The Commission on Wellbeing and Policy

Chaired by Lord O’Donnell, the Commission, which ran for approximately one year, produced a final report that illustrates the strengths and limitations of wellbeing analysis and provides original and authoritative guidance on the implications for public policy.

A report for the Empowered People programme

Published 28 Mar 2014

It is widely agreed that GDP is an important yet insufficient measure of national success. In an attempt to broaden the scope for public policy analysis, a lot of progress has been made on developing the measurement of individual wellbeing, but a lot remains to be done on how best to apply these data to policymaking. The Commission on Wellbeing and Policy works to fill this gap and explore how wellbeing analysis can be usefully applied to policy.

Chaired by former UK Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, the Commission, which ran for approximately one year, produced a final report that illustrates the strengths and limitations of wellbeing analysis and provides original and authoritative guidance on the implications for public policy.

The Commission was politically independent, and includes an international perspective in its work.The final report was launched in Berlin on Thursday, 20 March 2014 (summary), followed by a livestreamed London launch on Friday, 21 March 2014 (summary).

“The Commission on Wellbeing and Policy looks at how wellbeing can have real and practical policy implications on the individual level, the community and regional level, and at the national and global level. Wellbeing research is a fantastic new growth area. Together with the Legatum Institute, we are going to make this the driver of policy and governments.”

-Lord O’Donnell, Chair of the Commission on Wellbeing and Policy

The Commissioners

Gus O’Donnell, currently Chair of Frontier Economics, was the Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary between 2005 and 2011. Prior to that he served as Permanent Secretary to the Treasury between 2002 and 2005. Additionally he undertook the position as the United Kingdom’s Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and has served as Managing Director of Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance at HM Treasury. In January of 2012 he received a peerage and took his seat in the House of Lords. Lord O’Donnell was a Lecturer at the University of Glasgow before joining the civil service and received his M.Phil from Nuffield College, Oxford and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Warwick.

Angus Deaton is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University. He has published numerous papers which examine the relationship between income and wellbeing and how best to measure wellbeing. Most recently, he is the author of The Great Escape: Health, Wealth and the Origins of Inequality. He is a fellow of the Econometric Society, the British Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Rome, London, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews. Prior to Princeton he was Professor of Econometrics at the University of Bristol.

David Halpern is the Chief Executive of Behavioural Insights and Board Director. He has led the team since its inception in 2010. Prior to that, David was the founding Director of the Institute for Government and between 2001 and 2007 was the Chief Analyst at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Before entering government, David held tenure at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard and has written several books and papers on areas relating to behavioural insights and wellbeing, including as a co-author of the MINDSPACE report and the Hidden Wealth of Nations.

Martine Durand is the Chief Statistician and Director of the OECD Statistics Directorate. She oversees the organisation’s statistical activitiesand is responsible for the work on the measurement of wellbeing and societal progress and the biennial flagship report How’s Life? MeasuringWell-Being, as part of the OECD Better Life Initiative. Prior to this position she was Deputy-Director of Employment, Labour, and SocialAffairs at the OECD. She has authored numerous papers on wellbeing, labour markets, social policies, and international migration. She studied mathematics, statistics, and economics from Paris VI University, École Nationale de la Statistique et de l’Administration Économique and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Richard Layard is the Director of the Wellbeing Programme in the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. He is the author of the influential book titled Happiness, which argued that social progress should be judged by the extent of happiness and misery. He is a leading authority in the growing debate on happiness and economics. He is also well known for his earlier work on unemployment and inequality. He was educated at King’s College, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Event launch video


Lord O’Donnell – Influencing Wellbeing Policy On a Global Scale


The Commission on Wellbeing and Policy

Mar 2014

Download the reportPDF