Funded by the Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF), the What Works Centre for Wellbeing is leading the creation of a “Wellbeing Top-Up Fund”.
Here, we introduce how the two-year pilot programme will enable the expansion of 15 trials to include measures of subjective wellbeing.
National wellbeing: measuring how we’re doing
The overall goal of public policy and civil society is to improve people’s lives, and the last decade has seen an increase in the number of high-quality evaluations that assess the impact of policy in priority areas through a wellbeing lens.
For example, we know that employment is a key driver of adult wellbeing. Activity to reduce unemployment rates is often focused on the economic benefits, but it also positively contributes to an individual’s quality of life. The effect of employment on life satisfaction is one of the most robust in the current evidence base, meaning we have an agreed effective size that can be used in appraisal. This is useful for HM Treasury, who use life satisfaction disparities as an economic indicator, enabling comparison between the relative impacts of different departmental policies on national wellbeing.
At the same time, the UK Government has made an ongoing commitment to measuring and understanding the wellbeing of UK citizens through a national framework and regular reporting. The inclusion of subjective wellbeing in evaluations has been done systematically since 2011/12, as can be seen in our rapid evidence assessment of impact evaluations that use ONS4. Additionally, the Office for National Statistics has made it easier to create control groups at a local authority level, in support of Levelling up mission 8.
Figure 1: Find out which local authorities share similar characteristics based on the subnational indicators explorer. Results of cluster analysis for local authorities, England. Source: ONS – Subnational indicators explorer
Using these data, we are able to better understand trends within professions, regions, and the country as a whole, and to chart the effects of Covid on the nation’s mood.
However, there remains a lot to understand about how we can influence wellbeing through evidence-informed decisions.
Expanding current trials
As a bridging organisation, our role is to collate and accelerate access to wellbeing evidence. Part of this is achieved by supporting the consistent and appropriate use of robust measures to capture insights.
We will be collaborating with other What Works Centres, evaluators and researchers around the UK to ‘top up’ new or ongoing trials, strategically facilitating their development.
Over the next two years, this pilot project will focus on trials where wellbeing is not currently being measured. Specifically, we will fund the expansion of data collection for 15 trials to include validated measures of subjective wellbeing.
Through this project we hope to set a precedent for:
- Greater collaboration between what works centres.
- Better understanding of what works to improve wellbeing.
- A step change in improving wellbeing outcomes.
About the Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF)
The EAF supports the enhancement of evaluation across the UK government to improve our understanding of “what works”.
It is run by the Evaluation Task Force, a joint Cabinet Office-HM Treasury unit that provides specialist support to ensure robust evidence on the effectiveness of policies and programmes sits at the heart of government spending decisions. The team convenes the What Works Network and disseminates the Centre’s outputs across government.
The second phase funding, beginning in April 2023, was announced on Monday 6 March 2023 at a central London event to celebrate the What Works Network 10th anniversary.
Get in touch
Let us know if you are conducting analysis or evaluations that use subjective wellbeing measures so we can incorporate these insights into the evidence base.