Catchment News

EPA Research 351: Identifying “What Matters” for Community Wellbeing with the Irish Public Participation Networks

The EPA has published EPA Research 351: Identifying “What Matters” for Community Wellbeing with the Irish Public Participation Networks. This report presents the findings from an action research project in which a toolkit to develop visions of community wellbeing was co-designed with four Public Participation Networks.

The Public Participation Networks (PPNs) were established through the 2014 Local Government Reform Act in order to “provide a mechanism by which citizens can have a greater say in local government decisions which affect their own communities”. One of the functions of the PPNs is to develop municipal district-level visions of community wellbeing.

EPA-funded research generates a scientific base to support environmental protection.  Projects are carefully targeted to deliver on three key areas: Identifying pressures; Informing policy; and Developing solutions.

Identify Pressures

A fundamental role of public policy is the protection and enhancement of the wellbeing of citizens. Wellbeing is central to the measurement of welfare trends and “genuine progress” at national and local levels. Wellbeing accounts for the emotional and behavioural dimensions of citizens and places value on the non-monetary benefits of a range of socio-economic and environmental conditions. Therefore, wellbeing can be used in the economic appraisal of policies as well as in the strategic design of various policy interventions, but the potential for this has not been fully realised at a national or local policy level in Ireland.

Inform Policy

Through a series of community workshops in Cork, Longford, Roscommon and Wicklow, 2203 separate suggestions on “what matters” to communities across six wellbeing domains were collected for this research study. The 2203 suggestions were synthesised into “visions” for community wellbeing that were structured around the six wellbeing domains of social and community development;

  • environment and sustainability;
  • work, economy and resources;
  • health;
  • values, culture and meaning; and
  • participation, democracy and good governance.

The research project aimed to inform policy by highlighting how bottom-up measures of community wellbeing can be adopted and how this can be used to design both local and national policies.

Proposed PPN wellbeing domains.

Develop Solutions

The findings from this research informed the design of a community wellbeing toolkit, which is being rolled out across the 33 PPNs across Ireland. The research also made recommendations around using measures of community wellbeing to:

  1. inform the PPN annual workplan, by designing this around “what matters” to communities,
  2. inform the advocacy work of the PPN representatives who sit on local authority strategic policy committees,
  3. support informal scrutiny of local government policy by PPNs from a wellbeing perspective and
  4. generate ideas for local proposals for community initiatives that can improve subjective and objective wellbeing.

Learn more:

Download the full report:

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.