September 2, 2020

New wellbeing metrics developed for towns

by Carnegie UK Trust

The Carnegie UK Trust has announced that it is working in partnership with the Centre for Thriving Places and Power to Change to develop and embed a wellbeing approach for towns.

The Flourishing Towns project will deliver customised wellbeing evaluation frameworks for two pilot towns, to be used to assist in developing policy and in funding initiatives that support citizens’ wellbeing, backed up by an evidence base of wellbeing metrics.

Based on the Thriving Places Index, the bespoke frameworks will include town level data showing the existing strengths and challenges of towns, and will put a wellbeing ‘lens’ over current activities and policies. The first part of the project will focus on developing the bespoke evaluation and metrics frameworks for each place.

Once the framework and data are in place they will be used to explore real-life local challenges that are currently judged on short-term financial imperatives and the different possible outcomes when action is evaluated according to a wellbeing framework. The Centre for Thriving Places will facilitate a series of leadership roundtables to explore the data and to co-produce solutions to overcome the systemic and cultural barriers to embedding a wellbeing approach.

As pioneering nations such as Iceland have shown, putting wellbeing at the heart of policy can influence almost all aspects of decision making. Towns are an area of real opportunity for innovation in this area, as their size allows authorities to develop a close relationship with citizens and supports collaboration and partnership working.

Chief Executive of the Centre for Thriving Places, Liz Zeidler, explains the opportunity that towns have to focus on wellbeing:

‘The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been supporting the shift to wellbeing through policy and legislation for some time. In England the conditions are less supportive for pioneering places and leaders to make these changes in any fundamental way. 

‘Where support exists it is often given to the major cities, or larger regional bodies, with greater resources and devolved power. This project aims to develop a resource bank for towns that want to take action – developing a metrics framework that can be easily adapted to local conditions, helping them to review the structures, processes or organisational culture blocks that are potential barriers to change, and develop initial trial adaptations to support stakeholders to start thinking and acting differently at different scales and with different time-lines in mind.’

Pippa Coutts, Policy and Development Manager at the Carnegie UK Trust, added:

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every part of our society – our economy; the social connections in our communities; our environment; and the relationship we hold with our governments. We must therefore seek to improve all of these parts of our society, reflecting on the structures and policies which are no longer fit for purpose, and the ways of working and experiences we wish to hold on to, post-pandemic.

‘Two in five people across the UK live in a town – it is the level of geography which people most identify with. By adopting a wellbeing lens to policy, towns have an opportunity to focus on what residents report is important to their quality of life. There is no better starting point for building back better.’

Bonnie Hewson, Empowering Places programme lead at Power to Change, summarised:

‘We believe that communities know best what matters to them, and that new, more meaningful measurements of prosperity and success are needed that recognise when we are thriving, not growing. Kindness, connection and collaboration are the things that get us through the hard times and so they are also the things we should nurture in the good times.

‘What we chose to measure, or the thing that we find easiest to measure, so often becomes the thing that we come to believe is important. We hope that this collaboration with Carnegie and Centre for Thriving Places will develop and test town-level wellbeing evaluation frameworks and show that forward thinking places can start to rebuild their priorities based on the things that really matter, rather than the things we have traditionally measured.’

While the project will develop the metrics framework based on the data available from two pilot towns, it aims to trial a facilitation process that can be adapted for use in any town and will disseminate the learnings widely.