Socio-spatial practices of well-being: authors of civic ecologies

McAllister, Jane (2023) Socio-spatial practices of well-being: authors of civic ecologies. AMPS proceedings series: Environments By Design: Health, Wellbeing and Place. ISSN 2398-9467 (In Press)


… well-being is best understood as that which consists in a wholehearted and successful pursuit of valuable relationships and goals (Raz, 2004)

If well-being is valuable in a moral, objective sense, then an individual’s autonomy and freedom to set goals must also be supported by a wider socio-cultural context in which to flourish. Conversely, where city farms are attuned to and support individual needs, they may also form local catalysts to the state in the promotion of well-being.

Social Farms & Gardens (SF&G) is a registered charity promoting community managed green spaces including ‘city farms’. Historically, city farms develop on land that is commercially unviable and in locations open to increased community engagement. The physical and social repair (Mattern, 2018; Graham and Thrift, 2007; Jackson, 2014) of these sites is supported by local residents, reinforced by a symbolic image of farming and underpinned by a commitment to care for and nurture the collective good.

The paper examines practices of city farms and the value that they bring to the community by fostering ‘well-being’ (Raz, 2004) from the ground up. It discusses the operational strategies for these practices, the horizons of involvement engaged with, and the networks formed to initiate policy change. The critical methods endeavour to be mindful of different scales of practice: How these practices build networks of engagement that influence the flourishing of the individual and the local neighbourhood, and how this affects the moral objectives of the city farm as an institution.

It will outline the practical method, summarised as a four-part toolkit comprising illustrative, filmic and measured spatial media, delivered as live projects, mappings, podcasts and an ethnographic novel. It will show how these become diagnostic of ‘spheres of action’ - repair; affordance; networks; and policy – which provide agency, scale and context to articulate well-being. In turn these reflect the hierarchy of needs, as expressed in Maslow’s widely adopted pyramid (1943) and further represented in the theories of Raz (1995, 2004, 2009) and Bourdieu (1977, 1984, 1993).

If city farms are to achieve their claim of well-being as related to ‘the good life’, ‘eudaimonia’, ‘happiness’ and ‘flourishing’, then it follows that the ‘character’ and ‘excellence’ of their practices (phronesis) must necessarily be virtuous in pursuit. Given this, we might deduce that the virtues of city farms are an attempt to ‘repair’ our modern lifestyle, which, Cooper attests, ordinarily, partitions our lives between a ‘public’, ‘civic’, or ‘professional’ life and a more ‘private’ life, where conduct is a matter of individual ‘choice’ or ‘preference’’ (2006:88).

Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 December 2024.
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives 4.0.

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