EPA report out now: Identifying ‘What Matters’ for Community Wellbeing for Public Participation Networks

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a research report Identifying “What Matters” for Community Wellbeing with the Irish Public Participation Networks by Simon O’Rafferty.

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.

Report available here: EPA What Matters Report

  • Executive summary from the report:

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” (DRCD, 2017). There is a PPN in each of the 31 local authority areas in Ireland and together they have a membership of approximately 12,800 Irish organisations and groups across the community and voluntary, environment and social inclusion sectors.

Alongside building the capacity of community organisations and electing community representatives to sit on local government policy committees, one of the functions of the PPNs is to develop municipal district-level “visions” of community wellbeing. These visions of community wellbeing are to be set out in a “wellbeing statement” that is used by the PPNs to inform their participatory and advocacy work with local government and their local policy committees.

By understanding which determinants of community wellbeing matter to people at a municipal district level, the PPNs can more legitimately present and represent the views and wishes of communities across Ireland. The PPN wellbeing statement can provide local government, national statutory and non-statutory bodies and elected representatives with insights that can inform the design of local policies, services, programmes and engagement strategies.

This report presents the initial findings from an action research project in which a toolkit was co-designed that helps PPNs develop their visions of community wellbeing. The action research and co-design project was funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and delivered on a part-time basis
between October 2017 and September 2018.

An EPA research fellow worked alongside four PPNs, the Irish Environmental Network and Social Justice Ireland to co-design a toolkit for identifying “bottom-up” community wellbeing indicators. This toolkit was then tested through workshops with PPN members in Wicklow, Cork City, Longford and Roscommon. It is planned that, following this, the co-designed toolkit will be rolled out to the 31 PPNs across Ireland.

From these workshops, 2203 separate suggestions on “what matters” to communities across six wellbeing domains were collected. Using inductive thematic analysis, these 2203 suggestions were synthesised into “visions” for community wellbeing for each of the municipal district areas of the PPNs.

These “visions for community wellbeing” 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. Following the co-design process, additional analysis was undertaken by the research fellow in order to develop a framework of community wellbeing indicators and a proposed methodology that could be delivered at a later stage by the PPNs.

For this project, community wellbeing was situated within a sustainability and environmental policy frame and used as a conceptual framework to consider how wellbeing interventions for sustainable communities in Ireland could be designed. The project builds on existing work by the EPA on the “environment, health and wellbeing nexus”, sustainable communities, behaviour change and citizen science projects.

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