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Why Wellbeing?

men carrying hayWellbeing has caught the attention of policy makers and practitioners around the world. It offers new perspectives on what matters and new ways to link people's experience to policy outcomes.

Wellbeing approaches to development take into account and advance the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), moving from the quantitative achievement of indicators to the quality of lives that result.

Wellbeing approaches are distinctive because:

  • They emphasise what is positive and desirable, rather than what is lacking and negative. This is important in motivating people for change. It also helps break down the stigma that can be attached to people and places targeted as in need of public action, welfare or development assistance.
  • Wellbeing is encompassing and holistic, pointing to links across different areas of life (as in the 'work-life balance') or different sectors of policy. Human fulfillment and environmental sustainability are central concerns that complement or challenge more conventional focuses on economic growth.
  • Subjective accounts of how people are doing and feeling are at the heart of a wellbeing approach. Ideally these are recorded through qualitative and quantitative measures and used alongside other more external forms of assessment.
  • How programmes are implemented and the terms of interaction between staff and clients are an important focus. This means looking at the quality, not just the quantity, of what is provided, and whether the ways people are treated respect their dignity and enhance self-confidence.

But many questions surround the concept of wellbeing, its measurement and its potential contribution to improving the situation of people living in poverty, especially in the global South. In this section of the website we provide our answers to some of the questions the wellbeing approach can raise.