Sarah Davidson - Has wellbeing’s moment finally arrived? The challenge of making and measuring social progress

ILAS Grand Challenges lecture series

What makes life worthwhile? This is not a new question by any means, but it is one that has become much more tangible for most of us over the past twelve months. Is this a personal question best remitted to the private domain, or should it be regarded as the fundamental purpose of good government to pursue strategies that will lead to the goal of “societal wellbeing”, meaning that everyone has what they need to live well now and in the future?

In this lecture, I will argue that the Covid crisis and the recovery from it provide vital context to assert the latter. The crude caricature of decisions currently facing governments as an “economy versus public health” face-off is an example of the reductive narrative associated with the absence of a holistic approach to wellbeing. If governments are serious about “building back better”, then they need to embrace a conversation; a goal; a framework; and an overall approach that puts wellbeing at the centre.


Sarah Davidson is CEO at the Carnegie UK Trust, an organisation which seeks to improve the lives and wellbeing of people across the UK and Ireland through influencing public policy and practice.

She joined the Trust in 2019 after a 25 career in the Civil Service, latterly in Director General roles in the Scottish Government.

Sarah was made a CB for public service in 2019. She is a Fellow of the RSA.

She lives in Edinburgh and works across the UK and Ireland from the Carnegie Trust’s base in Dunfermline.

Twitter: @CEO_CarnegieUK

We will be hosting this lecture via Microsoft Teams. If you would like to attend, please register (by no later than 4.00pm on the day of the lecture) and joining instructions with further information will follow ahead of the lecture.

Event date
Event Time
Online via Microsoft Teams
Steve Kilner
Contact email
Contact telephone
01782 7 34449

Book event