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A year in the life of a GoWell Communications Manager

19 Jul 2011 | Kelda McLean

I am writing this post on my last day of what has been an exciting year for me, having worked as Acting Communications Manager for GoWell since August 2010, covering a period of maternity leave. For those who are not familiar, GoWell is an in-depth study of the effects of regeneration for people and communities in Glasgow, planned to run until 2016.

One of the main priorities for the GoWell Communications Manager is to interpret and distil findings produced by the research team for a range of different audiences and formats, such as websites, newsletters, events and reports. This requires an understanding of the perspectives of stakeholders and of the key debates taking place in the field of regeneration. This particular aspect was challenging as there are a whole range of perspectives to be considered. Housing itself can be viewed in a number of ways, such as in the utilitarian sense (“machines for living“, “a roof over your head”) and, perhaps less tangibly, as mental and physical spaces which can underpin or undermine wellbeing.  (GoWell focuses on the latter perspective.) Views on the remit of regeneration also vary. Should the focus be on the economy and jobs, housing and the built environment, social and individual wellbeing, or a combination of all three?

GoWell takes each of these perspectives into consideration and this, combined with its holistic approach to the wider determinants of health, is one of its main strengths. This makes GoWell a complex study, as befits the subject matter, and it therefore consists of several different yet complementary strands (or components), including the Community Health and Wellbeing Survey, which takes place every two to three years in the 15 study areas.

In this year’s survey participants will again be asked if they feel that their home “reflects their personality and values”. In 2008, less than half of participants in certain GoWell areas agreed with the statement, compared with nearly four fifths in others. This question, which is located within the ‘status’ section of the questionnaire, is one which I personally found particularly engaging as it sums up why I find GoWell so interesting and valuable. This is because GoWell does try to reflect the perspective and ‘lived experience’ of people who are living in areas undergoing regeneration. GoWell does this by taking into account the range of ways in which people are experiencing these changes to their lives, homes and communities - as well as what impacts this may be having on their health and wellbeing.

In order to distil findings for different audiences it was also important for me to be able to move beyond the bare numbers and to think about context. The question about personality and values therefore helped me see beyond the statistics, particularly as it relates to my own experience.  Moving home recently reminded me of the complex relationship we have with our homes and neighbourhoods as, when looking for somewhere to live, I didn’t just want a “roof over my head”. What I hoped for was somewhere I would feel safe, which suited my lifestyle, and which would therefore reflect what I feel is important in life. These factors are all important foundations for a healthy life, and I hope that GoWell will be able to help us understand this better, as the study progresses.

Lastly, I know personally that moving house is stressful, but imagine a whole street or neighbourhood of people moving, and what challenges must arise for the individuals and organisations involved. In a recently published GoWell report entitled Moving Out, Moving On?, survey data was analysed and presented on the differences in residential, health and social outcomes reported by people who had moved out of Regeneration Areas, comparing these with those who remained living in these areas during the regeneration process. Ade Kearns, its author and one of GoWell’s Principal Investigators, concluded by commenting that “relocation is… both a regeneration component and an important life event”. In doing so he again helped me to see beyond the statistics, reminding me of the potential for regeneration to have a huge effect on people’s lives, and that GoWell is uniquely placed to capture the range of voices and perspectives of the many people who are stakeholders in the regeneration of Glasgow.

For more information about the GoWell study visit

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