What are the key aspects of well-being?

Posted in News, Research by chrisfremantle on December 16, 2011

The UK Office of National Statistics is currently consulting on a framework and headline indicators for measuring well-being.  This is an incredibly important development, intended in the long run to provide alternatives to simplistic measures such as GDP.

The consultation tests the assumption that the following domains add up to a sense of well-being (quoted in full because of the importance of this work):

Individual well-being  It is proposed that this domain should include individual’s feelings of satifaction with life, whether they feel their life is worthwhile and their positive and negative emotions. That is, this domain will include only the headline subjective well-being measures to be derived from the new ONS survey data. Subjective measures would be included with objective measures in the other domains.

Our relationships   This was chosen as a domain because it reflects many of the responses received during the national debate and because many theories of well-being report the importance of this area to an individual’s well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be the extent and type of individuals’ relationships to their immediate family, their friends and the community around them.

Health  Includes areas which were thought to be important by respondents to the national debate.  An individual’s health is recognised as an important component of their well-being. It is anticipated that this domain would contain both subjective and objective measures of physical and mental health.

What we do  Aims to include work and leisure activities and the balance between them, all of which were common themes in the national debate responses. In this domain there are likely to be measures of aspects of work and leisure activities and of work-life balance.

Where we live  Is about individual’s dwelling, their local environment and the type of community in which they live. Measures will be sought which reflect having a safe, clean and pleasant environment, access to facilities and being part of a cohesive community.  ONS has taken Defra advice on the indicators in this area.

Personal finance  Is intended to include household income and wealth, its distribution and stability. Measures within this would also be used during analysis to address the concepts of poverty and equality mentioned in the national debate responses.

Education and skills  Various aspects of education and life-long learning were mentioned during the national debate. The scope of this domain is the stock of human capital in the labour market with some more information about levels of educational achievement and skills.

Governance Democracy, trust in institutions and views about the UK’s interaction with other countries, all of which were included in responses to the national debate, are intended to form the scope of this domain.

The economy  Is an important contextual measure for national well-being. The scope of this domain is intended to be measures of economic output and stock.

The natural environment  Is proposed as a domain in order to reflect areas mentioned during the national debate such as climate change, the natural environment, the effects our activities have on the global environment and natural disasters. It is planned to include measures which reflect these areas at the national level.  ONS has taken Defra advice on the indicators for this area.

If you then look at the measures, the issues become more troubling.  For instance, whilst generic issues such as climate change are referenced, there is no measure around access to greenspace within everyday life – the natural environment is remote.

The fact that there is no reference to culture is deeply problematic given the substantial research in the Nordic countries which demonstrates that participation in cultural activities has an impact on lifespan.

Finally, there is no reference to any spiritual dimension as contributing to well-being, and whilst modern over-developed Western culture is largely secularised, to omit this area is to diminish the scope of the understanding of well-being.

Responses to this survey need to be made by 23rd January 2012.

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Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

ARTWORK, a project by Chicago-based Temporary Services.  Well worth getting a copy of this newspaper which challenges, documents, proposes and otherwise stimulates thought about alternative economies in the arts.  With essays, personal stories and re-presentations of historical artworks, this is excellent food for thought, arising as it does out of the current climate which in the US is seeing the collapse of the art market, and in the UK  a significant shrinking in public-sector investment in the arts, whether the government changes or not.

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An artist reports on COP15

Posted in Research, Sited work, Texts by chrisfremantle on January 12, 2010

Read Aviva Rahmani’s reflection on attending COP15 in Copenhagen.  She sees hope, not in transnational engineering of negotiations, but in all the NGOs and projects seeking to make a difference on the ground.  It strikes me that the increasing attention focused on the periphery, whether it’s Eigg or Tuvalu, might be indicating a very basic shift (see posts on Landworkers).  The sharpness of the challenges faced in remote edge locations is matched by the imagination and energy brought to bear on them.  What is interesting is the extent to which these examples, of crisis or initiative, become visible and in turn become benchmarks and potentially become models.

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Scotland's Futures Forum – How to re-perceive our understanding of 'rural Scotland' in the 21st Century?

Posted in CF Writing, Texts by chrisfremantle on May 12, 2009

Willie Roe, Chair, Skills Development Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, focused this event on an idea of equivalence and interdependence. He drew on the example of Denmark where, in law, the urban and the rural have to be dealt with in equivalent ways. This means that within any planning cycle rolling out services the rural is dealt with in parallel with the urban. The case in point is broadband which has apparently been rolled out in urban Scotland but is still only just reaching the islands. He perhaps highlighted interdependence through the example of very functional ferry services in the Shetlands versus the rest of the western and northern isles ferry services. He observed that in Shetland these had been designed to be the most effective for the islanders by the islanders, whereas the rest seemed to have been designed from the urban centre outwards. He also highlighted the importance of renewable energy in rural Scotland.

It therefore felt a little like the invitation had been made to come to Edinburgh to consider what could be done for rural Scotland which was obviously ‘dependent’ but that by the end the question was quite different: and might end up something like: ‘What are the key priorities where the rural has a specific role to play?’ When we ask these questions we begin to see a different set of answers: certainly renewables, but also education (apparently the OECD recently found that education in rural Scotland is actually the best in the world), probably community development, and I am sure the list goes on. Our priorities would come out looking different: re-engineering our electricity grid from one which distributes from the centre to the periphery, to one which also enables the periphery to distribute to the centre, might be a metaphor for quite a lot of other re-engineering. We would move away from assuming that the ‘rural’ is ‘dependent.’

But, if I had a reservation about the event, it was the lack of the use of the word sustainability in relation to the proposed core concept of equivalence. Equivalence could be interpreted in very wasteful ways. Rather I’d like to imagine Scotland in 20 years time being equivalent to Eigg, certainly in relation to energy if not also land ownership. I say this because Eigg is now wholly renewable, but also because there is social and environmental justice built into the system. Eigg does not have an unlimited volume of electricity available, although it is free and not consumed in the process of use. Therefore they have implemented a 5kw limit for households and a 10kw limit for businesses in the form of a trip on the supply. This way noone can take more than their share. To me this is an important model for a sustainable future for the planet, not just one utopian island.

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