Assumption

What are the key aspects of well-being?

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

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.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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“You know more than you think you do”

designLast night at the RSA, the RSA’s Design & Society project launched its new project on resourcefulness, self-reliance and design with a essay by Emily Campbell: The challenge posed to design by today’s social and political agenda of inclusiveness is to ease the distinction between the professional skill of designers and the insights of users; to make these complementary and integral to the solving of problems.  But the popular narrative of design history stands in marked contrast to the agenda of inclusive process. The Designer – in fiction and often in reality – is famed for his or her passionately pursued, authentic and unique visual language. The designer is known by his or her mediated icons. The designer is famously unbending in his or her choices and only ever wears black. Despite its own rhetoric, design often disempowers us. How can it be made to do the opposite? The RSA’sDesign & Society team suggests that instead of designing for us, design should start from the assumption that we are not just consumers of design, we are all potential designers too.  Read about this project. [PDF 95KB]

knowCompetition | The “You Know More Than You Think You Do” poster, given away at the launch,  is designed by Anthony Burrill, and printed by hand from antique blocks in Rye. I have a signed copy to give away along with other goodies. Go to the Arts & Ecology ning site to find out how you can get it.

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