crossroads on the field

Overview of main themes and messages from the course

Wellbeing: common interests, diverse perspectives

We have already seen from the number and diversity of people signing up for the course that wellbeing themes are being considered and addressed in all parts of the world and in many different sectors and kinds of activity. Although we also hope that by week three many learners will already see some signs of increased confidence in discussing and planning for wellbeing, the intended learning outcomes will take longer to sink in and bear fruit.

Using the wellbeing lens

For now, we certainly hope that all learners have increased their awareness of the diversity and importance of wellbeing themes, and that you have been stimulated by our simple formula for discussing the characteristics and benefits of the ‘wellbeing lens’: positivity, empathy, and integration.

Considering overlaps and interactions between social and personal wellbeing

We also trust that most learners are now reasonably convinced that there is considerable value in drawing explicit links between ‘personal’ or ‘individualistic’ wellbeing concepts and the more elusive and broader concept of ‘social wellbeing’. We have argued and demonstrated that social goods, unlike material conditions, have intrinsic value as dimensions of wellbeing, rather than merely having instrumental value as conditions for wellbeing. This is because no matter how individualistic we may consider ourselves, we are all social beings - part of society, products of society.

Co-responsibility, co-production and joined-up (multi-level and multi-sectoral) social planning

From the recognition of the inseparability of personal and social wellbeing, it follows that we are all co-responsible - individually and institutionally - for one another’s wellbeing. Wellbeing is co-produced, over time, by complex interactions among multiple actors. No matter what social level any particular planner or researcher or organisation may specialise in, to take an interest in wellbeing means to recognise the need for joined-up planning and action at all levels from interpersonal, through communal and organisational levels to national and international levels.

Wellbeing: a vague but inspiring concept

Finally, we hope that this first instance of the course will have inspired learners to keep conversations about wellbeing alive, and to share the belief that we can use this unavoidably vague notion to foster intelligently constructive moral and practical conversations, plans, and learning strategies.

If you find it stimulating to discuss aspects of wellbeing and the responsibilities that people have for fostering them, you will probably agree that these debates on what matters most, and how to achieve it, must continue. So please share with us your thoughts at this point on where wellbeing debates should turn next. What new topics, new approaches, new actions - in planning, policy making or research – need to be taken to demonstrate the usefulness and moral signficance of the wellbeing lens?

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This article is from the free online course:

Social Wellbeing

The University of Edinburgh