What can we learn from £40M invested into wellbeing?
Here, the Centre’s Ewan Davison takes a look at the Big Lottery Fund’s Wellbeing 2 programme and evaluation.
Following the recent publication of the Wellbeing 2 final evaluation we’ve gathered an overview of the programme, links to evaluations and a series of case studies together as a learning resource
Wellbeing 2 followed the £160m Wellbeing funding, continuing to support communities to create healthier lifestyles and improve their wellbeing. It funded interventions to improve levels of healthy eating, activity and mental health. But wellbeing is much wider than one particular aspect or determinant, it means a lot of different things to different people – as we’ve learnt from talking to people across the UK about what matters to them. At a high level it’s their quality of life. So, improving quality of our lives and our wellbeing should be the ultimate aim of policy.
A really encouraging part of this study was the use of personal wellbeing as a measure; simply put it was asking individuals how they feel using the ONS 4 wellbeing questions. Across the Wellbeing 2 portfolios adults reported an increase in their levels of life satisfaction from 6.2 (on a scale of 0-10) at the start of the interventions to 6.5 at the end to 7.0 at three months post intervention. Life satisfaction is a key measure for wellbeing. There were also positive change reported in feelings of being worthwhile, happiness and anxiety levels. For example: 54% of young people reported a positive change in their mental wellbeing.
For those of us interested in policy, the wellbeing 2 evaluation report is important. We need to look beyond the numbers to try and identify what works, and what doesn’t in delivery and measurement. The report shares a real wealth of qualitative data, insights from projects on what worked across delivery, promoting behavior change, achieving systems change and sustainability.
The key points to take away from it are:
- The importance of ensuring engagement in design and delivery (such as using peer educators).
- Taking asset-based approaches which work with local settings.
- Developing the skills of staff and partners along with volunteers.
- For some portfolios, working with local systems to enable sustainability and change to those systems, such as basing staff in local authorities and working with authorities (and communities) to meet outcomes identified in their Joint Strategic Needs Assessments.
The importance of time when evaluating
Another key finding from this report and the follow up round table was that time is a very important factor (perhaps a luxury which this funding has allowed). It enables a test, learn, and adapt approach in delivery and in terms of measuring impact. Policy makers need to make time to engage people in the design of delivery and evaluation to keep activities relevant and effective.
There is some great work going on out there (as shown by this report) and as a nation we’re spending a lot of money and effort on activity so we need to learn from it collectively and in a systematic way. We need to measure with enough consistency to enable a meaningful comparison across interventions which looks at impact and cost, and reflects the strength of evidence. We can also use existing activities and management data to make running trials easier and cheaper, which in turn make the research findings more useful to practice and decision making.
We all need to get better at capturing learning on wellbeing impacts and growing the evidence base. This is the start.
What are your issues with evaluating wellbeing? With wellbeing impact often being a secondary outcome- or not the primary focus of funding a project – how can we create a measurement instrument sensitive enough to capture changes without becoming overwhelming or a burden to providers/participants? → Join our forum to discuss