Bringing wellbeing to community

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Institute of Psychology Health & Society


There is more and more evidence on what determines people's wellbeing (how they experience their lives), and what activities can increase people's wellbeing. The UK's Office for National Statistics began in 2011 to conduct the largest national annual survey in the world on wellbeing. Potentially, this and other wellbeing evidence could have a profound effect on how policy-makers and funders make decisions, and how frontline workers and community organisations deliver activities and services. Many, including the Prime Minister David Cameron, have expressed a serious commitment to the idea of using this evidence in the policy process. However, to date, wellbeing evidence has not been used extensively in this way.
The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is about accelerating the process of getting wellbeing evidence used. It seeks to connect wellbeing evidence to those who could use it. The focus of our evidence programme is communities. This means we are focusing on how the things that happen where we live determine our wellbeing. For example, whether people have access to parks, whether they have a say in local decisions, and whether people trust one another in an area. We will also look at the interactions between these things, for example whether access to parks has any influence on trust.
This is what we will do:
1. An in-depth consultation process where people working in a range of organisations including local authorities, central government, charities, and housing associations, as well as people involved in small community groups, have the opportunity to discuss what would be useful for them to know about wellbeing. We will run events, get feedback electronically, and carry out interviews. We'll compare what people want to know with what we know already.
2. Identify a few key questions based on the consultation, and gather all the relevant evidence related to them. This will come from a range of different fields of study such as economics, psychology and geography, and including academic research as well as evaluations carried out by community organisations.
3. Review that evidence so that those who could use it can easily determine which findings are more robust, and which less so, and draw conclusions about the best options for increasing wellbeing.
4. Carry out analysis on new wellbeing survey data to understand why certain parts of the UK have higher or lower wellbeing.
5. Ensure all this evidence is published in formats that are easily understandable by a wide range of people, from policy makers to the general public.
6. Build closer links between researchers and people who could use that research - through events, networking, and on-going communication.
7. Provide training and tools for community organisations and local authorities to understand how they can use wellbeing in their day-to-day work, including how they can evaluate their activities using wellbeing surveys.
8. Develop a better understanding of what people mean when they talk about 'community wellbeing'.
9. Respond to questions about wellbeing evidence as they come in.
10. Develop new questions for researchers to explore in future research.
We are a team of five universities and five civil society organisations. We bring together a wide range of skills and knowledge areas, and have strong networks with the people who could use wellbeing evidence. We are committed to working together as a team, playing to our many strengths, and learning from our different perspectives. We will listen to the wide range of people we engage during the project, and will be sensitive to the real-world challenges of policy and on-the-ground community work. We will be systematic and transparent with evidence, ensuring our own methods our robust, but recognising that all kinds of evidence can be of value if treated appropriately. And we will be ambitious, seeing Wellbeing What Works as a genuine opportunity to help improve the lives of people across the UK.

Planned Impact

Ultimate beneficiaries includes the whole of society. The factors within the dimensions of community wellbeing are relevant to everyone. So a better understanding of these factors stands to benefit everyone, especially when the evidence points to policies which might have universal impact. In some cases, interventions and policies that emerge might have a narrower, more targeted set of beneficiaries, likely to be groups whose wellbeing is currently lower, e.g. people living in areas of high deprivation, those with long-term health issues, or socially-isolated people.

Direct beneficiaries: In a few cases, where the WWC reaches the general public through traditional or social media, there is the possibility to directly improve people's wellbeing by prompting changes in lifestyle or behaviours. However in most cases, our impact will be mediated via by two groups:

1) Commissioners and those allocating resources, including central government budget holders, health and wellbeing boards, service commissioners, CCGs, and third sector funders. For them, evidence will help inform decisions about which activities or policies are likely to lead to desired wellbeing outcomes.

2) Practitioners and service deliverers,. including third sector organisations, front line workers and their managers, and community groups. For them, the evidence will help directly inform how best to design services and activities. It will also help them evidence their impacts and therefore achieve sustained funding.

For all groups, aside from 'instrumental use' of wellbeing evidence (see Pathways to Impact) there are benefits associated with its 'conceptual use', i.e. the potential for impact by shifting discourse and thinking. The wellbeing evidence has a core implications of placing human beings at the centre of a policy or service,. and provides a framework for thinking of humans holistically, and not just as patients, victims, or 'the unemployed'. Thus part of the impact of WWW will be providing legitimacy for decision-makers and practitioners to make these shifts.

Engaging beneficiaries and producing accessible outputs

People rarely have time in their working lives to attend events or read evidence, unless they feel it is directly relevant to them. Thus, starting from the perspective of our intended audience, when initially engaging beneficiaries in the project, (e.g. via the events at the CDP stage) we will ensure that publicity and outreach materials are framed in terms of the audience's existing challenges. Sometimes, audiences will not have recognised wellbeing evidence as part of a solution, and will need to be brought on a journey to see the links. To facilitate this, we will use our contacts database to target follow ups so that likely beneficiaries will have a number of opportunities to engage with the project.

Our grounding in knowledge mobilisation forms the basis of this audience-centric approach, which we will constantly refine, learning from those who attend the earliest events to improve later events ones.

Written outputs will be succinct and use simple, clear language (either in the main output itself or in a summary version) to make them readily accessible to non-academic audiences, whilst always providing readers with the possibility to explore the deeper evidence and understand methodologies through annexes and references. We believe it is important to include non-written outputs, and we have deliberately described a set of deliverables as 'virtual pamphlets' which are likely to include some in video or other multimedia format.

Co-produced knowledge

Co-production is embedded into our approach. We will be responsive to users, and will provide opportunities for users and researchers to interact with one another directly. Across our consortium, there is mutual respect for the different skills we encompass, and we will ensure our communications and events will reflect that respect.
Description This is a complex piece of work that is still in progress. However we have achieved key milestones on the journey. Our papers on methodological approaches to measuring wellbeing, and especially inequity in wellbeing, represent important practical and theoretical improvements. We have, for example demonstrated links between inequalities in wellbeing and key voting patterns, and have developed further the complex relationship between causal determinants of wellbeing, the measurement of both subjective and objective wellbeing, and the consequences or effects of high, low, or unequal wellbeing. We have also begun the process of outlining the key policy influences on community wellbeing, starting with housing policy. We have examined the impact on community wellbeing of policies in the areas of economic policy generally, housing, transport and heritage, and local governance. We have examined models of 'co-production' and have developed (or are in the process of developing) measures or indicators of community wellbeing, and have contributed to policy at almost every level of government.
Exploitation Route Our research is already being used by others, particularly by policy-makers aiming to improve national, local or individual wellbeing; in the third sector, in local government and in central government departments. Our findings have already informed practice in public and private sector areas, for example, by informing the design of neighbourhoods and the provision of housing. Outputs to date, such as those on wellbeing inequalities within and across local authorities, are already stimulating and informing local and national debate. By completion, we will have produced a key resource for all those interested in community wellbeing theory, evidence and guidance.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

Description We are now more that half way through our programme of research. We are developing over twenty interrelated programme outputs on community wellbeing and wellbeing inequalities, many of which have now been published. By the end of our programme we will have created a one-stop-shop of theory, evidence and guidance on community wellbeing. This includes products on the definition, conceptualisation and measurement of community wellbeing; current and future use of indicators of wellbeing; a theory of change; scoping reviews, systematic reviews, and evidence 'road maps'; secondary analysis of wellbeing determinants, and wellbeing/wellbeing inequality outcomes within and across local areas; cost effectiveness modelling of interventions; and the development of guidance for frontline assessment of wellbeing/wellbeing inequalities. We are also dedicating a large proportion of our resources to the translation of this broad-spectrum of theory, evidence, and guidance, to enable appropriate and effective dissemination to a very wide range and number of stakeholders within the private, public and third sectors - from national policy-makers to local frontline staff. We are conducting ongoing engagement with hundreds of individual and organisational stakeholders who have helped/are helping to define the scope of our research, the nature of our outputs, and the reach of our dissemination activities. We have also delivered specific events The outputs we have produced to date are already stimulating and informing policy and practice debate on community wellbeing, and what can be done to improve it. As this is ongoing, we are recording the range/sectors and numbers of stakeholders involved, and will be reporting an overview of these at the end of the programme. Economic, societal, policy & public service impacts are likely to be immediate to long-term, and involve complex paths to use and effects across a wide range of sectors and population groups.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description 5 Championing Wellbeing Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 5 workshops with VCS and Local Government to explore the challenges to measuring and using wellbeing data and the benefits of taking a wellbeing approach.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016