As 2022 draws to a close, we take a moment to reflect on a busy and impactful year for the Centre.
To help improve wellbeing in the UK, What Works Centre for Wellbeing accelerates research and democratises access to robust wellbeing evidence.
We do this by collaborating and sharing insights with the research community and decision-makers in government, business, third-sector organisations and communities.
A major highlight of 2022 was the publication of the UK Government’s Levelling Up White Paper in February, which has wellbeing at the core of its 12 cross-society missions and is represented in subjective wellbeing indicators. This is a milestone in the Centre’s mission to improve the nation’s wellbeing.
Over the last 12 months we have worked closely with partners to answer key questions and identify future research needs. This includes publishing full reports and accompanying resources from 11 projects across our core areas of national wellbeing, working age and workplace, place and community, and loneliness and connection:
- A rapid review of interventions to explore and evaluate the use of Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales (WEMWBS) and the efficacy of wellbeing interventions.
- Social capital, to build the evidence base on community wellbeing and social capital, and promotes the use of harmonised social capital measures to ensure wellbeing evidence is increasingly consistent, robust and useful.
- Maximising local area wellbeing, to gain a better understanding of wellbeing policy making across different focus areas and local needs.
- Arts and culture, to look at the social and economic value for people and places.
- Dying well: work and employment, to identify where research and practice need to go next in supporting the wellbeing of people with a terminal diagnosis, following the death of our colleague Clair Fisher in January.
- Body image, an initial exploration of the impact of body image Instagram messages on life satisfaction.
- The Reconceptualising Loneliness in London, to explore the structural influences, drivers and unequal distribution of loneliness in the UK’s capital.
- Board level and governance wellbeing roles, to understand how wellbeing champions deliver in practice.
- Civil Service wellbeing over time, to provide valuable insight into employee wellbeing in different government organisations before, during and through recovery from the pandemic.
- Local Authority wellbeing over time, to explore how wellbeing has changed over the last 10 years at local authority level and whether experiences have been uniform across the country.
- Different people, same place, to explore how community wellbeing is linked to individual wellbeing.
To support the research community in measuring wellbeing openly, iteratively and robustly we published free-to-use code for data cleaning. This initiative accelerates wellbeing data analysis by reducing resource barriers, and makes our own methods visible and transparent. It also creates a way to track and understand what researchers are working on, which will feed into future reviews and help inform policy making. To date we’ve published three repositories and will continue to update these resources. Explore more about the initiative.
We continued our Measuring Wellbeing Series with two new discussion papers contributed by Dr Mark Fabian and Professor Paul Allin. The series shares expert views from research and practice to promote visibility and understanding of key wellbeing concepts and measurements.
We also contributed to the Office for National Statistics’ measuring wellbeing consultation, and presented on the importance of measuring wellbeing at the launch event.
Furthering our thought-leadership, we also published a discussion paper by Suzanne Alleyne on the science of power in the body ahead of our upcoming exploration of the concepts of agency, control and power.
July 2022 saw the inaugural Wellbeing Research & Policy Conference, which was a space for debate and knowledge-sharing, bringing together academics and policymakers to discuss the latest research, insights, and developments in wellbeing science. Our Executive Director chaired a roundtable on how best to operationalise policy. Explore our two summary blogs reflecting on what the insights mean for measuring wellbeing, how far we have come in implementing research in policy and practice in all sectors, and what the next steps are in creating a sustainable future for wellbeing.
Other conferences we presented at during the year included Belonging 2022 in Manchester, the first Wellbeingr Forum Mental Health at the Heart of Global Development Strategies in Greece, the 44th International Association for Time Use Research Conference in Canada, and NIHR School for Public Health Research Annual Scientific Meeting. We also delivered presentations for the Academy of Social Justice, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and New Zealand Treasury.
As a bridging organisation, we support the translation of evidence into practice, and we do this in a variety of ways such as delivering training, presentations and workshops that facilitate learning and discussion.
This year we were able to return to in person events, as well as continuing a series of virtual and hybrid sessions. Highlights include:
- Training for economists on using HMT Green Book Supplementary Guidance, in collaboration with ProBono Economics, and for policy professionals with the Civil Service Policy Profession.
- Loneliness training for hundreds of NHS receptionists from Tyneside to the South Coast to help them tackle loneliness among patients while building their own wellbeing, delivered by our loneliness team, The Campaign to End Loneliness
- Delivering over 30, free one-to-one advice surgeries supporting practitioners working in the charity sector.
- Sessions with psychology students from Nottingham Trent University.
- A book launch for Mark Fabian’s Theory of Subjective Wellbeing.
- Two further Business Leaders’ Council sessions on productivity and wellbeing, and how businesses can develop the investment case for a wellbeing strategy and make sure that it is implemented and measured effectively. The Council brings together a carefully selected number of non-competing stakeholders from the business sector alongside research experts.
To increase the visibility and accessibility of wellbeing measurement and evidence, we created an introductory e-learning module. So far, this has helped more than 50 Historic England staff. We have since created a second module focusing on heritage and wellbeing and in the new year will deliver a third on the subject of social prescribing and wellbeing.
October 2022 marked eight years of What Works Centre for Wellbeing. We have continued to grow and evolve, welcoming five new team members across our operations, communications and evidence functions this year.
The Centre is part of the What Works Network and The Evidence Quarter. This network improves the way the UK Government and other organisations create, share and use high quality evidence for decision-making. The Evidence Quarter continues to grow as a Community Interest Company, and is hiring two non-executive directors.
Thank you for your support, insights, feedback and participation. It has led to more evidence-informed action, more understanding of what wellbeing is, and how to measure it, and impactful collaborations across, and within, sectors.
To work with us in 2023, get in touch.
Sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with our ongoing work, and look out for further website announcements in the new year.