Chapter 12

Community Change

The Complex Nature of Interventions to Promote Positive Connections

Sue Roffey

University of Western Sydney, Australia

Jacqueline Barnes

Birkbeck, University of London, U.K.

Introduction: The Balance Between the Individual and the Community—a Symbiotic Relationship

How well we flourish as individuals is fundamentally embedded in our interactions with others who share our world and the way this world is construed. Positive psychology has much to say about individual happiness, but we know from a wealth of research that sustainable wellbeing needs to be based in more than individual hedonism. One of the fundamental aspects of authentic wellbeing is the quality of relationships within communities, whether these are within families, schools, clubs, or neighborhoods (Roffey, 2012).

This association between the individual and the community is not new. Over a hundred years ago the sociologist Emile Durkheim (1951/1898) made a case for the links between social expectations, norms and rates of suicide. Although cultures differ, there is strong evidence, summarized by Wilkinson and Pickett (2010), that societies which strive for greater equality and the “common good” have better levels of mental health, less violence and criminality and better social and health outcomes. Money does increase our wellbeing up to a point, but above a certain level it does not make much sustainable difference unless other aspects of wellbeing are in place (Huppert & So, 2009). What ...

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