Today (25/01/2018) we celebrate the spin out of Action for Happiness from The Young Foundation, an organisation dedicated to supporting its members to take action to increase wellbeing in their homes, workplaces, schools and local communities. Action for Happiness has a simple but profound vision for a happier world, with fewer people suffering with mental health problems and more people feeling good, functioning well and helping others. Originally founded in 2010, by Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan, Anthony Seldon and led by Mark Williamson, with the Dalai Lama as its patron, Action for Happiness is the latest in a line of unique organisations to be incubated at The Young Foundation.
And as a new member of The Young Foundation team, it has been interesting for me to look back at our work to support happiness and wellbeing which stretches back well over a decade and continues through to the present day.
In 2008, we launched Neighbourliness + Empowerment = Wellbeing, an attempt to understand whether there is a formula for happy communities, and how does active citizenship contribute to their wellbeing? The report found that neighbourhood and community empowerment has three effects which increase wellbeing: it provides greater opportunities for residents to influence decisions affecting their neighbourhoods; it facilitates regular contact between neighbours and helps residents gain the confidence to exercise control over local circumstances.
In 2010, our The State of Happiness report brought together four years of ground-breaking work based on in-depth pilots – from teaching resilience to children in schools to promoting neighbourliness. This report highlighted that promoting and influencing happiness was no longer an airy aspiration, and in the same year the government’s ‘Happiness Index’ was launched.
The same year, The Young Foundation also launched The Wellbeing and Resilience Measure (WARM), a tool that was developed to make the most of existing data about localities, combining familiar statistics on things like jobs and health with new ways of thinking about how happy and resilient communities are.
Action For Happiness’ growing success also sits alongside our current work to understand and support the growth of community wellbeing through our partnership with the Co-op. Wellbeing is the result of the conditions we live in as much as our individual actions. And what’s interesting about both Action for Happiness and our work with the Co-op is the recognition that wellbeing comes from our relationships with those around us. Community wellbeing is much more than the sum of individual wellbeing – it’s the presence of positive, shared experiences.
There’s no doubt that the significance of happiness and wellbeing is of growing importance to governments and businesses – as well as the rest of us. The most recent reports from the ONS show that we continue to see small year-on-year improvements in average life satisfaction ratings but there is still a long way to go. Social movements like Action for Happiness and the Time to Change campaign to confront mental health stigma bring people together to collectively grow their own and others wellbeing – helping us all to feel we are not alone.
We wish Action for Happiness all the best in continuing their journey to creating a happier world!