Apr 7, 2021 | by Ingrid Abreu Scherer

Community hubs and green space: real-world evidence for enhancing wellbeing 

What can practice-based case studies tell us about how community hubs and green spaces can enhance wellbeing in a place? Today we publish an update to our popular Places, spaces, people, and wellbeing with a new synthesis of case studies: Community hubs and green space: real-world evidence

>>Read the briefing and full report

Places, spaces, people, and wellbeing is a systematic review that brings together evidence of interventions that boosted social relations through improvements in community infrastructure.

It covered community hubs; events; local neighbourhood design; green and blue space; place-making; alternative use of space; urban regeneration; and community development.

Case studies plugging evidence gaps

This new synthesis of practice-based case studies plugs some of the gaps in the evidence on how community hubs and green spaces can enhance wellbeing in a place. Case study evidence can provide important detail on how these projects and activities are delivered and what can be supportive or act as barriers to achieving desired outcomes in different circumstances.

Local context, community, and complexity

A key theme emerging from the case study evidence was the importance of considering local context and the complexity of responding to local needs through multiple and layered interventions in both green spaces and community hubs. 

Community involvement in the delivery of projects was also identified as important. This supports the systematic review evidence, which found that community involvement in planning was important for the success of projects to improve wellbeing outcomes.

Key findings from systematic review evidence: community hubs

  • Boost social/community cohesion
  • Increase pride in area
  • Increase civic activity/participation*
  • Build trust
  • Increase individuals’ knowledge/skills*
  • Increase social networks*
  • Increase social capital

*these findings were also corroborated by case study review evidence.

This synthesis of practice-based case studies highlights the following.

  • Additional community wellbeing benefits: community empowerment, new groups in the community forming.
  • Additional improvements in mental health.
  • Organisational benefits: opportunities for networking and partnership, raising organisational profiles, improved access to commissions/funding.
  • Unforeseen outcomes: new informal support networks in the community, creation of skills training programmes, ‘peer-led’ becoming widely appreciated, asset-transfer programme developed, reduction in health and social inequalities as community hubs support disadvantaged communities.

Key findings from systematic review evidence: green spaces

  • Boost social/community cohesion
  • Improve families’ wellbeing
  • Improve individual mental wellbeing*
  • Improve social relations/interactions*
  • Increase individuals’ knowledge/skills*
  • Increase social capital

*these findings were also corroborated by case study review evidence.

This new synthesis of practice-based case studies highlights:

  • Additional community wellbeing benefits: opportunities for social activities and volunteering, increased skills, knowledge and confidence within the community, community empowerment via participant-led activities
  • Additional individual wellbeing benefits: gaining employment and a sense of purpose, a transformative change in some people’s lives.
  • Organisational outcomes: strengthened organisational capacity; strengthened or new partnerships; increased influence or organisational profile
  • Delivery: Multiple and layered interventions developed in response to local need and to reach disadvantaged groups, effectively reduce wellbeing inequalities and achieve broad aims of wellbeing and empowerment.
  • Learning processes to gather insights to improve interventions were prominent in some cases.
  • Mechanisms identified: building connections and partnerships, asset-based approaches, adapting to local need, community participation and co-production

Next week we will be publishing new guidance for practitioners on developing effective, project case studies. There will be an editable case study template available for you to download, as well as step-by-step advice on how to put your case study together. 

We will also be sharing a methods guide for case study synthesis, that will be part of a series covering different research methods. Currently, we have a methods guide for systematic review and public dialogue. Sign up to our weekly email to get an alert as more are published.

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