Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summary of the One-day conference on "Well-Being and Policy"

Thanks to all participants for attending the one-day conference on “Well-Being and Policy” that David Bell, Christopher Boyce and Liam Delaney (all Stirling University) organised in conjunction with the Scottish Universities Insight Institute. We had brilliant talks, great discussions, and plenty food for thought.

Below you'll find abstracts, some pictures, and links to documents referred to in the presentations. Details of future workshops will be provided via the mailing list, the blog,and our twitter account.

Measuring what matters: The Carnegie well-being programme 


This presentation examines the key findings from the Carnegie UK Trust well-being programme, which began in 2010. It considers what well-being is, how it can be measured, options and opportunities for embedding well-being frameworks in policy and the challenges to a well-being approach.

Carnegie Wellbeing Reports 
The presentation will cover the following topics: 1. Introduction: (a) the different roles that wellbeing evidence can play in policy making and politics, (b) the differences in its role in economic as against social policy. 2. Specific policy implications. 3. Barriers to this happening and how to overcome them: (a) policy process, (b) political narrative, (c) democratic engagement.

11.15-11.55: Matthew White (University of Exeter)
Subjective well-being and the environment: Towards an ecological model of public health and well-being 

Policy makers and advisors are taking a growing interest in how policies might affect how people think and feel about their lives, i.e. their subjective well-being (SWB). In part this is due to the realisation that ecologically unsustainable levels of economic growth do not necessarily improve many people’s experiences of life. This coincides with attempts to understand the way in which the planet’s natural capital and processes, i.e. ecosystems services, influence human well-being more generally.

These complimentary movements have led to a growing interest in understanding how the environment directly and indirectly influences our SWB. In particular, given rapid urbanisation, there has been concern about how large proportions of the population are becoming detached from ‘natural’ environments and what effect this may be having on outcomes such as depression, now recognised as the leading cause of disability in many developed countries. The aim of this talk is to introduce some of the latest research in this area and discuss issues such as: a) What do we mean by ‘nature’ in modern developed countries?; b) What do we mean by ‘exposure’ to nature?; c) What is the relationship between different types of exposure to different types of nature and SWB?; d) How large are these effects relative to other determinants of SWB?; and e) How durable are the effects?. One aim of this research is to broaden the scope of ecological public health models to include SWB and thus potentially raise the profile of environmental issues in health policies.

Good Places, Better Health (GPBH)
Health map for the local human habitat by Barton and Grant (2006).
Professor Rich Mitchell from Glasgow works on similar topics.
Related research from Edinburgh's Professor Catharine Ward Thompson

11.55-12.35: Koen Decancq (University of Antwerp): 
Beyond GDP: Measuring social progress in Europe 
In this paper we study the measurement of social progress. Recently, it has become widely accepted that focusing exclusively on income growth may lead to a too narrow-sighted measure of social progress. People care about other dimensions of life, such as their health, employment, social interactions and personal safety. Moreover, an exclusive focus on income growth remains blind to the distribution of income and well-being in the society. We propose therefore a set of six principles for a richer measure of social progress. In particular, we advocate the use of a measure based on “equivalent incomes”, which satisfies all our basic principles. We discuss and illustrate how an equivalent income approach can be implemented in Europe, using the ESS data for 2008 and 2010. We find that introducing inequality aversion and including other dimensions in the analysis of social progress leads to a remarkably different perspective on social progress in Europe. 

Links Decancq, Koen, Luc Van Ootegem and Elsy Verhofstadt (2013) What if we voted on the weights of a multidimensional well-being index? An illustration with Flemish data Fiscal Studies, 34(3), 315-332.
Decancq, Koen and María Ana Lugo (2013) Weights in Multidimensional Indices of Well-Being: An Overview, Econometric Reviews, 32(1), 7-34.

13.45-14.25: Michael Hogan (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Consulting with citizens in the design of wellbeing measures and policies 


Internationally, there is increasing interest in, and analysis of, human wellbeing and the economic, social, environmental, and psychological factors that contribute to it. Current thinking suggests that to measure social progress and national wellbeing we need something more than GDP.  Experts across a range of disciplines have increasingly highlighted a number of key values and domains of measurement that are influencing the way governments in different countries are thinking about wellbeing measures and policies.  

Different countries have focused more or less on citizen consultation in the design of wellbeing measures and policies.  However, recent case studies highlight the dangers of failing to consult with citizens and the importance of citizen consultations in the design of wellbeing measures and policies.  This paper highlights the value of citizen consultations and considers how best to optimize deliberation and co-design by experts, citizens, and politicians using systems science tools that facilitate individual talents and effective team dynamics.  

The paper opens with an overview of the international wellbeing movement and highlights key issues in the design and application of wellbeing measures in policy practice. Next, an applied system science approach to citizen consultations in relation to wellbeing measurement and policy is described. A recent application of our applied system science methodology to the design of a notional national wellbeing index for Ireland is outlined. The paper closes by highlighting the importance of adopting a wider social science toolkit to the challenge of facilitating social progress.

Just Freedom by Philip Pettit | Homepage of John N. Warfield, creator of Systems Science. 
Galway Healthy Cities project | Canadian Index of Wellbeing
Wellbeing in Ireland – Designing Measures and Implementing Policies, June 6, 2013, NUI, Galway. (Workshop Report)
·  Overcoming Barriers to Well-Being in Ireland, June 8, 2012, NUI, Galway. (Workshop Report)

14.25-15.05: Danny Blanchflower (Dartmouth College & University of Stirling) (via Skype) 

Papers on well-being and other topics.  
15.25-16.05: Martine Durand (OECD and co-author of recent paper 'Wellbeing and Policy') 
Well-being: From measurement to policy - the OECD’s approach


The OECD’s mission is to promote better policies for better lives. To know whether life is getting better, and to understand the role that policy plays in improving lives, we need measures of people’s well-being and how it is distributed. This means going beyond GDP, because economic growth is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Well-being measures can be used to explore the quality of economic growth, and who benefits from it, but well-being is a concept that goes well beyond the material, and well beyond the outcomes that can be delivered by markets alone.

Measures of well-being need to focus on the ultimate outcomes that matter to people and that, together, shape their lives. In the OECD measurement framework, outcomes are grouped into eleven different domains of life, including both material living conditions (income and wealth, jobs and earnings, housing conditions) and ‘quality of life’ factors (health status, work-life balance, education and skills, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environmental quality, personal security and subjective well-being). Measuring the sustainability of well-being over time meanwhile requires understanding the stocks and flows of the different types of capital that underpin well-being: natural, economic, human and social.

While there has been considerable progress in developing measures of well-being, there is currently less clarity about how they can be more deeply embedded in policy development and decision-making. This presentation will describe ways in which the OECD well-being framework can be used, at the very least, to inform and improve current modes of policy-making. This includes complementing more traditional approaches to measuring the progress of societies by highlighting whether life is getting better and for whom, and bringing the synergies and trade-offs between different policy outcomes into sharper focus.

Create Your Own Better Life Index.
How's life? 2013 - Measuring well-being.
Regional Well-Being.

16.05-17.00: Panel Discussion 

The panel discussed several issues related to wellbeing and its measurement and use in policy, including the (in-)equality of wellbeing, the effects of social comparisons on wellbeing, the coherence of wellbeing goals across nations, the importance of an individualistic understanding of wellbeing, the optimal level (city, county, country, ...) of implementing wellbeing policies, and the danger of tinkering wellbeing data to win elections. As a reoccurring theme the importance of giving citizens freedom and autonomy and empowering them to live the lives they want was mentioned several times.

Further Reading: 

Well-Being in the 21st Century – a role for policy.
Further details of 2014 Scottish University Insights Institute programme on well-being 
Summary of Lecture on Well-Being and Economics.  
MAP: Measuring Australia's Progress

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