Building a wellbeing economy roadmap for towns

This 2021 report from the Centre for Thriving Places (in partnership with Carnegie UK Trust and Power to Change) argues that a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ approach needs to be embedded across the UK’s towns. This helps challenge the current economic model which focuses on growth, and highlights the importance of ensuring societal and planetary wellbeing. It provides a framework to help towns put this wellbeing strategy into place, as well as practical information regarding how to locate and use relevant data to achieve this.

Date added 19 October 2021
Last updated 19 October 2021

This report argues that, given crises such as Covid-19 have emphasised the lack of resilience of the current system for enhancing human wellbeing, that social and planetary wellbeing should be foregrounded in any plans for economic recovery. It therefore provides practical support to local decision-makers in town centres to start taking action to transform local economies in this way. It suggests a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ approach needs to be embedded across UK towns to challenge the current economic model which focuses on growth. As the authors explain, a wellbeing economy “ensures policies and resources are directed at growing the wellbeing of people, place and planet... that the shared benefits of society (social, environmental, economic and democratic) are available to all, now and for generations to come” (p. 6). The report further outlines that a town embedding a wellbeing approach would be one where (p. 4):

  • All decisions based on the ability to grow the wellbeing of people, place, and planet.
  • Town success is measured on wellbeing generating outcomes.
  • Shared and participatory plans and goals are collectively set.
  • Shared responsibility for delivering wellbeing outcomes across sectors, departments and communities; and
  • Everyone’s contributions are recognised, valued and rewarded.

To help towns to achieve the above, the report advises using a ‘Wellbeing Economy Framework’. The project on which the report is based, is looking to adapt the existing ‘Thriving Places Index’ at the town level, to provide such a framework for towns. The index helps to answer three key questions (p. 9):

  • Are we creating the right local conditions for people to thrive? (e.g. place, community, health, economy, and education).
  • Are we doing that equitably so more than a privileged few can thrive? (e.g. ethnicity, gender, health, social, and income).
  • Are we doing that sustainably so future generations can also thrive? (e.g. green infrastructure, waste, and energy use).

In order to effectively use a wellbeing economy framework, like the above, the authors stress the importance of:

  • Creating shared goals, progress measures, and learnings.
  • Prioritising wellbeing in any strategy, plans, and actions.
  • Joined-up delivery across place stakeholders.
  • Engage multiple stakeholders and local community in place-making.
  • Map and measure the impact of any projects (e.g. in light of Sustainable Development Goals and other indicators of wellbeing).

Accordingly, the report outlines how dynamic leadership, creativity and innovation, a collaborative mindset, and a thriving and valued voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, are vital for ensuring the success of a wellbeing economy approach. Whilst, in order to overcome any barriers to putting such an approach in place, peer-learning and support networks to share best practice, training to support cross-sector partnership working, and innovative funding solutions are put forwards as being important. 

Finally, the authors discuss the data available for towns wanting to adopt a wellbeing approach. This topic is covered in more depth in an accompanying resource, which outlines the data available for towns of different sizes, practical advice about gathering additional data to fill any gaps in knowledge, and how to use indicators to evaluate wellbeing projects.