Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Creating Good Lives and Decent Societies

GLADS - Good Lives and Decent Societies, is one of five projects funded under the 2014 Scottish Universities Insight Institute wellbeing programme. A collaboration between academics, policy makers and practitioners, here Marie-Amelie Viatte and Christine McMellon take time to describe what is being discussed.

Development has historically focused on reducing poverty and gaining financial wealth, as measured by GDP. This, however, raises questions about what it is that makes life worth living and presents several problems:
  • It implies that acquiring wealth will necessarily improve people's quality of life, and yet there is extensive evidence that, at least after basic needs are met, money is not necessarily one of the key determinants of happiness.
  • Economic growth can have a directly negative impact on wellbeing as it often leads to pollution and the depletion of resources.
  • Events which can have a negative impact on wellbeing - such as natural disasters, crime and divorce, can sometimes increase GDP.

The GLADS seminar series provides an opportunity to take stock of what has been said on wellbeing, what has been said about measuring wellbeing, and what it means for policy and practice. Wellbeing is an important concept across disciplines, but meaningful conversations can be challenging and it is important to be clear about whether we are referring to the same things when we use terms such as 'wellbeing', 'quality of life' and 'happiness'. Wellbeing is related to both individual lives and broader social issues. It is relevant across time and is at the core of many of the issues, such as education, health, and governance, being addressed in policy and practice settings. GLADS is focusing on three themes: health; place and space; and welfare and employment.

The Scottish Government, like other countries, is trying to move away from from a narrow, GPD-based definition of development, to a more holistic approach - setting indicators within a National Performance Framework, Scotland Performs, to measure the progress of Government in 'creating a more successful country'. GLADS is facilitating discussion around these issues, bringing together key people to look at the connections between these issues and explore strategies to tackle them.

The first event took place in February 2014, to define wellbeing and open up discussion on how to assess wellbeing. It attracted presentations from The University of Edinburgh, Scottish Government, The Office for National Statistics, OECD and Oxfam Scotland. Copies of the presentations are available on the website.

The second event is taking place on 14 and 15 May. It focuses on the practice promoting wellbeing. If you are interested in being part of the discussion and contributing to GLADS please take a look at the website and register online. 

Read the GLADS blog and follow us on twitter @ScotGLADS #gladsmay

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