Why the PM’s support for measuring well-being is good for charities

By John Copps 26 May 2011

If you are a regular follower of NPC’s work, you’ll have heard about the development of our Well-being Measure – a tool designed for charities and schools to evaluate their impact on young people.  So in a speech earlier this week, we were delighted to hear the Prime Minister David Cameron gave his strongest avowal yet of the importance of using measures of well-being as a yardstick for making decisions.

He stated how he wanted to lead a government that ‘actually think[s] about people’s well-being when we make decisions’. I couldn’t agree more.

As well as providing a richer measure, I think it’s also good for charities as it moves us closer to valuing the all-important ‘soft-outcomes’ that matter most to people, such as increases in self-esteem or relationships. Too often it seems that if you can’t put a ‘£’ on it, it doesn’t seem to be valued.

It would seem that the Prime Minister’s warm words are beginning to be backed up by action. The concept of well-being may be approaching lift off. ‘Right across Whitehall we are today applying to the design of policy the best that science teaches us about how people behave – and what drives their well-being’, the Prime Minister argued.

To support this goal, last year the government tasked the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with developing a measure of overall well-being. We will see the fruits of this at the end of the year when, for the first time, we have a genuine measure of the UK’s well-being.

But while the ONS measure will give us a good overall sense of national well-being, it is unlikely to provide the necessary level of detail required to evaluate individual policies and investments. For this we need other measures.

That is where NPC’s Well-being Measure fits in. In contrast to the ONS’s measure, our tool works at the scale of a small group of ten or more. It can be used by charities, schools, primary care trusts or any organisation that works with young people to measure changes in well-being. And what’s different is that it is practical and developed with the goals and limitations of front-line organisations in mind so it accessible to almost everybody who wants to do measurement.

At NPC we support David Cameron’s wish to make the measurement of well-being central to policy-making. Through our Well-being Measure, NPC hopes to play its part.