Well-Living Lab

Project I: Reimagining Quality of Life Post-COVID19


What is this project about?

This project reimagines ‘quality of life’ in the post-COVID19 context by challenging its conventional concepts. Conducted in partnership with New Economy Network Australia (NENA), the project will survey and map innovative approaches to defining ‘quality of life’, as pursued by NENA’s affiliated organizations working to transform Australia’s economic system to achieve ecological well-being and social justice. Drawing on the results of the survey, followed by in-depth and focus group interviews of a sample of such transformative forces, we will develop an alternative socio-cultural construct, as a new ‘conceptual platform’ to strategically engage with broader communities and policymakers to plan and proceed toward just and sustainable futures. The interdisciplinary approach of the project will lead to conceptual advances essential for the construction of a new indicator framework.

This project aims to produce an alternative conceptual framework for influencing policy, public debate, and research addressing quality of life and social progress. The goal will be achieved by empirically exploring and critically examining how transformative notions of ‘good life/well-living’ are constructed at the grassroots level.

The project will thus give voice to grassroots and community organizations in reshaping public debates on Quality of Life and well-being. It will also lead to an improved evidence-based output of value to end-users in reference to a greater status in the evolving field of ‘quality of life studies’ at the forefront of HASS in Australia.

Why do we need to re-imagine Community Quality of Life and Social Well-being?

Our post-COVID19 communities are being fast and deeply transformed from what they were in early 2020. Quality of life will be lower and, hence, poorer, as we cope with the economic downturn, fracturing of community life, and the exacerbation of inequalities (Beaunoyer, et al. 2020). However, in the tragedy of our ‘world laid bare’, there are opportunities as we critically re-think priorities of what is essential for others’ and our wellbeing. The complexity of the current health crisis has strong implications for how we approach communal wellbeing, requiring us to reimagine quality of life from a more comprehensive and dynamic sense (Dooris, et al. 2017).

There is a growing international interest in moving beyond reductionist notions of progress and wellbeing, arguing that the current dominant economically-driven approach has obscured our understanding and capacity to address social and ecological distresses effectively (Stiglitz 2018, 4 December). The movement gained momentum after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and is expected to become stronger in the post-COVID19 context (Salvaris, et al. 2019). In Australia, prior to COVID19, the idea of regions developing well-being frameworks was gaining traction, with the Australian Capital Territory and City of Sydney announcing their adoption of community wellbeing frameworks that go beyond ‘economic progress’. This shift away from economic-oriented theories of quality of life still reflects the values of experts, academics, administrators, and other officials, leaving limited space for the critical and transformative voices of disadvantaged groups, grassroots movements, and community networks (Pillay 2020).

In response to the crisis of the mainstream perceptions of progress and the inadequacy of top-down solutions, a growing number of transformative grassroots movements across the world have been engaged in deeper epistemic struggles over the meanings of good-life and wellbeing (Hernandez 2018Harcourt 2014Hosseini 2018). Such movements draw on the legacy of Indigenous, pre-capitalist living epistemes, post-capitalist dreams, decolonizing, place-specific, and relationally driven descriptions and experiences. The 2020 global pandemic has emboldened many more to "re-conceptualize" integral wellbeing through solidarity, a sense of community, and regenerated human/nature relations in the face of aggravated individualism” (Ranta 2020: 420Hosseini, et al. 2020).

The current dominance of technocratic, expert-driven, top-down notions of and approaches to "Well-being" has left little room for saving the idea and reintegrating it into truly transformative projects and policy shifts. It is time to think of a new notion that would liberate us from the Eurocentric, individualistic, economist, class-blind, gender-blind, colour-blind, and ecology-blind perceptions of well-being and quality of life. The project, drawing on the experiences and alternative ideas generated by the transformative grassroots and community movements, argues for a new approach to promoting and evaluating communal/social quality of life. ~  Common Alternatives  Website

What theoretical framework is pursued in this project?

The project draws on, and further expands upon, an emerging framework for constructing dialogue with and across the detected transformative forces around ‘quality of life’ in the post-COVID19 context (Buykx, et al. 2019Heil 20102012Hosseini 2018Motta 2018Senior and Chenhall 2013). The framework is inspired by the rise of more-than-human flourishing and post-humanist approaches, global studies of First Nations’ movements for ’living-well-together’, Aboriginal ideas of ‘communal (quality of) life’ and ‘social well-living’ inspired by studies of decolonial ways of living and knowing (Phelps 2013Love, et al. 2017).

What is the scope of the research?

Research Scope: Although the ultimate scope of this venture is international, it will initially sample Australian organizations connected to NENA. The ‘key transformative forces’ in the emerging quality of life politics are defined here as initiatives that proactively envision alternative modes of livelihood and sociability to neoliberal capitalism by valuing life above money-power, promoting conviviality and care, equitability and sustainability, up from community needs.

For more information, please consult the Information Page for Participants

What activities are included in this project?

The project consists of three components: (1) A national social survey that maps progressive initiatives and organisations which work towards transforming quality of life in the economic, political, social, ecological, and cultural spheres; (2) multiple in-depth interviews and focus group conversations with a smaller sample of the participants; (3) From June to October 2021, The Alternative Futures Research Hub (AFRHub), the University of Newcastle’s first community partnered research hub (in partnership with NENA), has been organising a monthly online webinar series that brings together activists, intellectuals and academics from a diverse range of perspectives and experiences to present and discuss their alternative visions about the Quality of Life.

See the Webinar Series Program in 2021

Research Team

Associate Professor Penny Buykx

Associate Professor
School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci

Scholar in Behavioral Studies, Principal Investigator

No results were found

Associate Professor Daniela Heil

Associate Professor
School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci

Scholar in Social Anthropology of Indigenous Wellbeing, Principal Investigator

Dr S. A. Hamed Hosseini

Senior Lecturer
School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci

Leader of the project and Contact Person, Scholar in Transformative Global Studies

Dr Chris Krogh

School of Humanities, Creative Ind and Social Sci

Scholar in Human Services and Community Welfare Studies, Principal Investigator

Dr Michelle Maloney

Community Partner in "Reimagining Quality of Life" Project; Community Partner of AFRHub; Scholar in Law Studies

As the director of NENA, Dr Maloney is partnering with CHSF-AFRN to create and co-organize Alternative Futures Research Hub (AFRHub) at UON in accordance with the MOU signed between NENA and CHSF in May 2019. For more information about this initiative, please see: Future Societies Workshop kicks off the Memorandum of Understanding with the New Economy Network Australia; NENA also partners with UON-AFRHub in this linkage project.

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