Door Wilma van der Vlegel
For my internship as a trainee at SEVEN SENSES I conduct a participatory action research in The Hague, in one of the most deprived neighborhoods in the Netherlands named Moerwijk. Parties in The Hague agree that a neighborhood-oriented approach, where the life’s journey of life is central, is necessary to work sustainably on the health and happiness of the residents. The health and social services, insurers and municipality our working together in a progamme called Healthy and Happy The Hague.
In The Hague, approximately half of the residents with a low income (48%) have a long-term illness or disorder. These residents live on average 5 years shorter, of which more than 10 years in poorer health. The complexity at home is increasing and so is the number of crisis situations. This action research focuses on the viewpoints of professionals and citizens in Moerwijk on health and happiness. To create positive change, it is important that citizens feel that decisions are not being made without them. Participatory action research (PAO) allows citizens from The Hague to be heard and get involved. In order to get to know the neighborhood some community members took me one a walk through the neighborhood. I had interviews with about 30 health and social workers and community members, ate at different spots in the neighborhood and attended church services.
Aim of this action research is to create initiatives aimed at improving or maintaining health and happiness. The current situation shows citizens are struggling to make ends meet and they are far more concerned about their neighborhood, poor housing, safety and nuisance from neighbors, psychiatric patients and addicts in their neighborhood than about their own health. Citizens want to develop their skills but don’t know how to get the proper guidance and funding. Because of the complex problems of for many citizens helping each other is challenging, because most of the citizens are struggling themselves with poverty, debts, stress and health problems. Living in this neighborhood is challenging, but also working in this neighborhood. First finding show a lack of collaboration between health and social services, community services, like housing, and municipality.
During focusgroups professionals and citizens discussed the findings and proposed solutions. Two visualisations were discussed. A visualisation with perpetual cycles in Moerwijk and a problem tree. Togheter with citizens and professionals dreams were written down and a dream tree was developed. As there were over 25 suggestions for solutions the most urgent and wanted solutions were chosen. In a meeting with the members of the boards of all the collaboration organisations and initiatives in Moerwijk the findings of the action research were presented and discussed. The main message of the citizens and street-level professionals in Moerwijk was board members should come to Moerwijk to discuss the situation and to co-create together with the citizens. Everyone agreed the situation in Moerwijk requires a systems approach with all parties in collaboration with the citizens to make Moerwijk a more sustainable neighborhood to grow up and grow old. First steps are taken on the road ahead.