What Works Centre for Wellbeing has produced a review briefing analysing the global evidence base for improving poeple’s wellbeing through changes to the community infrastructure.

Their paper makes a case for the importance of neighbourhood provisions such as:

  • Public places and ‘bumping’ places designed for people to meet, including streets, squares, parks, play areas, village halls and community centres.
  • Places where people meet informally or are used as meeting places, such as cafes, pubs, libraries, schools and churches.
  • Services that can facilitate access to places to meet, including urban design, landscape architecture and public art, transport, public health organisations, subsidised housing sites, and bus routes.

picture of report

Download - Places, Spaces, People and Wellbeing here 

This briefing is based on a systematic review of the evidence of projects, programmes and other interventions that aim to boost social relations or community wellbeing by making changes to community places and spaces.

People in my community need to have a sense that they actually matter. 

Public dialogue participant, Bristol

The review also found promising evidence about ways of doing things that are
more likely to lead to success, and ways of doing things that are probably not
helpful. These facilitators and barriers to success were common themes across
all the interventions.


  • Community hubs can promote social cohesion, by bringing together different social or generational groups; increase social capital and build trust; increase wider social networks and interaction between community members; and increase individual’s knowledge or skills.
  • Changes to neighbourhood design can positively affect sense of belonging and pride in a community.
  • Green and blue space interventions that provide the opportunity to participate in activities or meetings can improve social interactions; increase social networks social interactions and bonding and bridging social capital; increase physical activity and healthy eating; improve community members’ skills and knowledge.
  • Interventions that  provide a focal point, or targeted group activity, may help to: promote social cohesion between different groups; and overcome barriers that may prevent some people (in marginalised groups) from taking part.

What Works Centre for Wellbeing is a network of researchers, think tanks, businesses, government departments and non-profits to provide evidence, guidance and discussion papers on:

  • housing, infrastructure and where we live
  • unemployment
  • workplace culture, training and job design
  • adult and community learning
  • community wellbeing
  • sport, dance and physical activity
  • culture, music and singing
  • measuring wellbeing

Visit their website