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7-Generation GTB
Wellbeing Path


I can't be okay unless we as a family/community are okay, and we can't be okay unless we are on a healthy planet. Everything is in relationship. That's the essence of ecopsychosocial wellbeing – ecological integrity, personal wholeness, and social coherence. What's the path to get there? It can start with a new kind of social prescribing process.

First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness To design it, we can learn much from a First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness. They understand that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms. In this image with a series of concentric circles, the Center Circle represents individual human beings, with the physical as only one small part of health. The next circle represents the overarching values that support and uphold wellness: Respect, Wisdom, Responsibility, Relationships. The next circle is the people that surround us and the places from which we come: Nations, Family, Community, and Land are all critical components of our healthy experience as human beings. The outer circle depicts the Social, Cultural, Economic and Environmental determinants of our health and wellbeing.

This more holistic understanding of wellbeing needs to be translated into on-the-ground healthcare. In fact, it's an emergency that we do so. "Over 200 health journals call on the United Nations, political leaders, and health professionals to recognize that climate change, biodiversity loss, and human wellbeing are one indivisible crisis and must be tackled together to preserve health and avoid catastrophe. This overall crisis is now so severe as to be a global health emergency… Human health is damaged directly… [and there will be] major effects on health as a result of the disruption of social and economic systems… Nature has a remarkable power to restore… [and we can] avoid maladaptation and maximize the beneficial outcomes."

As individuals, communities, and our planet face more challenges and healthcare systems struggle to meet needs, how can we #ChangeTheStory around health, make it bigger and more holistic?

The current social prescribing process is fairly straightforward: A healthcare professional has a client with certain needs, many of which may fall outside the conventional medical system. The professional (it doesn't necessarily have to be the primary care clinician) makes a social prescription. A "navigator" links the person to resources/programs. The person is connected into the community around things they need and are interested in.

There's been research on the reasons and benefits around social prescribing. The reasons for a social prescription are varied, with two of the biggest being social isolation and anxiety. We're seeing an increase in what might generally be termed "existential angst" – from social insecurity to ecoanxiety. In other words, people are worried about where the world is going and their futures in it. There's clearly no pill for that. Social prescribing results in a decreased number of repeat visits to the healthcare provider. Healthcare professionals see improvements in health and wellbeing, and clients themselves report improved mental health, a decrease in loneliness, and an increase in social activities.

Social Prescribing Social prescribing happens at the intersection between healthcare and community. At the level of community, how do our institutions and culture encourage or discourage the relationships humans need with each other? From A Portrait of Social Isolation and Loneliness in Canada Today: "The default response to a problem like loneliness and social isolation is to focus on solutions. We want to 'fix it' and are tempted to look for the five-step formula that promises to eradicate them. While not dismissing the possibility that some immediate steps may mitigate the situation for some sufferers, rising loneliness and social isolation are complex phenomena that resist easy fixes. We must recognize that they arise from deeper and structural issues in society. We don't expect to solve loneliness and social isolation through a platform of policy proposals or moralistic prescriptions… Human relationships are not simply connections between individuals. They take place within a social context. Our institutions and culture either encourage or discourage the sorts of relationships that meet human needs."

One of the limitations of the current social prescribing model is that simply referring people to social activities in the community is to address the symptoms of a social "dis-ease" but not the larger context of our culture. Community itself is sick. The Toronto Foundation's latest Vital Signs report shows troubling patterns of social isolation, economic stress, and declining mental health, along with a long-standing and persistent downward trend in civic engagement. If we can tap deeply and broadly into the power of relationships (especially relationships across generations), then we can begin to shift whole communities to higher levels of wellbeing.

Another limitation of the current social prescribing model is that we live in a fragmented, siloed society. But health isn't separate from other dimensions of wellbeing, like ecology. We are not in right relationship with our living planet, and our planet is itself sick. Through 7-Generation GTB, we define the bioregion as our "life place," the smallest unit of health. We're giving health a bigger context and meaning, recognizing relationships not only between human beings, but also with the living planet.

Through the Wellbeing Path, we're upgrading to Social Scribing 2.0.

In the 7-Generation GTB work, we talk about #ChangeTheStory. What are we changing? Conventional medicine asks, What’s the matter with you? – looking at symptoms, a diagnosis, and treatment. Under the current social prescribing model, the question shifts to, What matters to you? It's a good question, an empowering question at an individual level. But it doesn't recognize the importance of relationships with others and the living planet. Under Social Scribing 2.0, we ask a bigger question, What matters? We’re in an uncertain world with multiple crises unfolding at once. What really matters now for resilience and holistic wellbeing of people in place? If people, especially across generations, can come together and tap into something truly meaningful and regenerative, that can be transformative.

Social Scribing 2.0 follows the same general process as current social prescribing: a client is identified with certain needs, and gets a social prescription (from a healthcare provider, a school, or other community organization) into the Wellbeing Path. Then things get different…

When they arrive, they aren't "assessed," but are welcomed. There isn't a "navigator" but a guide with a warm hand. There will still be ways to connect people into community programs and services. But, they'll enter into a life process that's about learning. This learning is about a big question: What's a good life?

The specific process is Liminal Learning, with an intergenerational emphasis on young and old learning from and with each other. Liminal = in-between, transitioning; to be on the edge of something new. This speaks to generations right now in different ways, with many young people feeling like their dreams are broken and many older adults feeling like the legacy they hoped to leave is broken. It also speaks to the idea of #ChangeTheStory – your own story in an uncertain world. Living well requires a shift in our relationship with the unknown. It's a shift from worry and alienation to wonder and collective experimentation.

The Liminal Learning process moves through Landing (arriving and literally connecting with the land); Sensing (how do we make sense?); Knowing (what's our story and how do we know?), Realizing (a life worth living), and finally Launching (into a new way of being, community legacy projects, and stewarding the life place around us).

The Wellbeing Path is founded on relationship – with our own selves, each other across generations, and the living planet. For wellbeing, we need to be in "right relationship" at all those levels.