As co-leader of the Health and Wellbeing Priority Theme at the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change I have organised two international conferences focused on overcoming barriers to wellbeing in Ireland, and advancing wellbeing measurement, policy and practice both nationally and internationally. The purpose of the first Wellbeing in Ireland conference was to bring scientists, community organizations and policy-makers together to discuss the latest advances in well-being research and policy. Helen Johnson, author of the Well-being in Ireland Report (NESC, 2009) and Alex Zautra, Arizona State University, delivered keynote papers on well-being. In organizing our first conference we had four objectives: (1) Establish a new national network of scientists, community organizations, policy-makers, and other key stakeholders to discuss the latest advances in well-being research and policy; (2) Introduce conference participants to Interactive Management, a collaborative systems design methodology. (3) Foster a dialogue on barriers to well-being in Ireland and develop a systems model describing how barriers to well-being in Ireland are related. (4) Use Interactive Management systems design methods to agree a set of high-impact, feasible options to overcome barriers to well-being in Ireland.
The outcomes of the first conference included a published collective intelligence report detailing the barriers to well-being in Ireland and high-impact, feasible options to overcome barriers. We also published the conference proceedings and a major feature on the conference and barriers to wellbeing in Ireland was published in the Irish Times. Furthermore, we evaluated the collective intelligence report and identified fundamental barriers to Well-being in Ireland – the absence of leadership and the lack of a national wellbeing index — which became the focus of our second Wellbeing in Ireland Conference, Designing Measures and Implementing Policies, June 2013
For the second conference, we collaborated with TASC and the conference focused on well-being measurement and the design of a national well-being index for Ireland. The conference features keynote lectures from the directors of the Canadian, UK, Scottish, and Japanese well-being indices, along with a closing address from Minister Alex White, Minister of State for Primary Care at the Department of Health. The conference also included a series of wellbeing perspective lectures that focused on gender and well-being, equality and well-being, and sustainability, the built environment and well-being. Conference delegates participated in a collective intelligence design session focused on the design of a new Irish index of well-being. The published conference proceeding also included a set of essays from conference participants that provide critical, reflective and integrative perspectives on well-being measurement and policy. A separate report detailing the results of the collective intelligence sessions was published and all conference participants were offered the most recent version of our Collective Intelligence software and workbook materials to facilitate their well-being project work.