Way back in 2012, NEF developed guidance to help those working in frontline organisations to measure wellbeing, using standardised approaches developed by Government and academics.

Now, as part of our partnership with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, we have collaborated with CLES, Locality and NCVO to update this guidance. The new guide will give more tools for those working in communities to understand their impact, use these findings to improve the quality of their work, and share knowledge with funders and commissioners.

I have worked with people in frontline organisations which provide services directly to people and communities. When you work or volunteer on projects that aim to contribute to people feeling well, you want to know that your work is successful. To test this, organisations often measure things like whether people develop their skills, increase the amount of time they spend in nature, or decrease their use of acute healthcare.

But this leaves aside the bigger question for those we work with: how are they feeling in themselves? It’s the kind of question that goes beyond small talk to give you a view of their overall state of wellbeing. Many people I have worked with say that this is the kind of insight that shows them whether or not their work is successful – but it’s also much harder to capture in a manageable and systematic way.

Measuring wellbeing: is it worth it?

Knowing how activities affect wellbeing and its drivers can help us judge the success of our work. It can also help us to know how our work impacts different groups of people. In short, it provides important information for us and our partners to use to make better decisions.

But this is about more than quantifying successful outcomes’ for the individuals we work with; thinking about wellbeing can help us to move beyond narrow definitions of success altogether. It forces us to think about what matters to those we work with. It means we can move past an approach which focuses on what is missing in people’s lives, to one which uses what people can offer to support themselves and others. We can also share this information with funders, helping them to understand people’s lived experiences. A focus on wellbeing also helps us to think holistically about our work, and whether the activities we deliver can contribute in multiple ways to the wellbeing of those around us.

So what can you do?

The guide is aimed at those working in micro-, small- and medium-sized charities and social enterprises and will help them to:

  • understand wellbeing better;
  • show others the difference they make to people’s lives;
  • find out what really matters to the people they support;
  • improve what they do and grow their impact.

The guidance and tools are there to help them in their work – but we also want to learn from them about the work that is successfully improving wellbeing in their communities. There’s more in the guide about how you can get involved and share your findings with peers and researchers.

You can read the guide, and find out about the What Works Centre for Wellbeing here.