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Oct 18, 2019 | by Mark Swift

Where’s your happy place? Citizen-led asset mapping

It’s been four years in the making but we’ve now launched our exciting new app which empowers citizens to discover and share places in their community that can improve health and wellbeing levels. 

The Happyplace app is free to download on iOS and Android devices and already we are seeing people all across the globe use the app to document the places that make them feel happy. The app turns the principle of asset mapping on its head, by giving power to local citizens to document the places that matter to them in the context of their lives, rather than leaving the job to professionals, who may not actually live in the communities for which they’re making value judgements. The rationale being that the anonymised, citizen derived data can be used to guide place making strategies in local areas – strengthening public health initiatives, environmental conservation projects and town planning using asset based approaches.

The key features of the app

The app is relatively simple and intuitive to use. After completing some simple onboarding questions when first downloaded, users are presented with a dashboard containing thumb nail images of happy places nearby which have been posted by other users. All happy places are vetted before going live on the app. By clicking on a thumbnail image, users can learn more about the place which is featured as well as access directions to get there. Users can add their own happyplaces to the app either as private entries or for sharing with others, and these places can be coded according the (nef) Five Ways to Wellbeing. Users record how they are feeling before and after arriving at a happy place using a ‘mood-o-meter’ board, as well as completing a SWEMWBS survey to measure their subjective wellbeing levels.

We’ve incorporated gamification technology into the app so that users can undertake a ‘happy place challenge’, essentially a behavioural activation strategy, in which users set simple goals to step outside and visit happy places to improve physical and mental wellbeing. In this respect the app is a helpful general wellbeing tool which can be prescribed in a GP consultation. The iOS and Android app has been assessed by Orcha a leading health app reviewing service and scored highly. Users can track their progress with their happy place challenges using their mood journal, SWEMWBS scores and they are incentivised to keep going by achieving digital trophies.

Halton Happy Places asset mapping

A pilot study of the app was undertaken in the borough of Halton funded by Halton Council and Warrington and Halton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as part of the NHS England Healthy New Town initiative. The pilot project set out to recruit local volunteers who would use the app to map places across the borough that can help people to achieve the 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Volunteers mapped places all across the Halton area including the Halton Lea locality which is the focal point of activity for the Healthy New Town initiative.


In total 55 volunteers were recruited from across Halton to take part in the three-month project. The project used a Community Researcher methodology, one of a suit of community centred health approaches documented in a Department of Health Guide on this subject. Volunteers received training on how to use the app, as well as information about wellbeing approaches; specifically, the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The data collated during the pilot study was compiled into what we believe to be the first citizen led asset map of its kind.

Happy Place report Halton

Key findings

108 happy places were recorded over the three-month pilot project. These consisted of 47 unique places which were mapped to one or all of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Alongside the photos and GPS coordinates of places were recorded, the evaluation report included the anonymised testimonies of users about why these particular places had helped improve their wellbeing. This provided rich qualitative insights into the impact of places on users lives. The Happyplace Report for the Halton area has fed directly into the Halton Healthy New Towns steering group along with previous consultation work undertaken with local citizens to ensure that local people are integral to the planning and delivery phases of the Healthy New Town project.

Next steps

We are promoting the app via various social media channels which is leading to a growing uptake of the app. We aim to undertake similar citizen led asset mapping initiatives using the app in other parts of the UK this year. In future work we intend to analyse the anonymised wellbeing data of users to triangulate this dataset with testimonies, demographic data and information about places of interest to establish whether any trends occur for app users from different demographic backgrounds.

For more information about the happyplace app please contact Caitlin Laws, c.laws@wellbeingenterprises.org.uk, 01928 589 799




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