day to day project so for example access to water or access to sewage great you know really important things but again not as relevant or City Vancouver has indicators around community well-being again great but they're tracking things like voter turnout rates or high school dropout rates really important but not something that as architects as urban planners as landscape architects interior designers and engineers that really affects the decisions of our of our projects so then we started to just talk to anybody who would talk to us right we started to engage chief medical officers and a lot of our clients and municipal staff and city mayors and just everybody who could inform this conversation and as you can imagine this hull of a sudden started to yield a tremendous amount of thinking but then we started to kind of navigate between that and try to understand how we could go about bringing some wherewithal into that thinking the first part was actually coming up with a definition like how do we define community well-being and it took us least six months just to get to that definition we knew that we wanted it to be something that would affect all of our professions right everybody in the room the types of things that we're working on from the building interiors to the building itself to the site to the neighborhood to generally kind of the region in the ecosystems within which we work right we knew that it had to be kind of a variety of different scales otherwise it wouldn't be relevant to a lot of what we do it also had to be relevant to kind of the city building the architecture the urban planning the interiors that you know how to be relevant to some of it some of these these pieces so how do we go about defining it well we actually adopted a well understood definition that is used in Australia and other places use it in order to understand the built environment and that is that it's a combination of a number of different things so social economic environmental cultural and political domains and this is really important and we debated for a couple of months just should the word political be in there and we decided that absolutely it must and the reason for that is that actually speaks to process that speaks to the voices of who participated in the process matter right how we came about was part of the conversation actually matters to the conversation and this was a tremendous watershed moment for us in the conversation because it meant that no longer could this be a top-down externally imposed system that you would kind of force into a project all of a sudden had to be a system that had to be tailored and nuanced and and really emerged on a project-by-project community by community context by context basis this was so important that it actually became reinforced in the second part of the definition right that individuals and communities need to be part of that conversation right so all of a sudden our our definition launched us in a very different course and launched us into really starting to understand what are some of the important conversations that we have to have within the context of a project but it meant we weren't going to be a you know a measuring system we weren't going to be a set of standards we were in fact going to be a mechanism in which we were going to guide decision-making through through projects right which was which is a very different way of understanding it but we felt that it was really important in terms of actually meaningfully improving the well-being of communities we weren't trying to benchmark once against another we were trying to inform decisions so we start with this kind of intuition community well-being like and we start to get a little bit of better sense of that definition we started to then layer the domains that came from the definition and then we started to deliver some of the indicators and then eventually some of the metrics that start to inform each one of these and there's a couple of wheels on the table around some of some of these but if you walk around our office you start to see people at their desks have these wheels pinned up and and they're starting to really use them in the context of projects but I'll walk you through the different indicators as part of testing the indicators we actually did case studies so we went to projects that we understood well that we had all the documentation and that we could talk to all the people communities clients neighbors users of that project from its inception all the way to its occupancy to really see if these indicators and metrics were making sense the first case study was the Durham Regional Police which is you know a project that is actually fairly complex but also fairly typical of issues that you know project that of a midsize would start to deal with and very intentionally we picked different case studies that reflected very different different elements so I'll use the Durham Regional Police as the backdrop to talk about that first domain which is the social domain within the social domain the first indicator was welcoming clearly if a project is not designed to be welcoming to everybody regardless of background regardless of physical abilities regardless of income right it wasn't going to be contributing to the broader well-being of the community so it was really important to make welcoming a significant part of the conversation on any project from day one and all of these are intended to inform day one right if a project never asked the question how are we gonna make this welcoming clearly we were not going to be able to deliver community well-being second one or what are the support systems that any given community be it the community within the building the community within the neighbourhood you know whatever the community is what are the support systems that they need for their day-to-day life that's a really important question to ask right at the beginning of the project and often it's not asked until later or not realized until the building is occupied oh we realize we actually needed X wire is that right a day care or access to food or access to different different elements so by doing this we're actually forcing these things to come right at the beginning of the conversation the third one is socialization and it's incredible the amount of literature that points us at the importance of socialization for mental health for social well-being for a number of different fronts we know that we can push ten years further in quality of life and audience at the early onset of dementia and Alzheimer's if we have great spaces for socialization so our projects need to be addressing that open space interior space you know all those environments where people are checking in and out of each other and kind of in touching base the second case study that we looked at was the banks the banks is a residential project it's a very different type of a project obviously than a civic building which was the the Durham Regional Police now use it as a backdrop to talk about the environment the first indicator that we really wanted to talk around in the environment was delight and enjoyment clearly if a place is not geared for the enjoyment of people if it's not geared to be a place where people can linger where people want to stay where people want to be part of it if people are only coming and leaving and they're not and it's a very functional space that environment was not going to be able to support the broader well-being and this is key this is starting to be tracked in hospitals and healthcare buildings on a number of different fronts right so one of the metrics in that indicator is for example Biophilia right the access to in views to nature and the axis and views to natural environments and the literature that tracks the impact that that has on the well-being of individuals and families and communities is incredible the second indicator is very much the types of things that you would often see tracked in reviewing the environment right so the health of the natural systems and natural capital so water energy air you know all of these kinds of things we're really tracking carbon and greenhouse gas emissions clearly doing the types of things that is going to support the environment is going to support the well-being of people and environment and people are intricately linked and we always want to understand those things together mobility is an indicator could have landed almost in every one of those domains but how do we both support active lifestyles and redo whose card dependency become critical elements in enhancing community well-being we know there was an article just recently around how cycling actually extends your life absolutely we know these kinds of things and in fact this is one of those areas where the literature is the most advanced by linking active lifestyles with health right the the areas where we're really only scratching the surface as a society is around mental health around social segregation around you know many other aspects of social well-being and mental well-being the fourth one is resilience right do we really understand what are some of the hazards that any community will face and do we actually have an ability to understand how we're going to manage that and how are we going to adapt and how are we going to be better at the outcome of it instead of worsened by it so really starting to focus on creating resilience plans and understanding all of your objectives around resiliency our third case study decidedly jazz a building in Calgary so this is that extensively in the office building but it accommodates and dance studios and community uses and all kinds of things so again a very different type of a context and a very different type of a project but I'll use it as a backdrop for the economic domain so the first one is affordability and a lot of us immediately think about affordable housing but we really want to look at the affordability of all aspects of lifestyles right so affordable mobility affordable access to recreation affordable access to food there's all kinds of things that really need to speak to how people are being able to access the things that they need on a day to day basis and that's critical if we don't have that if we haven't addressed that if our project hasn't asked this question we're not going to be able to really enhance the well-being of that community second one is complete communities right and this is this notion that the ability to undertake the activities of your everyday life within walking distance if we're thinking about the economy if we're thinking about the lifestyles of folks within that walking radius distance then then we're really talking about that community we're talking about that environment it allows us to focus things in a very special way the third one is really kind of that lifecycle value generation that gets it's a way of thinking right it's about future proofing it's about thinking about projects as they move through their whole lifecycle it's not just about the capital it's also the operating the management and all of those pieces which is where often a conversation around the economic domain would tend to go and then the fourth one is about the local economy because we know that if we can spin a dollar if we can source materials locally if we can create opportunities for entrepreneurial ISM if we can create opportunities for folks within the community to really develop a local economy then the well-being of that community is going to be further enhanced so again we're pointing at projects let's start to think about this let's start to think about how can we engage the broader community and how can that support the local economy the fourth domain is the cultural domain and this is a the Edmonton LRT we also wanted to make sure that this started to make sense for a large infrastructure projects our other city building type of interventions and how did we start to think about it so the first domain sorry first indicator in this domain is around cultural vitality right are we providing access are we really providing environments where you're going to have opportunities for cultural and recreational vitality and in fact are we asking the questions with our communities and one of the communities that we've been doing a lot of engagement with is indigenous communities is you know how do we create environments that really recognize the cultural lens and and the cultural needs of an indigenous community or different types of communities second one is a sense of belonging and I and I had a kind of an aha moment we were doing the University of Saskatchewan campus master plan and in that we were meeting with an indigenous student and he was born there and standing in the middle of the campus he told me I don't feel like I belong his entire life he's been there he said I don't feel like I belong right I feel this environment is alien that was tragic to me I spoke to the inability of that environment to even recognize and acknowledge that there was a disconnect so I think it's incredibly important for us to be thinking about what is going to be an environment and let's have those conversations with our communities with our stakeholders how are we going in fact to enhance a sense of belonging for anybody who is going to be part of this environment the third one is play and it's incredible again the amount of literature that links play to well-being and it's not just kids it's all of us right the ability to engage the world creatively the ability to relax and engage each other creatively right and our projects in fact creating environments for that or are they precluding us from being able to participate in the environments creatively and learning learning is also incredibly linked to the notion of well-being and it's not just the lifelong learning which in itself is a tremendous goal and in a very important contributor it's also the ability for people to understand why the hell are we doing all this right if we are wagging the finger and telling people they shall believe active lifestyles and people don't get it they don't buy into it they don't know why this is important then the uptake is going to be very low so learning has to be a big part of it the last one is the political domain and I love this photograph we were doing the wayfinding strategy for it for the city of Toronto and we were setting up in the jack layton ferry terminal and Batman and the Joker took a little break from taking photographs with tourists and came down and engaged in our consultation process the political domain is really about you know who's participating in the process and drawing on tension on the importance of the voices that do participate so the first indicator is is this an integrated process did we get everybody who needed to be part of it right and did we get people from different backgrounds being part of the conversation from day one right but just because they were there doesn't mean that it was a collaborative process so did we have a collaborative process did we have the right mechanisms for collaboration did we in fact get all those folks participating and ultimately are we creating an environment where we're really fostering the sense of ownership and stewardship right and it's not just that the designer or the planner or the client you know the owner kind of owns this environment we want every user every person to feel like they are part of stewarding the outcome of it so if you can't control your space if you can't plant your garden or own your front yard if you can't feel like you can be member of a resident association if you can't feel like your opinions matter and that your voice matters clearly we're not going to be able to deliver that sense of community well-being so where does this lead us so we had a sense that you know there was a number of indicators there's a number of metrics we tested them on a number of different projects and we they refined every time we we went through a case study they evolved in the end they were find but then we thought you know what would really need to kind of start taking these out into into communities and start to get a little bit of a sense of you know how they're being used out in the practice so this is a project in Ottawa here on gate where we started to tackle the conversation with the community and and try to frame it in the context of community well-being and in fact it was really interesting because really complex questions like affordability like displacement like social segregation came into a very different light when we were when we were started to kind of have some of these conversations so this is the local councillor talking about the importance of community well-being you see the the panel in the backdrop you actually see all of these materials being used in context of that workshop and it was very interesting to start to see that that becoming a way of framing the conversation and in fact it allowed us to have some some really important conversations this is out in the township of petroleum petroleum is a town and they suddenly discovered that they could actually do a much greater job if they worked together because the hospital can only do a few things the town could only do a few things but if we brought a real lens around community well-being it started to make some some very different approaches so we started to use it on a number of different projects we're really testing it out but we're also doing and I should mention that all of this research all of this is we're just putting it all out there we're not keeping any intellectual property all in it we're sharing it with everybody in the world and that's a big part of today but we're also going to be the final report it's gonna be fully public because we imagine that different folks will start to use it in different ways right and you yourselves will start to take some ideas and you'll say you know this makes it doesn't make sense this may inform my process and we'll start to collect some of that feedback we'll start to engage much broader in how those things start to come back to us and it will be really important because even though we're working towards this deadline of getting the first report out we already know that we're going to be working towards version 2 and version 3 and version 4 of it as we start to collect more and more information so we did you know literature review and case studies and we've in fact done a fair bit of peer review so we had Laval University and series the Center for Research around disabilities and Dia see the design industry Advisory Council and public health Ottawa have all done peer reviews of our of our outcomes and and their their insight has also helped make it make it stronger we still imagine that there's going to be roundtables that there's going to be pilot projects that there's going to be all kinds of ways in which we're gonna continue to further the thinking and evolve it and and just share it as broadly as we can and why because ultimately if we really want to improve the well-being of communities then the more people who can be doing this the better thanks for coming

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