Relational Welfare and Well-being

Department of Education and Lifelong Learning

Relational Welfare and Well-being

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The purpose of the research group is to promote well-being for all, and support citizens to live dignified lives they have reason to value, in inclusive communities and across generations and social backgrounds. Through innovation and research, citizens, local governments, academia, NGO's, private sector and other relevant stakeholders we will work together to develop sustainable welfare solutions based on social justice and supportive relationships.

Relational welfare and Well-being

Relational welfare is a concept and approach to welfare development that was coined by the British social innovator Hillary Cottam (2011, 2018). The research group's definition on Relational Welfare is inspired by her work, Larry Davidson's and Alain Topor´s work on recovery, human rights, social justice, citizenship, and Sen and Nussbaum's framework on capabilities, WHO´s approach to health promotion and the Taos Institutes work on community-based practices:

«Relational welfare is a human centred and collaborative approach premised on human rights, social justice and societal sustainable development. Relational welfare means that welfare is a resource that people co-create together, where personal and collective relationships and environments are placed at the centre of development. Within this, the foremost mission of the public sector is to build public value as a common good by supporting conditions that enable all people to flourish and live a life they have reason to value and the capacity to sustain. The purpose is to strengthen the resources, relationships and communities to create positive and sustainable life courses, now and in the future.» (Ness & Heimburg, 2020, p. 36)

Creating well-being for all is basically about human rights and social justice and how welfare solutions can be made sustainable and fair. The core of relational welfare pursuing well-being for all is capacity building in people, between people, in local communities by bringing public, private and/or civil actors to collaborate in the creation of public welfare through processes of sharing knowledge and resources with each other. The research literature describes co-creation and relational welfare approaches as a form of governance and practice that can save a public welfare system under pressure in the face of scarce resources and increasingly complex challenges. These perspectives involve moving from looking at sustainability and welfare as a task only for Public Sector Organizations with defined missions separated info different sectors, to looking at it as a joint mission across sectors, organizations and actors in a whole-of-society approach.

The public sector needs to build capacity to systematically try, test, fail, succeed, learn and share practices and knowledge about relational welfare solutions and collaboration, and how such a development can be led. In a very few years, co-creation and relational welfare have gone from being unfamiliar concepts to being widely used in terms of governance, both in Norway and internationally. Despite this optimism, knowledge development in the field is far behind. There is a great need for theory development and empirical exploration of collaboration and relational welfare. This constitutes the starting point for the research group Relational Welfare and Well-being.

Ongoing Research and Development projects:

  • WELCOME: WELlbeing COMmunities in Europe – Experimenting with deliberative and participatory democratic processes towards wellbeing for all
  • Recovery and recovery-oriented services and practices within mental health and substance abuse care
  • Public Conversations Project
  • Interprofessional collaboration for children and youth in schools who are in contact with child welfare services (a PhD-project in collaboration with the COIN-research group)
  • Relational Capacity
  • Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)
  • Democratic Innovation in deliberative and participatory democracy
  • Citizen assemblies in local communities
  • Public Health and strength based communities of learning
  • Think it out – dialogical reflection groups in prisons
  • Action research methods for transforming communities (Edited book)
  • It takes a village: Co-creation of social inclusion amongst families with children in preschools.( PhD project at Nord University and Levanger Municipality, Norway).
  • Health promotion at the local level: From disease prevention to community development (Edited book)

Collaborative partners