The Researchery
The research surgery for the voluntary sector

Wellbeing & Happiness

Happiness, Wellbeing and Big Society

At The Researchery we believe that civil society is the cornerstone for sustainable and inclusive (economic) growth, and that wellbeing is inextricably linked to how one relates to society. The Big Society idea that we're all responsible for building a good society, while tainted by political rhetoric in recent years, rests on these links between happiness, wellbeing and giving back to society which economic psychologists and behavioural economists like Cat are trying to evidence.


Inequality and un-wellbeing

When Cat pioneered the World Giving Index with the Charities Aid Foundation in 2010, it established a link between wellbeing and giving more money to charity: 

The link between the giving of money and happiness is stronger (a coefficient of 0.69) than the link between the giving of money and the GDP of a nation (0.58). It would be reasonable to conclude that giving is more an emotional act than a rational one.
— The World Giving Index, 2010

This link was further explored in a study looking at the Arab Spring countries:

'Big Society' and the Middle East


Could Big Society be both cause and cure of the Arab revolutions? ‘Big Society’ was one of the pillars of the Coalition Government’s doctrine. It was meant to be both an economic and social salve for the nation. Could it also have been at the heart of the recent unrest amongst the Arab nations?

This 2011 report uses Gallup data to explore the growing links between the concepts of wellbeing, happiness and 'Big Society' in the context of the Arab Spring that started in 2010.

We are beginning to understand how inequality is correlated with lower levels of wellbeing and happiness, and therefore why equality needs to be at the heart of a good society.

In 2011 Cat had the honour of being on the steering group for: ‘Equality, Localism and Big Society’ commissioned by the North West Infrastructure Partnership and funded by Voluntary Sector North West (VSNW - through the Lottery), research carried out by the Centre for Local Policy Studies (CLPS) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategy (CLES)

Responsible Reform: Open Public Services for All, launched in February 2012, finds evidence of ‘stripping away of specialist services, governance mechanisms and knowledge, leaving demonstrable growth in inequality as opposed to equality of opportunity’.

“It’s my fundamental conviction that compassion constitutes a basic aspect of our nature as well as being the foundation of our happiness”
— Dalai Lama tweeting (yes, tweeting!) at 09:50 on 11th Jan 2011

It is still a relatively new idea that wellbeing and happiness can be a more powerful measure than GDP in assessing a society.

leaders need to follow much more than GDP to effectively track and
lead the progress of their nation.
— Gallup