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I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me

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Action 43

Wake up your MP and council to wellbeing

There is now strong research evidence on the factors that are important for community well-being as well as individual happiness and health. Our local authorities and councils have a responsibility for many of these. So making sure our local leaders see well-being as a priority is an important responsibility for us all. It will increase everyone's happiness in the long-run.

Why do it?

Much of what is under the direct control of local government impacts individual and community well-being: green spaces, schools, transport links, housing, libraries, sports and leisure facilities and street cleaning.

The role of local government has always been to provide the conditions for the local population to flourish. But in the past this has been a broad, unfocused goal and has often not been as high a priority as financial considerations. There is now a growing body of research evidence that shows how different factors in our local areas can increase individual happiness and health and community well-being overall, enabling local authorities to make more informed decisions about what to prioritise.

An increasing number of local authorities are translating what we know about happiness into practice in more systematic and effective ways, but there is still a long way to go. As citizens, we can take action to ensure our local leaders are aware of the benefits of paying greater attention to happiness and well-being in our communities.

Where to start

1. Write to your MP of local Councillor - If you think that they could be doing more to prioritise happiness and wellbeing in your community.

  • Use Write To Them to find out who your local MP and leaders are and how to contact them. You can read more about their views and their backgrounds at They Work For You.
  • Pick one or two specific issues that you want to write about. They receive hundreds of communications a day so make sure it stands out and is as effective as possible.

2. Make the case that happiness and wellbeing is part of their remit - Much of what affects the quality of people's lives is under direct control of local government: green spaces, schools, transport, housing, libraries, sports and leisure facilities and street cleaning.

Creating the conditions that enable your community to flourish is no longer a broad or fluffy goal. There is an increasing body of evidence on what local governments can do to increase wellbeing and resilience. Many are already putting this evidence into practice and making innovative use of local authority structures and more power to promote wellbeing.

What do you think would most benefit the community you live in? Pick one or two examples that you believe in most strongly. The reports and pilot projects included in the references below will give you some ideas. They include trialling new 'emotional resilience' curricula in schools to designing more people-friendly open spaces.

Here are a few examples of what some local authorities are already doing:

  • Local Wellbeing Project: a three year initiative exploring how local government can practically improve the happiness and wellbeing of its citizens. The main areas of work were: an emotional resilience curriculum in schools; improving the wellbeing of older people; increasing supply and demand of apprenticeships; neighbourhood empowerment; positive parenting; environmental sustainability and how to measure wellbeing and resilience.
  • Lambeth Happiness and Wellbeing: read about Lambeth's action plan to improve happiness and mental wellbeing in Lambeth.
  • The role of local government in increasing wellbeing:report by nef outlining how different local authorities are putting their Five Ways to Wellbeing into practice. Sutton is designing traffic-free spaces in new developments, and Merton has an Intergenerational Centre.

Resources