Why wellbeing isn’t a waste of money: Lessons from the development community
As initial findings from the Office of National Statistics survey into the nation's happiness are released, some critics have labelled the project a 'waste of money and effort'.
Opponents have argued that at a time of widespread spending cuts this is an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money, and will not tell us anything new about what matters most to people.
The Coalition Government launched the 'national debate on wellbeing' last year. Yet it is by no means a new debate. The concept of wellbeing is well established within international development circles and researchers at the Institute of Development Studies have been at the forefront of debate about how we can use the notion of wellbeing to revolutionise our approach to tackling global poverty.
At a recent meeting in Parliament, Institute of Development Studies (IDS) Research Fellow Professor Allister McGregor told those attending that we can no longer think about poverty simply in terms of material deprivation. Professor McGregor argued that "we must move towards a broader concept of a person's 'wellbeing', not just what they have, but what they aspire to. We need to think about how we share wealth, and how we redress inequality. The concept of wellbeing is fundamental to how we live well together."
Despite unprecedented levels of economic growth in recent years, levels of inequality have risen and mass chronic poverty persists. Popular uprisings such as the Arab Spring demonstrate how prosperity alone does not lead to more stable and cohesive societies. This is a challenge for both national and global policy makers and Professor McGregor argues that identifying "new ideas on how we measure what we value" and a focus on 'well-being' could form the basis of a much needed new approach.
A new research project to be launched imminently called the Bellagio Initiative will explore some of these key issues including the future of development and the promotion of human wellbeing. More on this soon.
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