Mark Williamson, CEO
Action for Happiness

8 August 2023

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How can philanthropy play a role in promoting social change to enhance overall happiness and well-being?


Philanthropy can make the biggest difference by supporting the scale-up of interventions that have a strong and proven track record and massive potential, but are not yet reaching and helping as many people as they could due to resource constraints.


For example, Action for Happiness has developed innovative, evidence-based and low-cost ways to boost people’s wellbeing, including volunteer-led courses for local communities which have been proven via independent randomised controlled trials. The published (peer-reviewed) findings show that these courses lead to significant and lasting improvements in self-reported wellbeing, reductions in mental health issues plus increases in pro-social behaviours such as social trust and compassion. These benefits are also delivered incredibly cost-effectively. For example the UK government values the social benefit of 1 “WELLBY” (a standardised measure of increasing someone’s Life Satisfaction by 1pt on the 0-10 scale for a year) at £13,000 – whereas Action for Happiness currently delivers 1 WELLBY of benefit for a tiny fraction of this cost (around £50).


“This scale and type of funding simply isn’t available from the government or conventional Trusts and Foundations.”


The major challenge is that a wider roll-out of these initiatives requires significant investment (multimillion pounds sustained over multiple years) in order to scale up delivery. This would primarily support the increased human and system capacity required to scale-up delivery, including volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, programme support costs, safeguarding provision and reporting. In addition, funds are required for marketing and awareness raising, especially to reach low-wellbeing and marginalised groups that are not currently able to access such interventions. This scale and type of funding simply isn’t available from the government or conventional Trusts and Foundations. As a result, carefully-targeted philanthropy in this area would make a vital difference bringing life-changing benefits to hundreds of thousands of people.