Beyond GDP, Governance & Budgeting for Well-being

Join Cork Environmental Forum and FEASTA (Foundation for Economic Sustainability) for our webinar BEYOND GDP, Governance and Budgeting for Well-being which will explore ways to transition to Well-being Governance and Budgeting in Ireland.  There is increasing acceptance that our current GDP-focused measurements of progress are a significant contributory factor to emerging environmental and social crises. At the same time citizens and policy makers are increasingly aware of the urgent need to identify and prioritise measures to improve health, care and quality of life.

In Ireland, the current government formation talks include discussions on how best to approach budgeting that will “focus on quality of life rather than economic growth”. The Irish political parties are joining the growing chorus of those who believe that a new direction is needed – “Our overriding focus is to improve the wellbeing of the Irish people and society………To assess the performance of a new Government, we must look beyond economic indicators. We will create new, credible, quality-of-life measures of individual and societal wellbeing and progress.” (Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Draft Document to Establish a New Government)

This event is intended to support that process and will draw from experiences in Germany and Wales as well as updates on work in Ireland. Speakers include Dr Benjamin Held, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST, Glyn Jones, Chief Statistician, Welsh Government and Sinead Bracken, Health Statistician, Central Statistics Office, Ireland. There will be a panel discussion moderated by Emeritus Professor John Sweeney.

Please book on Eventbrite and details on accessing the webinar will be forwarded to you.

The event is co-hosted by Cork Environmental Forum ( and FEASTA – the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability ( It aims to stimulate  discourse on this very pertinent topic as we attempt to explore the tension in the current economic model and to look for more promising directions of travel.

This event will focus on what Ireland can learn from other countries who have already put in place a framework of measures for individual and societal well-being and progress. We will also hear what has been done to date, in particular, as regards environmental measurements and draw lessons from Ireland’s Wellbeing of the Nation Report.


Glyn Jones, Prif Ystadegydd/Chief Statistician, Llywodraeth Cymru/Welsh Government

The Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. The act establishes seven well-being goals as a shared vision for the public bodies of Wales. The Welsh Government has established National Indicators and Milestones to measure progress. The Auditor General and the Future Generations Commissioner help to ensure that the public bodies are accountable for their performance of the Act’s requirements. The most recent report, published by the Welsh National Statistics Office, is the Wellbeing of Wales Report, 2018-2019.

Glyn Jones has been the Director of the Wales National Statistics Office since 2013 and will speak about the progress in establishing and implementing Governance for Wellbeing in Wales.


Benjamin Held, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST
The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Feasta, has been working with the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, FEST, on the development of a composite indicator based on the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare Approach. This index has been adopted and implemented by a number of German Federal States, but not yet in Ireland. Benjamin Held will present the outcomes of this work in Germany.


Sinead Bracken, Health Statistician CSO, Ireland
The Central Statistics Office, Ireland produced a Well Being State of the Nation Report in 2017. Sinead Bracken will present on the process that led to the development of the Irish Wellbeing Report and used to select the Wellbeing Indicators and the broad range of indicators that the CSO maintains in the Environmental Indicators Ireland Annual Report.


Emeritus Professor John Sweeney
Emeritus Professor John Sweeney has been a member of the Geography Department at Maynooth University since 1978. John has taught courses in climatology, biogeography, geomorphology and environmental resource management at Maynooth University and a number of universities in North America and Africa. He has published over 100 scientific papers and authored/ edited/co-authored 4 texts on various aspects of climatology and climate change in Ireland. Professor Sweeney contributed to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is also a regular contributor to print and broadcast media on matters related to climate change science and policy and received the inaugural award for achievements in journalism from the European Meteorological Society in 2014.

Panel Discussion
Prof. Sweeney will moderate the Panel Discussion that will include questions from participants. Some aspects to be explored include;

· The factors that supported the establishment of Well Being Based Government
· The Process used to select the Well Being Indicators
· How successfully the Well Being Indicators have been incorporated into Government Budget Decisions?
· What have been the most striking findings so far from the existing well-being measurement programmes, with regard to the relationship between well-being, consumption levels and resource use?

Video from Webinar


Beyond GDP, Governance and Budgeting for Wellbeing Resources

The last decade has seen major advances in the measurement of wellbeing in national statistics often involving extensive public consultation processes.  Incorporating these metrics and frameworks into policy decision-making has often involved the passing of new wellbeing legislation.  Most countries are also working to align their wellbeing statistics with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  This website includes some background information on wellbeing initiatives from a number of countries who were consulted or who participated in the CEF-FEASTA Beyond GDP, Governance and Budgeting for Wellbeing Webinar.  It also highlights work being done in international collaborations and by non-governmental organisations.


In Ireland political parties are joining the growing chorus of those who believe that a new governance and budgeting approach is needed that will focus on quality of life and not just economic growth.  The main political parties recently commented that; “Our overriding focus is to improve the wellbeing of the Irish people and society………To assess the performance of a new Government, we must look beyond economic indicators. We will create new, credible, quality-of-life measures of individual and societal wellbeing and progress.”  While Ireland is still in the early stages of establishing this approach to governance you can read more about the work being done in this area here.


Scotland is leading the way in creating an economy in which wellbeing is as fundamental as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) when measuring success.  Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) was launched in 2007, put into law in 2015, and last refreshed in 2018. The NPF sets an overall purpose and vision for Scotland.  You can read more about their approach to wellbeing here.


Wales is one of the four devolved administrations of the United Kingdom with law-making powers. Sustainability has been a long-standing priority for Wales and the decision to legislate for it has both political and historical foundations.  An increasing awareness of both the social determinants of health and the global challenges related to them led Wales to legislate for sustainability through the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act of 2015. Its implementation process mirrors that of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. (UN SDGs) You can read more about their approach to wellbeing here.


In 2013, Germany’s political parties stated the following in their Coalition Agreement: “We wish to align our policies more closely with the values and hopes of German citizens and we will therefore conduct a dialogue with them in order to gain an understanding of their views on quality of life issues. […] We will use this dialogue as a basis for developing a system of indicators for reporting on quality of life in Germany.  This system will provide clear and understandable information at regular intervals on wellbeing in Germany and the progress made with efforts to improve it.”  You can read more about their approach to wellbeing here.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland (NI), the principal mechanism for assessing societal wellbeing is the wellbeing framework of 12 outcomes that was refined during 2016-2017. This framework, which contains 49 supporting population indicators, overarches the NI Civil Service Outcomes Delivery Plan and progress on the outcomes and indicators is currently reported through an Outcomes Viewer overseen by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

United Kingdom

For the UK as a whole, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has a National Well-being Programme. The well-being dashboard, which is updated twice a year, provides a visual overview of 43 headline national well-being indicators and can be explored by the 10 areas of life (domains) or by the direction of change.

Other countries with well-known Wellbeing Governance approaches include New Zealand and Iceland.

International Collaborations for Wellbeing

Non-Governmental Organisations working for Wellbeing

Wellbeing in Ireland.

Research has been carried out previously in Ireland concerning well-being, including the NESC report– “Well-being Matters: A Social Report for Ireland”.This report identifies people as being at the centre of economic and social progress, and highlights the limitations of GDP as a measure of society. Members of the Whitaker Institute in the National University of Ireland, Galway, have also carried out much work on the development of a set of societal well-being indicators for Ireland.

In 2018 the CSO published The Wellbeing of the Nation.  This new publication, with over 30 indicators across eight areas of society, attempts to address the question how do people feel about their lives as a whole.  Commenting on the data, Statistician Damien Lenihan said: “This publication attempts to measure wellbeing, which is influenced by many factors including the economic conditions of the country, the health of its population, and the educational attainment of its people”.

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The CSO also produces a range of other key wellbeing related reports on social, health, environmental and economic indicators as well as work related to the SDGs.

The Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment has been assigned responsibility for preparing Ireland’s first SDG National Implementation Plan and the Voluntary National Review (VNR). The first National Implementation Plan was published in early 2018. The Plan sets out arrangements for interdepartmental coordination, stakeholder engagement and periodic progress reporting at national and global levels. Ireland’s first VNR was submitted to the UN in June 2018, and formally presented to the High-level Political Forum at the UN Headquarters in New York in July 2018.  These reports can be found here

Wellbeing in Scotland.

The National Performance Framework (NPF) provides a clear vision for Scotland with broad measures of national wellbeing covering a range of economic, health, social and environmental indicators and targets.

Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015

The Act requires that the government will focus on achieving goals that improve the wellbeing and quality of life of the people of Scotland.  It requires a vision for Scotland to be developed in consultation with the people of Scotland and progress towards this to be measured.  Specifically, the Act places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to consult on, develop and publish a set of national outcomes for Scotland. The Scottish Ministers must also regularly and publicly report on progress towards these outcomes and review them at least every five years. When setting the national outcomes, the Scottish Ministers must have regard to the reduction of inequalities of outcomes which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

New National Performance Framework launched in 2018.

In 2018 the National Outcomes were specifically aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as set out in the Programme for Government.  The 2018 National Performance Framework includes 11 National Outcomes that reflects the vision of the Scottish People for “the kind of country we want to be”, and 81 National Indicators that will be used to track and measure progress towards achieving them.  The NPF is also Scotland’s framework to localise the UN Sustainable Development Goal’s Scotland  (SDGs). 

The Scottish Government’s National Performance Unit is responsible for delivery, oversight and monitoring of the Programme for Government and National Performance Framework (NPF).   You can download Scotland’s 2019 Wellbeing Report here

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Wellbeing in Wales

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 defines Sustainable Development in Wales as: “The process of improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales by taking action, in accordance with five sustainable development principles (Long Term, Preventive, Integration, Collaboration, Involvement.), aimed at achieving the seven well-being goals.” Each public body must set and publish well-being objectives. A summary of the act can be found here.  A video of the act can be viewed here.

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You can download The Wellbeing of Wales Report 2019 here

The act outlines the roles and responsibilities of The Auditor General and the Future Generations Commissioner. The Auditor General for Wales has begun to examine the ways in which organizations are making changes towards applying the Wales SD Principle and the 5 ways of working, and how they are working to involve citizens and stakeholders in delivering well-being.

The general duties of the Future Generations Commissioner are to, “Promote the sustainable development principle, in particular to act as a guardian of the ability of future generations to meet their needs and encourage public bodies to take greater account of the long-term impact of the things they do.” And to “Monitor and assess the extent to which well-being objectives set by public bodies are being met.”

You can read the Welsh National Review of Progress towards the 2030 SDG Goals here

Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, How Wales is leading the way on intergenerational justice: One Young World 2019

Wellbeing in Germany

Germany’s “Wellbeing in Germany – what matters to us” initiative is designed to provide a benchmark for effective policymaking.  To find out how people define “wellbeing”, the government initiated an extensive national dialogue in 2015.  This revealed that people have a very broad and diverse view of what constitutes wellbeing.  This was integrated with the findings of other national and international research projects and discussions, to select 12 dimensions and 46 indicators for the current status and trends in wellbeing in Germany.

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The indicator system  (last update: March 2020) shows the current situation and long-term trends in wellbeing in Germany. It highlights areas where action is needed – in politics, the economy and society – and makes forward and backward steps both measurable and transparent.  You can download the German 2020 Wellbeing report

The interactive report presents information on the twelve dimensions opening with health (you then need to click on ‘Healthy Throughout Life’ to choose one of the other dimensions).  This website provides access to data and facts and makes it possible for people to experience and share the many aspects of wellbeing also on mobile devices.

Germany’s National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS)

You can find Germany’s latest NSDS 2018 here.  This aligned with the UN’s 17 SDGs and focuses more on sustainable global responsibility.  You can download the Indicator Report from the Federal Statistical Office here.  Germanys SDG Reporting Website can be found here.

International Collaborations for Wellbeing

Scotland’s First Minister gave this TED talk (ten min) in 2019 about the importance of WEGo and why governments have a responsibility to prioritise wellbeing.

Wellbeing Economy Governments Group

Scotland established the Wellbeing Economy Governments Group with Iceland and New Zealand in 2018 to collaborate in pursuit of new ways to improve wellbeing.  The Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) is a collaboration of national and regional governments promoting sharing of expertise and transferrable policy practices. The aims are to deepen their understanding and advance their shared ambition of building wellbeing economies. WEGo, which currently comprises Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, and Wales, is founded on the recognition that ‘development’ in the 21st century entails delivering human and ecological wellbeing.

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