Should the new Well-Being Index also measure motivation and values?

We have blogged before about the Government’s consultation on the development of a national Well-being Index. This closes later today, so there is still a little time left if you would like to contribute your own views to the Office for National Statistics on the subject.

Understanding and measuring well-being is an issue rising up the public policy agenda, with movements such as Action for Happiness launched recently to promote the ideas around Happiness Economics put forward by Richard Layard. There are also other more holistic approaches promoted by those advocating Positive Psychology such as Martin Seligman’s Flourish. These recognise the need, at the same time as promoting happiness, to strengthen the resilience and “grit” of individuals to deal with the inevitable bad things in life; eg death of a loved one, divorce, even moving house, that promoting “happiness ” in general is unlikely to eliminate, but which also make us measure and appreciate the actual happy moments in life more. This approach also applies to building resilience in communities, where the state clearly has a role and responsibility to assist people. However as we argue in our submission, this support has often been narrowly interpreted in the past, which is why broader approaches need to be considered in future.

As a contribution to that debate, below is an extract from TCC‘s submission to the consultation, which draws from our previous blog posting on this, but also makes the point about the index being more of a practical tool to measure the outcomes from pro-social behavioural interventions:

TCC Submission to Office for National Statistics (ONS) consultation on the development of a Well-Being Index – extract

“A widening of measurement beyond the rational economics of the UK Gross Domestic Product enables us to consider what really constitutes happiness.

“Will this be the same for everyone or should we take account of people’s differing values?

“A beautiful sunrise on holiday might be seen by an inner directed person as an aesthetically pleasing experience to savour or by an outer directed person as a ready opportunity to get the suntan lotion out to tone the body beautiful. Both will be equally happy but for very different reasons.

“As the work of the World Values Survey in this field seems to show, people are clearly happy when they satisfy their needs and can then seek fresh challenges. The satisfying of those needs determines their values, emotional state and motivation.

“The danger is that without an understanding and mindfulness of all the values that exist out in society, there is a possibility that a Well-being Index is mostly likely to reflect the inner-directed values of its likely authors as well as perhaps also a set of “objective” numbers around “quality of life”. Any delving into the emotional state of the nation may be no more than an “are you happy?” question on a 1-5 scale which will only be a skin-deep study of the real values and emotions of people in the country.

“A Well-being Index should not only tell us how happy or unhappy people are, it should also give us the pointers as to how we can directly improve things, in the way that values based segmentation already does within behaviour change interventions by understanding people’s current direct needs at that point of time for them.

In these difficult financial times if it important that an Index contributes to improving things rather than just be an interesting academic exercise. In other words we need an index that will be of use to the advice the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insight Team produces as well as to local authorities who will, within two years be responsible for delivering public health outcomes.

“The Cabinet Office’s own “Mindspace” report draws from current behavioural theory. What this tells us is that one cannot achieve a successful behavioural outcome without addressing two questions for the individual you are targeting. They are:

  • Ability: “Do I have the ability to continue, start, adapt or stop this behaviour”? e.g. skills, tools, finance, time, physical and mental effort, knowledge and physical access
  • Motivation: “What’s in it for me, or for people like me, to start, adapt or stop this behaviour?”

“Public Health and Well-being strategies tend to aim to focus on the first question – ability. This approach relates to tackling and supporting the ability of people to utilise the service or behave in the desired way by providing support or making information as accessible as possible. In other words much of the effort has gone into building mechanisms that enable people to take part or access information without understanding how this  varies between individuals. Understanding how different individuals are likely to respond will make communications more effective, achieve better outcomes and be a better use of resources. Addressing motivation is likely to be far less expensive than all the resources used to address deficits in ability.

“The Department of Business and Innovation and Skills recently commissioned as part of its “Sciencewise Expert Resources Centre” a report by the well-known environmental campaigner Chris Rose entitled “Consultation and Communication in relation to motivational needs“. Since with behaviour change we are increasingly recognising the importance of motivation, it is surprising that ONS is not drawing from that knowledge base too.

“Segmentation based on geo-demographics and lifestyle surveys such as MOSAIC and ACORN tell you “how” people behave and we now have lots of data at each Regional Health Observatory telling us “where” and to what intensity. However when it comes to motivation we need to understand “why” people behave the way they do and that is why understanding motivations is important to any national well-being index. That requires as Chris Rose argues an understanding of the values in a given community which is often reinforced by the social networks and types of social capital that people have.

“Values are one’s judgements about what is important in life and the lens that you look through when you view and try to make sense of the world.

“Our values are derived from our unconscious motivation to satisfy a range of needs as we navigate our way through day-to-day life. A need is something that is necessary for us to meet if we want to live a physically and emotionally healthy life.

“Needs can be objective and physical, such as food and water, or they can be subjective and psychological, such as the need for security or self-esteem. 

“The key thing to understand is that it is from our ‘dominant need’ that our values – what is most important to us – are derived. And when faced with a decision it is these values that provide the unconscious ‘frame’ that kicks in and sets the context before we actually take action. 

“Once we understand values, we understand what makes people tick. And we can start to understand how they might perceive services, how to deliver them in an in an empathetic way that matches their values and, crucially, how to motivate them to do things.

UK-based values segmentation data is based on 37 years of data collected via the British Values Survey of 8,500 people in a nationally representative survey. The information gathered is an information source for the global academic network that has built the World Values Survey, led by Professor Shalom Schwarz.

“The resulting values based segmentation gives us three principal values groups:

  • Sustenance Driven “Settlers”: motivated by the core needs of safety, security and belonging. Home, family and immediate neighbourhood are important, and the wider world often feels threatening. Change is often seen as negative.
  • Outer Directed “Prospectors”: motivated by the need for self-esteem and the esteem of others. Job progression, money and social status are important to them and although usually optimistic, they can worry for example about their status or the perceive declining quality of an environment.
  • Inner directed “Pioneers”: motivated by ideas, aesthetics and personal development. Interested in new information and often the initiators of change. They tend to have large social networks, but individuality is more important than following the crowd.

“Applying these three core values groups help us understand how various people make sense of the world, what motivates them to act, and therefore means we are able to more effectively craft information, messages – whether verbal or written – and interventions which resonate with these motivations.

“A well-being index that takes account of values that are mapped across the globe and have been for many years, will also add to the effectiveness of this project.

We hope that what finally emerges from the consultation is a wide-ranging set of well-being measures that are not just an academic exercise or useful for a politicians soundbite, but which can also drive public policy and contribute to improving public health at the local level.

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for The Campaign Company. If you want to see what your own primary values set is, why not take the simple Values Questionnaire here.


7 Responses to “Should the new Well-Being Index also measure motivation and values?”

  1. Social Animals and the Bigger Society « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] Return On Investment (SROI) and that this might also be linked to the new well-being measures that we have blogged about here. Matthew Taylor, head of the RSA,  has also blogged about the importance of this point […]

  2. The repeal of the ‘Duty to Involve’ – a localist case for retention? « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] A minimum standard localised “duty to involve” that makes it very clear that the exact nature of that involvement down to each local authority to publicly define dependent on the communities they serve. In the same way that the number of libraries and heritage facilities varies by each local authority or the number of parking spaces and parking charges vary – even though all local authorities provide both services – the requirements for local involvement could also vary depending on the values of that community and the subsequent choices made by its own elected representatives. The challenges in a mainly retired rural community with Parish Councils is very different to a west London borough with a busy working population with very little free time or a relatively deprived small mono-cultural Northern town or even a large urban area with a range of new communities with strong links within each community, but poor links outside them. There can be no ‘one-size fits all’ involvement – as the values of people mean they respond very differently to it – even if the broad concept of ‘public involvement’ is accepted as a good thing with the Cabinet Office promoting it through the Big Society programme and subsequently likely to measure it through the new national indicators of well-being. […]

  3. Liam McClure Says:

    Thanks for the really interesting blog,

    I agree with you that asking “how happy” are you is a vague question and one that surely can not be acted upon to any great amount. I thought that you might be interested in having a look at this –

    I am currently working with Oxfam Scotland to try and change the way that a countries growth is measured in more than just GDP. With the hope that policy makers will pay attention to what is actually important to people. Rather than ask how happy people are we are trying to find out what enables them to live happy lives.

    Any thoughts or feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again.

    Liam McClure

  4. “Something for Something” – Is reciprocity now the key public policy debate? « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] may require a better understanding of public perceptions of fairness and reciprocity as well as addressing motivation and self-efficacy on top of traditional public service interventions around improving people’s ability. I […]

  5. Supporting self-efficacy in less resilient communities « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] has been an understandable focus in public policy towards behavioural intervention on tackling ability without perhaps addressing the other key aspect within behavioural theory around addressing […]

  6. National Well-being Index: initial results and second ONS consultation « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] have previously commented on the development of the Index during the first consultation and no doubt we will be sending in further views nearer to the close of the […]

  7. Should government promote ‘Optimism’ and ‘Resilience’ rather than ‘Happiness’? « The Campaign Company’s Blog Says:

    […] commented on the first consultation, TCC have now submitted the following comments to the latest […]

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