Reflections on Wellbeing and Democracy

SCVO’s Jenny Bloomfield reflects on Prof. Giovannini’s talk at the Scottish Parliament on measuring and fostering wellbeing.

OECD better lives indexWe were very pleased to welcome Professor Enrico Giovannini to Scotland this week to share his knowledge and expertise on measuring and fostering wellbeing. Jenny Bloomfield from the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations reflects below on some of the messages from his talk at the Scottish Parliament on 13th January.

Earlier this week I attended a lecture on wellbeing by Enrico Giovannini, Professor of Economic Statistics at Rome University and former Minister of labour and social policies in the Italian Government.  He explained that one way of getting politicians to consider people’s wider quality of life is by creating a broad set of tests or measures which include things like how well the environment is being protected, what people’s health is like, and how much education people are receiving, as well as money issues. These measures can be used to work out how well a government is performing.  Scotland’s National Performance Framework is the version the Scottish Government created and uses. 

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of Enrico’s lecture was how he sees wellbeing measures as linking to democracy.  In Enrico’s eyes, one of the reasons why voting in elections doesn’t necessarily produce the best set of politicians to run the country is that there is an asymmetry of information – so while politicians know what has worked and what hasn’t, voters are left in the dark.  Wellbeing measures on the other hand can help voters hold politicians to account – if the measures have not improved over the last few years, the government hasn’t been doing its best for the country.

At SCVO, where I work, we have been looking at issues of democracy and participation.  We wrote a discussion paper last month, A New Democracy for Scotland, and in a few weeks I’ll be joining my friends at the Democratic Society to talk about post-referendum democratic engagement.  I really like the idea of using Scotland’s National Performance Framework to hold our politicians to account and I’ll be exploring that idea further.  Thanks to Enrico for sharing that thought with us, and to the Insight Institute and Scottish Futures Forum for organising the event.

Jenny Bloomfield is a Policy Officer at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.  You can see her speak at Hemma Bar in Edinburgh on 3rd February with the Democratic Society – for more information, see https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/post-referendum-harnessing-the-democratic-energy-tickets-14844015851. You can also follow her on twitter: @JennyBloomfield

The seminar was hosted by Scotland’s Futures Forum. Download the PRESENTATION SLIDES

Author: scotinsight

The Scottish Universities Insight Institute supports programmes of knowledge exchange which address and provide insight on substantial issues that face Scotland and the wider world. Our programmes break down disciplinary and organisational barriers in bringing together academics from different backgrounds, policymakers and practitioners. We mobilise existing knowledge in fresh ways through sustained and collaborative focus on a shared issue and aim to support decision makers in all sectors of society in being better informed. Our partner universities are: Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Heriot Watt, St Andrews, Stirling, Strathclyde, and Associate Member Glasgow School of Art.

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