Trickle Up: From Personal to Community to National Wellness


In an episode of On Human Flourishing, community leader David Gibbs discussed the progress of Samueli Institute’s Well Community Project (WCP), highlighting the value of personal experience and community engagement when building community wellness and its contribution to local and national well-being.

Referring to the project as “a platform for community engagement that leads to health,” Gibbs emphasized that in order to move forward, neighbors must take the time to communicate their challenges and develop a list of goals that pertain to their community’s specific needs. Neighbor to neighbor connection and engagement is the key both local and national wellbeing and is how community development produces health.

The ways in which a community achieves wellness can be defined by many of the same factors that make up personal wellness. These factors include the psychological, physical, social, spiritual, economic, environmental and cultural pillars of the communities where we live. The Well Community Project allows communities to explore these pillars within their own personal experiences and contexts.

“The value is that you are giving communities a blank slate. What they’re immediately going to do is to start to populate that with their own community cultural context. Areas like experiences, history within the community,” said Gibbs. “The substance of the dialogue in community engagement is going to focus on specific community priorities. What’s meaningful to one (community) is going to be different from what is meaningful to another.” Yet, the holistic framework combined with the processes of storytelling and personal connectivity allows the skills and capacity for multi-stakeholder engagement to emerge. Gibbs works as a consultant on the project to mentor and guide the communities through the challenging steps of effecting change.

Through these differences arise commonalities, such as a focus on safety, health, historical and cultural context and economic well-being. The same can be said for individuals as they build upon their own personal experiences and backgrounds to achieve wellness. In a related article, Samueli Institute sponsored a summary of how these same community development processes were key to both health creation and return on investment in diverse global communities. 

“The Well Community Project gave three communities both the support and latitude to define the ways in which they would promote wellness, healing and resiliency in their communities,” said Gibbs. The Well Community Project is funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation.

So in looking at the communities in which we live, small steps like helping a neighbor pick up their groceries or volunteering for a park clean-up can go a long way in transforming the vitality of the mind set and scenery around us. What links these seemly diverse acts is a continuous positive intention to raise the level of well-being for self and others in our daily lives. And that positive environment is not only good for us personally, but can trickle up to improve health and well-being of our neighbors and our nation.

Learn more about community wellness and the work of the Well Community Project on the podcast.