What role does the learning and sharing of practical skills play in our communities? Evidence shows do-it-yourself (DIY), gardening, and other hands-on activities may significantly boost wellbeing.
They can also help strengthen communities and combat unsustainable throwaway consumerism. This research explores why this is and how organisations seeking to make practical activities a force for good can maximise their impact.
Hands-on skills are making a comeback. From online market places for handmade goods to maker movement clubs and TV programmes focusing on home improvement and gardening, more and more people are being inspired to cook, grow, build, fix, and make. Businesses and charities can and do play an important role in supporting this trend through their own assets, operations, and outreach – and with good result. Learning, sharing, and using practical skills enrich our lives, communities, and the planet in several important ways.
The wellbeing benefits of hands-on activities are striking. Studies suggest that learning gardening and cookery raises self-esteem and a sense of autonomy, and leads to an increase in life satisfaction equivalent to what could be expected if one’s income were to triple.
People who regularly spend time in the garden are more satisfied with life than those who do not, even when controlling for demographic variables like income and education. Similarly, older men and women who do DIY have been found to have higher life satisfaction than those who do not.
Our research suggests that skill learning and sharing strengthens wellbeing and community because it:
It’s not just participants who can benefit from these kinds of projects. Staff at businesses running them can also benefit from improved wellbeing thanks to a sense of social value, and the opportunity to interact with people in positive ways. This can create valuable knock-on effects in terms of productivity and staff loyalty.
We developed five practical principles for programme designers to take into account.
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