After almost a decade as the UK’s leading cross-sector collaborating centre for wellbeing evidence, policy and practice, the Board of Directors has announced that What Works Wellbeing will close on 30 April 2024.
Our priority now is to complete our current programme of work by the end of the financial year and secure the best possible legacy for the collective learning that we hold.
When the Centre was founded in 2014, our purpose was to build on the rich and growing data from the UK National Wellbeing Measurement Programme to understand what organisations in government, business, research and civil society can do to improve wellbeing.
For almost a decade, we have built a reputation as the leading UK authority on wellbeing, working collaboratively to deliver this ambition through making evidence accessible as a public good, and translating it into action.
“[The What Works Centre for Wellbeing] consistently outperformed the other Centres ….in relation to the quality of its content and the impact the Centre had on the individual.” – INVESTMENT IN WHAT WORKS CENTRES: Evaluation report for the ESRC January 2022, pg 34
With a small team and limited resources, we have established an extensive body of wellbeing evidence, insights and assets as a public good that can – and are – being used robustly, consistently and with confidence in the UK and internationally.
This includes informing the UK’s National Wellbeing Framework, positioning wellbeing as a key part of the UK governments’ Levelling Up framework, and shaping the UK Treasury’s Green Book so that wellbeing is, for the first time, fully included in official guidance on spending and evaluations.
We also welcomed the Campaign to End Loneliness in 2021 to help build our collective understanding of why and how people are affected by loneliness and social isolation.
Our impact has been globally recognised – for example, helping shape Canada and New Zealand’s wellbeing frameworks – and, most importantly, is improving people’s lives.
Over nine years we have improved collective understanding of:
- What’s cost effective for tackling loneliness
- What works for wellbeing at work and job quality including what’s cost effective for wellbeing and performance
- The power of music-making and singing
- The importance of social connection
- The value of volunteering for individuals and the nation
- How places and spaces can be designed and managed to maximise wellbeing and tackle loneliness
- How to use wellbeing evidence and data effectively in local areas
Based on the learning the Centre convenes, recognition of the importance of wellbeing in all its aspects is now much more widespread from policy makers and civil society to businesses and organisations. This breadth of remit, however, has made it challenging to find a focal point for investment and support of the Centre on a sustainable basis.
Wellbeing is not one organisation’s job; as a convening organisation we have worked collaboratively to enable others, building the foundations for change into systems. But when it’s everyone’s job, it’s no one’s responsibility.
Having helped embed wellbeing as a theme in many aspects of policy, public life, and across businesses – establishing wellbeing and our work are hugely valuable – the problem remains that there is no lead governmental department or existing foundation specifically for wellbeing.
We have always depended on core funding, alongside project-specific funds we have generated, to deliver our mission. Following the reduction and subsequent conclusion of our original multi-year grants, we have been unable to secure an alternative partnership to sustain us long-term, despite our extensive efforts.
During these times of uncertainty and rapid change, there continues to be a vital need for good-quality evidence to drive decision making at national policy levels, across civil society, and to ensure wellbeing is at the heart of how we shape working practices and cultures in organisations everywhere.
While the Centre will conclude operations in April 2024, the importance of its mission remains: to secure a future where the wellbeing of people and communities in the UK improves year-on-year and wellbeing inequalities are reduced.
Thank you to all our funders, partners, collaborators, friends and supporters for making the last nine years of progress possible.
If you have questions about your work with us, or would like to explore how you can support our legacy, please get in touch.
For media, see our press release, and contact our Head of Communications & Digital.