Big Ideas


Nic has always been particularly interested in systems theory and its applications to creating positive change within organisations. People spend a lot of their waking hours at work and it is clear that creating good experiences for the working population is a win-win-win situation. For the organisations there are productivity gains, greater staff retention and increased shareholder value; for individuals their work experiences are much more rewarding; and for society there is the potential for greater innovation. Friday is a catalyst for culture change. It helps organizations and teams understand happiness and its dividends, and assists in making happiness the driver of success for  business.

Five Ways to Well-being

Pretty much everybody, whatever their circumstances, wants to be happy and lead a fulfilling life. But how do you go about that? This project for the UK Government Office of Science’s Foresight Project aimed to create a set of evidence based positive actions that individuals could undertake that would improve their well-being. The ‘five ways’ have been phenomenally successful and are used extensively throughout education, healthcare and consumer groups.

Happy Planet Index

Nic strongly believes that happiness should not cost the Earth and should be the pursuit of all nations. The Happy Planet Index shows which nations are most successful at achieving this goal. The Index is a global view of the environmental efficiency with which nations generate human well-being and has been hugely successful in turning attention to the debate on climate change and sustainability . Nic’s TED talk on the Happy Planet Index has been viewed more than a million times and continues to inspire debate and commentary.

National Accounts of Well-being

In 2005 nef was part of a successful bid to the European Social Survey (ESS) to create a questionnaire module for round 3 of the survey. Nic worked as part of a group of international experts to design a set of 50 questions measuring subjective well-being. With the resulting data, the first set of internationally comparable national accounts of wellbeing were created. The ESS repeated the module in the 2011/2 survey round which allowed robust comparisons over an intervening period which has seen a lot of change across Europe. Nic also works with policy makers in the UK, including local governments and the devolved regions, as well as further afield, to explore the question of how the policy process would look different if improving wellbeing was its goal. It will be an exciting time over the next five to ten years as more governments and statistics agencies recognise the potential of subjective indicators.

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan

Nic has worked with the Centre for Bhutanese Studies (CBS) in Thimpu, Bhutan. Nic finds the Bhutanese idea of systematically assessing Gross National Happiness exceptionally inspiring and while the country faces political and social challenges, and there is ongoing discourse around analysing and presenting GNH data, Nic wholeheartedly supports their endeavour.

Voter Power Index

An issue very much centred on the UK, The Voter Power Index questions the efficiency of our electoral system. The Voter Power Index was created after the 2005 election and was first published in the nef report Spoiled Ballot. For the 2010 election, a website was produced that enabled people to see how much their vote really counted. Nic was interviewed on Channel 4′s Dispatches about the initiative and the web-site had around 650,000 hits during the campaign.  The 2015 version of the Index went live in April.