Call for evidence: Organisations as social communities and wellbeing

Deadline: 15th of November 2016

How do you feel about the organisation you work for? Not your colleagues, staff or line manager, but the organisation itself? The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is calling for employees and employers to share qualitative or quantitative evaluations that helps build an evidence base about the social aspects of the relationship between workers, an organisation and wellbeing.

Why do we need your evidence?

We want to find out whether interventions aimed at improving social relationships and climates in organisations promote wellbeing and performance. And what factors affect the impact of these interventions.  For example, are interventions more effective when targeted or carried out in a particular way, or for a particular group? Does the type of organisation make a difference? Some examples of an intervention could be improving communications, any team or company activities, even changing the structure of ‘breakout’ office spaces.

We are not exploring the social relationships between workers, their co-workers and their line managers. Rather, we are specifically interested in the relationship between workers and the organisational as a whole, including:

  • The extent to which workers feel that the organisation values workers’ contributions and cares for workers’ wellbeing.
  • The general social atmosphere at work, including social recognition and acknowledgement.
  • Workers’ sense of belonging to a workplace community and how embedded they feel in the workplace.
  • Fairness in how rewards such as pay and promotions are allocated and the truthfulness and respect with which those decisions are communicated.

How can you get involved?

We are particularly seeking the following types of evidence:

  • Evaluation studies with assessments of wellbeing made before and after the introduction of an intervention – this is to allow us to determine whether the intervention produced any changes in wellbeing subsequent to its introduction.
  • Evaluations, including comparison groups that did not receive the intervention.
  • Evidence of impacts on wellbeing that may include stress, mental health, anxiety, depression, life or job satisfaction, burnout, or engagement.
  • Evidence of changes in productivity and performance that may include factors such as safety, performance and absence.

Qualitative or quantitative evidence is welcome.

What is the criteria?

All examples must be written in English or have an English translation and include an author and date. We can only accept evidence which can be made publicly available.

Please send your submissions electronically to the What Works Centre for Wellbeing ( with the subject line ‘Evidence: Organisations as social communities and wellbeing’. All submissions should be received by 15th of November 2016.

For a link to the Protocol on PROSPERO:

How can we tell our story if we’re not measuring what we do?

20141117-samir-singh-nathoo-500-x-400Samir Singh has worked on community development projects for
Arsenal in the Community – the community delivery arm of Arsenal Football Club – since 2006. He is working at What Works Wellbeing on secondment as a Clore Social Leadership Fellow, with a research focus on community wellbeing.

Now five weeks into my research at What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the time I have been afforded to step back, think about and reflect on my community-based work has been invaluable.

I am working on two distinct projects. Firstly to answer the question: “How can, and why should, Arsenal in the Community measure wellbeing?”

Secondly, I am speaking to the voluntary and community sector in Islington to find out if they consider themselves to be delivering wellbeing outcomes, even if they are not currently measuring them.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of this: the work of the Centre is rapidly evolving and the first batch of evidence from the research teams is about to be published. I have approached the secondment with an open mind; eager to learn about wellbeing, but remaining rooted in practice.

My focus is always on how a wellbeing approach can be relevant to real life for those working on the ground in the third sector. So far, there are elements that I remain sceptical about but there is far more that is very much applicable to community programmes. A real strength of a holistic outcomes approach, as opposed to narrow traditional outputs, is that any organisation can choose what is most relevant to their field of work or local community.

Because the work of Football in the Community focuses on our local area, I have become most comfortable with thinking about ‘community wellbeing’, as opposed to focussing on individuals.

Our local area – Islington – has very low wellbeing scores. This is further complicated by inner London polarity where, like wealth and health inequalities, a low wellbeing score will presumably be an average of some of the highest and lowest in the country. It is quite likely that many of the participants on our programmes will have low wellbeing scores. This shows that we are working with exactly the right communities and if we can help to impact on inequalities (in wellbeing), we are doing the right thing and moreover, contributing to Islington’s approach to fairness.

What has been a real revelation so far is that we have not been measuring what we actually do.

The RSA Connected Communities report tells us the variable most connected with higher wellbeing is feeling part of the community. This is in our name, Arsenal in the Community, yet we are not measuring our impact on connection to the community. ‘A sense of belonging’ is our mission statement, but we don’t measure our impact on this. The reason being is that it has almost been taken for granted that our projects, e.g. improving literacy, will lead to increased wellbeing.

Nor have we really been aware that a wellbeing approach is something that you can actually can measure. Much of the success of our work is based around positive relationships – for example, with our football coach/youth workers on estates – but, again, we are not measuring these.

Measuring wellbeing is also something that will help us to tell our story as well as offer better evidence of our impact.  Because the Office of National Statistics questions are based on what really matters to people, I believe our fans will understand our work and approach better if it is framed like this.

Currently, they know that Arsenal Football Club delivers community projects, but to explain their impact in terms of wellbeing will resonate. Community wellbeing outcomes (e.g. creating a sense of belonging) as opposed to an individual approach is something that fans will get. Our work off the pitch, just like when it goes right on the pitch, can lift the whole community.

There are many ways to measure impact out there and the vast choice is often part of the block to doing this in the first place. However, a wellbeing approach ticks many boxes for Arsenal in the Community.

Evidence call: evaluation reports for sport/dance, young people and wellbeing

Deadline: 7 November 2016

Evidence call for grey literature: part of a systematic review of the wellbeing outcomes of sport and dance in young people (age 15 -24 years) and the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved

If you are an organisation that has an evaluation of a sport, physical activity or dance intervention aimed at young people (15-24 years old), you can submit it to our systematic review and help us build an evidence base for wellbeing, sport and young people. We will share the findings of the systematic review with your organisation as soon as the review is published.

What’s happening?

What Works Centre for Wellbeing, with Brunel University London, are carrying out a systematic review to evaluate the subjective wellbeing outcomes in healthy young people of participation in sport and/or dance activities in club and non-club contexts. We are also seeking to establish if the informal aspect of sport or dance participation is more likely to lead to wellbeing enhancement than participation in club-based sport and dance.

What do you need to do?

Please email us any evaluation reports, or links to evaluation reports. We will then use it as part of the grey literature review of the study. By grey literature, we mean “literature that is not formally published in sources such as books or journal articles” (Lefebvre, Manheimer, & Glanville, 2008, p. 106). This may be produced by charities, government departments, businesses, community groups and others.

Please email your evaluation report, or a link to it, to:

What is the criteria?

We will accept for review and possible inclusion in our systematic review using the following criteria.

  • Submissions must be evaluation reports only.
  • Reports submitted must be completed in the past three years (2013-2016) and include author details (individuals, groups or organisations).
  • Evaluation methods may be qualitative, quantitative methods or mixed methods.
  • The central report objective must be the measurement of wellbeing outcomes and/or evaluation of the processes by which wellbeing outcomes are achieved in sport, exercise or dance interventions.

Important note: Evidence can only be reviewed for inclusion in the work of the Culture and Sport programme if submitted through this call. Evidence submitted to individual researchers in the programme cannot be considered. If you have previously sent documents to the culture and sport team please re-submit through this call.

For more background and information about the systematic review and this call for evidence, please download:

Children’s mental wellbeing and ill-health: not two sides of the same coin

praveetha-pTo mark World Mental Health Day,  we invited Dr Praveetha Patalay to speak about a fascinating longitudinal study being carried out with children across the country. Dr Patalay is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool and an honorary researcher at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS). This research was carried out as part of the CLS’ Cross-Cohort Research Programme, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

If I asked you what makes a child happy, one possible answer would be the opposite of what makes them sad. This would be considered a non-controversial response. The intuitive assumption when considering subjective wellbeing and psychological distress is that factors associated with one are associated with the other – albeit in the opposite direction. But what if we’re wrong? What if wellbeing and mental illness, or happy and sad, are not two sides of the same mental health coin?

Children's mental illness and wellbeing at age 11

We set out to investigate this question using data from more than 12,000 children born across the UK in 2000-01 who are taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). Our findings show that in children, it is sometimes the case that factors affecting mental illness also affect wellbeing (see common area in centre of the diagram above), for example, being in a single parent household, having problems getting along with peers, arguing with parents and experiencing sibling bullying are all associated with greater symptoms of distress and lower wellbeing. However, as can be seen from the areas on the left and right sides of the diagram, many things associated with psychological distress are different from those associated with wellbeing.

Differences between the factors associated with mental illness and wellbeing
Let’s first consider some of the risk factors unique to mental illness (on the left hand side of the diagram): here we see that having siblings, lower family income and chronic illness are associated with having greater symptoms of ill health. However, these factors don’t seem to be associated with children’s subjective wellbeing. Instead, children being overweight, having arguments with friends, perceiving their neighbourhoods as being unsafe, and perceived inequality (richer than their friends) are all associated with lower wellbeing (on the right hand side of the diagram).

It’s not all as we might expect
Some findings were unexpected. For example, children who perceived themselves as being richer than their friends reported lower wellbeing. Children with chronic illnesses (such as asthma and diabetes) did not report lower wellbeing than their peers. Also, we observed a reverse income gradient in wellbeing to the one observed for mental illness (in the middle area of the figure), whereby higher household income was associated with lower wellbeing when compared to children from lower income households.

The MCS data are well-suited to this investigation, as we can include in our analysis factors right from the birth of the child as well as obtain estimates that are generalizable to the UK population. Importantly, the MCS includes both measures of mental ill-health and wellbeing, which allowed us to compare in the same children how different factors were related to both these domains.

Some factors make more of a difference than others
An important element is the size of the association (represented in the black or white bubbles above each factor in the diagram). We present the extent of the relevance of each factor in terms of the percentile change they predict at the centre of the distribution of responses. The number in each bubble represents the percentage point difference that the factor makes to mental health or wellbeing. For instance, consider a risk factor (represented by black bubbles) – being bullied by peers risks lowering children’s wellbeing ranking in the distribution by an average of 10 places from the median. Some are protective factors (represented by white bubbles in the diagram) – for instance, having above average cognitive ability seems to reduce a child’s rank position in terms of mental ill-health by three places from the median rank.

If we consider the relative size of the impact of different factors, we can see that parent reported arguments with the child and problems with peers have the largest influence on their mental ill-health, followed by chronic illness and communication difficulties. Being bullied, school engagement and perceived neighbourhood safety have large impacts on children’s wellbeing. Even when looking at the common factors in the middle area of the figure that are associated with both outcomes, we see that some factors have a much stronger association with one or the other outcome, for instance, arguing with parents predicts a 21 percentile score difference in mental illness and comparatively only 2 percentile points in wellbeing, representing a negative effect that is ten times greater in terms of its impact on mental illness.

It’s important to talk to children as well as parents about mental health
Another relevant consideration in this research is who reports the children’s psychological distress and wellbeing. Children’s subjective wellbeing was assessed by asking them to rate how happy they were with six key domains in their life, including their family, school, peers and appearance. On the other hand, the symptoms of mental illness were reported by their parents, who responded to questions about the emotional and behavioural symptoms their children were experiencing. Similarly, the correlates included in the study are from various sources including official records, parents and children. Asking children for their own assessment of their mental health is important as they provide a unique perspective on their own health and when asked appropriately they are able reporters of their psychological distress and wellbeing. For instance, children’s own reports of their mental ill-health (if assessed) might have been more strongly associated with their experience of being bullied by their peers – something we do not observe here in the parent reported symptoms.

The study is published here, where details of the measures used, analysis and results can be found along with discussions about possible bias introduced by the different reporters in the two domains, the importance of considering the child’s own views on their symptoms and the implications of the findings for policy and practice in child mental health.  

We also hope our study highlights the importance of including wellbeing as an outcome in the evaluation of interventions and policies. Reducing symptoms of mental illness is not where our interest in mental health should stop if we want children and society to not just be not unhappy, but to actually flourish and lead happy, meaningful lives.

Developing wellbeing frameworks for cities and regions

Rebekah Menzies, Carnegie TrustRebekah Menzies, of Carnegie UK Trust talks about their new report that explores how local authorities can be supported by a wellbeing framework that address their particular challenges, and calls for good practice examples.

The use of wellbeing frameworks, at all levels of government and across the world, is still in its infancy. However, we at the Carnegie UK Trust know that implementing a wellbeing framework can have a transformative effect on governance, allowing for greater transparency and accountability, and more joined-up working and public sector reform.

We have actively supported governments across the UK to develop wellbeing frameworks to guide policy making. Most recently, the Trust has supported the Northern Ireland Executive to place wellbeing at the heart of its work through the new Programme for Government.

But wellbeing approaches shouldn’t be restricted to a jurisdictional level. The OECD describes wellbeing as ‘a description of social progress in terms of improvements in quality of life, material conditions and sustainability’ (OECD, How’s Life?). While policies at jurisdictional levels are important for these factors, individual wellbeing is also shaped at a very localised level. The Carnegie UK Trust recognises this through our work on Flourishing Towns. Where we live – the very streets and neighbourhoods – matter and have an impact on our wellbeing.

In this regard, city and regional-level governments have an important role to play in promoting wellbeing. Given the dominant focus on jurisdictional level approaches to developing wellbeing frameworks, governments at city and regional levels face particular challenges in establishing and using wellbeing frameworks.

The OECD and Carnegie UK Trust have recognised this challenge, and come together to develop straightforward guidance for decision makers in regional and sub-regional governments on the benefits, challenges and possibilities of using wellbeing frameworks in policy making. The guidance includes evidence from 16 case studies across the OECD, including regions and cities in North America, Europe and Australia that are developing and using wellbeing strategies, objectives and measures.

The guidance outlines the common steps that cities and regions across the world have taken in developing wellbeing frameworks, beginning with the process to kick-start a conversation around a wellbeing framework, to sustaining the framework over the long-term.

The process is an ongoing one, involving multiple iterations and refinements, and enduring leadership by local leaders. While leadership from the top is important, so too is continuous communication with and engagement from citizens. Meaningful citizen engagement is important to ensure community buy-in to the wellbeing framework. The guidance includes interesting examples of cities and regions that have used wellbeing to bring data collection, policy and community priorities closer together.


Figure from the report: steps to establish a wellbeing framework in a city or region


We suspect that there are more people and organisations out there using wellbeing approaches to shape their work. The next stage of the project is to gather further evidence from around the globe on using wellbeing in policy and practice at all levels – community, local government, neighbourhoods, cities and regions. We have established a crowdsourcing system to collect international examples. Our hope is that we will uncover examples of innovation, which we will share. Help us build a bank of good practice examples, and submit your wellbeing framework here.