Measuring a Wellbeing Economy in Wales
Wellbeing Economy Wales is embarking on a volunteer-led project to create the Wales Wellbeing Economy Index – a visualisation of relevant and meaningful data that frames the wellbeing economy in a way that everyone can understand. It’s part of a wider mission to broaden the understanding of (and engagement in) the idea of wellbeing economics in Wales.
The intention is to create a set of indicators that measure and track the progress of the wellbeing economy at a local, constituency or regional level; and which is updated regularly, eg quarterly, so that it is useful and relatable for people.
At tonight’s monthly discussion forum, Stephen Priestnall from Wellbeing Economy Wales provided an introductory overview to the project, which is in its very early stages. The team is inviting input, insight and involvement from the wider community across Wales – anyone who shares an interest in measuring, tracking and visualising “wellbeing economics” at a local or regional level, or who might have datasets or expertise to contribute. Opening the project up for early feedback and reflection is part of WEW’s commitment to co-production and partnership working, and the team was incredibly grateful to all those who took an interest in the work and contributed their thoughts.
The current proposal is to seek data that measures five components of a wellbeing economy:
# Sustainable Private GDP
# Economic Cooperation
# Social & cultural wellbeing
# Environmental Wellbeing
# Value of public services provided
Participants queried who the measurements were intended for, and whether they would be useful, meaningful or engaging at a local or oganisational level, to inform decision-making or the focusing of changemaking work at the level of local communities. The discussion also explored the difference between measuring “wellbeing” (like, for example, mental and physical wellbeing, which is perhaps subjective, qualitative, and hard to measure) versus measuring “wellbeing economics” – which is something we are all seeking to define and understand more clearly here in Wales!
Stephanie Howarth, Chief Statistician at the Welsh Government, also spoke at the meeting, and provided an overview of how Wellbeing is already being measured and tracked in Wales, through Wales’ Wellbeing Indicator Framework – a set of 46 indicators mapped to the seven wellbeing goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Steph explained that the indicators in Wales were intended to “measure progress towards the Wales we want”, and to be:
# Short & Manageable;
# Coherent and fit well with other indicators;
# A measure for the whole of Wales;
# Resonant with the public
Making data meaningful for the public is agreed as the key challenge, and one of the ways Wales has sought to achieve this is through naming it’s indicators in ways that make sense to people – for example statistics relating simply to “healthy babies” rather than more technical definitions. Stephanie’s team are currently inviting feedback and insight as part of an ongoing consultation about the Wellbeing Indicator Framework, asking what possible gaps there might be, and how the data could be made more useful.
One key reflection from tonight’s discussion was the importance of localised data, and the ability for communities and local decision-makers to be able to access and “drill down” on data for their local places. There was a strong consensus in favour of interactive, filterable datasets that are accessible for ordinary people, and Steph agreed that this is an area worth investigating. Stephen affirmed that the WEW project will seek to use and distribute its data on an open data platform, so that anyone can engage with it. The aspiration is that the data be useable at a local level, so that we can interact and drill down, bringing communities together to discuss what the data means to them; what its implications are, and what it tells about needs, strengths and challenges.
There were a number of valuable contributions from colleagues across Wales, shining a light of different aspects of the question of measuring wellbeing. Jonathan Richards, with colleagues, has done a lot of work around measuring the value of public services, and also reflected on some very useful work happening elsewhere, including in Birmingham.
At Bronllys Well Being Park, colleagues have designed a comprehensive wellbeing survey, for which they are keen to partner and seek funding – looking at wellbeing through a psychometric lens. And Barry Farrell noted that their survey work has identified 97 important indicators of well-being in 8 dimensions: Employment & Income, Housing & Environment, Food & Nutrition, Transport, Energy, Leisure, Community, and Physical & Mental Health.
Ellie Harwood, from the Child Poverty Action Group and the Anti-Poverty Coalition said that they have collected a lot of data on child poverty, but that is has been a challenge to get people to use the data they produce. Her insight was that data becomes most meaningful and actionable when it is provided at a local level, for example by ward – where it feels real and tangible.
Meanwhile, David Llewellyn from the NHS in Wales advised that they are creating a local wellbeing index intended to stimulate and provoke enhanced community discussions, “such that we can support and co-produce with communities to support wellbeing. It’s still in development but we would be very happy to learn from others”.
The meeting also reflected on WHY measuring and tracking wellbeing data feels IMPORTANT, and what our ultimate purpose should be as we seek to create and distribute new KPIs. We heard powerful insights about the importance of good data for determining what is required for change and how to improve things, as well as the power of data to inform community conversations and drive innovation.
All too often, data is used retrospectively to prove that something has worked and secure future funding – but perhaps our core focus should be on finding and distributing data that inspires us to action – that motivates and empowers us on an individual level, to play our part in making change. As Vicki Moller commented, “Data has to mean something to locals and lead to action… or so what!?”
What we measure, as a society, also reflects what we value – and perhaps in seeking to find effective measures for the wellbeing of people and the planet we will be able to more strongly advocate for those shared values, and change the culture of society in that direction. Seeking alternatives to narrow economic evaluations like GVA and GDP is important work if we are to change what we really value, and what we invest in, as a society. And “wellbeing economics” perhaps provides a new way for Wales to define our own agenda, distinct from those in Westminster, and to build on the achievement of Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and take it forward to better implementation and delivery.
Wellbeing Economy Wales is a volunteer-led organisation, part of the global Wellbeing Economy Alliance, working to make the vision of a “wellbeing economy” more visible, more credible and more meaningful, here in Wales. As a founding member, 4theRegion helps to host the monthly Wellbeing Economy Discussion Forum on the second Thursday of each month.
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