August 11, 2021

Introducing Carnegie UK’s New Strategy – A blog from our CEO

By Sarah Davidson, Carnegie UK

One of the many things we have all learned over the course of 2020 and 2021 is the truth of Eisenhower’s famous maxim that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”.

At the heart of that pithy statement is a recognition that the ability to be agile and responsive to events – to meet the demands of the moment – rests on the twin foundations of clarity of purpose and a good deal of forethought.

It is in this spirit that we are publishing Carnegie UK’s 2021 strategy for change: Learning how to live well together, alongside our new visual identity.

As you will see, it is less of a traditional workplan and more of an expression of what we know; who we are; and how we want to work.  Together, these statements represent the outputs of Carnegie UK’s 2020/21 strategic planning process, and they are intended as a strong and flexible platform for the work we will do in the years ahead.

As our Chair of Trustees explains in his companion piece to this blog, Carnegie UK’s formal mission has always been about improving wellbeing, but we have not always foregrounded that purpose as clearly as we do now.

If there was ever a moment for a wellbeing organisation to lean into its mission, then this is surely it.  Not only is there a growing and compelling body of research and evidence which demonstrates that improving collective wellbeing is an effective route to a good and sustainable quality of life for all citizens, but the pandemic experience has given greater impetus and urgency to this set of ideas. And we know that as the immediate threat of Covid-19 recedes, the implications of the climate crisis pose an even more existential challenge to citizens and governments alike.

The Carnegie UK model of collective wellbeing requires social, economic, environmental, and democratic wellbeing outcomes to be seen as equally important and given equal weight. Taking this as the starting point for everything that we do, we will be advocates for public policy approaches that reflect this balance and thereby help to advance social progress.

As we move away from making long-term commitments to broad, 5-year themes of work, we will be adopting a more flexible rolling programme of “wellbeing outcomes” which we have identified as being particularly relevant to wellbeing over the next few years.  This might be because they are threats to good collective wellbeing, or because improvements in those areas would significantly improve wellbeing outcomes. This programme will keep evolving over time as we explore new fields and identify what we can usefully do in them.  Our initial set of programmes can be viewed here.

Whatever we are working on, our values will shape our approach.   These have been co-produced by the whole team and reflect what are recognised as our existing strengths, as well as our aspirations for the future: motivated by change; collaborative; challenging, and kind.

The social change eco-system is extensive and complex. Different players bring different approaches, perspectives, and skills. It is important to us to understand our place in this system and to make a distinctive and useful contribution, complementing that of others and being a good collaborator and partner.

This distinctive Carnegie UK offering can be described as the ‘wellbeing lens’ that we can bring to any given issue, including using the new wellbeing tests which we have developed, building on our experience of wellbeing over many years. This means we are interested in and will promote public policy and practice solutions that:

  • Give people voice and choice
  • Recognise the power of human relationships
  • Promote subsidiarity and decisions taken at local level
  • Promote dialogue between different communities and sectors
  • Enhance transparency
  • Reduce poverty
  • Further equality
  • Support long-termism

Finally, we want to keep learning. The field of wellbeing has developed a great deal over the past decade, but there is much more to discover, and we are keen to add to the collective evidence base. We also want to know more about how change comes about, and how to use the resources at our disposal to make an effective and persuasive case for the actions and practice which will lead to improvements in wellbeing.

For us at Carnegie UK, planning has indeed been indispensable. Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing more about what we have learned during that process – including on impact, brand identity and on diversity, equity and inclusion – and introducing you to some of the people who have helped us along the way.

If you would like to talk to us about our mission and our work, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.