HYVIS: The prevailing situation after the health and social services reform pays special attention to the welfare role of the municipalities: the prerequisites for a good life are made locally

The HYVIS project, aimed to discover the prerequisites of ‘the good life’, surveyed the good life of municipalities and village communities. As a result of the research project, a guidebook and metrics were created to support municipal well-being. There is no single method of measurement for well-being, but monitoring a multidimensional phenomenon requires municipality-specific customisation. The development of welfare work in the municipalities also requires bold experiments.

Various interpretations of welfare and putting in place the prerequisites for a good life are central to the role and development of the municipality of the future. According to the Local Government Act (410/2015, 1 §), the municipality’s task is to further the well-being and sustainable development of its residents in its area. Major changes are taking place in the role and duties of municipalities with the health and social services reform creating the new welfare areas which start work in 2023. While primary responsibility for social and health services shifts to the new well-being services counties, municipalities will nevertheless remain communities of local participation, democracy, civilisation and vitality carrying out self-government and statutory local functions decided by their residents.

“The change in the municipal field provides an opportunity for the renewal of the municipality, in which the municipality could play a stronger role in enabling the well-being of residents and as a platform for well-being”, says Elina Auri, a leading expert from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, who chaired the project’s steering group.

Those municipalities that succeed in convincing their residents and potential migrants that they contain the prerequisites for a good life are at an advantage in terms of creating the basis for welfare municipalities after the health and social services reform and wellbeing services counties begin their work in 2023.

There is no single recipe for well-being

Municipalities all over Finland do diverse well-being work that promotes the well-being of local residents. The work is measured by both objective (e.g. age-standardised morbidity index) and subjective (e.g. the share of those who feel good about their quality of life) gauges of health and well-being. The municipal strategy and the welfare plan play a key role in the welfare work.

In this new situation, municipalities do not have access to one ‘correct’ recipe for a good life, nor one method of measurement. “In the project, we began to create an index for well-being, but we quickly realised that not a single index or measure could contain such a multidimensional phenomenon”, says the project leader Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith. There are still a wide variety of different examples of tools and approaches in use. At its best, the municipality can formulate a “guidance perspective of good life” to support the management of the new councils, from which the municipality can choose the subjects of observation that are relevant to its own strategy and operating environment. In this guidance perspective it is important to take into account demographics, social relations, services, livelihoods and employment, education, local government, health and inclusion.

In addition to measurement metrics, new experiments and the courage to develop are also required

The HYVIS guide provides tools for thinking and acting in the area of well-being promotion. The development tools reflect the importance of the individual, the community and the municipal organisation, as well as the ethos of both cognitive capacity and functional renewal. At its best, well-being and people are the source of survival, adaptation and prosperity for small municipalities.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry funded the HYVIS project proposed by the project group set up by the Rural Policy Council. The project has been implemented by MDI’s research team, in collaboration with Sami Tantarimäki of the Brahea Center at the University of Turku. Project implementation has been supported by a steering group convened under the leadership of the ministry, led by Elina Auri, a leading expert from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The members of the steering group are Tomas Hanell of the University of Helsinki, Taina Väre of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, Hanna-Maria Urjankangas of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, Anna-Maria Isola of the Ministry of Education and Suvi Savolainen from the Ministry of Finance. 10 partner municipalities from all over Finland were involved in the development work.

A warm thank you to the steering group, the research team and the HYVIS partner communities for a constructive and active discussion during the implementation of the project.

Further details

Chairperson of the steering group at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Elina Auri, elina.auri@gov.fi, 050 531 3023

Project leader D.Soc.Sc. Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith, 050 513 4810

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