Evidence in 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 practice examples from across the UK..

Wellbeing in policy and evaluation

Click on the plus signs on the toggles below to explore recommendations for wellbeing evidence in action

Wellbeing in policy

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
Evaluating 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 and our guidance on measuring wellbeing impact

  • 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 effectiveness 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 practice examples below

Practice examples

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

Mental health toolkit: Newcastle Medical School

Newcastle Medical School has around 250 students in each year group, which has recently increased due to the allocation of new medical student places and the closure of the campus at Durham University. The size and complexity of the student population poses a unique...

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University of Nottingham: Student Health and Wellbeing Strategy

In October 2017, in response to Universities UK’s StepChange initiative, University of Nottingham proposed their approach to developing holistic student health and wellbeing. This case study, written by Andy Winter, Campus Life Director, outlines how he led the creation of their institutional Student Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and what steps they are taking now this has been agreed.

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Moving from counselling-only to wellbeing support for students: Bournemouth University

In 2014 Bournemouth University decided to review the Student Counselling service provision it offered on campus to deliver a better and more holistic service for students. It worked with Dorset Healthcare University Foundation Trust, who had previously provided the counselling service to reconfigure the operating model. The Student Wellbeing service came into being in 2015.

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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.

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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.

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Know Before You Go: mental health and transitions into university

Student Minds CEO Rosie Tressler met with Canadian organisation TeenMentalHealth.Org and learned of the success of their evidence based resources that were supporting students with this vulnerable transition period. Read Rosie’s interview and what steps Student Minds took to incorporate the findings.

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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.

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Urban forests as places for improving wellbeing for people with dementia

This case study is supporting the evidence part of the Family, Outdoor Recreation and Wellbeing review. Are their benefits to outdoor activities for those with dementia? This case study focuses on the wellbeing benefits of people with early-stage dementia and their families when taking part in urban forest activities.

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KCLSU: A coordinated collaborative approach to wellbeing

In October 2016, the Wellbeing Coordinator role was created at King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) with funding support from King’s College London. This case study, written by Julia Haas, KCLSU Wellbeing Coordinator, outlines her role in developing a happier and healthier student community.

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University of Derby: A warmer welcome for better wellbeing

Changing typical ‘service induction’ sessions at Derby University to run workshops to increase belonging changed the way students felt about accessing services. This is the first in a series of pioneer examples, so be sure to sign up in the section below to receive new examples when they’re available.

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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...

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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...

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Wellbeing outcomes & national government: Scotland

This case study from Anne-Marie Conlong, head of the Performance Unit in the Scottish Government, looks at the role of the National Performance Framework in guiding strategy and policy development in Scotland. It is now ten years since the launch of the National...

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case study: StreetGames and Doorstep Sports Clubs

StreetGames, a registered charity since 2007, make sport more widely available for disadvantaged young people. Through projects, such as their Doorstep Sports Clubs (DSCs), StreetGames strive to maximize the power of sport to improve young lives and to positively...

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case study: Student Sport and Activity Study Ireland

Background Student Sport Ireland (SSI) is the governing body for third level (College and University) sport and physical activity provision in Ireland. Considering that approximately 62% of school leavers transfer to higher education in Ireland, the potential for...

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case study: Scottish Active Students Survey 2016

Scottish Student Sport (SSS) was established in 2011 and acts as the coordinating body for student physical activity and sport in Scotland. The Scottish Active Students Survey (SASS) was born of a desire within Scottish Student Sport to gather greater evidence of the...

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Rethinking therapeutic support – Talk for Health

Our emotional health has the biggest impact on our overall wellbeing and quality of life, measured by life satisfaction, and is predictive up to eight years earlier.  Compared to employment for example, the third most important contributor to our wellbeing in...

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WALES The Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales

In 2015 the Welsh Government passed the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. This sets out 7 wellbeing goals which 44 public bodies across Wales must work towards. This video sets out what the act is all about:   Welsh people were asked what mattered to them...

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Bio-feedback video game for young people’s mental health

The challenge Young people aged 10 – 14 in the UK have some of the lowest levels of wellbeing in Europe. Low levels of wellbeing place young people at risk of developing mental health problems, and many young people do not have the skills to deal with stress, or...

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Activate London – Community Activators

Portfolio total project costs: £1,806,000192 Total funding received from BIG: £1,806,00019 Total number of beneficiaries: 16,665 Activities The Activate London portfolio empowered participants and communities to develop the skills and confidence to take control of,...

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Sustrans- Influencing national and local policy makers

Portfolio total project costs: £5,403,158 Total funding received from BIG: £3,615,000 Total number of beneficiaries: 113,989 Activities The Sustrans Active Travel Consortium delivered a portfolio of 19 projects, in partnership with Living Streets, Ramblers, the London...

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Mind – Peer education: training for professionals

Portfolio total project costs: £3,163,970 Total funding received from BIG: £3,163,970 Total number of beneficiaries: 31,173 Activities Mind delivered a wide range of awareness raising activities and campaigns through its Time to Change portfolio. This included seven...

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Stockport MBC -Early intervention in pregnancy

Portfolio total project costs: £2,236,573 Total funding received from BIG: £1,806,000 Total number of beneficiaries: 33,500 Activities Stockport MBC delivered 19 projects through its Wellbeing 2 portfolio, working across the three programme themes, working in some of...

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Target: Wellbeing – Greener on the Outside of Prison

Portfolio total project costs: £2,708,388 Total funding received from BIG: £2,708,388 Total number of beneficiaries: 24,046 Activities: The Target: Wellbeing portfolio supported the delivery of 34 projects working across the three Wellbeing 2 programme themes:...

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Unleash your inner social entrepreneur

Unleash your inner social entrepreneur….. Bring about positive change We all have a budding entrepreneur inside of us. Admittedly, some people may be more ‘entrepreneurially’ gifted than others, and these people may go on to make their fortunes setting up successful...

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SCOTLAND National Performance Framework

Scotland Performs has now been running for some eight years, since 2007, and has been seen as a model of governance underpinned by a desire to promote wellbeing, with a dashboard of indicators which measure success across several domains. The indicators provide a...

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How leaders value quality of life in their organisations

Sodexo, the worldwide on-site services group set up their Quality of Life Institute in 2009. It is founded on the conviction that improving Quality of Life leads to the progress of individuals and contributes to the performance of organizations. The Institute for...

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Can ICT help community cohesion?

 Professor Claire Wallace, Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Director of New Europe Centre.   We all live in communities, but do these communities enhance our sense of wellbeing? Social cohesion and creating a sense of place can be important for our...

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Well London: communities working together for a healthier city

Well London is taking a radical community development                                                                   approach to improving health and well-being in the most disadvantaged areas. Funded by the BIG Lottery Fund, managed by the Greater London Authority...

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Wellbeing policy at BT

Action on wellbeing BT’s board has agreed a company strategy on wellbeing. The opening statement of the strategy sets the tone by stating: ‘We believe that health, safety and wellbeing are critical contributors to our future commercial success.’ ‘If we have a healthy...

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NORTHERN IRELAND Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing

In 2014, the Carnegie UK Trust convened a Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland to explore how the concept of wellbeing can be used to promote social change. After learning from the good practice of many in Northern Ireland and beyond, the...

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Dance to Health

Tim Joss Chief Executive and founder of AESOP: Well-evidenced but not working – a story of older people’s falls. Picture someone in their 80s. Someone you know. Suppose they have a bad fall. Worse – they’re on their own, they’re in pain, they can’t get up, and they...

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DONCASTER Making the Case for Wellbeing – 26th March 2015

A big thank you to everyone that contributed to our event Making the Case for Wellbeing in Doncaster. We met a really inspirational group of people working on improving the lives of local residents Here are the presentations and attendee list : What’s happening with...

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Wellbeing in Lambeth and Southwark

Lambeth and Southwark boroughs lead the ‘Wellbeing Programme’ so more individuals and organisations can take action to improve their own and others’ wellbeing. The programme has been in existence in Lambeth from 2009 building on the work of an earlier Mental Health...

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Come Outside! Welsh Natural Resources improve wellbeing

The Come Outside Programme aims to remove barriers and support people from Community First areas to use the natural environment to increase physical activity, improve skills, confidence, and overall wellbeing. Our work now extends to over 70 groups, enabling over 1600...

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NPC’S wellbeing measure

UPDATE 5/8/2018: NPC have closed the wellbeing measure in 2017 - to read their reflections on why and what they learned here. At NPC we have focused on well-being for many years, setting up our Wellbeing Measure to help charities and schools quantify the impact they...

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Wellbeing in the East

The Well-Being in the East portfolio focuses on early intervention and prevention. The portfolio focuses on targeting Armed Forces Families, Looked after Children and people who accessed Food Banks. The Well-being portfolio has 29 community projects delivered by a...

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Think Good, Feel Good – Whole School approach

A Whole School Approach to Emotional Health and Wellbeing   This case study outlines the Shropshire wide schools based programme Think Good, Feel Good which initially started as a pilot programme in 2009. The programme adopts a universal population based approach...

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Fit as a Fiddle! Wellbeing for older people

Age UK is working across England to provide older people with access to a tailored package of community support to help improve their wellbeing,  keeping them out of GP surgeries and in their own homes and happy. The Fit as a Fiddle portfolio includes projects with a...

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Wellbeing in UK legislation

There are a wide range of UK legislative duties and roles related to wellbeing including: UK wide: Localism Act 2011, Education Act 2011 and The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015. England: The Care Act (England) 2014  and The Health and Social Care...

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Community Wellbeing Practices in Halton

Commissioned by Halton Clinical Commissioning Group, Wellbeing Enterprises CIC has developed and is delivering a unique health initiative – Community Wellbeing Practices – supporting 17 GP Practices in Halton to integrate with the wider community based provision. In...

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National Citizen Service

National Citizen Service (NCS) is a government-backed programme open to 15 to 17 year olds across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Focusing both on personal development and supporting young people to help others, the programme aims to promote a more cohesive,...

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Join In – Wellbeing and sports volunteers

Join In’s Hidden Diamonds: the wellbeing generated by sports volunteers Join In is the volunteering legacy charity from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are a campaigning organisation whose mission is to bring more volunteers into community sport –...

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Happy City Index

WHY Local governments, cities in particular, are the coalface for wellbeing work. National policies can help (or hinder) the conditions for wellbeing, but it is local government that is in the driving seat of actions to support improvement. They can’t do this alone –...

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If: Volunteering for wellbeing in the heritage sector

Imperial War Museum North (IWM North) and Manchester Museum have established sector wide recognition for their award winning inclusive volunteer programmes.  Their latest programme is If: Volunteering for Wellbeing. If: Volunteering for Wellbeing (2013 – 2016) is a...

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The micro read

  • RT @Rob_KS_ONS: See my blog published today on how @ONS is transforming the measurement of GDP and the next steps we will be taking in the…