Vital Conditions for Community Wellbeing

For the past six months the Institute for People, Place, and Possibility (IP3), the organization that stewards Community Commons, has furiously worked behind the scenes to help launch Well Being Legacy, in partnership with Well Being Trust, Community Initiatives and The Rippel Foundation/Rethink Health. Well Being Legacy, a new national initiative, has big ambitions to shape wellbeing for future generations. It seeks to lift up a living agenda that brings together the most promising policies, practices, and investments to drive intergenerational community wellbeing.

In this early phase, we are listening to, learning from, and connecting with leaders who are creating conditions for wellbeing. The Inaugural Gathering of Well Being Legacy kicks off in Oakland, California this week. (We will look forward to sharing more as it unfolds!) The gathering brings together an exciting mix of community changemakers, and pioneering organizations to engage in productive dialogue about what it will take to create and drive a renaissance of more equitable health and wellbeing.

Vital Conditions: Our Framework for Wellbeing

Well Being Legacy distinguishes two related ways to understand wellbeing – at the individual and at the community levels:

  • Personal Health and Wellbeing: our individual experiences, perspectives that affect how we think, feel, function, and evaluate our lives
  • Vital Conditions for Health + Wellbeing: properties of places and institutions that contribute to our wellbeing

Personal health and well-being rises and falls throughout our lives – as we develop, age, suffer trauma, injury or illness, and recover. Vital conditions, on the other hand, persist in our communities, across generations – strongly shaping the exposures, choices, opportunities and adversities that we experience throughout our lives.

Developed by our friends at Rethink Health, the Vital Conditions offer a useful framework for conceptualizing holistic wellbeing and the conditions that give rise to it. The framework brings together major determinants of health and wellbeing, helping us to see how parts of a multi-faceted whole work as a system to produce population wellbeing. By understanding the system, we see the levers for changemaking.

The Vital Conditions framework takes a long view of things. It recognizes that many of the major forces that drive wellbeing were set in motion long ago. Generations of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression, for instance, have created disparity and inequity in health and wellbeing. Framing the concept of wellbeing around legacy provides a way for us to acknowledge context and historic injustices, while seeing such conditions as movable. That we have the power and autonomy to transform our worlds.

With these “wellbeing legacies” in mind, IP3 and Community Commons are collaborating on an exploratory data project to bring the Vital Conditions to life. In the coming weeks, we will share a series of visualizations to explore the Vital Conditions and state of wellbeing in the United States. For now, we leave you with the framework itself!

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