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The RSA is leading the way in imagining what a ‘human welfare economy’ might look like: one in which our social and economic systems and services offer everyone a fair chance at a flourishing and fulfilling life.
Health and wellbeing are key components of the good life well lived, and the RSA has recently completed a 5-year action research study - Connected Communities - which makes the case for greater investment in community capital, arguing that vibrant, connected communities with strong ties and high levels of trust and participation are not only critical to building the kind of society that we'd all like to live in, but can also be mobilised to bring about better individual health outcomes.
We argue that creating stronger communities should, therefore, be a strategic health priority – resulting in services that are built ‘with, not for’ people. And though we can show that a commitment to enhancing community capital does bring about ‘return on investment’, our argument goes beyond instrumentalism; we maintain that we should work on the assumption that connected communities are a good in themselves – and that a good society shouldn’t need a data set to underpin such a belief.
We also recognise that community capital, like financial capital, is unevenly distributed, and so we are interested in better understanding the kinds of services and support networks that need to be developed to help challenge inequalities of health and wellbeing.
So, if we are to fully unleash the power of community to create better health and wellbeing for all, what might this mean for current and future approaches to civic capacity-building and to the delivery of health and social care?
The Connected Communities programme was a five-year longitudinal research project, in partnership with the Centre for Citizenship and Community at the University of Central Lancashire and the Personal Social Services Research Unit at LSE, and funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund. Read more about the Connected Communities: Mental Wellbeing and Social Inclusion report.