Design for community well-being started

Last month, a new project has started ‘design for community well-being’. In this project Waag, Delft Institute of Positive Design andt Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt op zoek are going to explore the principles of happiness and well-being within a community.

Academic literature and other signals indicate a growing interest in enhancing community well-being. In the Netherlands – and other Western societies – increased urbanisation has led to more individualistic lifestyles and alienation. “On the one hand, people live surrounded by many more people than their ancestors did, yet they are intimate with fewer individuals and thus experience greater loneliness and alienation” (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p.9 referring to Buss, 2000).

In addition to this, the national government is encouraging a ‘participatory society’ in which social security should be organized on a local level. This situation asks for new ways of living, and new means to support people in organizing their lives collectively in the city.

Design community well-being

The past decades have been marked by an increasing interest in the relationship between design and human well-being. Also in Waag, ‘Design for happiness’ has become a well known term. With our concepts, we aspire to empower people in improving the quality of their lives, and putting (the perception of) their happiness centrally. Current Positive Design methods approach happiness as an individual matter, however, designers usually do not design for individual users. Additionally, research has shown that contributing to something or someone bigger than the self stimulates a sense of purpose and relatedness, which strongly enhances someone’s well-being. Therefore we would like to push the boundaries of design for happiness a little, by exploring how we can design for the good of a group, instead of the individual user.

Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt

The context of her graduation project is ‘Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt’; a group of local residents of the Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood in Amsterdam who wants to form a cohesive and active community that can serve as a local social safety net when needed. Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt will serve as a pilot group in this research trajectory, to develop and test insights about community well-being together.

Additionally, online exchange platform Peerby is involved in the project as external advisor. A lot of thinking and experimenting has brought Peerby to a success, this experience can be of great help in the development of an online structure for Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt.

Plan of action
In the next six months, Hester van Zuthem will explore the phenomena of ‘community well-being’ together with residents of the Nieuwmarkt neighbourhood. The objective of this research is to gain insight in the different appearances of communities and to translate these insights into a vision to design principles for community well-being. This vision will be used to transform Stadsdorp Nieuwmarkt into a thriving community. The final goal is to design a product service system that supports and stimulates social interaction within Social Nieuwmarkt. 

We will share our progress through monthly blog posts.

(Hester van Zuthem, Marise Schot and Sacha van Tongeren)


  • Seligman, M.E.P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55, 5-14.