News and views from Scottish Universities Insight Institute programmes and partners
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, Strathclyde, and Glasgow School of Art.
Representatives from credit unions, universities, Carnegie UK Trust, the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, the Ethical Finance Hub and others, met last week at the City Chambers for the launch of a new report on the opportunities and challenges facing community credit unions in initiating payroll deduction schemes.
The report, Credit Unions and Payroll Deduction published on International Credit Union Day (20 October 2016) is based on work by academics Dr Kathryn Waite and Dr Robbie Mochrie, as part of a SUII follow up programme, in collaboration with the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals and two community credit unions based in Glasgow – Drumchapel Credit Union and Greater Govan Credit Union.
Innovation is one of four priorities in the Scottish Government’s 2015 – 2018 Economic Strategy, and is considered vital for the development of a competitive, sustainable, resilient and prosperous economy. Innovation is a vital component in improving productivity in any economy and as Paul Krugman said “Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.”
The EU’s Innovation Scorecard classifies Scotland as an ‘Innovation Follower’ (see map). But within the overall assessment there is a much more varied picture. The biggest contrast is perhaps between the level of business and public sector R&D, with the latter being well above the EU average. Continue reading “Innovation in Action”
In the week that we celebrated World Statistics Day it seems fitting to reflect back on what I learned recently at the OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy in Mexico. The forum was the fifth of its kind over the last decade that have focussed on the need for better measures and policies for societal progress. This year, the strapline, ‘Transforming Policy, Changing Lives’ signalled a move forward from simply measuring progress, to translating these measures into policy and practice.
The conference highlighted that much work has been done in recent years to develop robust indicators and collect data on wellbeing across different countries, and there was a strong sense that wellbeing is now part of a mainstream agenda, backed by evidence and data. This is coupled with a growing international acceptance of the need to move beyond GDP as the sole measure of progress. Continue reading “Statistics, wellbeing and policy”
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University of Strathclyde, together with the Scottish Human Rights Commission and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, have recently concluded a seminar series on ‘Children’s Rights, Social Justice and Social Identities in Scotland: Intersections in Research, Policy and Practice’, funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute.
In short, intersectionality is about understanding the different and unequal social and economic outcomes for particular groups based on interactions between race, class, gender, sexuality, disability, age and ethnicity. This means to recognise the diversity within seemingly ‘homogenous’ groups (such as ‘women’ or ‘children’), and to draw attention to how the actions of social movements and policy makers often minimize the importance of differences within and between such groups.
Martyn Evans, Co-Chair of the Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has topped UK tables for self-reported wellbeing, featuring in four out of the five happiest places in the UK. But behind this headline, challenges remain. Recently released figures show that 12,000 people visited Northern Ireland’s emergency departments last year due to self-harm or suicidal thoughts, and that there were 2,112 water pollution incidents in Northern Ireland in 2013.
The above figures show that in order for the Northern Ireland Executive to assess how Northern Ireland is progressing, it needs to consider not just its economic performance, but also how the lives of its citizens are improving, if, in fact, they are. That is not to say that the economy is not important – participants in the focus groups commissioned by the Carnegie Roundtable on Measuring Wellbeing in Northern Ireland told us that unemployment is a priority for communities in Northern Ireland. But, equally, so are addressing social isolation and mental health issues, according to their feedback.
From 24-26 February 2015 we took over a small space in the members’ lobby at the Scottish Parliament to showcase the work from our recent Wellbeing Programme. The exhibition brought together the findings from our six funded programmes and provided a way of engaging in discussions with MSPs and Government officials. The programme was seeking to address three broad questions:
What influences individual and societal wellbeing?
How best to measure wellbeing and what influences it to help shape and guide policy and practice?
How best to promote and embed improved wellbeing?
The objective of the initiative was to make a contribution to the development of policy and practice in Scotland and elsewhere, including the development of Scotland’s National Performance Framework, ‘Scotland Performs’.
A wellbeing approach attempts to take a balanced look across social, economic and environmental dimensions at understanding what influences the wellbeing of citizens and society at large, and measuring progress. It’s not about any one factor such as health or income, it’s about a range of influences – Charlie Woods, Director SUII
SCVO’s Jenny Bloomfield reflects on Prof. Giovannini’s talk at the Scottish Parliament on measuring and fostering wellbeing.
We 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. Continue reading “Reflections on Wellbeing and Democracy”
Jenny Brotchie, Carnegie UK Trust: Places that love people
Anyone who has been to Copenhagen the home of influential Danish architect Jan Gehl can readily understand the impact that good design can have on our health. In Copenhagen 41% of journeys are made by bike (compared with the Scottish average of 1%) thanks in part to investment in high quality infrastructure that creates a safe, welcoming environment for cyclists.
The link between good design and healthy travel choices is something that many of us intrinsically understand but there is also good evidence to back this up.
Well-designed local environments can do more than simply help us walk and cycle more frequently. The environments that we live in have a fundamental impact on our wider wellbeing.
SUII Director Charlie Woods sets out the aims and wider context of our wellbeing programme.
The term wellbeing can conjure up different images depending on your perspective. A consequence of this is that taking a wellbeing approach to assessing the progress of society can at first sight appear to some to be a bit ‘happy clappy’. However, it is a much more serious endeavour, with some well-established antecedents. As David Hume wrote:
“The great end of all human industry is the attainment of happiness. For this were arts invented, sciences cultivated, laws ordained, and societies modeled, by the most profound wisdom of patriots and legislators.”
In a similar vein in 1913 Andrew Carnegie gave his UK Trust the remit of the “improvement of the wellbeing of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland”.
A broader wellbeing framework is being adopted by many countries and by the OECD as a whole through its ‘Better Life’ work. Such an approach attempts to take a more balanced look at understanding what influences the wellbeing of citizens and measuring progress. In some places subjective surveys of happiness or life satisfaction are used, although they usually only form part of the picture alongside more objective measures of social, environmental and economic progress.
Scotland is recognised as being one of the leading countries in developing a wellbeing approach through its National Performance Framework. The SUII programme of work was in part aimed at looking at how this could be further developed. One of the conclusions reached was the importance of more actively engaging people throughout the country in identifying what factors are most important in improving their lives and how best they should be measured and monitored. This offers the opportunity to build on the energy generated by the referendum campaign and help strengthen accountability and democracy in Scotland.