So what works in getting research used in decision-making?

We all want our work to be useful, and there have been many studies asking policy makers and other stakeholders what the barriers and facilitators are to using research.

But how confident are we that our favourite approaches actually work?  What is the science of using science knowledge? And do we know what works in getting research used in making policy ?  

We have partnered with the Wellcome Trust,  the Alliance for Useful Evidence and the EPPI-Centre at UCL to understand how research evidence can be best used in decision-making.

The study focuses on better development and use of a sound evidence base in government policy, and other decision making. It is intended to develop the evidence base for what we at the What Works Centre for Wellbeing can do to support evidence informed decision making to improve wellbeing.

→ Summary

→Full report

The study identified six types of activity used to support evidence informed decision making and looked at the evidence based that underpins them.  The study team then looked at what other social science research suggests could be promising for supporting evidence informed decision making.

reserach uptake diagram

We are reviewing our plans and theory of change as a result of this study working with the wider What Works Network some of whom are doing trials in this area.  We hope that these insights prove useful more widely and add to the evidence base in the field. 

This project included:

  • a systematic review (a review of reviews) of the field of research use by the EPPI-Centre
  • A scoping review of what the wider social science literature tells us about the mechanisms for the use of research evidence in decision-making by the EPPI-Centre
  • a summary policy report summarising the key findings with discussion and case studies by the Alliance for Useful Evidence
  • a conference to explore what approaches work in enabling the use of research by policy makers, practitioners and members of the public at Wellcome Trust on 12th April 2016


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.

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

Time to Talk Day 5 February 2015

5 ways to wellbeing postcardsConnect, Take Notice  and Keep Learning are 3 of the 5 ways to Wellbeing, today’s post combines the three.

Today is Time to Talk Day lead by the Time to Change campaign urging people to break the silence that surrounds mental health by having a 5 minute conversation


  • Having a mental health problem is hard enough but sometimes the isolation and stigma can make it even worse.
  • Talking about mental health doesn’t need to be difficult and can make a big difference. #TimetoTalk

This  BIG blog post from the BIG Lottery is focused on the challenges faced by projects working with people suffering from mental health issues.


There is just over a week left for applications to become one of our Trustees. The deadline is 16th Feb.


Our Pioneer case study shares the borough-wide approach of Lambeth and Southwark’s Wellbeing programme.

→ be one of our wellbeing pioneers



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.



OECD Seminar, 27 January 2015

Measuring well-being in regions and cities: How can it help improving policy-making?

Luiz De Mello, Deputy Director of the Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate and Monica Brezzi, Head of the Regional Analysis and Statistics Unit logooecd_en

27 January 2015, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

The London School of Economics and Political Science, Clement House, Aldwych; room CLM 502

The seminar will overview the OECD Regional Well-Being FrameworkOECDWBtool and the main insights on the factors determining well-being in regions. It will also discuss possible extensions of this framework to provide evidence for decision making to pursue an inclusive growth agenda in regions that combines increased prosperity in different dimensions with greater equity. Abstract

The seminar is free and open to all – there is no need to register.