April 17, 2012; Source: The Guardian

In the U.K., considerable attention is being given to defining and measuring what the elusive state of wellbeing actually means for residents. According to The Guardian, as part of this effort, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics will release official standards for wellbeing in July that will go beyond “stand alone measures such as GDP” to instead be “relevant and founded on what matters to people.” As an extension of this same concept, a U.K.-based consulting firm has developed an evaluation tool for organizations that work with 11 to 16-year olds that identifies eight aspects of wellbeing and tracks change over time.

Designed specifically for U.K. residents (and not intended to be used with other populations at this point), New Philanthropy Capital’swell-being measureconsiders the following eight aspects as components of the overall wellbeing of 11-16-year olds: self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, resilience, satisfaction with friends, satisfaction with family, satisfaction with community, satisfaction with school, and life satisfaction. The Guardian notes that the evaluative tool, which organizations can tweak to their own specifications, is intended to be administered to young people both before and after a program as a way to assess change. As examples of the qualitative findings that the tool has helped to uncover, the story highlights student responses from a week-long course with outdoor learning charity Outward Bound Trust in north Wales: “Jack Davis says he hadn’t realised how determined he could be, Charlie Hannam was surprised at her own mental strength and Callum Wallace found he rather enjoyed being a group leader.”

Marcus Duran, the community learning manager at anti-poverty charity Toynbee Hall, says, “With something like wellbeing, which can seem quite intangible, it’s so easy for funders to turn round and say, ‘It’s all very pretty and very nice but what difference is it making?’” Duran says this type of qualitative wellbeing evaluation tool can help answer such questions. Although there are certainly other factors that could be included in this type of index, at a time when so much youth-related news is dominated by standardized test results, this broader focus on young people seems particularly timely. –Anne Eigeman