‘If you treasure it, measure it’: The UK Civil Service’s response to well-being

“If you treasure it, measure it” was how Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Secretary to the Cabinet, introduced his talk on well-being at the end of last week.

Entitled Well-being statistics: How will Whitehall respond, the most important man in the civil service, took the chance to outline how the government machine sees well-being in the context of making policy and what action is taking to embed the idea. He was talking to a packed room of civil servants, commissioners, experts and interested observers.

The first thing that was obvious from the talk was the seriousness with which the government sees well-being. Alongside economic indicators, it is set to become the driver for policy and funding decisions. Asked what areas of policy well-being doesn’t have relevance, Sir Gus responded that it was an ‘empty set’.

Indicating that it means business, the civil service is doing the following:

  • Holding five events between now and the end of 2011 for senior civil servants to educate them about using well-being in decision-making
  • Including well-being in the mandatory training for all fast stream civil servants
  • Updating HM Treasury’s Green Book on economic analysis, to include guidance on valuing well-being (completed in July 2011)
  • Publishing and distributing practical examples of how well-being has been used to drive policy decisions (coming soon)

From the talk, and subsequent discussion around the room, it was very clear that organisations that can demonstrate their impact on well-being are at a distinct advantage when it comes to decisions on policy and funding.

Concluding the session, Sir Gus O’Donnell outlined his vision for the growth of well-being as the driver for policy and funding decisions. Once well-being shows what it can do, the benefits will be self-evident, he said.

Sir Gus O’Donnell was speaking at an event in Westminster on 2 November 2011 hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Well-being Economics.

About John Copps

John is part of NPC's research and consulting team and is the founder of NPC's Well-being Measure, a social business that provides an online tool to measure young people’s well-being. He has eight years experience of research and consulting, and is passionate about how data can be used to improve the performance of organisations. John is a regular contributor to NPC's blog and has also contributed to pieces for BBC Radio, the Guardian, and the Financial Times. John is a governor of a secondary school.
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2 Responses to ‘If you treasure it, measure it’: The UK Civil Service’s response to well-being

  1. Excellent news – I really do think using well-being as a measurable indicator of the impact of policies will have far-reaching and a really positive effect on our society

  2. Pingback: A new focus on well-being can help the voluntary sector prove its worth | NPC's Well-being Measure blog

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