In March 2010 the Centre's Chief Executive, Carol Craig, published The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow in which she analyses why the city has such poor health and copious social problems. In it she draws on history, literature, sociology, psychology, economics and politics to help explain Glasgow's particular challenges. In her analysis Carol Craig refers to a variety of structural factors (e.g. housing and unemployment) as well as cultural factors (e.g. beliefs, attitudes to education and gender roles).
This event took many of these themes and made them relevant to anyone interested in well-being or the root causes of worklessness, inequality, family breakdown, ill health, poor educational attainment, drug and alcohol abuse and other social problems which act as barriers to well-being and people's ability to lead good lives.
The event expressly aimed to help our chances of solving contemporary urban problems by helping participants see how many of them interrelate and by -
- helping to widen participants' normal focus of interest and attention
- placing due emphasis on cultural factors such as historical background and belief systems
- giving more prominence to family, gender and relationship issues
- discouraging people from looking for 'silver bullets' or panacea programmes of action which are then discarded when they don't deliver
- showing how centralised, government responses can unwittingly become part of the problem, not the solution
- encouraging policy makers and practitioners to think through how they can tackle the causes of problems rather than treating symptoms
- encouraging more respectful dialogue and giving more depth to collaboration and partnership working
- forging new, dynamic links across sectors
- encouraging new thinking, learning and independent action.
Following an opening welcome by Baroness Helena Kennedy, a famous barrister and social campaigner who comes from Glasgow, Carol Craig gave an overview of the conference themes in her talk 'Why the long title?'. She then argued why we need to take a more 'integral' approach and set out briefly what that might look like.
The keynote address was then given by the distinguished Harvard University professor William Julius Wilson. Professor Wilson is the leading expert in the USA on the cause of complex inner city problems and his talk on the importance of analysing structural and cultural factors was fundamental to the main conference theme.
Four short presentations then followed . These talks were not designed to lay out a whole, comprehensive agenda but simply to illustrate how various factors contribute to inequality, ill health and social problems. The first was from Professor George Morris who is a lead consultant on Ecological Public Health. Professor Morris talked about the interrelationship of health, well-being and place. Peter Lynas, from the Relationship Foundation based in England, then talked about the importance of relationships and cite some recent research indicating that cohabitation is particularly disadvantageous for women. Professor Susan Deacon, recently charged by the Scottish Government with the task of suggesting ways to take forward the early years agenda in Scotland lay out why this work is vitally important if we are to tackle successfully a range of challenging statistics. Finally, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, gave a short presentation on the role of the family in shaping individuals' 'sense of coherence' which is vitally important for well-being and health.
Following lunch participants joined one of six pre-selected break-out sessions which varied in style with some allowing for some additional in-put from speakers and questions on previous conference sessions. However, all had time for discussion and reflection not only on the specific topic but also on the conference themes.
The final half-hour plenary session combined some questions and reflections from participants on how we can follow-up the event and create momentum with a short talk from Professor Phil Hanlon which gave an insightful and inspirational summary of what had happened at the event, linking some of the themes in particular to Scotland's growing problems with drugs and alcohol and how we need to work together to turn this tide.