The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is a collaborating Centre working out what organisations in all sectors - public, private, and civil society - can do to improve wellbeing. In this talk, Nancy will cover a range of examples of how wellbeing approaches, indicators and policies are being used.
Examples will come from:
- across the policymaking process from policy objective setting, appraisal, and evaluation
- local area place centred wellbeing strategies and workplace wellbeing action plans
- sector and organisational approaches, across a wide range of policy areas - education, labour market, environment, health, culture, public mental health, social capital and digital, and
- a wide range of disciplines from economics, statistics, research, MEL, policy, public & occupational health, planning, commissioning & funding, delivery, and service design.
Captions for this video are available by clicking on the CC icon.
Natalie Labuschagne (00:00:07):
[speaking in te reo Māori] Tēnā koutou katoa
Natalie Labuschagne (00:00:09):
Hello to you all. My name is Natalie Labuschagne and I'm the Manager of the Economic Strategy team here at the Treasury. It's fantastic to see another great turnout today to hear another speaker in our Wellbeing Seminar Series. Back in April, our Secretary to the Treasury, Dr. Caralee McLiesh publicly launched a work programme that will culminate in the Treasury's first Wellbeing Report in November this year. Te Tai Waiora will be a report on the state of wellbeing in New Zealand, how this has changed, how it is distributed, and the sustainability of wellbeing. This seminar series is part of Treasury's broader wellbeing work programme. Our aim for the seminar and for others like it is to bring in external ideas from speakers and also the participants during the series, and I'm very pleased to see that there are many of you on the call today as a source of challenge and to learn from and with interested people across New Zealand, and this will help to broaden the public discussion.
Natalie Labuschagne (00:01:07):
We plan to have a range of seminars over the rest of this year in early 2023, with participation of international and New Zealand wellbeing experts. Today, we are delighted to have Nancy Hey with us. Nancy is considered a global leader in the wellbeing area. In 2014, she set up the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, which is the UK's national body for wellbeing evidence and practise, aiming to understand what governments, business, communities, and people can do to improve wellbeing. This centre is the first of its kind in the world and is working with the OECD, over 18 universities across the UK, and in partnership with HM Government, business, and civil society. Nancy has worked with the UK's top civil servants to introduce wellbeing into public policy and to establish the professional policy community in the UK.
Natalie Labuschagne (00:02:01):
Today, Nancy will present a wide range of practical examples of how wellbeing approaches, indicators, and policies are currently being used. This is very relevant to New Zealand as we continue to learn about how we bring wellbeing into policy across different levels of government and how we do wellbeing analysis and policy in a robust and meaningful way. We know many countries, including the UK, are on a similar journey of incorporating wellbeing into policy. It is great to have the opportunity to learn from Nancy about some practical applications in the UK across the policy making process and in different sectoral and organisational contexts. I know that people within and outside of the Treasury are always eager for more examples of applying wellbeing frameworks in practise.
Natalie Labuschagne (00:02:51):
So, I'm very excited for today's presentation. Nancy will present for around 45 minutes, and then we will have the remainder of the time for questions. As Nancy presents, please feel free to pop any questions you might have in the chat function, and if you particularly like a question, please give it a thumbs up and then we'll make sure that those with the most thumbs up get asked, and hopefully it'll feel a little bit more interactive then for everyone. So over to you, Nancy, and welcome.
Nancy Hey (00:03:25):
Thank you, Natalie. It's brilliant to be here and I hope we can break all the rules with this presentation, and I'm going to give you loads of examples. And the reason I've done that is because I was told you want to see practical ways that frameworks can be used, and that's what we've been learning about over the last 10 years across the UK. And so we've got lots of examples of how they're being used and what they've been doing. So I also find that the PDF of the slides has been shared, I've kind of prepared it as a pack for you to take away. I know that people here have got a large range of different interests, and so there's lots of food for thought for lots of different people.
Nancy Hey (00:04:07):
So, I will cover a little bit about myself, and we're really talking about using wellbeing evidence in policy making. We'll also be talking about really firmly, is it true that what gets measured gets done? And if you measure it and monitor it, will it change? If you measure what matters, will it grow? And we're going to look at that in lots of different ways. We're going to look at the role of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing in establishing robust evidence that can be used in policymaking. I'll talk in the first half about frameworks in use and particularly around language, around leadership, and around learning. We'll talk about the features of a wellbeing approach, even if they're not called wellbeing, and the six hallmarks of using them in practise that we've observed and researched so far. I'll then talk about wellbeing economics specifically and the role of subjective wellbeing and the choices that we have to make in policy making, and I will talk about it in all the stages of the policy making process.
Nancy Hey (00:05:10):
So as a policy official by background, I'll talk a lot about how we can set our objectives in the strategic case, a bit about how we can use it in appraisal, and you heard from other colleagues more specifically about some of the wellbeing approaches previously. And I'll talk about it in evaluation, and that's really important because that's how we learn for the future and continue to build this evidence that I'll hope you join me in creating this learning system for wellbeing, which I'll also talk about the evidence base behind with a particular example around the workplace.
Nancy Hey (00:05:41):
So just a little bit about me and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. So we're the UK's national body for wellbeing evidence, policy, and practise. We're part of the What Works Network, so we feed into the Evaluation Task Force and the network's organisers who are part of Cabinet Office and Treasury combined. And they're around using empirical evidence in policy making and spending decisions. We're an independent organisation though, and we're a collaborative organisation and we're set up to bring together and share robust, accessible, and useful evidence around wellbeing. And all three of those things are important. It has to be robust. It has to be useful and relevant, and I hope accessible to as many people as possible, even if it's not their full-time job.
Nancy Hey (00:06:26):
We're a partnership across sectors, across research, across government, across the civil society sector, and across the universities in the UK. So we're very much around synthesis of evidence at the moment. Our focus as an organisation is to improve the wellbeing of the nation and reduce wellbeing inequalities or wellbeing disparities that I'll talk about in detail. And we have four priority areas. It's not because they're necessarily the most important, but it's fields that we can contribute most effectively. So one is around wellbeing economics, the wellbeing meshes and methods in particular, and the policy making process that we'll talk about in the second half. Around places and community, because wellbeing varies across the country and where we live really matters, and the community aspects are the built and natural environment and historic environment that we live in, but also the social relationships between people, our social capital, and because loneliness is particularly important and our social connection is particularly important, we partner with the campaign to end loneliness to really build that evidence base rapidly.
Nancy Hey (00:07:31):
And then we've focused on working age because we are happiest at 23 and 68 and most miserable in the middle. And actually, very few people are looking at that. We have huge numbers of What Works Centres that we work with on early years up until sort of 16 or so, and then also there's a centre for ageing better. So we have aligned the evidence base across the life course, and we partner with teams across there. It's not that we don't do it, it's just that there are other people who we partner with to do that because we're a collaborating centre. So that's us.
Nancy Hey (00:08:02):
What we're trying to do is build a learning system for wellbeing. So we're trying to improve the use of evidence, get that evidence of what works to improve wellbeing where we know it, and as clear about the confidence about what we know to as many people who can use it as possible, and particularly with professions. We're also trying to then fill the gaps in that evidence base as rapidly as we can, and largely that's about evaluation and getting that learning back in so we can get it back out to those that can use it really democratising and accelerating evidence around wellbeing.
Nancy Hey (00:08:34):
So the key bit here is that high quality wellbeing evidence is available and we have confidence in many findings, and that evidence base comes from multidisciplinary research, but we can use it and look across the piece together to say how confident we know, and we know a lot now, and it is possible to use it consistently, robustly, and credibly across policy making and with confidence.
Nancy Hey (00:09:00):
But this question, I'm going to go back slightly from the evidence to talk about wellbeing frameworks, and what makes a wellbeing framework effective. And we've been looking at these implementations around the world, but also particularly across the UK, and we've found these three things. One is language, second is leadership, and third is learning. So language, the key elements of a wellbeing approach often don't use the word wellbeing and also that different sectors have very different language and mental models of the world. And what we're trying to do is help people talk to each other across sectors, across disciplines in a way that means that we can make the best use of everybody's skills.
Nancy Hey (00:09:44):
And that takes you to leadership. And there's a number of things about leadership that matter. One is that we need to remember while we're doing this wellbeing thing, so a lot of the solutions rely in particular policy areas, and it's brilliant that those priorities get moved forward, but it's really easy to forget the overall reason why you're doing it and somebody has to lead that. And the other bit is about making it relevant and timely for those that need to use it. So we're not just shoving evidence out there, we're also helping people use it at the right time for them, and that is about learning. Evidence use is learning. Evidence is just learning and learning needs high quality feedback loops and we need to know, have the skills to use that learning. We need to be motivated to do it and have the opportunity to do it. So wellbeing needs to be valued as an outcome. And so I'll talk a little bit more about that, but those other three things I think are effective.
Nancy Hey (00:10:36):
So the first bit about language, we may not see the word wellbeing used, and I'll give some examples where you'll see that really clearly, but there's some things that we are looking at, this is the fantastic work of the Carnegie Trust who've been working on wellbeing for over 100 years. Wellbeing frameworks have a mission statement around social progress and it's holistic in the round and it's a positively framed one and you'll see outcomes of some kind, whether that's missions or goals or something positive in there, often aspirational in language. And then we'll have some sort of indicator set, and the SDGs are the biggest indicator set we have, but how we use those indicators to understand the progress we're making and communicate about what's going on in a place. And for me, that's that shared evidence base. So you may see those things and it may not be called wellbeing, but that's the wellbeing approach.
Nancy Hey (00:11:28):
And you can see this in the OECD ones, just picking out some of the elements of that, which I think are really important. One is a focus on people, not just the economic system. We're talking about economic, social, and environmental together. We're talking about the diversity of experience and not just averages, and I think that's a really interesting one. We've had distribution analysis starting to come in in a whole range of different ways. It's not completely new in social policy, but it's always been there, but we're really looking at the hidden beyond the averages as well.
Nancy Hey (00:11:58):
We're looking at objective and subjective things together. So what we can observe and how we feel, and the point is we can measure this stuff, this subjective stuff now, and I'll talk a bit more about that and how you use that in practise, particularly in the strategic stage of policy making. And then being concerned with both today and tomorrow, and they have the capitals in there, which you use, but also this risk and resilience type ideas. And again, evidence looks back. This is about making the... And the more I use this, the more I realise that this is about making it work for the place you are.
Nancy Hey (00:12:32):
So what works on an island will be incredibly different to what works in a multi entrance place, you can see that just in COVID, but this is not a prescription it's a list of ingredients to help us solve problems quickly. And that's actually what most of policy making is about. It's about solving problems, thinking ahead, anticipating, and being able to rapidly say. So thinking evidence is kind of the slow bit of policy making rather than that spotlight and responding to events, but we need a shorthand and know what we're doing and the language we can talk together and respond quickly across departments.
Nancy Hey (00:13:09):
So again, there's another bunch of things that we'll see and words that we'll see in wellbeing policy making that may not be called wellbeing. So this asset based thing, a lot of the things that we do in wellbeing policy making are absolutely things that we would've always have done actually and thought were important or paid attention to. And also it's about building on those strengths, not always looking at the deficits and analytical people like ourselves can often only look for what's going wrong rather than the strengths.
Nancy Hey (00:13:37):
Again, shifting from doing four and doing two people and the word interventions actually is quite tricky for us in that context, to building the capabilities of people, and many of you will know that approach. Shifting from treatment and illness and restitution in the public health language to early intervention, prevention, and risk and wellness and building the things that keep us well. And that's incredibly hard to do within the accounting rules and the accountability rules within government. So how do you do that when the things that create health are outside the healthcare department to a huge extent? And things like capitals really start to help you do that. And so you can invest in capitals that are people, as well as the capitals that are physical, tangible things. Again, shifting to long-term impact as well. So thinking beyond that next generation and sustainability and then distribution, fairness, and equality of impact. And you'll almost certainly have all sorts of these things in your policy making that you may not have necessarily put in the wellbeing approach, and some people will be reluctant to use the word.
Nancy Hey (00:14:44):
And so, again, just emphasising that point. So taking some of these ideas, we can see prevention and promotion, capitals investment is being experimented, distribution and analysis, and looking at risk and resilience in lots of different ways, because we know that GDP is less useful for that.
Nancy Hey (00:15:02):
And there's a number of related concepts. So I talked about language, and one of the things we've been doing is piecing together all these different approaches and where wellbeing takes us beyond it. So standards of living is a really interesting one, but one of the things that really bothered me about that is that sometimes you had access to particular products or things that were necessary to have lived well. And I didn't find that necessarily sit well, but it's a really important aspect. And living standards are part of what we're looking at in terms of wellbeing and how they contribute to our overall wellbeing. Quality of life, and actually the subjective wellbeing metrics are quality of life metrics along with social capital. Social value and public value are words that are used in different contexts interchangeably, but we're trying to work out a little bit more how they used, and then prosperity is another word that's often used as well.
Nancy Hey (00:15:51):
And for the health professionals among us, we partner with public health in particular. This is the social determinants of health. And again, this is this idea that health is more than healthcare. There are things that help us and contribute in a wide variety of contexts. So it translates across different policy domains in quite clever ways. And again, this definition of health as not merely the absence of disease. So not just the things that we're treating, but also creating the things that keep us well and help us live well. Although my problem with this one is it tends to focus on this perfect state and I think life expectancy and GDP are two massive, massive, big proxies that have had a huge impact on social progress. But we need to go a little bit further now to healthy life expectancy, but also living well with a range of long-term conditions and also dying well as well because we all do that. It's not a failure of medicine.
Nancy Hey (00:16:49):
And I think there's also this language problem in public. There's a fantastic public debate around living well, and actually it's really quite sophisticated debate, but I think, and we also have a fantastic wellness market and it's brilliant that there's money to be made in keeping us well in a whole range of different sectors, that's fantastic, but we definitely get quite confused about what is an input into living well and what is living well itself. So I would call all these different elements, particularly of wellness and stuff we're very familiar with, that we're marketed regularly as inputs to our wellbeing, and there's lots of different words we can use to describe living well.
Nancy Hey (00:17:27):
And so just to put this into context, an example here, this is Rishi Sunak, our current chancellor talking about how our true measure of success, and so that's a societal progress, what is success for policy making is where I sort of say “what are we trying to achieve and how do you know you've achieved it” was my question that took it. What makes a good law? How do you know? And this is taking the inputs of government, all the things that government can do and can support other sectors to do, and then its outcomes are true measure of success. Are we stronger, healthier, and happier as individuals, as families? Which I think is an area that's going to grow in communities and as a nation. So this goals approach is part of it.
Nancy Hey (00:18:07):
And then in Levelling Up, which is a current social policy, which brings together most of our social policy departments, you can see some things in here that matter. So you can see there's 12 missions and it's driven by six capitals. So these are fixed things where you'd find the things that drive our wellbeing. And mission eight within that is by 2030, wellbeing will have improved in every area of the UK with the gap between top performing and other areas closing and all of those 12 missions taken together, in fact, the 11 along with living standards, help improve wellbeing. And I think that's really clear when you look at the drivers of subjective wellbeing.
Nancy Hey (00:18:46):
So we've been looking at how wellbeing strategies have been implemented across a whole range of different contexts. We've been interviewing people, looking at what works, what doesn't, where they've lasted and where they haven't. There's a couple of things that we see in successful ones that are coherent. So firstly, we see this inclusive understanding and definition of wellbeing. And so sometimes the health ones, for example, are very narrow on muscular, skeletal, or mental health. We see this broader message. We see there is a goal of improving wellbeing and reducing inequity within it, and that's quite important as a goal. We see it's powered by evidence and there's actually two different types of evidence that I think are important to highlight. And actually, that evidence literacy is not actually there very often.
Nancy Hey (00:19:30):
So one is this, how we use this pantry, this data that we've got to understand needs and progress, so that analytical stuff. But we also need, so how are we doing and where should we start type evidence, and we also then need evidence of what works from what we do, which is a bit more the social impact investing type stuff. So, what actually makes a difference? How do we know it's changed to that evaluation evidence? Target the things that really matter. And again, I'll bring that to the subjective wellbeing. We have some WISER priorities, but there are others that matter. Some performance measures, and it's implemented to maximise wellbeing. And that implementation is kind of what we've been looking at over the last seven years.
Nancy Hey (00:20:12):
So we've got the UK National Measures of Wellbeing. I think these are pretty good domains actually. It was one of our biggest consultations we've ever done, but yes, 60,000 people in the UK, and of course 67 million or something. So most people have never heard of it and most policy makers have never heard of it. So that consultation element and that communication element is not done with that engagement. It needs to be continually communicated, and I think 70% of our audience are completely new to wellbeing. And that is as it should be, we should be continuing that flow of people who need to know about it. It's got these 10 domains. I think they're pretty good actually. They cover from a range of bottom up and top down processes, we keep finding they're broadly the things that work and personal wellbeing is within that. And they were paused, interestingly during the pandemic, the update to that because we prioritised the subjective wellbeing metrics.
Nancy Hey (00:21:04):
What we were able to do with that is just an example of what we did. We looked at those domains of wellbeing, so you can see that subjective wellbeing, health, relationships, et cetera, and we looked at that impact for different groups of the population, so that distributional thing along those different domains during the pandemic. And that's an example of how I think we can use it. And then we can use that data to understand a whole range of different impacts on housing, on incomes, on relationships of the pandemic, which I think is quite exciting. It can help us think about how best to respond with policy making quite quickly, but also later about where we might see impacts. So for example, physical activity levels and obesity, for example, for children and young people.
Nancy Hey (00:21:51):
And again, that's the missions as well.
Nancy Hey (00:21:53):
So you can see that's the national stuff. We've then got outcomes, approaches, slightly different ones in Scotland and Wales. In legislation we've got this, the National Performance Framework in Scotland, which is an outcomes-based tool that's driven by the Treasury, which came very much from sort of public management approaches and later developed into community planning. And in Wales, we've got these goals, which are based on the SDGs with this addition of culture and language, which I think is a fantastic addition actually. And they have approach where they have all public service bodies in the area have to use those. So there's lots of different learning we're getting from those different approaches.
Nancy Hey (00:22:30):
We've then also taken the drivers of wellbeing from that national level and looked at where that data was available at every local authority across the UK. So in England alone, there are 300 odd local authorities. We looked at that data, could we find it at a local level? Can we make it available to lots of different places to use? And we can, it turns out, it's quite exciting. Although what I think the data challenge there is that the local area data that is available will not always be ideal metrics. And also, sometimes the sample sizes are really quite small, so what we also do is help people implement those in their own surveys. For my local authority, for example, they did a resident survey and it included some of the wellbeing questions in it, for example, but using guidance about how to analyse it.
Nancy Hey (00:23:19):
So that hallmark, wellbeing is about what's going on in lives, it's the really inclusive definition that people use. I'm not going to go into detail because you can cover that in the research we've got. So here's some examples of that. This is Leeds, so big city in the north of England. This is our holistic strategy. Everything is connected across this. This has come from health and wellbeing, but it includes economic outcomes because every sector is an economic growth sector, but there's health in all policies and work is a health outcome. So this all fits together brilliantly. So there's a fantastic example that Leeds have used for theirs.
Nancy Hey (00:23:58):
You can see here about how it's powered by evidence. So this is this type of evidence that's what's our need? So this is York's, it's working out what our population, who our population is, what we might need. And you can see on the right hand side of that, the happiness and anxiety measures, for example, from the subjective wellbeing measures.
Nancy Hey (00:24:23):
We can then use that. So this is in Wales, in Cardiff and the Wellbeing Future Generations act, which is similar to the legislation I think you've got now, which is you do a wellbeing assessment in this case before an election, there's a trend report, and then there's a plan afterwards that all of the public service organisations within a place use and the community planning legislation in different parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland also require engagement of the community in that. And Wales did do that through consultation and actually was really interesting variation of how that was done.
Nancy Hey (00:24:55):
Another example actually though, which I think is really interesting, and one of the things where we've been trying to make it useful and practical for different areas of policy. So we say people could see whichever entity, whichever sector they're in. So public bodies or organisations are connected to a different bit, whether it's environment, justice, health, et cetera, how do you make this meaningful for you as an organisation? And this is the Canal & Rivers Trust, and I've picked it because we've got rivers like you, and these are assets, they're not going to go away. You don't build a river, you may build a canal, but you've got this historic landscape, you've got this water here, we need to manage it. And the Canal & Rivers Trust is an environmental organisation, so its focus particularly on its environmental outcomes, but actually there's huge economic impacts of the canal and the rivers, people's tourism, our housing, the workforce that's employed on it.
Nancy Hey (00:25:56):
There's also, it goes through lots of different places, the heritage that's part of it, the looking after the landscape, how people use it and how different groups of people use it, so the volunteering of people on the canal, people using it for leisure, for business, for solitude, for exercise, and how do you make it work that way? And what they found was in different parts of the country, they were getting better outcomes than in others, and trying to figure out what that was and why. So that's an example of how you can use it within a particular sector and help it make sense for them.
Nancy Hey (00:26:31):
And this is example in the Infrastructure Commission. Again, they looked at their domains and they mapped it against the UK National Framework to see where they fitted as well and to work out which bits that they impacted and where they helped other people in it as well.
Nancy Hey (00:26:48):
Which is brilliant. All these lovely frameworks are fantastic and there's some great examples there of different people using them in different ways, and I think the big challenge there is keeping flying the flag for them and keeping them lasting, because they're never top of mind, they're never the urgent thing. They're always important and interesting, so who is leading that and the skills to use it? But we have to make choices. That's what economics is about. It's also what governing is about. So we've got limited resources, we have to make choices between these different domains and it would be lovely to do all of it, and maybe we can in some places, but actually we need to make choices and that's where subjective wellbeing comes in.
Nancy Hey (00:27:27):
And so these measures have been really useful. We now have them, I mean they've existed for a long time and what happened in 2011 was that they were harmonised into four metrics. They're not the only metrics that you can use for subjective wellbeing, there are lots of others, but they're really useful. I think they capture four really exciting, different bits of our lives and what it means to live well. And they are, how satisfied are you with your life? How happy are you? To what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile? And how anxious do you feel? So there's positive and negative affect, there's eudaimonic, and there's evaluative wellbeing within that. And you can see in that map on the left hand side that the darker places were, on average, happier than the lighter places, which tend to be cities as well. So that's really interesting, that tells you can have a high wellbeing in some places that you wouldn't expect it to be, but also you do need to look under the bonnet and see what's going on in those places as well. And just because they have overall high wellbeing, there may be other things going on within it.
Nancy Hey (00:28:33):
What we saw from 2011 to 2018 was actually a general increase. And for most age groups, everything was going broadly in the right direction on average, except for under 24s where anxiety continued to increase and over 85s as well, although that might be the sampling size that we saw. So that's what it was going. Then we could measure this for every department in the civil service. This is every organisation in our civil service people survey, and we're able to see how Scottish government is ridiculously happy with education and Wales up there too, and some departments who are far less happy as well. And what's interesting, I think is not necessarily that these people have particularly low wellbeing to the rest of the population, civil servants tend to be slightly happier with their lives on average, but what they do also do is show you is they represent the sectors that they're part of, because of course they recruit from those sectors. And so that's quite an exciting thing we can see, and we can see the impact of those changes over the last 10 years, and we'll publish a paper on that shortly.
Nancy Hey (00:29:37):
This is what happened to the general population during the pandemic, and we switched to two weekly data on this, and I have to say I didn't think this moved very much and it really did. So we saw the evaluative wellbeing of life satisfaction. It usually moves much more slowly, but actually if it drops down and stays down, then I'd be worried because higher wellbeing, you are more likely to stay well, if you get ill, you will recover more quickly. All of those things, you're more likely to be in a job, if you're in a job, you're more likely to perform better, et cetera.
Nancy Hey (00:30:10):
And so I would watch, that's the one I find particularly useful for policy making, you'll see why. Eudaimonic wellbeing didn't drop as much, and I'm not actually surprised by that, the things that we do are worthwhile. We basically fell back on the things that were important, the things that were dutiful, things that we have to do that mattered. And we connected with those people that mattered. We weren't able to do that all the time, but it moved much less. Positive affect did drop massively, massive, biggest drop in happiness I've ever seen on the data. It moves more quickly, and actually that's just popped back over to October 2019 levels and is the one that's popped back more quickly than everything else. And negative affect, you can see that anxiety went absolutely through the roof in March 2020, and it has recovered broadly, and actually now it's slightly lower, but I think financial concerns are getting in there slightly because COVID concerns are much lower than they were for now.
Nancy Hey (00:31:04):
So what we can also see then is who is at risk of lowest wellbeing. So it's about 1% of our UK population that scores low wellbeing on all four of those questions, and that's really very miserable. That's over half a million people at any one point. What we can see is they're in clusters. We can see that they tend to feel that they're in perceived bad or very bad health, have a long-term illness or disability, often meaning they can't work, tend to be in rental accommodation, tend to be single or widowed, doesn't mean that if you are any of those things that you will have low wellbeing, but there are clusters. Middle aged, there is this misery dip, which links with the suicide statistics, tend to have basic or no education, and you can see that in the mission, the education mission for levelling up, and tend to be men. And I think there are differences for men and women. You may want different measures for different things.
Nancy Hey (00:32:02):
What we can also see is this disparities in wellbeing across the country, so we can look at that average wellbeing for the 40%, so the lowest wellbeing in the population for all of those four measures and you can see that different parts of the country have more people who are struggling. And I think that is a really useful metric for levelling up in the UK, but we can also see that there is hidden misery. So we can see, look at the equality, the spread, a dispersion of wellbeing within a place, and we can see that some places have high average wellbeing and actually very low wellbeing inequality. The islands of Scotland, Cheshire East, and Warwickshire, so some interesting places there. And then London seems to have low, everyone's equally miserable in Lambeth where I am at the moment, and then you can see some places that are all miserable and have big differences in wellbeing. And I think that is really interesting. And so we're looking at wellbeing disparities across regions, but also within places as well, little hidden pockets of misery.
Nancy Hey (00:33:03):
What we can also see is normally that low education penalty that I talked about is there, but not everywhere and that is intriguing. I don't know why. There's some places that people with the lower education do better than you'd expect, including those Scottish islands. And in some places, there's no impact. Some of these are military places actually. Portsmouth is a Naval town and Wiltshire is often with the army. So I think there might be something going on there about what they're able to help do.
Nancy Hey (00:33:33):
So what is associated with that inequality in life satisfaction in the local authorities? So big differences in wellbeing are driven largely by median income and unemployment. And that's part of the focus of levelling up. And in rural areas, we often have high average wellbeing, but big differences in wellbeing, and I think that's partly because of this impact of unemployment means that actually the transport matters more and that impact of an employment is greater. Where we have more equal wellbeing, we see engagement in heritage activities weirdly, engagement in green space and higher female life expectancy, partly because in parts of the country, female life expectancy has dropped for the first time in a long time.
Nancy Hey (00:34:11):
And then we can also see in places where there are big differences in life expectancy, and I think this takes me a little bit to your new governance section of the framework that you have is that there's lower perceived quality of society in places where there are big variations in wellbeing. And I think our ability to take collective action and make decisions collectively is weakened when there are big pockets of misery across the country and those disparities.
Nancy Hey (00:34:37):
Why do I like life satisfaction? I find it really clever for three reasons. The first is it picks up employment and the second is it picks up health, including mental health, physical and mental health together, and the third is it picks up relationships, all things that we automatically know matter in policy and have always acted on, but it does it together. In particular, unemployment, so this our world in data life events and the one I want to show here, and the thing that swung me to it is the impact of unemployment on wellbeing and it's more than the effect of money. There's something else going on there that matters, and we can see the impact of different size events and how some last and how don't. So we adapt to most things, some things we don't adapt to is unemployment and a commute, and I'll show you that.
Nancy Hey (00:35:32):
So very, very few things matter as much as work. So we rank our evidence in terms of quality using GRADE and CERQual which are, GRADE is for quantitative evidence and CERQual is for qualitative. And these are international standards for looking at the quality of evidence. And three locks is our highest standard of evidence, meaning there are multiple robust, big studies that show that unemployment is damaging for people's wellbeing regardless. And the longer time unemployed, the worse it is, you bounce back with it as well. And we can just be really confident in those findings. There are other findings that also really interesting about spillover effects to your partner and the job quality that you move back into and some things that might mitigate that and help as well. But that confidence is really important. We can be really clear on that finding.
Nancy Hey (00:36:24):
We can also look at longitudinal studies and we are super fortunate with these cohort studies in the UK, and I know you've got some fantastic ones as well, and this showed some really interesting things. So again, that adult outcomes at 34 of life satisfaction, we can see what matters is our physical and mental health, and particularly our mental health, which has been neglected for the last 30 years in terms of research and implementation. And I think that's changing very, very rapidly.
Nancy Hey (00:36:53):
Our family, to a degree, but particularly our partner relationship as an adult unemployment, but of course we're not fully formed at 18, there's things that happen before that and 50% of our adult life satisfaction happens before that. And particularly important are emotional health in childhood and our mother's mental health, and that was really surprising at how important those things were and how neglected they've been in policy. So not these other things don't matter, getting a job and getting those qualifications do matter, although educational attainment is negatively correlated with life satisfaction at 34, emotional health is what we missed and that's why mental health is such a big priority. And we know a lot and we need to get that into practise, but really importantly, we need to research and quickly.
Nancy Hey (00:37:38):
So this enables us to do this sort of mapping of what matters more than other things. And there are things that matter a lot. We've talked about it, social connections like loneliness, poor health, particularly feeling our health is poor, our basic needs not met, and employment. And then we can see some things that matter a little bit, matter but not quite as much and you can see that things like air pollution, noise pollution, quality of our work, our commute, music, which is one of the happiest things that we can do, hugely protective for positive emotion, physical activity, really, really super important because it is one of the things that improves our health, both mental and physical in the short term and the long term. So really important for the resilience.
Nancy Hey (00:38:20):
And so what you can see there is that we will choose the job over the noise pollution and the air pollution, which is fine, but you can see that we will choose the job over that thing and that's okay, and that's how it is, but therefore what's the solution? How do we make those decisions matter? Sometimes we're mitigating those negative effects and sometimes we're finding solutions that help avoid them all together, ideally not by exporting them.
Nancy Hey (00:38:45):
So how have we built this into policy? So I'm just going to talk about the policy profession and two ways it's been built into their professional standards. So effective policies bring together strategy, democracy, and delivery. And in strategy, it's about the use of evidence, but it's also about this crosscutting policy objective. So it's about embedding crosscutting policy objectives into our responsibilities and wellbeing and net zero are both in there together. So this is this cross-cutting bit. It's also then in the delivery bit, thinking about the wellbeing of our staff, both within the organisation but also in the sectors that we work with, all 19 sectors of the economy. So you can sometimes they're within a department, and sometimes that delivery system is not within the department at all.
Nancy Hey (00:39:33):
And then we can bring it into The Green Book, and I think this is one of the things that you wanted me to talk about a little bit more. So for those of you who don't know The Green Book, it is guidance for officials agreed by the Treasury. And basically it's asking the questions of all good policy making. What are we trying to achieve here and will this proposal deliver it? How might it impact other things that the government is trying to do or that matter to others? Putting some costs and benefits to those, including with those at that price tag, and that's what matters here, and will we be able to deliver this? So those are the sorts of things it does, basic policy making.
Nancy Hey (00:40:09):
In 2018, we saw wellbeing included in the purpose of this guidance. And then in 2021, we saw this change, in 2022 after the review of The Green Book, we saw this change. So it took, I'm going to read this out because I think it's important. The appraisal of social value, also known as public value, is based on the principles and ideas of welfare economics and concerns overall social welfare efficiency, not simply economic market efficiency. So that's that non-monetized things as well. Social and public value therefore includes all significant costs and benefits that affect the welfare and wellbeing of the population, not just market effects. And this welfare and wellbeing consideration applies to the entire population, not just taxpayers. And so that implies children and young people, for example, but others as well. But this is this thing where we know actually, I tried to do a cost benefit analysis of changes to the electoral system, that's what got me thinking about this, the value of democracy, and I couldn't find a way to do this particularly, other than work out how much it costs to do it.
Nancy Hey (00:41:13):
So we then have supplementary guidance to this green book. So we have wellbeing guidance for appraisal and then a discussion paper on monetization, and you can see that in a second a little bit more. So the purpose of that guide is so that we can have confidence in using high quality wellbeing evidence consistently across sectors, across organisations, and sometimes that will be within departments and sometimes that will be in a whole range of different organisations that are putting business cases to the Treasury or a part of that. So it's to support the use of wellbeing, it's that, how can you use wellbeing evidence to inform decisions? It's supplementary, so The Green Book always takes priority, as does The Magenta Book on evaluation. It's primarily for analysts, but actually the first three chapters of it are for policy on other decision makers too because all of us are involved in policy making. And crucially, it's helping us build the wellbeing evidence for future, and that's the evaluation bit in it as well.
Nancy Hey (00:42:14):
And it has that, so these are five parts of the structure. So how can we use research? How can it inform our goals? How can we inform our options? How can we do cost benefit analysis? And how can we evaluate it? So we can build wellbeing evidence in using the metrics and the framework and we'll talk about that. We can also look at this in terms of how wellbeing evidence can be used because there's four things, I think, that really come out from the subjective wellbeing bit, that how we think we'll feel is very different to often how we actually feel. So asking people to predict how they'll feel if a particular thing happens to them is what happens in the quali, for example, in health is not necessarily the case. So using actual lived experience and the experience of people who've come before us.
Nancy Hey (00:43:04):
For that, we adapt, which is fine, just knowing that we do is important, how long these effects last, and which ones we need to avoid. Being able to do impact of non-market goods and this relative effect that we have, which can erode the wellbeing impact of things like higher income. It has the 10 dimensions of wellbeing in the guide and how to use it. And this talks about the role of objective and subjective wellbeing within it. So again, so a couple of examples I really like, you can have a job, but do you like your job? That job satisfaction one. The national GDP could be growing, but do you feel better off? And that's the classic one we've had here is, "Oh, my GDP is somebody else's." And I think that's probably true in the findings.
Nancy Hey (00:43:52):
This idea that you can be alone, but not lonely, or lonely in a crowd. You could have good health, but not feel in good health, and vice versa. And the crime one I think is particularly interesting because you can have high crime rates and where you... So the wellbeing impact is higher in a low crime area. So if you have a crime, you notice it more, it's a bigger effect. But actually that doesn't mean we don't want to tackle crime in a high crime area just because it doesn't impact wellbeing as much. And so it helps you frame your policy making. We had that with schools, people thought they weren't as good as they were.
Nancy Hey (00:44:34):
So why does it matter is in the guide. To me, the whole aim of policy making is to improve people's lives and good policy does that really well. Wellbeing is a key measure of it and there's a number of ways our policies can do that. We can either aim to directly improve wellbeing, so the sorts of things there are like psychological interventions, for example, often thought of. We can indirectly improve wellbeing as a positive byproduct, and we talk about how you can maximise the wellbeing from what you're doing, how can you really build in and get as much as you can all round the edges, tweak a policy to get a slight wellbeing impact or mitigate harms? And we can understand the roles it can play as a constraint actually, and I think that's quite interesting to see where it might stop it. So relationships, for example, can stop you changing for healthier habits, for example. And it also shows how we can use it in CBA.
Nancy Hey (00:45:30):
So, why we do synthesis for policy is because one, you're incredibly busy doing your job and you need to know really quickly what's known, and that's a really, really high quality function of synthesis. And it's because we all have our biases. We will choose the study that most supports our aims, whether or not it's a good one and also whether or not it compares to the rest of the literature. So we're putting that in the wider context. We are making it accessible and visible. It's global knowledge, hopefully useful for you as well, and please we'd love to be partners and adding to this knowledge base. We establish those confidence levels and how confident you can be, and my view is that if you are legislating, you really need to be in the upper end of that confidence schedule for a national thing, but if you don't know the evidence base for your policy, that you should at least have a way of understanding the impact when you're getting that funding decision made.
Nancy Hey (00:46:29):
And you can see all of our findings from the 23 reviews that we... Well, actually, we've done more than that now, but you can see all of them in there as we start to build it. So we have robust evidence in there as well. This strategic stage, we can feel it into the objectives and options development. What are we trying to achieve here? And actually, wellbeing evidence at the moment fits brilliantly in this bit. What are we trying to achieve in terms of our policy objectives? And these are the bits that I've talked a bit about already in terms of how can we value non-tangible impacts and things that matter above and beyond the things that we normally monetize without double counting? So things like trust and relationships and giving, this idea that work is more than just the income that it gives us, this diminishing margin on utility, reference points and relative positions. So, this idea that can actually reduce the effect potentially of the policy that might be happening, adaptation, and this predictions bit as well. And the fact that experiences really matter, our day to day experiences.
Nancy Hey (00:47:36):
We then end up with the WISER priorities from that, and these aren't the only ones, but work matters, obviously I've mentioned stable employment and low unemployment and good work. So we're doing a lot of work around the quality of work and how you understand wellbeing at work, because actually it isn't just one thing, people work in very, very different jobs and how do you make that meaningful in that sector? Income we've talked about and we're going to do some more work in that area, so that's something that you're interested in, of course it matters, it's not that it doesn't, other things also matter too. Society and governance, so from making this information available to as many people as possible and evolving power and control, and we're going to start looking at that as well. Measuring wellbeing as a policy goal and giving that data available. And mental health I've talked about, particularly building social, emotional skills from a young age. We know it works. Volunteering, giving connections and livability, all these types of relationships and community stuff as well.
Nancy Hey (00:48:33):
And this allows us to put together a theory of change, why we think our policy will work. This is wonderful volunteering we've done where you can see good things, but also in red, some of the things that can happen that harm. So how can we maximise the best possible bits that we can get from it and reduce and mitigate the harder things from it as well? So that's the idea about why do you think this will work and how you can use the wellbeing evidence for, and actually qualitative evidence is often very, very, very useful, and process evaluation, for these theory of changes.
Nancy Hey (00:49:05):
So get your focus right. It's all very well doing a fantastic, fantastic BCR if you're comparing the wrong things. So get that in the right direction and wellbeing evidence can be fantastic for that. Appraisal, we can use it for, and there's a whole load of information on here about that. Well, there's three different ways it talks about being able to use it. One, we can say describe it qualitatively. And I've seen this in assessments where we say people will have more leisure time or be all this sort of thing, or people will be happier. We can also then put some numbers to that in wellbeing terms. We can say, "We think this many people will be this much better," a range of different things, or we think this type of thing, our trust will improve by X. We can then, where there are robust calls for wellbeing impacts, monetize and it allows for the use of the wellbeing life year and it puts a value on that of 13,000 pounds for one point change in life satisfaction per year.
Nancy Hey (00:50:10):
And I know that Paul Frijters and Christian Krekel have spoken to you a bit more detail about that and where it's going. And again, if you want to help on the methodology for that, then fantastic. But I think we've got a long way along being able to monetize and use this where we need it. So you've then got this long listing and short listing, who will be doing it, and then we can quantify, compare, and assess, and this distributional outputs. So it gives a process for that example.
Nancy Hey (00:50:40):
So how will attending this seminar series improve your wellbeing? We can give you a theory of change for that. So learning throughout our lives improves wellbeing in terms of the skills we gain, our confidence we gain, our qualifications, it helps our employment. It gives us social connections. It's intrinsically motivating. We often are sharing voluntary our learning, and that all improves our wellbeing. And you can see that we've put a value to that in wellbeing terms. We can also use it, for example, of valuing the impact of flooding and this one was looking at the difference between water flooding, sewer flooding, internally and externally, and unsurprisingly we don't really like sewer flooding in our own home and we can see the wellbeing value of that's really high, and I think our regulator is looking at that. So governments can tax, they can spend, they can regulate, and this is about how we can use wellbeing in regulation, which I think is quite exciting. I think the tax bit, I think has been underlooked at, and I'm not quite sure how you would do that yet.
Nancy Hey (00:51:45):
We can also look at time use, and I think this is a really interesting set of data. So actually usually commuting sort of evens out in terms of life satisfaction, but when you look under the bonnet, you can see how it impacts. So normally that higher income you get from a longer commute improves your wellbeing as much, but what you can see is that the longer your commute, the bigger the impact it is on your job satisfaction, impacts your leisure time satisfaction, and your self-reported health. So normally we'd use that time for our leisure and our physical activity. And actually, interestingly, during the pandemic, we obviously didn't have leisure available to us, so we didn't have that benefit. Also a bad commute is something we don't adapt to. We find it stressful, annoying, every time it's bad when the train is late and I can't pick up the kids, I find that inordinately stressful. And you can see we can put a value on that. And so when organisations move offices, for example, if people with longer commutes tend to leave within a year.
Nancy Hey (00:52:50):
And then monitoring and evaluation. So you've decided what to do, you've gone ahead and do it, you've won the money. This is a guidance about how we can use both objective and subjective wellbeing measures in evaluation, and I think the big call here is, please use consistent measures and robust measures where possible and only make up your own one if you really know what you're doing and innovating. And actually, our advice on wellbeing is, if you've only got space for one question, use life satisfaction. If you've got space for four, add the subjective wellbeing ones. If you want more, there are plenty available. And we have a guidance, particularly for the civil society sector, but it would work for you on how to do, well, really just doing the learning you can from your project as best you can as well.
Nancy Hey (00:53:41):
And some widely tested tools that you can use that are recommended and that help us use consistent measures so we're comparing apples with pears. So when we were looking at the loneliness evidence, we found that it wasn't necessarily doing that.
Nancy Hey (00:53:55):
Please send us your evaluations so we can create a learning loop. You can see there that we have social evaluations of things that improve wellbeing. We've got psychological interventions that improve wellbeing, but really interesting, one of our highest quality pieces of evidence is about energy efficiency in low-income neighbourhoods, in housing in low-income neighbourhoods. So that's really exciting when you start to think of the way you can start to compare these different types of things across policy areas. So please do share with us.
Nancy Hey (00:54:24):
Where you don't have subjective wellbeing, we have a guide about how to do it when you've got less than perfect data, which is often what you're doing and we can have a go at doing that as well.
Nancy Hey (00:54:34):
So lastly I'm going to talk very quickly about how we do what we do in terms of an evidence system. So we use evidence to inform how we do knowledge use. So we did a systematic review, we summarised that, we found six mechanisms for knowledge use. We then put them in our theory of change and you can see that having visible access to information really, really helps, is really confident and effective. So if you don't know about our study, how can you use it? So making it available. Learning is really important, so that's the only one that improves capability and skills, which is why this sort of event really matters. And then adoption in systems, which is where we've been adding these measures in as many places as possible in the public health outcomes, in the economic metrics, in lots of different outcomes, frameworks across it. So it's really easy to use and you've systematised it.
Nancy Hey (00:55:30):
So what we find in terms of implementation, you get a third of organisations are either too chaotic or actively hostile. A third of organisations, there's somebody super keen and wants to use it, and if you happen to get that person and they remember then it'll happen. Or you get them where they're super keen people and it's in the system and it's flagged up and it happens, and that's where that adoption happens. And we are an adoption mechanism as a What Works Centre for Wellbeing.
Nancy Hey (00:55:57):
And so what we're doing here is primarily number three, which is this evidence synthesis here, bringing together all of the knowledge. We work with professions in every sector to make this make sense, so whether that's policy, government analysts, public health colleagues, local authority chief executives, different commissioners, HR profession, occupational health profession, sector bodies are brilliant. Actually, professions in themselves are superb wellbeing-inducing organisations, should really be encouraged, and civil society. And again, finding the right people who are the knowledge professionals, who are the evaluation professionals, who are the grant makers, finding it and making it make sense for them. Getting a narrative that really works, that language bit.
Nancy Hey (00:56:43):
And then really at the bottom there, we want primary evidence, but getting the evidence infrastructure right, getting those measures right, making it easy to use those measures, getting the methodology right. So here's some examples. One, we got this concepts and measures, we got the evidence, this big narrative. So what are the drivers of wellbeing at work? They are health and relationships are the top two, security and environment are the second two, and purpose is the third one. And those will drive wellbeing in the workplace, and we have questions that match them.
Nancy Hey (00:57:15):
A short version of that is in this voluntary reporting standards that has, you'll notice there, the subjective wellbeing metrics, but also a simple question that can help you understand how we're doing on the things that matter in the workplace for wellbeing. And then a plan, how can you do an action plan? So those are the concepts, the measures, the actions.
Nancy Hey (00:57:37):
We know that this is this synthesis of evidence review. You can see those locks there. We know that ad hoc training works and sometimes it improves performance, changes the way working works, the way you improve performance and wellbeing is having a plan or a strategy and thinking ahead, and so that's why you would have an action plan. And this is the primary evidence generation. In call centres, which are a notoriously miserable workforce, we can see that happier for a shorthand, people are more likely to perform well. So that's the happiness and performance together is what you're after.
Nancy Hey (00:58:16):
And then we can build theories of change. So this is theories of change, working with people in different roles to understand what they can do and the difference they can make. And we were looking at NED-level roles in organisations and how they can make a change. And actually this was done through observations and studies and literature reviews, and we built that and now we can test it to see if it works. And then this meaning, what is this narrative? And we know that workplace wellbeing can also drive public wellbeing. So you might want it just because you care about your people and the outcomes that you produce in your organisation, but of course, people take that home to their friends, their families, they're part of society. They volunteer for the local football club. They're part of the faith group. They organise the neighbourhood watch. They're part of a community. They're nice to people or not nice to people. They're drivers on the road. And that's what makes society, so that narrative about how we can all contribute beyond the economic impact of our organisation.
Nancy Hey (00:59:15):
So that is very rapid run through of all of the different ways that we've used wellbeing, and I'm really excited to see what your questions are today.
Natalie Labuschagne (00:59:30):
Thank you very much, Nancy. That was a fantastic presentation. I think obviously being the Manager of the Economic Strategy team, I was really struck by some of your comments around the evidence at the strategy phase and things like evidence is the slow burn, it's not the thing in the spotlight, how we move away from the averages and the importance of moving away from averages, which I know something we're quite focused on at the moment and how you use the evidence in setting the objectives and having the crosscutting objectives as part of your policy process.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:00:09):
And so I think that that probably is a good segue into some of the questions we have for you today, and I think we'll have about 25 minutes of questions and then we'll go to closing. So we start with the first question. Are there any institutional or legislative settings in the UK that incentivize meaningful investment and evidence and evaluation? Or are elected officials just happy to do it or does it fly under radar?
Nancy Hey (01:00:39):
This is fantastic. So I think the evaluation culture has transformed in the last, well so I was starting policy profession in 2008, and in the last 15 years, it's really transformed. It's been really exciting to be part of that culture. I mean the What Works Centres and the What Works Network is part of that, and I think someone being interested in your findings is really motivational. Often evaluations sit on the shelf, or they get shared with the people involved in that project, and then everyone moves on. And so what we often find is we're sort of hunting down networks of people to find out, "Oh, you know you did that project? What did you find? Can you send that report back to us please?"
Nancy Hey (01:01:19):
And what we do find actually is that, because we look at academic evidence and often that's published, which is fantastic, of varying qualities, so that's why the quality standards matter, but we also find really high quality evaluations in the public and third sectors as well. And they're not all, but we find really great work there. And so the challenge there is how do we find that? Partly it's knowing the people who are doing it and collecting it up at the right time, calls for evidence and stuff like that. But I think The Green Book and The Magenta Book and this institutional focus at the Treasury to use it is good.
Nancy Hey (01:01:54):
But policy is always evidence informed, right? Decisions all get taken regardless of the evidence, because that's what happens, we make decisions in all our lives, but we want to get the best possible evidence at the right time, but it's also always looking back. And so decisions will be made that are for very, very different reasons, and that's fine. That's what happens, but evidence should be at the table at all possible if it can be.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:02:17):
Just a sec. Next question is one around how we get the external validity of What Works evidence. So how can we tell if an intervention that was successful in Leeds, UK will work in Hamilton, New Zealand?
Nancy Hey (01:02:37):
This is a brilliant question. Actually, it's even more smaller than that. So for... You get questions literally down the road. "I'm sorry, I know it worked in Newcastle, but it won't work in Sunderland." I mean to be fair, they're rivals, but you get exactly that like, "Okay, it worked there, but it won't work here." What we can say is, I mean this is what we've done with our evidence trawl is looking at OECD countries published in English. And it's really helpful and all of these evidence things are looking backwards, they're not looking forwards, but we can have a reasonable amount of confidence.
Nancy Hey (01:03:14):
I think the more evidence we got, the more confident we can be in the impact, but I think you're going to do that thing anyway, right? So you may as well have a reasonable degree of confidence that whether or not it's going to, the reason you've chosen it or you've designed that intervention. So I think a lot of it will translate better than you think is my actual answer, but do be careful because, particularly when translating from the States where the public sector in particular, the landscape of the public sector is very, very different. So I think you're always taking it with a slight pinch of salt, but what we're looking at is quite large evidence basis in some cases. I mean music makes you really happy. There is very little doubt on that and we're all human.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:03:58):
Yeah. Going back to the comment you made, that decision making will take decisions sometimes regardless of the evidence or in the absence of evidence. Wondering if you could talk us through some of the examples where you've seen wellbeing evidence really having an impact on decision making and broadening the cost benefit analysis leading to quite different policy and investment decisions.
Nancy Hey (01:04:32):
What does it help you do? I think it shifts your priorities in many ways. So I think the three things that I think strategically that have shifted, one is the focus on employment, furlough for example, but also just employment since 2010, particularly for men actually. And we've also seen a big increase in mental health research and mental health implementation. And I think the slight problem there is that the enthusiasm to do it has overtaken a little bit the evidence about what works, but that doesn't mean we can't roll out a lot more things more quickly. And the other one is loneliness and social relationships and the importance of that are the three that I think.
Nancy Hey (01:05:17):
I do know that wellbeing cost benefit analysis has been used in business cases and some of our evidence has been successfully used. National Citizen Service, for example, is one. But actually interestingly there, it was also some of the elements of that service that's been used across the face. Wellbeing evidence was in the bank holiday case for the Jubilee recently. It's also in the wellbeing levelling up missions as well. So that uses it quite extensively, but actually it's been used in lots of different ways. And when you say wellbeing evidence, we've got the frameworks which are used in lots of different ways across all different places to look at things like health disparities, targeting housing, a whole range of different policies, and sometimes you've forgotten why you're doing it. And then subjective wellbeing has been used increasingly. I don't know as much about that because that's often within departments with the Treasury, but we have seen it in some of the examples I've given.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:06:16):
Fantastic. On the subject of wellbeing, one of our guests today asked about the four metrics of subjective wellbeing and the surveys that you're using for those and whether that's done through the Office of National Statistics or either agencies in the public service.
Nancy Hey (01:06:37):
So I'm largely using national statistics actually. Some people say, "Oh, do you collect your own data?" As an organisation, we don't collect that data. We are using this massive data investment that has been made. So we are largely... So subjective wellbeing metrics are in the annual population survey, they are also in about 30 other different surveys from community life, oh, living costs and food survey, food standard surveys, there's loads of different ones, English housing survey. And there's also guidance on how to use those measures in your own surveys as well, and that's used.
Nancy Hey (01:07:20):
I think we then saw some challenges in how people had reported them and used them. So for example, we've got some thresholds about what is low, medium, high, and very high, for example. So nought to four, five to six, seven to eight, nine to 10, and sometimes people get the wrong threshold. So getting that right is important. But yeah, there's lots of them and you can use them in your own surveys, but the key bit here are there are known effects in terms of order, in terms of the order you ask the questions, but also where you ask them in the survey and also the mode effects as well. So making sure you're comparing like with like.
Nancy Hey (01:07:58):
But they're also in some, not all of the measures, but life satisfaction for example is in our understanding society data, which is huge and it's in the European Social Survey. I mean the reason why it's a useful metric is it's so widely used and we know a lot of the effects. It's obviously not the only one that matters, but it's important for that reason. And housing associations have been doing resident surveys and things like that with it, for example.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:08:27):
And you mentioned also in the slides around monetization, once you have the robust causal evidence on wellbeing impacts, and I suppose that depends on the kind of data and the knowledge that you have, so what are some of the major gaps that you're seeing and particularly when it comes to those crosscutting issues such as linking environment to people's wellbeing?
Nancy Hey (01:08:53):
Environment is actually one of the gaps I really see. So I think wellbeing frameworks are really helpful actually because they do remind you that these other things matter. I was really interested in your governance addition, actually. So the whole social capital thing, which is where I'd put that governance stuff along with relationships, are really important, as in things like we're just getting some shadow accounts for civil society, for example, that aren't. All of these are inputs into that overall good quality of life, but you need them because that's where you find your policies, at gaps. I think subjective wellbeing is useful for what I've described, which is monitoring how people are actually doing and how they feel about their own lives and also prioritising and being able to monetize those values.
Nancy Hey (01:09:45):
I think how it interacts with the environment is a real challenge, and one of the reasons I haven't looked at that particularly is because actually there's huge amounts of progress happening on environmental value, natural value happening. And there's lots and lots of... So I think the 25 year environment plan looks at quite a lot of the immediate links between nature access and engagement and biodiversity, particularly green space and blue space where we are, well natural space I'd probably call it, and wellbeing. But of course it's not sustainable for the future. If you haven't got a food system that can cope or you haven't got a house because it's flooded, then all of the things are fairly well interlinked in terms of sustainability. So we have to do net zero, it's not sustainable for the future if it isn't. So given that and all these technological changes that are happening, how do we sustain wellbeing over that time so that we don't get these awful intergenerational effects either within families or communities that have been devastating?
Natalie Labuschagne (01:10:54):
Thanks for that, Nancy. I mean I guess in addition to knowledge or data gaps, one of the things we're really grappling with here in New Zealand is how you build these feedback loops, these learning feedback loops and how you can build capability for robust wellbeing analysis across the public sector or local government. Just wondering if you could share some of your learnings from that or the center's learnings in terms of how to build that capability and the feedback loops?
Nancy Hey (01:11:31):
So there's two bits there. One is about the data and... So high performance needs us to be able to learn and we need high quality feedback, high quality relevant feedback to learn. And ideally, it needs to be stuff we've realised ourselves rather than someone telling us. And that applies to organisations too, which is why what I mean about making it make sense within the context that you're working. And that's why partly people will generate their own ones, and then they've got their own data, even though I could have told them that and given it to them. So that's one way of it. And there are big data gaps in that, in that some of the data that you need at different levels isn't there, and so we can guess some of it. So we can't ask everybody how lonely are you, but we can do some proxies on that for example.
Nancy Hey (01:12:20):
How do we create the evaluation? So this is a really good challenge. How do we get better quality evaluation? I mean a couple of things. One is paying money to do evaluations, building that in. I think it's very, very tempting though, to just want to do the thing. And so if you have a strategy to do, I don't know, loneliness strategy, and then if you come back in five years' time to have a look at how you've done on it, all of the activity was great, but you won't have made any new things that you can commit to in a strategy without learning from it.
Nancy Hey (01:12:57):
And we can learn in lots of different ways, but unless we learn in a robust way that's shared, we won't get as much progress. I mean it's kind of as simple as that. There's a couple of mistakes we see very commonly, like can we help people make benchmarks really easily? Can we help people do a proxy control group more easily? Just to make it a bit simpler, because if... So for example, we're going to publish code on our analysis, for example, as well, so it just accelerates the process so it saves three months worth of writing that code, that sort of thing.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:13:31):
Okay. I'm going to shift gear a little bit from the data gaps and the learning, but what are your thoughts on approaching the analysis of distribution and equality or equity of wellbeing impacts and priority for those with the lowest social wellbeing?
Nancy Hey (01:13:54):
So at the moment, I mean it's relatively simplistic in that I like the OECD approach that looks at three different types of distributions, one within a domain, so income and health, et cetera. And actually we would look wellbeing inequality, which is what I was presenting then, so life satisfaction inequality on all those metrics or subjective wellbeing inequality. The difference in fairness is really important, so how different groups are doing, which I think New Zealand are doing really exciting things on. And so we were trying to do that during COVID wide. So looking at how different groups are doing so there's been all sorts of look at... I think Office of National Statistics are doing some fantastic work in the UK on inclusion. It's often called inclusion, right? About how different groups are doing.
Nancy Hey (01:14:48):
I don't know how easy it is to take action on all of that, so health disparities is a big one here, and we've got an office for health improvement and disparities starting. But I think we're quite early stage of how people look at that. So I think fairness is a big bit of it and then you've got this very bottom level of where's the floor and how people are doing on that basic minimum. Yeah.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:15:14):
Related to the distributional issues is this issue of intergenerational equity and how some of the priorities or social wellbeing analysis could generally favour, I suppose, the needs of the current living versus those of future generations and you've touched a bit on this previously with climate change and food systems.
Nancy Hey (01:15:39):
Yeah. I mean I think sustainability gets you into this a little bit. So if you think about our children's wellbeing now is our future wellbeing as a nation, right? If we want our wellbeing to be sustainable for the future, our young people's wellbeing, quite important. And they are the work... I mean even if you just care economically, they are our workforce of the future, right? And if our subjective wellbeing at 14 is predictive of our later life satisfaction up to eight years before, that's pretty important we get that right. And certainly health inequalities and educational inequalities can be baked in incredibly early. So you do have to do something quite early on that. I think the longer term, I think we're still really grappling with that longer term one. And we haven't looked at that as much because we've been focused on building the evidence base with very little resources, so we've done the best we can.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:16:37):
And there's a few questions here around how you balance, I suppose, the political process with needing to move quickly, needing to appeal to the hearts and minds of people versus, I suppose, what you said earlier, the evidence is sometimes the slow burn, it's at the start of the process, it's not the thing in the spotlight.
Nancy Hey (01:17:09):
This political one is a really interesting question, isn't it? And there's public engagement with it. I mean our evidence is deliberately aimed, should make sense to a 12 year old and that's not patronising, it's because 12 year olds are quite smart and if you look at the court's evidence, your average 12 year old understands the same amount of what's going on in court as your average adult who's not been there before. And so actually I won't to say 12 year old, but an interested professional, right? And we're all that and we're all part of that change. So making it available everywhere is important. And actually, civil society, all people, whether you're a business leader, maybe you're going to stand for your local council, but you run the neighbourhood watch now, you are part of that and you're having that and you're bidding for changing what's happening to a local landmark in your place and you're using the evidence to put that together. That's available to you as a public good. And I think that's quite important, it's slow, but that's quite important I think. And you gen...
Nancy Hey (01:18:17):
I think this evidence base is also available to everybody across the political spectrum, and that's quite important, being very factual about what it tells you rather than saying, "I recommend this policy or that policy," I think is also important. Voters, it's harder because I have not looked at public engagement particularly on this, partly because there are lots of other people who do that, and when we tested a lot of this stuff, we found how you communicate for a public audience to be quite different, but I do think the public conversation is quite challenging. And I think that's true even where there's a really solid evidence base, I think the class sizes as well as education where the evidence is really clear, but then people are still arguing, people will still choose regardless of that, "For my child, I want this." And so there's a limit to what you can do I think.
Nancy Hey (01:19:14):
I think there's a really wide understanding of happiness and wellbeing. Google searches for wellbeing have reached over, I mean they were absolutely huge. If you look at the trends from 2014 onwards when we set up, it's been absolutely massive. So I think the public conversation is there. I think it's always yes, and with policy making, with wellbeing as well. So it's not like, "Oh yes, we'll just do CBT or we'll just do incomes or we'll just do this," it's always yes, and. There's always more, and that's not an easy, straightforward answer, but I think we can get much clearer. It's not like, "Oh, there must be system change." Well, okay. What do you do? This, this, and this, and this is how confidently we know it.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:19:56):
Yeah. Fantastic. Thanks so much, Nancy. I think we're coming to the end here. I think we've run out of questions at this stage. I'll just make sure that no one's furiously typing at the moment for any more questions-
Nancy Hey (01:20:13):
There was one question about leadership in there, so I just want to go back over that point so it probably wasn't very clear about it. So what I mean by leadership there is two things. One is that someone has to keep remembering why we're doing it. So the easy thing to do is look at the wellbeing stuff, the wellbeing framework, the wellbeing, just wellbeing and go, "Oh, we're going to do this policy here on housing, or we're going to do this policy here on mental health," and you forget why you did it.
Nancy Hey (01:20:39):
And so somebody has to keep that flag in the air and there's not a department for wellbeing in government, and it doesn't sit anywhere in particular, and that's one of the things I found really difficult. And so the other thing on leadership is around the skills needed to support people to do this well. And I think a lot of the things we've described about a wellbeing approach can often be that you're not the best placed person to do it, somebody else is, so that sort of leadership about how you get that leadership across sectors for these outcomes, I think is really hard. It's really awesome leadership that does it well.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:21:18):
I do have one more question here, which I missed. So I think it goes back a bit to this issue of the public sector versus the politics and voters, the public. So what have you found effective in building demand for outcome-based assessment?
Nancy Hey (01:21:50):
That's interesting. I kind of just do it I think. I think it matters and therefore we just assume it matters and make it happen. I mean outcomes-based assessment. You're spending quite a lot of money or time, and that's great. And often there will be exactly the right things to do, and actually that's one of the problems with wellbeing policy is that a lot of what you're doing are really quite sensible things and yes, please do them, so where are the things that change? And they don't need to be a wellbeing thing for that policy to be a good choice.
Nancy Hey (01:22:29):
Outcome-based assessment and what's effective for building demand for it. I mean showing the evidence is really, really helpful. And I think I've just assumed that it is a good thing and just gone on and done it, but the outcomes, there is a whole government outcomes lab as well actually looking at how you commission for outcomes and payment by results. And I think that is quite an interesting one. And that's about building the evidence about how you do outcomes-based policy making, which is quite interesting as well. I think we've just made it happen because, well, how do you... Once you start to think about it, you're like, "Oh gosh, well we've spent all that money. Well, did it make any difference? I don't know. Did all those people go on the training course? I don't know. Did it matter that they did or not? It's a good question." Quite obvious when you start thinking about it, I think.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:23:22):
Thanks so much, Nancy. We got a few other comments around how-
Nancy Hey (01:23:29):
Sorry, I'm just laughing about us being a large, very well-resourced group. We're not.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:23:35):
Yeah. I think certainly from those of us who are sitting in the room who are thinking about wellbeing frameworks and evidence, this collaboration across agencies and academics and that is really important to this work and it's really fantastic to see how it's been used in the UK, even though you did have a bit of a giggle there in terms of how large it is. So it's been really fascinating to hear from you.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:24:10):
There is one question for me today, will the seminar recording be made available later for participants? And yes, it will be. So this has been recorded. And I think it is time now to draw it to a close. And Nancy, I just wanted to say a very big thank you. I think it is heading up against midnight by you in the UK there, or close to. So it must have been a really long day for you and it has been a fantastic presentation, and I do commend you on getting through those 80+ slides in the time allocated to you and still managing to convey, I think, the depth and the messages behind those slides. So, thank you very much.
Natalie Labuschagne (01:25:00):
For those who are on the seminar series today, please do look out for some great upcoming events in the Wellbeing Seminar Series. We have Dr. Anita Chandra, the Vice President and Director at the Rand Social Economic Wellbeing, and Ilan Noy from Vic University will be joining us in August. And I'll finish with the karakia which acknowledges the importance of discussion and learning to the wellbeing of the people of New Zealand, and I do apologise in advance for my pronunciation.
[speaking in te reo Māori 01:25:40] Piki te kaha. Piki te Ora. Piki te Wairua. Mauri ora ē
Natalie Labuschagne (01:25:41):
Thank you to everyone for attending.
speaking in te reo Māori 01:25:51] Mā te wā
Nancy Hey (01:25:53):
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
About the presenter
Nancy Hey is a global leader in the field of wellbeing. In 2014 she set up the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the UK’s national body for wellbeing evidence and practice aiming to understand what governments, business, communities and people can do to improve wellbeing. The Centre is the first of its kind in the world and is working with the OECD, over 18 universities across the UK and in partnership with HM Government, Business and Civil Society.
She holds a wide range of advisory roles past and present across sectors and around the world including as Expert Advisor to the House of Lords Life Beyond Covid Committee. Prior to setting up the Centre, she worked in the UK Civil Service as a policy professional and coach, delivering cross Government policies including on Constitutional Reform. She has worked with the UK’s top Civil Servants to introduce wellbeing into public policy and to establish the professional policy community in the UK. She has degrees in Law and in Coaching & Development, and is a passionate advocate for learning.
She has two young daughters and a devotion to Southampton FC.
Wellbeing Report seminar series
At Te Tai Ōhanga – The Treasury, we are developing the first Wellbeing Report - Te Tai Waiora that will be published in November 2022.
This online seminar is part of a Wellbeing Report programme of Guest lectures running in 2022 and 2023.