In this issue:
We focus on the pursuit of wellbeing.
“At the RSA we recognise the importance of building wellbeing into the systems that surround us”
As I write this, England and Wales have recently come out of lockdown and infection rates seem to be falling. The number of vaccinated people is continuing to rise and we wait to see what a new ‘normal’ might mean.
But some things from our period of lockdown living are worth holding onto, and one of these is an increased awareness about the importance of wellbeing. The pandemic has highlighted the relationship between health and broader wellbeing and the unequal distribution of both across and between nations.
At the RSA we recognise the importance of building wellbeing into the systems that surround us and its relationship to poverty, wider economic insecurity and discrimination. In this edition of RSA Journal we explore how collective wellbeing can be embedded into our thinking.
Professor James Wilson addresses the relationship between subjective wellbeing and government policy. If this is governments’ only end goal, he writes, we could lose sight of other values important to the public good. But this is not a call for governments to ignore wellbeing; he argues for a move from a neglectful state to a nurturing one, based on a deeper understanding of the complexity of our societal systems.
All of the RSA’s core programmes start with an analysis of this complexity. In her article, my colleague Hannah Webster outlines the work we are doing to better understand the relationship between place and wellbeing and the implications for how we engage local people.
It has been apparent for many years that we do not yet have an effective way of integrating health and social care. Anna Severwright of the Social Care Future movement shares her vision of a social care system that can deliver wellbeing to every individual. Having personally experienced the sometimes disjointed nature of social care, she knows the importance of listening to those with lived experience of the system.
Can we act now to promote the wellbeing of future generations? Tatsuyoshi Saijo encourages us to embed this question in the decisions we are making today. If we adopted the idea of future design, we could avoid making choices – such as the introduction of single-use plastic bags – that, although offering short-term convenience, create future problems on a larger scale.
Of course, caring for future generations also means thinking about the wellbeing of children today. Having spoken to children around the country, Rachel de Souza, the new Children’s Commissioner for England, has gained insight into their thoughts about the pandemic and more. Mental health and wellbeing are top of their concerns, but so is getting a good education and being able to go on and achieve their career goals.
The past year has demonstrated that fear over lost productivity from homeworking for those able to tended to be overstated. With RSA and Vitality research showing that only a minority of workers would prefer to work mainly away from their home, Alan Lockey, Head of the RSA Future Work Centre, puts forward the argument for a permanent well-managed hybrid working arrangement. The shift in values that longer-term hybrid working could bring could be a major step in creating ‘good’ work for all if handled carefully, ensuring a vibrant organisational culture is nurtured.
In his piece, Iqbal Wahhab writes about the potential for food to improve prisoners’ lives, not just in relation to the health and wellbeing effects of a highly nutritious diet, but also by enabling people to gain skills that can be used upon their release.
This edition of RSA Journal offers many ideas as to how to promote wellbeing. In September, Andy Haldane officially starts his tenure as Chief Executive and we will continue to explore with our Fellows and others how we can all support individuals, business, government and communities to meet the widest range of human needs.