Addressing Health Inequalities in Vulnerable Urban Neighbourhoods by Social Community Enterprises

The overarching goal is to measure the impacts of the intervention social community enterprises on the health of residents with low socioeconomic status. This project is based on the assets model of health: residents and communities are supported to identify and mobilize assets for their own health and well-being. Six social community enterprises have been selected as case studies in socially vulnerable neighbourhoods of the city of Arnhem. Their aim is to create, in co-creation with residents, added value for community members by deploying a mixture of social, economic and environmental activities. Core of the approach is that residents participate, make choices by themselves, improve their local community and by doing so improve their health. Concrete activities are creation of informal meeting places, creation of social enterprises, training of working skills, taking care of the physical environment and initiating support networks.

The selected neighbourhoods face serious problems like poor physical and mental health, weak social cohesion and bad liveability and high levels of unemployment. The municipality of Arnhem supports the community enterprises as their approach matches its policy of citizen participation. The municipality wishes to investigate the impact of the approach of social community enterprises and how positive changes come about.

The first objective is to study the impact and reach of social community enterprises at individual, community and organizational level. The main outcome measure at individual level concerns the six domains of positive health: bodily functions, mental functions and perception, spiritual/existential dimension, quality of life, social and societal participation and daily functioning. At community level the main outcome measures are: social networks and social cohesion, participation and physical environment. At organizational level the main outcome measures are organisational structures and intersectoral collaboration.

The second objective is to better understand the processes of change at individual, community and organizational level: how can a community enterprise contribute to better health of residents and liveability of the neighbourhood, how does it contribute to assets on community and organizational level and how are these assets mobilized?

The third objective is to share results with other neighbourhoods of the city and other cities and social community enterprises to learn from each other and to inspire and stimulate the development of successful community enterprises and implement their approach in local policies.

Health changes of residents are monitored by administering questionnaires for four years. Aggregated data from the neighbourhoods are gathered (e.g. social cohesion and safety). In depth qualitative interviews will be held with residents participating in the activities and residents that stopped participating in the activities.

The retrospective interviews give an understanding of the assets that are in the neighbourhood and the assets that are mobilized through activities as well as to how they lead to a better health. Additional interviews will be held with initiators of the community enterprises and social teams of the municipality to get deeper understanding of the development of the community enterprise and its interaction with the municipality.

Meetings in the neighbourhoods, exchanges between neighbourhoods and activities at national level to learn from each other are organised, to support initiatives and cities and to incorporate results in national programs. A factsheet and publications based on the demands of residents and other partners will be developed. 

The project team includes: researchers with expertise in citizen initiatives, the asset based approach, health promotion, social aspects and environment and policy implementation, the policy officer of the city of Arnhem (project leader) and the initiators of the social community enterprises.  National expert organizations are partners for the implementation activities.  Students are actively involved in the project to learn as future professionals how they can support social community enterprises in a good way.

Click here to read more about the project (Zin in de Wijk)

Erik Hendriks, Project member from the municipality of Arnhem
Erik Hendriks, Project member from the municipality of Arnhem