Many municipalities across Ontario have begun to develop well-being plans. A community plan for well-being usually entails a set of change-motivated strategies with goals intended to champion enhancements in well-being within a municipality. Whether focused on issues such as community health, employment opportunities, land development or streetscape revitalization, these plans aim to use community determined measures of well-being as a means to inspire and develop new planning initiatives and help form collaborative partnerships with local stakeholders. Most importantly, municipalities are beginning to place an increased importance on the consideration of various well-being factors in the earliest stages of various municipal strategic planning processes.
The following goals can be supported by the inclusion of community well-being in the planning process:
- Development of a definition of well-being that is appropriate for a particular community;
- Raise the profile of the concept of community well-being in all planning initiatives;
- Support and ‘buy-in’ from local stakeholders;
- Engaging residents in meaningful participation;
- Encouraging collaborative processes;
- Developing achievable actions and strategies for the community;
- Commitment to implementation; and
- Monitoring of the process and lessons learned.
A municipality’s plan for well-being is not necessarily proposed to cause alterations in existing programs, but rather, to reposition the municipal planning process such that well-being becomes a central consideration. It is essential for community members to feel that their needs and desires are being put at the forefront, rather planners focusing excessively on theory and the needs of larger stakeholders. Planning needs to always be working with and for people, never in spite of them. Engaging local communities to create well-being plans is an important visioning exercise that can have profound impacts on the planning process in a municipality and on the attitudes of the people in general.
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 Society and Women in Nuclear Canada.