BT’s Paul Litchfield appointed Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Dr Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Wellbeing, Inclusion, Safety & Health for BT Group, has been appointed as Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Paul Litchfield takes over from Lord Gus O’Donnell, who has been acting as interim Chair since the Centre’s launch in October.

Lord O’Donnell said:

 I am delighted that Paul Litchfield is taking over from me as Chair of the What Works Centre on Wellbeing. Paul has shown at BT that it is possible for an employer to raise the wellbeing of their staff, which is hugely important of itself, but also leads to higher productivity. Given the long term challenges facing the UK, such as low productivity, ageing, and growing, unmet mental health challenges, the Centre could not ask for a better qualified Chairman than Paul. We worked together on the Wellbeing and Mental Health Committee of the World Economic Forum, where I realised what a fantastic global reputation Paul has in these areas. I am looking forward to supporting him as the Centre’s patron, helping to put wellbeing where it belongs at the top of the UK’s policy agenda.

Paul Litchfield said:

I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed as Chair of the new What Works for Wellbeing Centre.  There is a growing realisation that human progress cannot be measured solely on the basis of financial measures and that people’s wellbeing is a fundamental indicator of societal success.  There are many opinions on what drives wellbeing but less hard evidence for what works.  The Centre gives us the opportunity to address this deficiency and to provide decision makers with the tools to formulate more effective policy.  The UK is leading the way in this area and I am proud to be able to contribute in some small way.

Prof. Jane Elliott, Chief Executive of the ESRC, said:

 I welcome the appointment of Dr Paul Litchfield as Chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. The Centre is a key part of our strategy to ensure that high quality social science research contributes to the evidence base used by policy makers and practitioners.

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, where the centre is currently being hosted, added:

I am delighted that the What Works Centre for Wellbeing is continuing to develop at pace and I would like to congratulate Dr Paul Litchfield on his appointment as chair.

PHE is excited to be one of the major players in the collaboration supporting the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the first of its kind in the world, as it will help us to better understand and deliver improved wellbeing for local people, employees and communities.

Paul Litchfield remains in his role at BT, seconded to the Centre for three days per week. The Centre’s initial evidence programmes start in June 2015.

International Day of Happiness

Today is the International Day of Happiness. Action for Happiness’ Dr Mark Williamson reflects on how happiness is part of something bigger in the below blog (which first appeared on Huffington Post).

‘Listening to music’ came top of a poll to find the ’10 most enjoyable activities’ by Gallup, people reported ‘being happier when they’re listening to music, but also because it is associated with extremely low levels of stress’.

So here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing we’re joining in with the #HappySoundsLike campaign  for the International Day of Happiness  using the power of music to inspire hope for a better tomorrow.

We’ll be tweeting the sounds that make us happy through the day. Happy Friday!


Your Happiness is Part of Something Bigger

Dr Mark Williamson, Action for Happiness

This Friday is not just the first day of spring, it is also the International Day of Happiness – a day to celebrate the things that contribute to human wellbeing and a flourishing society.

One of the strongest findings from all the research about wellbeing is the vital importance of our relationships. We are a deeply social species and we thrive when we’re closely connected to others. But modern society is undermining rather than enhancing these connections.

Our cities and public spaces are increasingly crowded, but more of us are living alone and fewer of us know our neighbours. The digital age promises endless connectivity, but we have fewer face-to-face interactions and often find ourselves paying more attention to the smartphone in our hand than the people we’re with.

The effects of this are devastating. Loneliness has been shown to be twice as deadly as obesity and is now becoming an epidemic among young adults as well as older people. Social isolation is as likely to cause early death as smoking.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways we can start to put this right. In particular, we need to give much greater priority to helping people at risk of loneliness and isolation and supporting the many excellent initiatives that address these issues, including campaigns, befriending services, social prescribing, helplines and more.

But this is also about how we treat the people around us in our daily lives. We can each play our own small but meaningful part in helping to create a happier, more connected world.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Happiness is “Your happiness is part of something bigger” – highlighting the importance of these small, everyday connections with others. The aim is to encourage people, wherever they are in the world, to reach out and make more positive connections with the people around them.

This can include simple everyday actions – like chatting to a neighbour, reconnecting with an old friend or sharing a few friendly words with a stranger in the supermarket.

Or it could be something more unusual. For example, Action for Happiness activists (or ‘Happtivists’ as they like to call themselves) are planning Positive Flash Mobs in various major cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bucharest, Kiev, London, Milan, Perth and Washington DC. The aim is to transform places where we normally ignore each other – like busy streets or train stations – into places of friendliness and connection.

And in the online world, many thousands more people will be supporting the day by sharing inspiring personal messages and images using the #InternationalDayOfHappiness hashtag. Our online relationships will never be quite as valuable as those we have in person, but the internet can still be a great tool for creating more positive connections.

Of course, just one day focused on spreading happiness is not enough by itself; it needs to be the trigger for wider and more sustained changes. That’s why Action for Happiness, the non-profit movement behind this campaign, is also working to encourage on-going action across society, through initiatives like Happy Cafés and the Action for Happiness course.

So if you’d like to help transform our disconnected society into a friendlier, happier and more connected place, visit and download your free Happiness Pack which has lots of suggestions for how to get involved.

The International Day of Happiness will be more than just a fun celebration, it will also help to remind us all that the world is a better place when we connect with and care about the people around us.

As Mark Twain once said: “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up”.

Welsh natural resources improve wellbeing

Our pioneer case study this week looks to Wales and the Come outside!IMG_0284 programme which encourages people to get out and about to enjoy the natural resources. The programme aims to remove barriers and support people to use the natural environment to increase physical activity, improve skills, confidence, and overall wellbeing. This pioneer shows a great use of piloting and scaling ideas.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

We here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing are also getting out and about to meet as many people as we can. We’re putting the wants and needs of our audience at the heart of what we do. In the last few weeks we’ve been inspired by the people we’ve met in Wales and Northern Ireland. We’re holding a roundtable discussion examining wellbeing in Scotland on the 24th March and visiting Doncaster on the 26th March to look at what’s happening locally and talk to practitioners and policy makers to inform our work. Event details.

Nuffield Health seeks secondary school for Head of Wellbeing pilot

Nuffield Health are FORTHELOVEOFLIFE02_centredseeking UK secondary schools as potential candidates for a pilot which will see a Head of Wellbeing seconded to the school, in a bid to help combat rising levels of poor physical and mental health among pupils and teachers.

Nuffield Health has committed to lead, fund and evaluate the initiative which includes the development and implementation of a two year health and wellbeing programme. Independent evaluation of the pilot will be carried out by the Work Foundation.

Apply: Closing date, 17th April 2015

Public Mental Health #PMH15 and community approaches to Wellbeing guest blog

The role of community approaches to Wellbeing is explored  in our guest blog this week by PHE’s Gregor Henderson.

Yesterday we were at PHE’s Public Mental Health Summit #PMH15. We heard from and met some inspirational people working in the field of mental health and got great perspectives on how the What Works Centre for Wellbeing needs to be established. IMG_0043There was a lot of discussion around mental wellbeing and wellness alongside the crucial role of communities and the impact of inequalities.  (It would be great to see some work on wellbeing inequalities.) We also heard that there are huge opportunities to draw on much more of the evidence base and give a relatively pioneering area some firm foundations as we improve the quality of the evidence base.

Here’s our presentation

Translation of evidence to make it useful, easy to use and accessible is a key function of a What Works Centre . This means we need to put the needs and interests of users and stakeholders at the heart of what we do so that the evidence is relevant to the challenges they face.  This is also how we get impact from research and share the grey literature, tacit knowledge and experience.  Events like yesterday are great for this.

The Centre aims to support professional evidence-informed practice and encourages bold pioneering and deliberate learning so we can understand how to improve our quality of life.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

Community approaches for wellbeing

Gregor Henderson, National Lead, Wellbeing and Mental Health, Public Health England

GH 2014 PhotoIt’s time to think about community wellbeing. Why? Supportive relationships, strong networks and our ability to engage with others, combined with having some influence on decisions that affect us, are all critical for our wellbeing. Although we know these social factors are important, we often focus on improving the wellbeing of individuals and not on how we build healthy communities. That’s a shame as communities are more than a population of individuals – a healthy community should be a place or set of connections that allow us all to belong, to make a contribution and to flourish.

So what do we need to do to develop confident and connected communities? Public Health England and NHS England have just published a guide to community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing. This identifies a whole suite of interventions, supported by evidence, that can be used to promote wellbeing through communities. Community-centred approaches work by mobilising community assets like skills, local knowledge and social networks, by encouraging active participation and by removing barriers to good health.

What does this look like on the ground? Last year I DSC_0106visited the Hamara centre in Leeds. Hamara means ‘ours’ in Urdu and the organisation offers a range of wellbeing services alongside outreach activities. Hamara was one of the first wave of healthy living centres with a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of the minority ethnic communities in Leeds, where significant inequalities exist. Visiting the centre, you get a sense of an inclusive approach to wellbeing that is rooted in the community.

Like many grassroots community Blogorganisations, Hamara offers a rich mix of activities addressing needs across the life course. One example is the supplementary school project to support primary age children to achieve their potential. There are many other examples of activities that don’t have a ‘Health’ label, nonetheless they address the wider determinants and enable people to gain a sense of control and belonging.

The learning from community organisations like Hamara is significant. Hamara 2We need to be able to capture what they achieve and understand how they build community assets, while remaining responsive and flexible in often challenging times. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is already providing a platform to disseminate information on Pioneer projects. This knowledge from real life projects complements the overview of community-centred approaches in the PHE guide. Ultimately this is about growing our understanding of what is needed in communities to create the right conditions for people to reach their potential.

Wellbeing in Wales – with the Public Policy Institute for Wales

We are commited to putting the needs of our audience at the heart of our workplan. With this in mind we recently visited Wales to connect with a range of organisations. Read more below….

Our pioneer is a video from the Wellbeing in the East group of projects working across the  East Midlands, North East, and East of England.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing was recently invited by the PPIW-logo-webPublic Policy Institute for Wales to come over to Cardiff share what we’ve been up to and what we want to achieve. We are at early stages in setting up this new What Works Centre and we want to make sure that what the Centre does will be useful. So last week we travelled to a very wet Cardiff – we didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits, we’re resilient here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing!

There are some amazing things happening in Wales – we heard about the Social Services and Wellbeing act, the Wellbeing of Future Generations bill currently in development and the exciting consultation through the National Conversation about the Wales We Want . We also heard from Public Health Wales , the Wellbeing planner, the People and Work unit, Bevan Commission and the Gellideg Foundation

Our purpose is to understand what governments, communities, businesses and individuals can do to increase wellbeing. We met with colleagues from the across the different sectors in Wales to introduce ourselves, hear what’s happening here and think about how we can help each other. We are also working in partnership with Evidence Exchange for these sessions because we know that sharing of learning from all types of evidence, including grey literature, tacit knowledge and experience is crucial to successful implementation of policy and practice

But what do we mean by wellbeing?

If you google it you’re greeted with images of yoga, families, healthy food and the Dalai Llama.

Wellbeing is about what matters to you. Positive physical and mental health. Prosperity, thriving, sustainable communities and businesses. Put simply, we think it’s about people and quality of life.

And how do we measure our progress as a nation? Well, we think it can be measured by more than our GDP figures. GDP doesn’t count things that are important: volunteering, civic participation, leisure time, democracy, control, freedom….

However, GDP does count things that are associated with decreases in wellbeing: Costs of commuting, divorce, crime…..

We’re building on the work of ONS with their Measuring National Wellbeing work and Personal Wellbeing domain which asks 4 simple questions (on a scale of 0-10).

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”
  • “Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”
  • “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?”
  • “Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?”

And now you can see how you compare

After some initial wider scepticism there is an enormous amount of interest around wellbeing and how to embed it into public policy and professional practice. That’s where we come in.

We will Collate → Synthesise → Translate high quality evidence of what works to improve wellbeing. We will make this evidence easy and accessible for decision makers to use.

Taking a wellbeing perspective has many benefits for social policy – focussing on early intervention and prevention, taking a community and asset based approach, being more joined up and looking at what really matters to people. Subjective wellbeing measures tend to have cross-cutting relevance in policy, supporting better outcomes – longevity, productivity, employment. Seemingly soft measures can present in hard ways.

What Can I do?

→look after your own wellbeing

help us :

share your learning and connect with others;

→ use wellbeing evidence in practice by evaluating the wellbeing impact of interventions and help grow the evidence base.

We want you to be bold in your pioneering and deliberate in your learning.

We want to put the needs and wants of our audience at the heart of what we do – tell us:

  • What do you want from the centre?
  • How can we turn research findings into action that will be most useful for you in policy and practice?
  • What should be the priorities?

We are looking forward to hearing about the Wales We Want, we will be following the progress of the Future Generations Bill and its implementation alongside the Social Care and Wellbeing Act as they continue to build our shared evidence base about what works to improve wellbeing.

Say hello:  @WhatWorksWB

what works wellbeing picture from website