Lord Gus O‘Donnell has announced that a new ‘What Works Centre for Wellbeing’ is being set up to bring together evidence about what works to improve wellbeing and to put that evidence into the hands of those that need it to make decisions.
The establishment of an independent What Works Centre for Wellbeing builds on the ONS Measuring National Wellbeing Programme and the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy. The Centre joins a network of independent What Works Centres that are responsible for distilling and sharing the evidence to support decision making.
The Centre is a collaboration and has initial funding of over £3.5million over three years, in-kind resourcing and the support of a broad group of founding partners. Today’s announcement is in partnership with BT, Happy City and Bristol City Council.
Also published today are:
- BIS research into the drivers of workplace wellbeing and its links with business performance
- a new dataset from ONS combining the first three years of national personal wellbeing data to enable a more robust local level analysis
- specifications by the ESRC for the Centre’s evidence programme
The What Works Initiative is based on the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best available evidence on what works and what does not. It aims to improve public services for people and communities by ensuring that resources are focused on those things which will have the greatest positive impact.
What Works Centres are fundamentally different from standard research centres. They aim to directly support policy makers, commissioners and local practitioners by providing reliable, accessible products which communicate the likely impact of real policy initiatives, and building professional capacity to use evidence effectively.
There are now nine Independent What Works Centres, including one in Scotland and one in Wales, supported by a combination of ESRC, Government, and charitable funding.
Fundamentally, wellbeing is about quality of life and creating the conditions for people to live better lives. The Centre will bring together the best available evidence of the practical action that can be taken to increase wellbeing.
Wellbeing is an increasing part of policy and practice across a range of sectors and is important to the Scottish and Welsh Governments and Northern Ireland Executive, as well as major funders and commissioners such as the BIG Lottery Fund and local authorities including Health and Wellbeing boards. Employers are focusing on wellbeing in the workplace and its links to productivity and engagement. There is a growing interest in the social return on investment, with evaluation, innovation and collaboration fundamental to making the most of scare resources.
This rapidly developing field has many pioneering leaders and practitioners keen to connect up, share their work, learn from others, build the evidence base and bringing together the fragmented project and pilot evaluations into a meaningful, reliable, easy to navigate source. A strong credible evidence base can support those in the wellbeing field to be able to make their case for change, support bids and business cases and focus their efforts for the biggest impact.
The UK is regarded as one of the leading countries on wellbeing. In November 2010, David Cameron launched the Measuring National Wellbeing Programme undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Following a national debate asking people across the UK what matters most to them, ONS developed a measurement framework for wellbeing comprising 10 domains including personal wellbeing. Personal wellbeing data is now available for every local authority area across the UK.
The OECD, WHO, the UN and the European Commission are all significantly engaged in wellbeing. A central focus of this international interest is on how societies, governments, communities and populations measure their progress, economic and social, recognising the limits of GDP as an indicator of economic performance and social progress.
About What Works Centres
What Works Centre is independent of government with a clear and relevant policy and delivery focus. The functions of a Centre are to:
- Undertake systematic assessment of relevant evidence and produce a sound, accurate, clear and actionable synthesis of the global evidence base which:
- Assesses and ranks interventions on the basis of effectiveness and cost effectiveness
- Shows applicability
- Shows the relative cost of interventions
- Shows the strength of evidence on an agreed scale
- Put the needs and interests of users and stakeholders at the heart of shaping a workplan
- Advise those commissioning and undertaking innovative interventions and research projects to ensure that their work can be evaluated effectively
- Publish and disseminate findings in a format that can be understood, interpreted and acted upon
- To help produce a common currency for comparing the effectiveness of interventions
- Identify research and capability gaps and work with partners to fill them
The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is being set up by a development group of the founding partners, chaired by Lord Gus O’Donnell. The centre will be an independent body and a Chair, Board and staff for the centre will be recruited. The ESRC will commission the Centre’s evidence programmes and Public Health England are hosting the development team for the Centre until it is established.