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Wellbeing dialogue results embedded in immediate plans

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The What Works Centre for Wellbeing (WWCW), in collaboration with the Cabinet Office and with support from Sciencewise, ran a public dialogue which started in February 2015 and with final reports being published in February 2016. The purpose of the dialogue project was to increase the effectiveness of the WWCW by ensuring its design and policy priorities are informed by members of the public. The dialogue focused on three main themes: community wellbeing, sport and culture, and work and learning.

The independent evaluation report on the dialogue was published in March 2016. The evaluation concludes that the project was “an exemplar of a carefully designed and expertly run deliberative dialogue process. It successfully delivered its objectives and has the potential for wider policy impacts over the next three years.”

The evaluation also states that “The primary purpose of the dialogue programme was for the findings to inform the work of WWCW going forwards. The nature of the dialogue process was ideally suited to achieving this impact.”

The dialogue has already fed into the WWCW’s Voice of the User (VoU) reports which shape its evidence programme for the next three years, and there is ample evidence that the stakeholder involvement in VoU processes was informed by the dialogue. All four VoU reports included a summary of the key findings from the dialogue events and how they had been incorporated into the proposed evidence programmes; the WWCW summary report (‘What you have told us and what we’re going to do’) published alongside the dialogue results gives very clear indications of how the voice of the public has been incorporated.

Evidence teams also reported that the dialogues had reinforced much of their own stakeholder consultation and had helped to identify additional or to focus on areas to be covered in their programmes such as:

•    Sport and culture - the importance of communal eating and family meals; of attending as well as playing sport; the breadth of definition of culture to include the historic environment, cultural heritage and diversity;
•    Work and learning - the importance of job quality (fair wages, conditions, progression, continuity); community at work; and work places/environment as community spaces in work and learning; and the importance of volunteering;
•    Community – the importance of wealth inequalities, investment, green space and networks of people and connectivity as factors important to community wellbeing.

The evaluation identifies that, for the wider WWCW programme, interesting or surprising findings emerged which will help address gaps in the programme in the areas of transport, food and the natural environment and the role of technology.

The experience of setting up a very broad oversight group has also had the wider benefit of establishing WWCW relations with key stakeholders – particularly in the devolved administrations – and establishing the Centre’s credentials as an open and collaborative centre. The evaluation found that “The commitment to convening a group with such wide representation has demonstrated WWCW’s commitment to good governance, transparency and collaborative working and this was recognised by stakeholders interviewed.” These interests will continue to be represented on the Advisory Panel that WWCW is setting up.

The value of the dialogue was recognised by many of those involved:

“Some of the findings reinforce what we expected – there is more to life than just money! However the emphasis and the nuances of some of the other results were not perhaps what one would have predicted. The importance of having a sense of purpose and of being valued came through strongly in all the consultations”. (Dr Paul Litchfield, WWCW Chair Trustees, What You Told Us and What We’re going to do)

“Hearing directly from the public what is important is incredibly powerful – you can’t contradict that” (Evidence programme)

“Really unusual for us to get to talk to such a cross section of real people in one room” (Oversight Group member)

The evaluation also identified potential for wider policy influence through government departments represented on the Oversight Group such as:

•    Cabinet Office - lessons have already fed directly into drafting a ‘Best Practice Guide and Toolkit on how to run a Wellbeing Dialogue’ which Cabinet Office committed to develop after the 2014 Sciencewise funded wellbeing dialogue. Findings from the dialogue have also been shared with the cross-departmental Social Impacts Task Force.

•    Scottish Government - findings from the work and learning dialogue workshops resonated with objectives of sustainable economic growth and reducing inequality through promotion of greater diversity, innovation and equality in the work place.

•    Welsh Government - messages from the work and learning dialogue events fit with the Welsh Wellbeing and Future Generations Act 2015 which is designed to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales and particularly with the prosperous, more equal, cohesive communities and resilience themes. Findings have been shared with Education, Skills and Health Ministers.

The evaluation also concludes that “the dialogue has also made a positive contribution to the organisational development of WWCW. The dialogue has been one of the first set of activities for the Centre and the outputs are very much at the heart of WWCW’s strategy and work plan with dialogue reports and vox pops and the WWCW’s response to findings currently featured on the home page of the WWCW website.”

The WWCW project has also focused strongly on dissemination of the dialogue results, described in detail in the evaluation report, and subsequent information from the WWCW. For example, on the reports published on 10 February – by 10 March, the Summary report had been downloaded 305 times; the main public dialogues page had 831 direct views; the cross-cutting dialogue report had 83 downloads.

Evaluation of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing Public Dialogue on Wellbeing and Community, Sport and Culture, Work and Learning. Ursus Consulting, March 2016.
Wellbeing Public Dialogues. What you have told us and what we’re going to do, What Works Wellbeing Centre, February 2016.