In July 120 people representing all sections of the community – educators, community health workers, students, parents, grandparents, sporting teams, miners, horse industry workers, church groups, aboriginal elders, government workers came together for a two-day Appreciative Inquiry summit hosted by Where there’s a Will.

Normally when problems exist, people look at what’s going wrong and try and fix that.  This summit turned that idea on its head and chose to look at what is going right – to understand what already exists in the Upper Hunter that allows people to flourish – and to create more opportunities to build on those.

This ‘strengths based’ way of creating change was led by Michelle McQuaid, a world leading expert in translating positive psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies for health and wellbeing, and the exceptional work done by all those involved means that we now have a blueprint to promote wellbeing across the Upper Hunter.

Some of the recommendations to emerge from the summit include:

  • Establishing a network for educators in the Upper Hunter to share knowledge and resources for the promotion of wellbeing, to measure the impact and success of different initiatives, to create a common set of values and language across schools.
  • Creating opportunities for different sectors of the community to be educated about wellbeing and implementing strategies to promote it.  This would include education opportunities for families, workplaces, nursing homes and sporting clubs.
  • Providing a framework and guidance for people to become mentors for young people in the community, to train these mentors in PERMA and wellbeing.
  • Measuring the success of initiatives.  Dr Peggy Kern, a global expert on measuring PERMA, together with Michelle McQuaid, has agreed to support WTAW’s efforts to obtain baseline data measuring existing levels of wellbeing across the Upper Hunter and to develop a long term plan for analysing and reporting on the work that is happening.

Most importantly, a plan has also been developed on how to take these ideas forward and make them a reality.

It was an exceptional couple of days. Every participant walked away wiser about how to promote wellbeing in themselves and inspired by a desire to share this with the community at large.