Expert Teams and Board Members appointed for What Works Centre for Wellbeing

The Wha8-2754esrc-logot Works Centre for Wellbein2903577 What Works Banner Stand V0_2.inddg, together with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have announced the successful bids for four research programmes to understand what really works to improve the wellbeing of people in the UK.

Over the next three years, the What Works Centre for Wellbeing will enable policy-makers, local authorities,  employers and others to use evidence of wellbeing impact in decision making and to improve people’s lives, by translating academic evaluation of wellbeing measures into easy-to-use information about effectiveness, cost and applicability.

The successful consortia are led by world-renowned academics

Professor Richard LayardProfessor Kevin DanielsProfessor Peter KindermanProfessor Christina Victor

 

 

 

Overall, the research spans twelve universities, five civil society groups, and reaches internationally through the OECD. More detailed information on the teams and the work of the evidence programmes is here

The Centre and evidence programmes have been funded by a number of partner organisations.

 Cross-Cutting Capabilities

Professor Lord Richard Layard, LSE, leads the Cross-Cutting Capabilities programme, working in collaboration with

  • London School of Economics
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • Institute for Education

They are partnering with

  • Action for Happiness
  • University of Oxford
  • How to Thrive

The team will assess and develop methods of understanding how policy and practice affect wellbeing. They will look at the effect of different factors on wellbeing, analyse the impact of wellbeing on other outcomes and develop a framework for cost-effectiveness analysis with wellbeing as the measure of benefit.  They will also conduct life course analysis, looking at the how important early life is to wellbeing in later years.

Work, Learning and Wellbeing

Professor Kevin Daniels, UEA, leads the Work, Learning and Wellbeing evidence programme, a collaboration between

  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Essex

The evidence programme is focused on protecting and enhancing the wellbeing of workers, adult learners and those seeking work.

Bringing Wellbeing to Community

Prof Peter Kinderman, University of Liverpool, leads the Community Wellbeing evidence programme. His team is a collaboration of five universities including

  • Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice at the University of Liverpool
  • Sheffield University
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Durham University

They are joined by five civil society organisations including

  • New Economics Foundation
  • Locality
  • Happy City
  • Centre for Local Economic Strategies
  • Social Life Ltd

The evidence programme will focus on how community wellbeing is affected by issues such as local social networks, having a say over what happens in our community, and local living conditions.

Culture, Sport and Wellbeing

Professor Christina Victor, Brunel University London, leads the Culture, Sport and Wellbeing evidence programme, a collaboration between

  • Brunel University London
  • University of Brighton
  • London School of Economics
  • University of Winchester

They will look at the wellbeing benefits of participation in different culture and sport practices for people in a wide range of circumstances.

Board appointments

PaulLitchfieldThe Centre has recently appointed its first Board of non-executive Directors. The Chair, Dr Litchfield, is joined by:

Gregor Henderson (National Lead for Wellbeing and Mental Health at Public Health England), and Phil Sooben (Director of Policy, Resources and Communications, ESRC) will join the board for an initial period as the Centre’s major partners in delivery.

Further recruitment for board members, including specifically from areas of local government and academia are still to come. Follow this website for the latest opportunities.

Measuring the wellbeing of young people- NPC’s Dan Corry

Today we have a guest blog from Dan Corry, the Chief Executive of NPC reflecting on the measurement of young people’s wellbeing.
Our pioneer case study looks at the  NPC measure in more depth

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers


Dan Corry, Chief Executive NPC

DanMany of the charities we work with at NPC are trying in different ways to improve the wellbeing of one group or other. But perhaps nowhere is it more important than in thinking about children. Well-being is strongly connected to concepts like resilience, self esteem and self worth, qualities that if present can lead to a fulfilling life whatever the knock backs. Their absence can make for a very difficult future.

The general concept of well-being has enjoyed political backing at the highest level. Yet despite experts agreeing that young people’s school achievement is linked to their well-being. and the efforts of charities like the Children’s Society, we are still frustratingly short of finding an effective way to measure and monitor well-being among children, and to giving it the prominence in policy-making it deserves.

Ofsted have not helped in this. Since 2011 they have shifted their focus towards ‘academic excellence’ and increasingly away from what the Secretary of State disregarded as ‘peripherals’. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has started to measure adult well-being, but is only scoping how to apply this process to children.

Here at NPC we have tried to fill this space by creating something that is easy to use for charities and others, and is academically rigorous . We launched our own Well-being Measure in 2011, after three years developing and piloting the content. Adapting years of work by researchers and academics, it uses a simple online questionnaire to assess the well-being of 11-16 year-olds under eight criteria: self-esteem; emotional well-being; resilience; satisfaction with friends, family, community and school; and life satisfaction.

This means taking an entirely subjective approach, with young people asked to record how they feel about aspects of their lives. This contrasts with ONS proposals, for example, which would focus only on objective measures like sports participation and health. The ideal would be to combine the two—but it should be noted that there has been increasing recognition of the value of subjective approaches in recent years.

Since 2011, our Well-being Measure has been used by more than 50 charities, schools and local authorities, typically to measure the well-being of children both before and after an activity or intervention. This gives some sense of the impact that activity has had on their lives—and in the last three years, the Measure has helped us learn more about the well-being of around 7,000 young people.

Analysing this data, some of the results paint a reassuring picture of children’s lives. Family and friends play an important role. Very large percentages respond positively to statements about them: for example, 90% agreed ‘my friends are great’, 93% ‘I have a lot of fun with my friends, 86% ‘my parents treat me fairly’.

But at the other end of the scale, the greatest dissatisfaction is linked to local community and anxiety. Only 48% agreed that ‘there are lots of fun things to do where I lived’, while 35% children said they ‘worried a lot’ and 24% agreed ‘I am nervous or tense’. Analysis of the data also suggests some alarming fall-offs in well-being for girls in their teenage years, perhaps due to the pressures posed through new technology and abuse or coercion through social media.

We are continuing to develop the Well-being Measure and apply it in new settings. Since last year we have been working with the London Mayor’s Fund to measure change among young people involved in their Be the Best you can Be! programme. It is also being adapted for use with the Tri-Borough London authorities—Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea—so that it can work with children with special needs. (edited to add this is now available).

Measuring well-being is a process which probably never finishes. It’ll always need adaptations and tweaks along the way, so that we can catch as much high-quality, useable data as possible. But at a time when the connections between happiness, achievement and prosperity are under discussion, NPC is proud to have started taking those steps.

Wellbeing evidence around the globe – Nils Fietje WHO Regional Office for Europe

Nils-photoCulture and Health: how the study of cultural dynamics is finding its way into well-being discussions at WHO.

Culture is making a comeback. After years of having remained at the margins of national and international policy discussions, the term is re-emerging as a powerful, affirmative concept. Particularly in relation to health, the importance of cultural values, behaviours, or assumptions is getting some much needed attention. Like, for inst ance, in this concept note, published by the United Nations Development Group as part of its report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which highlights the significant contribution cultural dynamics can make in improving people’s health. Or in this UCL/Lancet Commission Report which claims that the neglect of culture is the single biggest obstacle to developing equitable healthcare.

The comeback of culture hasn’t gone unnoticed by WHO, leading to the launch of a project at the WHO Regional Office for Europe that is trying to investigate the impact of culture on health in a more systematic way. Anchored in Health 2020, WHO’s European policy for health and well-being, the project’s first initiative is to tackle the issue of measuring and reporting on well-being. In 2012, the European Member States mandated the Regional Office to keep an eye on the well-being of its populations. As a result, five core objective well-being indicators and one core subjective indicator were selected for inclusion in the Health 2020 monitoring framework.

Of these, the subjective well-being indicator (life-satisfaction), is the most interesting, but also the most challenging. It’s at the heart of what WHO can say about well-being. And yet it doesn’t capture the soul of what well-being really means across a region that’s as culturally diverse as WHO’s Europe. From Iceland, across the central Asian republics, to the furthest reaches of the Russian Federation, the WHO European Region combines within one administrative entity an enormous variety of beliefs, values, and traditions

To help WHO think through the cultural determinants of well-being, the Regional Office convened an expert group meeting in January of this year. The group comprised 21 experts from a variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds, including epidemiologists, statisticians, and public health experts, but also academics from cultural studies, history, philosophy, anthropology, geography, and cultural psychology.

From a measurement perspective, the well-known caveats about (for instance) cultural bias, language barriers, or contextual effects were mentioned in relation to subjective well-being. Although a lot of work has been done comparing collectivists versus individualist cultures, our experts agreed that more research was needed before the cross-cultural comparability of subjective well-being measures is firmly established. Particularly within the European Region, they pointed out, comparative research was almost totally lacking.

How then can WHO actually say something meaningful about “being well” in Europe?

One of the interesting recommendations the experL0058624 Wooden geomantic compass and perpetual calendar, Chinese. Plt group made, was to encourage WHO to consider using other forms of evidence from a wider array of disciplinary perspectives in order to supplement its regional report on well-being. A lot of rich health information can be gathered about the well-being of groups, communities and even nations, by (for example) systematically analysing historical records, anthropological observations, or other forms of cultural outputs. However, one must first overcome the preconception that his kind of information is too “soft” for the public health sphere. Instead, the focus needs to be on validity – as it would be with more conventional forms of data.

Taking advantage of a more multidisciplinary approach when WHO communicates about well-being – one that benefits from the methodologies employed by historians, anthropologists and other cultural commentators – might have several advantages.

First, such an approach could allow for more compelling, and more textured well-being narratives, especially where developing and implementing costly, country specific well-being surveys is not an option. This is crucially important to the Regional Office, because European Member States have already expressed a concern about the current burden of reporting. It’s a burden that should not be unnecessarily increased by international agencies.

Second, the use of more culturally specific sources of evidence (gathered from, for instance, traditions and rituals) can help give a voice to marginalised communities (such as Roma), whose health experiences are often fundamentally underpinned by cultural attitudes and beliefs and whose well-being isn’t captured by national or global polls.

And finally, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, one which is open to insights from the human and wider social sciences, can help to encourage a more balanced discussion about well-being. Working between disciplines exposes the system of values in which academics operate and encourages reflexivity. The kind of reflexivity that allows us to understand, for instance, how all our attention on well-being (and happiness) is producing its own cultural dynamics. Dynamics that might themselves have negative side-effects.

As a small post script, a culture centred approach to thinking and communicating about well-being isn’t exactly new. But the kind of work that exists tends to make very specific arguments about the well-being of very specific groups of people (like cancer patients in the NHS). And it isn’t really speaking to policy makers yet, either. What’s missing from these studies is scale and scope. The scale to construct larger narratives about well-being that transcend local or community boundaries; and the scope to make this research relevant within the public health policy arena. We believe that WHO and its Health 2020 policy can help to change this.

Nils Fietje

Research Officer

Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation

WHO Regional Office for Europe

Nils Fietje is a staff member of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. The author alone is responsible for the content and writing of this piece, which does not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of WHO.

What works?

 The rise of ‘experimental’ government

ThExperimentalism in CSQis week David Halpern, National Adviser on What Works  makes the case for innovation to be embedded in our work and not confined to new initiatives or programmes in Civil Service Quarterly.

He calls for us all to evaluate and adapt our practice on a continual basis and shares how a more robust level of evaluation can become a transformational tool.

Our Pioneers are doing just that and we want you to be bold and deliberate in your practice .

This week’s pioneer case study showcases Think Good, Feel Good – A Whole School Approach to Emotional Health & Wellbeing across Shropshire schools.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers

Our evidence programme call with our commissioning partners ESRC has now closed and our panel is at work considering the applications. Thank you for your interest, it is really inspiring to hear about so much great research in the UK.  If you want to share your work or find out about what others are doing please do use our growing online forum.

Also a reminder that Lord O’Donnell is currently recruiting the Chair and Board of the Centre closing date for applications for Chair is 2nd February and Trustees 16th February.

 

 

Videos from our launch events 29th October – Part 2 Bristol

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing was announced by our interim Chair Lord Gus O’Donnell on 29th October 2014 at twoKnowleWestMediaCentre events, in London and Bristol. Here are the video of the speakers from the Bristol part of the day with sessions from:

  • Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson
  • Lord Gus O’Donnell Chair of the What Works Centre’s Development Group
  • Ed Humpherson from UK Statistics Authority
  • Liz Zeidler from Happy City Bristol
  • Dr Shona Arora Centre Director of the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Public Health England Centre
  • Q&A from the audience at Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol

Also published to coincide with the announcement of the What Works for Wellbeing Centre on 29th October was a new dataset from ONS combining the first three years of national personal wellbeing data to enable a more robust local level analysis and the ESRC specifications for the Centre’s evidence programme.

→what can I do?

Today we have also added a new pioneer case study to the site:

Our pioneers are short case studies of real projects, real places, real people and their evaluations.

→ be one of our pioneers

Welcome and Bristol context Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson 

Wellbeing – the new currency of impact Lord Gus O’Donnell

Measuring What Matters Ed Humpherson  

Happy City – What has worked in Bristol? Liz Zeidler 

Wellbeing and local public health Dr Shona Arora

Q&A with the speakers

Wellbeing evidence around the globe – Lord Gus O’Donnell in Australia

GusWhen I helped to launch, in London and Bristol, the What Works centre on Wellbeing I said we wanted to gather evidence from around the globe. So it is fitting that I have spent the last week on the other side of the world urging people to pass on their experiences and learning on wellbeing. More specifically I have been in Australia meeting senior officials at the Federal and State level, think tanks and private sector representatives to explain the importance of focusing on wellbeing and behaviour change.

At lectures and seminars in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, I  explained  the importance of broad measures of wellbeing and their superiority to activity measures like GDP as indicators of the success of governments and countries. I find that explaining that UK  GDP is now enhanced by increased illegal drug trade and prostitution, while the value of volunteering is not, gets the point across quite vividly! My visit played out against the G20 taking g20logoplace in Brisbane, right in the middle of my Australian visit. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping had turned the focus onto climate change to the discomfort of their host Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Nevertheless the G20 was attempting to enhance wellbeing by stimulating infrastructure spending and employment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Australia the government is attempting to eradicate its deficit of 2.5%GDP , rather low compared to the levels in UK and many other European countries. Having got through the financial crisis relatively unscathed there has not been a sense of a burning platform. This, together with some interesting complications thrown up in the last Australian federal election in the influence of minor parties, especially in the Senate or upper house,  has made it harder to make radical changes but it has created a desire to understand how to deliver ‘ better for less’. Hence there was a lot of interest in the measures implemented by the UK government to reduce the deficit from 11%GDP to half that level and particularly the impact on public services and public servants. There was an interesting thread through all of the conversations that tied together the refocusing back on fundamental questions about the value and purpose of government in the first place, which is a necessary part of the broader wellbeing approach, and consequential decisions about the shape and performance of government and the behaviour and skills of public servants in the 21st century.

I emphasised the unusual nature of the UK recovery which was employment strong but accompanied by a stagnation in real wages. The nature of the problems reinforces one key conclusion from a wellbeing approach to macro policy- namely that steady, consistent (and sometimes lower) growth is better than increasingly unsustainable booms and busts. Although there has been some work, and considerably interest, within various departments, including the Australian Treasury over recent years, the concepts and practice of “wellbeing” are still only used rarely in Australia and have yet to establish themselves as a consistent and influential part of the wider political and policy discussion.

Deloitte Social Progress IndexHowever while I was there Deloitte produced a paper on Unlocking true growth,G20: Insights from the Social Progress Index 2014

Their index is an unweighted average of many indicators but includes no measures of subjective wellbeing. Among the G20 their index puts Netherlands at the top but then the Scandinavians, as usual, do very well. Australia ranks above the UK which in turn beats the United States. Although I have questions about aspects of the methodology, it is good to see recognition that “growth on its own without social progress is an empty goal.” The Australians are also beginning to explore behaviour change techniques. Rory Gallagher and Alex Gyani,  as part of the Behavioural Insight team, are based in New South Wales in the Department of Premier and Cabinet and are running a number of projects to demonstrate the merits of the new approaches.

For example they have tested various ways to speed up the payment of taxes and fines, saving the NSW governmentBIT logo millions of dollars. They have found quicker, more effective ways to get people back to work after injuries.  They are investigating how to improve handling of domestic violence and child obesity, both particularly challenging problems in Australia. But probably most important of all, they are running Master classes to train officials in applying behavioural approaches.

I was also fortunate enough to meet Shlomo Benartzi, a highly respected behavioural economist from UCLA. He explained his latest research on digital solutions to key policy problems, which will be published next year.

what works network logoAt each  venue I have described the role of the various What Works centres that are already up and running. And I have explained what we hope will be  provided by the Wellbeing centre in terms of agreeing common methodologies and collecting and sharing examples of what works and what doesn’t. Of course we need to explain that what works in one country or community might not work in another.

At my Sydney University lecture I used the example of various messages attempting to persuade people to sign up asUniofSydney organ donors.  You can hear the podcast of the lecture  (the podcast link is on the right of the linked page).

The Australian audience felt the positive message about saving lives would work best whereas in the UK the reciprocal message- if you would want an organ donation if needed, why not donate yourself- worked best. Nevertheless as we collect evidence of such experiments around the world we may well be able to determine which particular policies work universally. I would like to thank Martin Stewart-Weeks and Deloitte, Cisco and Telstra who supported the visit, for helping me to get across these messages to a wide audience in Australia.

One of the events at which I spoke was the 2014 Spann Oration, given in Sydney for the Institute of Public Administration in NSW.  The Oration, given each year, is in honour of the work of Professor Richard Spann, one of the Australia’s leading public administration academics.  You can find the Oration here, published by The Mandarin, a new online magazine in Australia that concentrates on issues of government reform, the public sector and public policy.

Read a broader summary of some of the main themes and topics from the weeks’ conversations and meetings.

Gus

Children & Young people’s wellbeing in the UK

To coincide with a Week of Action organised by the Department of Health and Public Health England aimed at supporting families to provide children with the best start in life, here at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing we’ve pulled together publications showing the latest picture of the wellbeing of children and young people in the UK and some pointers to resources for taking positive action.Shift Child 3

Our Wellbeing Pioneers this week are the National Citizen Service programme, providing a great example of how tangible results in improving young people’s wellbeing can be achieved and Shift, an organisation designing an innovative biofeedback video game to help young people improve their own wellbeing.

Our pioneers are short case studies of real projects, real places, real people and their evaluations.

→ be one of our pioneers

What does the latest picture show about children and young people’s wellbeing?

Exploring the Well-being of Children in the UK, 2014 presents the latest statistical picture of the wellbeing of children in the UK from the ONS Measuring National Wellbeing Programme (published October 2014).

The Good Childhood Report, 2014 is the most recent report from The Children’s Society looking at the wellbeing of children in the UK and highlighting areas for improvement.

5,660 Young People Can’t be Wrong. How Will YOU Help Us? summarises the results of Young Mind’s consultation with 5,600 young people (October 2013- May 2014) asking what the big issues were that made them feel under pressure, how these issues affect them and what needs to be done about them.

Where can I find out more about how to support children and young people’s wellbeing?

logo-eifThe Guidebook from the Early Intervention Foundation is an online, interactive resource for those commissioning and providing services for children and families. It gives details of which programmes have been shown to work most effectively for improving outcomes for children as well as information about what works best in putting them into practice.

The Children’s Society have produced a guide for parents on how to support their children’s wellbeing.

‘Talking Wellbeing’ is a toolkit developed by young people working with the National Children’s Bureau, Our Life and NHS Sefton, with help from Sefton Council and Sefton CVS. It shows how to run a five-step focus group for 14-19 year olds, exploring what wellbeing means to young people, what factors influence it and what they can do to improve their own wellbeing and that of their community.

We hope you like this short collation of evidence and resources. Its our first go at this type of post so your feedback is very welcome.  Please do comment on this post below and tweet recommending other great resources for children and young people’s wellbeing that you’ve found useful and would like to share with others

The development team