It’s been 6 months since I started working at the Wellbeing Team, Birmingham City Council. My head’s been down focusing on what we saw as the priorities for ‘Active Streets’ – the project I know and love. When I was first invited to attend a conference by Karen Creavin, my first thought was, what exactly is Wellbeing? Then what would a Wellbeing conference be like, and finally why hadn’t I woken up to being part of a Wellbeing Team yet?
‘Wellbeing’, I’ve found out, just means ‘being well’, covering from personal to social to global or environmental issues. So in one conference we were doing Qi Gong and mindfulness before breakfast (wonderfully tasty & nutritious, but no fry-up here), discussion on taking ‘action’ to happiness, to Oxfam presenting on global economics.
The breadth, and social activism embodied in ‘wellbeing’ was brought to life by Katherine Trebeck – and indeed the breadth and purpose of the word, coming as it does from ‘Wealth’, or the old English ‘Weel’ , ‘Wela’. It places centrally the uncomfortable relationship between ‘wealth’ and ‘happiness’ in any serious discussion about ‘wellbeing’.
Wellbeing Teams come in all shapes and sizes, and are usually suffixed with ‘Health and’ or sometimes ‘Community Wellbeing’. Being free of any suffix puts Birmingham Wellbeing Team in a rather unique position to address aspects of ‘wellbeing’ – personal, social, environmental and citywide. This is reflected in both our scope of vision and method of delivery – it’s all in the strapline really – for fun, for free, for everyone.
Keeping delivery fun and free attracts new audiences to ‘Wellbeing Services’, to develop a warm and inclusive environment. ‘For everyone’ is a recognition that wellbeing is an issue of ‘equality’. Implicit in the term ‘for everyone’ is that we are listening and collaborating to find each individual’s best way to wellbeing , not telling everyone what they should or should not be doing. Our failure to improve wellbeing for the poorest in Birmingham could be indicated in life expectancy, obesity, or even happiness and voting patterns. David Cameron wanted a better measure of how the country was doing than GDP, noting, ‘Happiness cannot be measured on a spreadsheet’ . Maybe a key will be the ‘wellbeing revolution’ we came to the conference to find out more about.
The conference moved from discussions on Fearless Cities, Impact Hubs, Rudolf Steiner, Positive Psychology, Psychogeopraphy, health eating, yoga, creative joy, to education and health policies in this country and abroad, Linking us to a common purpose – a Network of Wellbeing.
Chris Johnstone’s keynote pulled many of the strands (or spiders legs) together looking at a personal or larger scale – his ‘five shifts for the Wellbeing Revolution‘. He inspired delegates with Gill Scott-Heron’s ‘The revolution will not be televised’.
The conference developed my sense of place within my own team and city, and looking more widely to the many wonderful people all over the UK and internationally working to improve personal, social, environmental and global wellbeing. The Wellbeing revolution is already here – join us!
The Network of Wellbeing is open to everyone who wants a world that favours happier people, healthier communities and a sustainable planet.