December 20, 2023

Looking back at wellbeing and Carnegie UK in 2023

by Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive

The late journalist Simon Hoggart was famously allergic to the Christmas round-robin letter, dividing the world into those who send and those who receive. If you’ve read his anthologies of toe-curling festive missives, you’ll know that it is indisputably cooler to reside in the latter camp.  So, what could possibly lead me to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to bring you the Carnegie UK equivalent of the 2023 round-robin?

You’ll no doubt be relieved to know that I am not bringing you quirky tales of office-based disasters (although we’ve had our fair share), or news of the latest brilliance of team members’ offspring. Instead, I want to look back on a year’s work at Carnegie UK, to remind ourselves and our readers at this busy time what really matters to people, and to share some of the light we have found in what has otherwise been a pretty dark year for Collective Wellbeing.




We started 2023 out in the field with YouGov, asking about the impact of the cost of living on people’s everyday lives. Published in April as the Long Shadow report, the data illustrated a stark reality; we are not living well in the UK. We signposted the good work of many other organisations in this space and we will continue to push for government on all levels to spend now, to save later. We were humbled and privileged to be trusted with people’s stories of how they struggle to afford the things that truly make life worth living.


That argument for long-termism in public policy was the focus of our convening work in Scotland in May. We supported a visit from the former Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, which allowed us to make introductions to senior public officials and other decision-makers. We did this in partnership with Sarah Boyack MSP, and we’ve welcomed the opportunity to support her Private Member’s legislation that would create a similar post for Scotland. No sooner had that proposal been published than the Scottish Government launched its own consultation on a Wellbeing and Sustainable Development Bill. While the proof of the legislative pudding will be revealed in 2024, we are tentatively chalking up a good year for wellbeing advocacy in Scotland.


Wellbeing approaches are being embedded south of the border as well, and in September we wrapped up our programme of work in the North of Tyne, undertaken in partnership with the North of Tyne Combined Authority.  We made good friends doing this work, including at Northumbria University and the Centre for Thriving Places. To capture all the learning from developing the wellbeing framework, we published a “how to” policy guide and hope this will be useful for other places looking to implement a similar approach.


The autumn was a big moment for Carnegie UK and our many partners and collaborators seeking to regulate Online Harms. The Online Safety Act was a huge milestone for us after five years of work raising concerns about online safety & arguing for an innovative approach to tackle the problem.


In November we launched our new Life in the UK Index which measures the wellbeing of the people in the UK by examining answers to questions across social, environmental, economic & democratic themes. This widely publicised research is our contribution to building the case in the UK for a broader approach to measuring and acting on what matters.

Inevitably, these are just the highlights. Over the year, team members have been out and about across the UK and Ireland, including in Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff, Manchester and Inverness. We continue to challenge ourselves to learn more about our distinctive contribution to change, and are frequently encouraged and impressed by the amazing individuals and organisations we encounter who keep alive the hope and vision for collective wellbeing.


Thank you to everyone who has amplified, challenged, and supported us in 2023. I also want to express my gratitude to our excellent staff and dedicated trustees.

Please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more about Carnegie UK’s plans in 2024.

Sarah Davidson is chief executive of Carnegie UK