Voices of New Economies – Healthy Communities, Healthy Economies

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By Adam Lynes-Ford

I’m really interested in the possibilities that arise from two realities:

  1. There are multiple benefits of providing health care to people where Adam Picthey live. In order to keep people and communities healthy, the evidence tells us we need to prioritize offering accessible, interdisciplinary care and support in communities - and when needed, in individuals’ homes.
  2. Current ecological, economic, and social imperatives call on us to rebuild our communities around locally-based, fair, and resilient economies.

Locally-based health care services, such as community health centres with interdisciplinary teams, have excellent health and wellness outcomes and are able to integrate with other community spaces and services that help keep people healthy and connected.

They also provide good, local, skilled (and green) jobs – one of the cornerstones of resilient local economies.

What are some key elements of "new economies"?

  • An integrated approach to health – the health of individuals, communities, economies, and the environment as intimately connected. An understanding that health is more than treatment, it’s about taking measures to maintain and improve our health before we get sick. When people get sick in Canada, half of our health outcomes are a result of social determinants of health – things like access to early childhood care and housing.
  • Community-based care – prioritizing the provision of care and support to people where they live.
  • Universally accessible care – an economy where access to necessary care and support is based on need, not an individual’s ability to pay.
  • Care that celebrates people – I work with a wellness centre that is led by –and for – transgender and gender diverse people. I’ve seen firsthand the remarkable power of providing care that celebrates gender diversity. It’s a simple concept, but one that I think could be applied to many other aspects of how we care for each other.

How does this relate to cities?

One of the projects I work on involves a mapping exercise with highschool-aged youth. Groups of participants get a large piece of paper and markers and are asked to draw what a healthy community looks like to them. Over the years I have been struck by the number of students who illustrate the importance of having health care services located near the other places and services that members of their families, especially elders, need to access. For instance, they draw clusters of grocery stores, immigration services, and community health clinics.

There is a real alignment between living in balance with our environment and supporting healthy communities and people. Just as clustering services and public spaces like parks, grocery stores, libraries around transit hubs supports vibrant communities and reduces the need for emission-intensive car travel, evidence shows that providing care for people in their homes, communities, and clustering multi-disciplinary teams in community health clinics have very positive impacts on people’s health. Moreover, localizing the provision of care localizes jobs.

What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth to me means the ability to connect with the land we live on, including an understanding of, and relationship to, the history of that land.

Along with that connection, real wealth is the ability to live in a way that is in balance with our environment.

In other words, the ability to live in a way that does not overburden the ecosystems to which we belong, and instead cares for them, is fundamental to our core sense of wellbeing and an antidote to the deep spiritually and economically destructive results of living out of step with the carrying capacity of our environment.

 

Related link: A film showcasing the powerful discussion about the value of community support and connection for elders

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Adam Lynes-Ford is a father of two and an avid fisher and gardener. He served as National Director for the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and is the founder of Eatable East Van, a community food sustainability network. Adam was a board member of YouthCO AIDS Society and is a former educator with the Gulf Islands Centre for Ecological Learning. He has served as Co-Chair of the Coalition to Build a Better B.C. and is a current board member of the Catherine White Holman Wellness Centre. He works as the Medicare Campaigner with the BC Health Coalition, an organization that champions a strong public health care system.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

 

 

 

Voices of New Economies: Charles Montgomery

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VOICES OF NEW ECONOMIES - AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES MONTGOMERY
By Alicia Tallack

Charles Montgomery has travelled around the world to better understand what it means to have a Happy City, how we can build it by focusing on what makes us truly happy, and how it changes everything when we do. This concept is a key part of the shift towards economies that work for people and the planet, because when we build cities around happiness, we are simultaneously building an economy that works for us as a whole.charlesmontomerypicture

What are some key elements of New Economies?

First up: new economies must value happiness and wellbeing, rather than relying on cold, hard GDP as a guiding objective. I think this is a reasonable transition, because the reliance on GDP as a measure of societal success was an invention itself. More than 200 years ago, when the intellectual elite of the Enlightenment concerned themselves with the pursuit of happiness, economists pronounced happiness unmeasureable, and concluded that since we can’t measure good and bad feelings, policymakers need to rely on what people spend their money on to tell them what makes people happy.

Now, scientists have studied human wellbeing, health, and happiness, and they’ve discovered two things: First, is that peoples’ self-reports on their own happiness correspond to physiological states in the human body as well as public health outcomes; Second, we can correlate these self-reports with all kinds of economic, societal, environmental, and health, contributors. So we now have the tools to move on from this simplistic idea of what it is to succeed as a society.

Another element driving new economies is that we are starting to measure things that really matter. We used to measure GDP, or products moved, or vehicle speeds on our streets; now, policy makers and the rest of us are considering things like life satisfaction, job satisfaction, health outcomes, and the most important ingredient of human happiness, resilience, and productivity, which is social trust.

Social trust is the most powerful ingredient of human happiness, but it is also a key driver of economic productivity, community resilience, and health outcomes.

Cumulatively, the previous two points add up to this one – new economies are social and collaborative, rather than individualistic and proprietary. This acknowledges that the most powerful driver of human happiness is social relationships. It is positive relationships along with social trust together that keep our communities resilient, healthy, and wealthy. These relationships also drive our economy.

How do we work toward fostering these types of genuine social relationships?

The most powerful tool for fostering social trust is the face-to-face encounter. So, while the internet and social media have been helpful in creating and broadening our social networks and in building useful connections, psychologists are finding that online connections are almost never as deep, honest, supportive, and trusting, as those that happen in person.

How does this relate to cities?

This is why the way we design our cities is so important. Cities mediate all of our relationships. We spent the better part of a century building cities that disperse people and destinations far away from each other. Now we know that this dispersal corrodes what geographers call social interaction potential, which is the ability for people to meet face-to-face. Fortunately, we’ve started to embrace complexity and connectivity in our cities. We’re recognizing that the mixed-use, walkable, connected, neighbourhood is not just a healthier place, but also a more social place, and a more creative and economically productive place.

Should we try to measure happiness? If so, how?

This is the great challenge. We have to avoid the trap that the high modernists fell into a century ago. We cannot rely on one measurement of success. It is tempting to want to use one survey question, such as a question about subjective wellbeing, like “how happy are you?” as the measurement of success of any initiative or place.

While we can learn from these surveys, we must not use any one measure to guide us, because human well-being is as complex and layered and multidimensional as our cities themselves. What we have done with Happy City is to draw lessons from all of the social sciences, and from great cities around the world, and then empower people at the local level to use those tools and create places that meet their needs, and are inspired by their own hyperlocal, complex, organic, nuanced, version of the Happy City.

For example, my team and I worked with the citizens of Mexico City to do a Happy Neighbourhood Audit of a contested neighbourhood called Doctores, and the participants stopped us part way through the process, and told us that our model needed a serious tweak to work in Mexico. We asked what they meant, and they pointed out that on our happiness framework we use in Canada, we don’t emphasize safety and security. In Canadian cities, security is no longer people’s first concern. But in Mexico, security is everything. It consumes people’s nights, days, and political passions. It shapes their worldview. Interestingly, while they were driven by a concern for security, they still suggested the same sidewalks, streets, parks, and interventions that we heard from Canadian, American, and European participants. There are some things that are always part of the conversation, but the local context matters. They taught us that no matter how robust a theoretical model may be, the local experience always trumps the global approach.

What does "real wealth" mean to you?

This is a question one has to take personally. I would say that real wealth means I have what I need to stay strong, connected, and challenged, while thriving. The foundation of that, is always going to be my relationships with other people.

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Charles Montgomery is an author, urbanist and creator of transformative conversations about wellbeing in cities. His award-winning book, Happy City, examines the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness. Collaborating with the Guggenheim Museum and other entities, Montgomery has created experiments and design methods that help participants alter their relationships with their cities, and with each other. His writings on urban planning, psychology, culture and history have appeared in magazines and journals on three continents. Among his numerous awards is a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution towards understanding of climate change science. He lives in Vancouver and Mexico City. Learn more at www.thehappycity.com.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, paces, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.