Topic: Article
Posted on 29th Jun 2020

Amazing Response to “Valuing Wellbeing: Are We Doing It Right?

The most recent Thought Leadership Group (TLG) on the Social Value of the Design and Use of Buildings and Places was hosted virtually on Zoom on June 25th, 2020, and was titled:

Valuing Wellbeing: Are We Doing It Right?

The session was attended by a wide range of professionals from across the development and social value sectors. The event was our highest attended event for this thought leadership group to date with over 52 participants joining the discussion.

The aim of the event was to review the latest thinking on how to value wellbeing generated by stakeholders, and to discuss best practice in the field.   The session introduced the QALY method of measuring wellbeing, and how it could be used practically in the field. The TLG was preceded by a CommonPlace questionnaire that asked participants about their experience of measuring wellbeing.

The session commenced with a short introduction from Ben Carpenter, CEO of SVUK. Subsequent speakers included Chris Howells from CommonPlace who described the findings of the survey, Erik Bichard from RealWorth who outlined the QALY-based approach to wellbeing valuation, and Oliver Kempton from Envoy Partnership who gave his views on how the new method compared with other approaches and attempts to link wellbeing valuation with the meaningful experiences of stakeholders.

Presentation slides from each of the speakers can be viewed here.

Key takeaways from the discussion were:

  • There is lots of interest from practitioners who are looking for new methods to measure wellbeing
  • Common issues expressed in the survey were that existing methods were:
      • Time consuming
      • Lack of consistency
      • Too subjective
      • Had too low or too high values
      • Carried a high risk of double counting
  • Wellbeing is hard to measure due to its subjectivity and no current methods consistently satisfy the triple test of being:
      • Reliable
      • Meaningful
      • Outcomes-oriented
  • A QALY-based method would satisfy these three tests
  • RealWorth’s 5-step approach to determine the value of wellbeing through QALYs provides useable and consistent values that are not too time consuming to apply
  • QALYs have lots of potential to become a widely used measure of valuing wellbeing

There were many contributions during the question and answer session that followed the presentations. Some were specific to the new QALY-based method, while others were more wide-ranging, touching on the rationale behind the need to measure wellbeing and its significance to social valuation field.  A selection of these questions included:

  • Do we need to be careful that [turning everything into a financial value] we do not just continue to allow financial ROI, economic growth etc. the be the goal of policy?
  • How do we persuade clients to allow us to account for the ‘cost’ of social value in options appraisal for developments if they will not have to pay for it themselves?
  • The weightings [in the QALY-based method] are really helpful, how much should they influence design and planning?
  • Is there a plan to develop a set of QALYs that would work in different SROI applications other than the built environment?
  • As many investors consider impact investing to be simply buying public/social infrastructure, is there a mechanism in the QALY method to show improvements within the same measurement/issue to spur them to be active in their investments?
  • would the emphasis on pride in place and appearance be skewed because the surveys were done in the context of new developments?

If you haven’t already, make sure to read the QALY-based Wellbeing Technical Note.

RealWorth concluded the session by asking for active engagement in testing the new method in the field. Judging from the reactions expressed at the end of the session by attendees it was clear that there will be a continuing interest in the new QALY-based method, and the developments that will be reported by RealWorth and Envoy Partnership over the next 12 months. If you would like to be updated or involved in this process, please email to register your interest.

Many thanks to CommonPlace and Envoy Partnership for collaborating with the RealWorth team to curate the QALY methodology, uncover practitioner thinking in the field of wellbeing measurement, and in delivering the event.

Crafted in Liverpool by Kaleidoscope