Nurturing Thriving Communities

In her groundbreaking work on community well-being, Dr. Anita Chandra highlights the value of looking beyond economic measures to other factors that protect communities against despair and promote resilience. We heard many of these factors reflected when we asked residents across the Greater Birmingham region what was important to them: a sense of connection, engagement, and purpose; a feeling of security and belonging where they live; pride in the assets of their neighborhoods, communities, and environment. Together, these and other factors help create a thriving community, where quality of life and the well-being of everyone is valued.

What We Hope to Achieve

We will help improve the health and quality of life of all residents and neighborhoods, with a focus on the most under-served and dis-invested, by:

  1. Promoting a social environment that supports health and lifelong learning of residents and increases social cohesion and opportunities to participate in social and civic activities
  2. Fostering a built environment that is safe, attractive, and supports equitable access and utilization of public spaces and facilities
  3. Preserving a natural environment by supporting environmental health and sustainability.

What We Believe

We believe that a community only thrives if every member has the opportunity to thrive. Most residents want their communities to be diverse, accessible, safe, attractive, and comprised of actively engaged residents. To nurture a thriving community, we should support enhancement and conservation of the built and natural environment, ensure community improvements are available and accessible to all members of the community, foster opportunities for residents to unite around shared priorities, and advocate for quality public services and facilities. We must recognize, connect, and strengthen the assets inherent to communities to improve quality of life for all.

Additional Resources

The work of Dr. Anita Chandra of the RAND Corporation on the Santa Monica Well Being Project has been integral to our understanding of thriving communities. The workbook from this project has helped other communities organize, collect, and analyze community well-being data and shape public policy and programs. Dr. Chandra emphasizes the importance of recognizing and building a community narrative around well-being, which is an often hidden but critical community priority.

She cites studies showing the significant impact that access to amenities such as arts and cultural activities, basic skills training, adult education programs, and civic and social engagement can have on well-being. We have also found the Thriving Cities Group and the Happy City Thriving Places Index valuable frameworks and resources for community design, planning, and evaluation around the concept of a thriving community.