Evidence into action

We work with leading researchers to produce the best available evidence. But we are more than just a research centre: we bring decision-makers, researchers, practitioners and academics together to turn evidence into action.

In this section you can browse our case studies from across the UK and find out more abut our wellbeing in policy online learning materials.

5 minutes: evaluate wellbeing

Check out our Guide to Measure your Wellbeing Impact

The steps below are a helpful outline of approaching evaluation of wellbeing, and are adapted from the NESTA standards of evidence.

How to establish what works?

1. Know what you want to achieve, what you do and why it matters

2. See if there is a change by capturing data

  • A good first step is to add measurement of wellbeing impact into projects, measuring wellbeing before, after, 12 months after. The techniques exist and although they are new, imprecise and evolving we will get better at it but we need to start using them.

→ Adding Subjective Wellbeing to Evaluations guide from the Social Impact Task Force

→ How to include personal wellbeing questions in your survey from the ONS

  • Test out small things not just overall programmes – which parts make the difference?  Can it be shorter or longer?
  • When the learning about what works is embedded into activity policies and projects will be set up to collect evidence as you go along.
  • Do include costing information so you can establish cost effectivness of the impact generated.

3. Understand if your project is causing the change using a control or comparison group

Robust methods to isolate the impact include using a control group, random selection and a sufficiently large sample.

  • We really like the Test, Learn, Adapt approach set out here by the Behavioural Insights Team, Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, and David Torgerson, Director of the University of York Trials Unit.
  • We also really like Randomise Me, an online trials generator a free easy to use online tool to create your own randomised controlled trial (RCT) also with Ben Goldacre, Better data and Nesta.

 If you are a charity already including this measurement and thinking about how to do an economic evaluation of what you do, or a programme you deliver, pro bono economics may be able to help.

→ If you’re in the civil service, the Trials Advice Panel can help set this.

4. Understand if the impact can be shown repeatedly

Your findings can be validated by having one or more independent replication evaluations that confirm your impact. This could include endorsements or industry standards. This needs standardised processes etc.

5. Show that your project or approach can be scaled up and used by others with the same outcome

Manuals, systems and procedures ensure that the project/approach can be consistently applied by others with the same positive impact.

6. Continuously learn from practice

Sustained high performance needs action, purpose, enjoyment and, crucially, continuous learning. Learning is also important to wellbeing. Evaluation of impact is one way to learn. You can also learn from:

 your own practice using continuous improvement, reflective practiontioner and work based learning approaches.

 what others are doing – see our case studies on the Evidence into Action page below


5 minutes: policy recommendations

Over 50 years of wellbeing research and analysis suggest that we can improve wellbeing by focusing on

  • Mental health and social & emotional skills 

    • treat mental ill-health as professionally as physical ill-health
    • support parents in their parenting, their relationships and mother’s mental
    • building social and emotional skills in schools and work
      • skills such as  character, resilience, empathy, self-control, perseverance, gratitude & savouring, cope with shocks
  • Community

    • promote volunteering and giving
    • address loneliness
    • create a built environment that is sociable and green
      • opportunity to know neighbors but give choice about amount of contact, shorter, better commutes
      • connection to natural world, green & blue spaces and natural light, reduce environmental stressors like noise & pollution
  • Income and work

    • promote balanced, stable economic growth
      • allows investment in health & welfare to protect us, gives choice and free time for leisure, arts and education
    • aim for stable employment and low unemployment
      • jobs with purpose, challenge, income and good social connections
    • more wellbeing at work
      • clear expectations, reasonable freedom, control & agency, consultation, support, recognition & opportunity, reasonable work life balance for time with friends, family and for leisure.
  • Governance 

    • Treat citizens with respect and empower them more
      • Devolve power and control, consultation,  increase trust in our collective institutions, reduce corruption
      • dignity, agency & control, reduce hassle of bureaucracy, better feedback loops for services, faster less contracted legal process especially for children and families,
    • Measure wellbeing as a policy goal
    • Give citizens the wellbeing data they need
15 minutes: compare and choose the right intervention

You can use our simple and clear evidence comparison tool to find the right wellbeing intervention for your workplace. It looks at cost effectiveness, evidence strength and wellbeing impact.

We will be rolling this out for all our evidence soon.

Go to the evidence comparison tool

30 minutes: wellbeing course

WWC Introduction to wellbeing_FINAL

We have developed a short online course on Wellbeing in Policy and Practice.

It is three modules

Why wellbeing?  What is wellbeing?  Applying a ‘wellbeing lens’ to decision.


Download this course (will take you to a page in the resources+evidence section of this website)


Case studies

Have a look at organisations across the UK who are trying to improve wellbeing through evidence-informed policy and practice.

University of Worcester ‘Suicide Safer’ Project

In September 2018, Universities UK and Papyrus launched new guidance to help prevent student suicides within higher education. Although new data published by the ONS showed that there is a significantly lower rate of student suicide among university students in England and Wales compared with the general population, there is no room for complacency.

Working adults’ wellbeing: a randomised controlled trial of an online programme in personal goal-setting and action-planning

One way to improve the wellbeing of working adults is to provide brief training in setting and pursuing personal life goals. This was proven in a recent randomised controlled trial of a new online training programme developed at Royal Holloway University of London, involving 330 public sector employees across the UK. Participants reported improved wellbeing (greater life satisfaction, more positive emotions, less negative emotions, and a greater sense of purpose) five weeks after starting the programme and three months later.

Active Mums Cycling

This case study is supporting the evidence part of the Family, Outdoor Recreation and Wellbeing review. It outlines a project supporting mums to cycle together and evaluated the confidence, activity levels, and wellbeing of participants.

Designs in Mind

Background “It is such a happy environment, I go home with the biggest smile, even if I have arrived in tears.” (Member interview) This case study aims to provide an insight into the Designs in Mind (DM) project, their evaluative methods and the wellbeing related...

Spark Inside: Measuring wellbeing 

Spark Inside runs coaching programmes in prisons to encourage rehabilitation and reduce re-offending. Coaching enables self-sufficiency and empowers people to become independent leaders of their own lives. Through coaching, we help make transformational changes in...

Have evidence to share?

The micro read

  • RT @ESRC: Innovative proposals are invited on “Understanding Wellbeing” using secondary data. Find out morbit.ly/2k5OvYlIsHV #es…
  • RT @whatworksCSC: Read our evidence summary on child mental illness prevention - for children of parents with mental health problems. Evide…