Conceptualising Wellbeing from a Community Perspective

Authors: Mayoh, J., Kavanagh, E. and Wilding, A.

Conference: LSA 2012

Dates: 17-19 July 2012


Despite the social relevance of the concept of wellbeing, it remains a vague and abstract term in that an accepted and uniform definition does not currently exist. There is subsequently a need for inquiry that focuses on conceptualising wellbeing in a meaningful way in order to explore this increasingly relevant concept. This approach to conceptualisation is especially pertinent as wellbeing is already a widely-used term for communities and the individuals within them. The current research project acknowledges that personal and community choices regarding which cultural and sporting activities individuals participate in (and provide for at a community level) can help identify important insights into what is valued, and therefore what contributes to wellbeing in a meaningful sense. The study will therefore adopt a focused approach that will consider the discretionary choices people and communities make, or would like to make if conditions allowed.

Approach- The presentation will report on qualitative findings from a pilot study conducted with community groups in the South-West of England. A “ground-up” approach to building an understanding of what wellbeing might mean to individuals and communities has been adopted rather than a “top down” style of trying to identify (objective) dimensions of wellbeing to measure, or an atheoretical approach in which broad questions about subjective levels of happiness are asked without understanding how different individuals and communities understand what makes them live well. By working “ground-up” emphasis is placed on individual and community involvement which impacts on credibility and also reflects politically relevant demands for localism. Furthermore the involvement of individuals and communities embraces the concept of active citizenship, and its key driver of individual choice, allowing the approach to reflect the understanding of discretionary behaviours.

Significance- This initial exploratory research can make a significant contribution to knowledge by providing a platform for more credible scholarly activity concerning wellbeing in the future. Current academic inquiry within the field of wellbeing lacks vital theoretical underpinning associated with a strong definition and conceptualisation. Adequate conceptualisation grounded in the individually and socially constructed meaning attributed to wellbeing would make a significant contribution to this area of academic inquiry.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Joanne Mayoh

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