September 14, 2023

Doing the groundwork: the Wellbeing Roundtable approach

by Hannah Paylor, Carnegie UK

David Emerson (Carnegie UK), Jenny Hasenfuss (CAPE), Dr Max French (Northumbria University) and Robin Fry (North of Tyne Combined Authority)

The former home of the Institute of Miners and Engineers, the Common Room in Newcastle now seeks to inspire future innovators. It was fitting, therefore, that we sought to do the same by launching a new guide to a Wellbeing Roundtable approach in their stunning Wood Hall.

The document explains how local, regional, or national governments can establish a wellbeing roundtable. The guide outlines an approach where representatives and experts come together to identify what matters most to local people. This information is then used to create a framework – a system to track these issues and to underpin initiatives to improve quality of life.

The guide brings together our own experience of running roundtable events in Scotland, Northern Ireland and, most recently, with North of Tyne combined authority. It condenses this experience to help others make a similar journey.

Dr Max French, from Northumbria University, and our former colleague Ben Thurman drew from a detailed review of international best practice and insight from the 39 experts involved with the North of Tyne Roundtable to complement our experience.

In 2021, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we set out to support the North of Tyne combined authority to embed a wellbeing framework. We believed this could be achieved by:

  • Building relationships and working collaboratively
  • Working with partners and communities to collect evidence
  • Working with decision makers to adopt – and importantly implement – the framework.

At the event, we heard from Robin Fry who outlined how this approach made a difference locally.

We have passed the baton for this framework, as it reaches its implementation stage, on to the authority with support from other wellbeing and new economy organisations including our friends at the Centre for Thriving Places.

As we reach this point, here are some key reflections on this process:

Wellbeing: We learned more about what democratic wellbeing looks like in practice, and how to do citizen engagement well; learning from our own mistakes. An external evaluation enabled important feedback on our approach, learning from which will been used to shape future participatory work.

Ways of working: Knowing when it was time to step back. We thought early about what we would need to know to feel comfortable exiting the programme, for example that other organisations are able to support the work, and that the North of Tyne Combined Authority can clearly articulate how the wellbeing framework shapes their approach.

How change happens: we were flexible with our approach and methods over the course of the programme, combining a more traditional research approach and a call for evidence, and practical tools and softer influencing strategies and relationship building.

As someone who was born and spent their early childhood in North Shields, a seaside town not far from here, I know why this work is so important.

Do you want to learn more about our wellbeing roundtable approach? Drop us a line here.

Photos by Geoff Love Photography