The sustainable development movement paved the way for how we view community well-being today. The notion of environmental well-being arose from the Brundtland Commission’s development of the concept of sustainable development in the ‘Our Common Future’ report in 1987. Like sustainable development, community well-being entails a holistic approach to the relationships and linkages between the social, economic and environmental/physical components within a community. For both sustainable development (in the community context) as well as community well-being, it is important to note changes in the relationships between social, economic and environmental/physical community components, as well as recognise that the overall goal of the initiatives are to make a community better off.
A bottom-up approach to decision making has always been stressed in sustainable development initiatives; the same goes for community well-being. So, when undertaking a community well-being exercise, the community itself should be defining what it sees as ‘well-being’ and how to measure it. To do so, community well-being studies often use ‘indicators’. Community indicators are measurements that provide information about past and current trends and assist planners and community leaders in making decisions that affect future outcomes. They provide insight into the overall direction of a community: whether it is improving, declining, or staying the same, or is some mix of all three. Furthermore, a bottom-up approach would stress that communities define their own set of indicators for how well-being can be measured.
Danya Al-Haydari is an Environmental Planner at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, where she specializes in public consultation, environmental assessment and energy policy. She has coordinated work for the Port Hope and Port Granby Projects, and conducted research on the Port Hope Area Initiative’s Property Value Protection Program. Most recently, she co-authored a paper for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization on community well-being in nuclear host communities. Danya is a member of the Canadian Nuclear Societyand Women in Nuclear Canada.