The Network of Wellbeing has been reviewing its strategy and formulating new plans. Here, NOW’s Director, Roger Higman, sets the context for our discussions and introduces some of the ideas we have for the next three years. Later, as our plans become firmer, we’ll say more.
Earlier this month, the staff and Trustees of the Network of Wellbeing met for two days of discussion at our retreat centre, Eden Rise.
We reaffirmed our commitment to a world where people and the planet thrive and our mission to connect people, support projects and inspire action for the wellbeing of people and the planet.
As we see it, the need for society to focus on wellbeing has never been more stark. Millions of people in Britain are struggling to put food on their tables, to heat their homes or both. That is a massive wellbeing issue – and with energy and other costs forecast to rise further, even more people are expected to struggle in the future.
For us, wellbeing is therefore about more than mental health or the five ways to wellbeing, as important as these are. It’s also about people’s physical health, their ability to meet their basic needs and the opportunities they have to thrive. It’s about livelihoods, the cost of living and the environments in which people live and work.
That’s why our approach to wellbeing is inclusive, collective, systemic and sustainable:
- inclusive, because everyone deserves to have equal access to the things that support our wellbeing;
- collective, because we can’t have wellbeing alone – our wellbeing depends upon our relationships and the communities in which we live and work;
- systemic, because wellbeing needs to be embedded in our economies, governmental policies and throughout wider society;
- sustainable, because human wellbeing relies upon the long-term health of the natural world.
The current cost of living crisis shows that, as a society, we haven’t prioritised people’s wellbeing and haven’t thought deeply enough about how society must change if we are to do so.
We know that many people will look at the current situation and see more economic growth as the answer.
For us, economic growth is, at best, a means to an end and very often a dangerous distraction from what really matters. The UK’s economy has grown, over the last fifteen years, but ordinary people have scarcely benefitted.
Rather than focus on economic growth, we should focus the economy on the growth of wellbeing for all.
The good news is that, more and more, we know what’s needed. As a recent report from our friends at the Centre for Thriving Places shows, the many different models of a wellbeing economy tend to share the same ingredients.
In practice, we do need measures to boost the livelihoods of people on low incomes. We also need to see more initiatives, like our Share Shed – a travelling library of things in South Devon, that help us all to live well at lower cost.
Exploring how we can build this wellbeing together will be a core feature of our strategy over the next three years, alongside projects to put our ideas into practice. Above all, we will aim to connect people doing similar work – online and in person, including at our retreat centre Eden Rise – for by learning from each other and by working together, we can all be stronger.