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Assessment of wellbeing – a global governance perspective

We talked to Katherine Trebeck about Oxfam's policy assessment tool and what still needs to be done to promote wellbeing implementation
Oxfam Scotland has developed a new tool to measure the impact of policies on wellbeing. What is this and how does it work? So this is a policy screening tool or policy assessment tool. And what we did is we took the 18 factors of prosperity that emerged from the Humankind Index, these dimensions that people have identified as being important to them to live well in their community. So we took all of those and then we said, well, we need to help policymakers really run that ruler over potential policy decisions. And so it’s an online tool, really open, very interactive. And it’s really to help people test their thought process a little bit.
So they can have a policy in mind, it might be real, it might be imagined, and they can go through a series of questions on the internet that will prompt them to think more broadly, a bit more creatively, but through the lens of those 18 dimensions of prosperity from the Humankind Index. And it will score them at the end. It will identify where there is maybe a negative impact, maybe a positive impact, might identify also where they need to do a bit more thought or a bit more thinking.
And so at the end of that, they can make a holistic judgement about the potential impact of that policy or that initiative on those dimensions of prosperity that emerged from the Humankind Index work. The Scottish government is one of the pioneers in taking a much more holistic view at looking at a country’s success and getting away from just GDP as a sole indicator. What difference has the National Performance Framework made, and where do you think lie some of the challenges and weaknesses in approaches such as this one?
So the Scottish government has showed a fantastically open mind in terms of looking at initiatives here in Scotland, including the Humankind Index, but also, looking at work that’s being done around the world, in terms of going beyond GDP and more accurately and more holistically measuring what matters and makes a difference to people’s lives in Scotland. So the NPF is a really great starting point. We think they could go a lot further in really putting a knock into GDP at those purpose level targets that we know, all too well, some of the failures of Gross Domestic Product, and so we’re a bit concerned that they still have such a prominent place.
In terms of impact, we think it’s almost a latent potential, if you like. The NPF is there, it’s really useful. There’s lots in it. It’s a much richer conceptualisation of what is important to people’s lives in Scotland, and yet, it’s not being used to the extent it could be used. So for example, it would be great to see parliamentary committees and different government departments to take hold of it and use it as a framework or a screen to look at some of the policies that they’re considering, test some of their policies as well. So we’d like it to be held onto a lot more and used more thoroughly. It would be wonderful.
What are the main obstacles we are still facing in achieving a good society for all? There are so many, and I think we’re seeing that in most recent times, in terms of people’s sense of alienation, people’s frustration at the huge levels of inequality, in which people feel that they’re just at the beck and call, or they’re really vulnerable to wider economic forces over which they have no control. And we see that manifesting in frustrations. We see people being vulnerable to offers of scapegoats, and they’re not really feeling that they have an opportunity to make a difference to the lives they live, people feeling scared and precarious.
And then up against that, we see huge levels of political capture, the extent to which policymaking is dominated by people who already have huge resources and they’re able to quite literally rig the system in order to be able to hold more resources, and then further rig the system in their favour. And so it’s no wonder that people are feeling pretty frustrated with the state of the world. And alongside that, I’d say there’s a challenge in terms of the short-term approach that businesses take, and also politicians and policymakers take as well. These are huge systemic problems. There are no easy answers.
And the sooner we are able to creatively and a bit more sophisticatedly take more of a wider, long-term thought, complex system level understanding of how to sort out so many of these world’s problems, then we’ll start to be understanding how to make the world a better place.

In this interview with Dr Katherine Trebeck, Senior Researcher at Oxfam Scotland, we learn about Oxfam’s policy assessment tool that measures the impact of policies on wellbeing.

We also explore from a global governance perspective the progress made so far as well as the barriers still in the way to implement a wellbeing lens.

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Social Wellbeing

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