Wellbeing Project

Governments, corporations and institutions all over the world are trying to improve the well-being and happiness of their citizens or employees. However, too often these attempts are dominated by a scientific, instrumental and technocratic approach that leaves little room for people’s reasoning, engagement or choice, forcing them into pre-fabricated definitions of well-being designed by scientific experts.

The Well-Being Project at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, University of London, seeks to rectify that.

We aim to bring the perspective of the arts and humanities to the politics of well-being. We seek to build well-being policies and programmes for schools, universities, hospitals, corporations and elsewhere that empowers discussion, engagement and creativity, and that shows people the different historical and cultural approaches to well-being rather than forcing them to follow one approach.

Both the sciences and the humanities have important contributions to make to well-being policies, and we seek to build a better dialogue between both sides. We seek to contribute to a more holistic politics of well-being, that balances the sciences with the humanities, and that teaches useful evidence-based techniques for well-being, while also empowering discussions about the definition and values of the good life.

The Well-Being Project draws on the expertise of the scholars at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary, including their research into the histories of science, medicine, psychiatry, education, and public policy. The Centre, founded in 2008, is closely involved with national and international research and discussion on the politics of well-being, and has worked with partners including the Young Foundation, the New Economics Foundation, IPPR, the Franco-British Council, Play’s the Thing, and the OECD;  as well as funders including the Wellcome Trust, the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Carnegie Trust, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Well-Being Project is leading an AHRC-funded project into philosophy groups around the world. We work closely with the London Philosophy Club and other philosophy organisations around the UK, to develop group discussions of well-being that are open, democratic and inclusive.

Our key areas of research and consultancy are:

  • Mental health policy
  • Teaching well-being and resilience to young people in schools and universities
  • Teaching well-being to adults in the public and private sector
  • Philosophy groups and public reasoning about the good life
  • National well-being measurements

Who we are:

Jules Evans, Policy Director, Head of the Well-Being Project

Thomas Dixon, Director, Queen Mary Centre for the History of the Emotions

Rhodri Hayward, Wellcome Award Senior Lecturer in the history of medicine

Recent publications:

‘A history of well-being’. Forthcoming report published by the New Economics Foundation

'Educating the Emotions from Gradgrind to Goleman', forthcoming in Research Papers in Education (2012)

‘Feeling Differently: Using historical images to teach emotional literacy in an East London school’

‘All our leaders are Aristotelians now’. Public Policy Research Quarterly, 23/ 02/ 2011

‘Resource scarcity, well-being and development’. Report for the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Initiative. 26/ 10/ 2011

‘Beyond GDP: Towards a Better Measurement of Well-Being in France and the UK’. Report for the Franco-British Council, 01/ 03/ 2011

Blogs:

The Politics of Wellbeing

The History of Emotions Blog

Recent media appearances:

Jules Evans discussing The Optimism Bias on Radio 3’s Night Waves

Members of the Well-Being Project are available for media appearances, talks, and consultancy work with schools, universities, and institutions in the public and private sector. Contact Jules Evans or Thomas Dixon

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