Community workshops are being held to discuss barriers and solutions to wellbeing in the Kirkstall Valley.
On Tuesday evening I attended the first, in a series of three workshops, exploring the opportunities, barriers, and solutions to wellbeing and community engagement in the Kirkstall Valley area. The workshops are hosted by academics from the University of Leeds in partnership with community organisation the Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT).
The workshops are being held to not only to collect data for the Living Well Within Limits (LiLi) project, which is a large project that aims to address some crucial but understudied questions (such as ‘What are the biophysical resources, more specifically energy, required to achieve human well-being?’ and ‘What influence do social and technical provisioning systems have on the levels of resource use associated with well-being?’), but also, to improve understanding of the needs and wants of the Kirkstall Valley community, in relation to wellbeing, to aid the work of the KVDT.
The participatory workshop that I attended was held at what will be the home of KVDT, in unit 11 in the Kirkstall Bridge shopping centre. The goal of the 2-hour workshop was to bring members of the Kirkstall Valley community together (people living and working in Burley, Kirkstall, Bramley and Armley) to think and talk about the issues and barriers that people face in relation to wellbeing.
The workshop started at 6pm with food and drink (and time to get to know each other), and then moved into a group discussion about the barriers facing the community, led by Dr Lina Brand Correa, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds and member of the LiLi project. The discussion started off freely, with us all saying what we thought was important to our wellbeing. We came up with things such as a healthy family, having a purpose, green space for exercise and relaxation, and enough money to enjoy free time.
The discussion then became more focussed as we related our perceptions of wellbeing to those put forward by a nine-point wellbeing framework. The framework is based on the work of Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist and philosopher. He called it “Human Scale Development”.
The 9 points are as follows, and are set against potential barriers arising from Being (personal attributes), Having (norms, mechanics and tools) Doing (personal) ad Interacting (spaces and atmspheres)
After some time talking through each factor and defining what each one meant, we then split into groups of 2 or 3 to consider the barriers to achieving these aspects of wellbeing in the Kirkstall Valley area.
My group was tasked with coming up with barriers to ‘doing’. We found this challenging as we weren’t confident with how to approach it or what ‘doing’ really meant. However, after some guidance from the workshop’s facilitators (and defining what doing actually meant – the actions that people and communities take that may limit or facilitate wellbeing) we soon came up with a number of examples of individual and collective ‘doing’/ behaviours which were preventing ourselves, and the community, from achieving optimum wellbeing.
Our responses were varied, but considered factors such as the number of people driving in the area (leading to high levels of pollution and ultimately poor health), the building of ‘walls’ between community groups (leading to high levels of social isolation and a lack of social cohesion), and negative community portrayal in the media (resulting in people not valuing the area or avoiding it altogether).
Other groups highlighted barriers related to ‘being’, ‘having’, and ‘interacting’. Barriers that we discussed included infrastructure (for example having the river and busy road cutting through the community), and personal and community stresses (such as a lack of time, limited money, and potential worries relating to flooding).
Although the workshop was challenging, it was interesting to hear about the perceived and actual barriers to wellbeing in the Kirkstall Valley community. I look forward to reading a summary of the findings from the workshops, but I hope that the research team will also get out and about to talk to more members of the community who may not be comfortable with or able to attend such workshops, as I am sure this could lead to the identification of more barriers to wellbeing, not necessarily experienced by the people who have the time, resources and confidence to attend.
KVDT’s AGM will take place on Thursday 26th September at 7.30pm in Unit 11, Kirkstall Bridge Retail Park and will provide an update for community members on upcoming projects.
The next workshop is on Thursday 12th of September from 6:00pm until 8:00pm (dinner included)
AND Saturday 14th of September, 11:00am-1:00pm (lunch included). NOTE that in order to attend this workshop, you must have attended either the Tuesday or the Thursday workshop – and you must, please, let the organisers know!
Kirkstall Valley Development Trust, Unit 11, Kirkstall Bridge.
If you would like to participate, please let us know!