||Concept of community
||Many, if not all, of the communities
in the Circumpolar North are now in an active state of transition.
This process is shaped by technological advances, increasing competition
in the markets for goods, and changes in the welfare state. Currently,
the state's engagement in the well-being of peripheral northern
communities is clearly being reduced.
||Northern community economies are often
resource based (fisheries, forestry, mineral resources) and are
especially vulnerable because they share a narrow economic base.
As a result, many of these communities in the process of transition,
are faced with sharp population decline, loss of employment and
income, and public services retrenchment (Aarsaether & Baerenholdt,
1998). For some communities, rapid social change opens new jobs
and new perspectives (Hamilton & Seyfrit, 1993). However, in
both cases, the key element to keep these communities attractive
places to live, is the "good life" that people could enjoy
||But what is the "good life"
for people living in remote northern communities? How do we measure
it? How can communities create and take advantage of opportunities
to make individual and communal life better in accordance with national
standards and/or their notion of the "good life"?
||One of the common ways to deal with
defining and measuring the "good life" is to use the concept
of individual and community well-being. According to Wilkinson (1991),
well-being is a concept meant to "recognize the social, cultural
and psychological needs of people, their family, institutions and
communities". From this definition, the complexity of the concept
is clearly seen. It indicates a necessity to consider different
aspects of a community (such as quality of life), as well as economic
and social structures.
||The concept of community well-being
is one of the frameworks for community assessment (among with other
concepts, i.e. local community quality-of life studies, community
health or community capacity). As Kusel and Fortmann put it in their
works on the forest communities in Canada, the concept is focussed
on understanding the contribution of the economic, social, cultural
and political components of a community in maintaining itself and
fulfilling the various needs of local residents (Kusel and Fortmann,
||The studies of community well-being
use several approaches. Some studies analyze certain factors influencing
well-being, such as poverty or economic development (for example,
Cook, 1995). Other studies focus on general well-being and try to
identify factors forming well-being in the communities (for example,
Kusel and Fortmann, 1991). These studies build on a mix of social
indicators, historical information, and data collection in the communities,
regarding how people themselves perceive different aspects of their
||Despite the differences of the approaches,
what is common for all of them is the use of social indicators as
one of the main tools of well-being assessment. There are two well-being
indicator approaches: qualitative-subjective and quantitative-objective.
Subjective measures often require individual/community self-assessment
(by selected informants or through surveys). Objective measures
are based on data sets that document social structure variables.
The discussions on the limitations of each approach can be found,
for example, in Kusel's or Beckley's works on forest-dependent communities
(Kusel, 1996; Beckley, 1995).
||The selection of indicators reflecting
individual/community well-being, depends upon the purpose of the
assessment. For example, locally generated indicator lists may differ
from public service generated lists. Nevertheless, there are certain
widely accepted sets of indicators that focus on aspects of individual/community
well-being that are easy to quantify, generalize and compare. These
sets normally include such indicators as poverty, unemployment,
personal physical and mental health, education etc. They also may
include suicide, crime, divorce and other measures of social dislocation.