Policies for Better Lives:
Strategies for life satisfaction and human wellbeing

IHSP Annual Conference, May 2021

The McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy (IHSP) held its 2021 annual conferencePolicies for Better Lives: Strategies for life satisfaction and human wellbeing”. This on-line conference took place in May 2021 and featured national and international expert panels, discussion and workshops in four weekly on-line sessions. Panelists and participants were invited from research, policy and practitioner communities to share and discuss potential and current best practice in bringing evidence on life satisfaction to policy. Together we evaluated bold candidate policy recommendations, assessed their current feasibility, and identified key strategies for working across disciplines, jurisdictions and sectors to improve the experienced quality of life in Canada.

Context: The current global disruption presents an important moment to assess our collective understanding of what contributes to human wellbeing, and to develop policies that contribute to its achievement. Decades of life satisfaction research and evidence can play a key role in helping governments worldwide assess the costs and benefits of prospective policies for wellbeing – and many, including the Canadian federal government and several provinces and municipalities, have started to take this evidence as an actionable guide for developing new policy and budgeting processes and priorities. This conference was intended as an opportunity for Canadians across sectors to learn about the latest evidence and its potential for shifting policy and programs, and to strategize together on key policies for better lives.

Policy video submissions

You can watch all the policy video submissions. You can also can still submit your own idea.

Conference Program

Time       

Description

May 7
10:00-12:00EDT

Setting the Stage: Live Plenary Panel

Moderated plenary session with live panel presentation and discussion.

Moderator: Danny Graham, Chief Engagement Officer, Engage Nova Scotia

  • John Helliwell, Professor Emeritus of Economics, UBC & CIFAR
  • Nancy Hey,  Executive Director, What Works Centre for Well-Being, UK
  • Carol Graham, Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria
  • Chris Barrington-Leigh, Associate Professor, McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Bieler School of Environment

 

May 14
10:00 - 14:00EDT

Evaluating Bold Policy Proposals

Panel presentations and live discussion with wellbeing research, policy and practice leaders to propose and assess the feasibility of specific bold, cost-effective, evidence-based and impactful policies for wellbeing.

Within this 4-hr session, participants will have the opportunity to join two 2-hr panel discussions in the following four domains:

 

10:00 - 11:50 CHILDREN AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SKILLS

Moderator: Mary Bartram, Policy Director, Mental Health Commission of Canada & Adjunct Professor, Carleton University

Researchers:

  • Sarah Flèche, CNRS Research Fellow at the Sorbonne Economic Centre (University Paris 1), Research Associate at the LSE Centre for Economic Performance
  • Shelley Phipps, Professor of Economics, Dalhousie University
  • Lord Richard Layard, Member of the House of Lords, Professor and Founder-Director of LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance and Co-director of the Centre’s program on Community Wellbeing

Policy/Practice Respondents:

  • Nora Spinks, Chief Executive Officer, Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Lisa Wolff, Director, Policy and Research, UNICEF Canada
  • Margo Greenwood, Academic Leader, National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health

 

10:00 - 11:50 LABOUR MARKET AND WORKPLACES

Moderator: Siobhan Harty, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Priorities and Planning, Privy Council Office

Researchers:

  • Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Professor and Scientist at the Institute for Economic Analysis, Director of GSE Master Program in the Economics of Public Policy, University of Barcelona
  • Anke Plagnol, Associate Professor and Programme Director in Behavioural Economics, City, University of London

Policy/Practice Respondents:

  • Don Drummond, Canadian Economist, Matthews Fellow and Visiting Scholar, School of Policy Studies, Queens University
  • Bernie Miller, Deputy Minister, Office of Strategy Management, Government of Nova Scotia
  • Armine Yalnizyan, Economist and Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers

 

12:00 - 14:00 URBAN LIFE AND COMMUNITY

Moderator: Val Morrison , Scientific Advisor, National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy, INSPQ

Researchers:

  • Stefano Bartolini, Professor of Happiness Economics and Political Economy at the University of Siena
  • Paul Frijters, Professor of Wellbeing Economics, London School of Economics
  • Alex Haslam, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology and Australian Laureate Fellow, University of Queensland (in absentia)

Policy/Practice Respondents:

  • Susan Holdsworth, Project Manager for RECOVER: Urban Wellbeing, City of Edmonton
  • Keren Tang, Participatory City Development Manager, J W McConnell Foundation
  • Gaynor Watson-Creed, Assistant Dean, Serving and Engaging Society, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University

 

12:00 - 14:00 INCOME AND CONSUMPTION

Moderator: James Hughes, President and CEO, Old Brewery Mission 

Researchers:

  • Paul Frijters, Professor of Wellbeing Economics, London School of Economics (video presentation only)
  • Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science, Warwick University
  • Nattavudh (Nick) Powdthavee, Professor of Behavioural Science, Warwick Business School, IZA Research Fellow

Policy/Practice Respondents:

  • Derek Cook, Director, Canadian Poverty Institute, Ambrose University
  • Marc Lee, Senior Economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Kari Wolanski, Acting Director, Coordination, Economic Studies and Policy Analysis Division, Finance Canada
May 21
10:00 - 12:00EDT

Invitational Cross-sectoral Working Meeting

An invitation-only working meeting for researchers, policymakers and community leaders actively working on wellbeing policy at local, provincial and national levels. Participants will consider “how does adopting a wellbeing lens change how to organize and implement new policy?”. Taking a set of promising policies arising out of the May 14th panels, and making use of examples of successful wellbeing-oriented policy implementation elsewhere, we will address key issues in the prospective policy implementation. These may include the roles of different sectors; challenges and opportunities in shifting perspectives in organizations, public, and government; and any new institutions or innovations needed. Registration is limited but applications to participate are welcome.

Summary report of the four, two-hour invitational sessions on May 21 (PDF)

May 28
10:00 - 12:00EDT

Strategy and Vision for Better Lives

Live moderated panel discussion on Strategyy and Vision for Better Lives: Where next for wellbeing budgeting and policy-making in Canada?

Moderator: Nancy Hey, Executive Director, What Works Centre for Well-Being, UK

  • Don Drummond, Canadian Economist, Matthews Fellow and Visiting Scholar, School of Policy Studies, Queens University
  • Houssam Elokda, Operations Manager & Senior Planner, Happy City
  • Danny Graham, Chief Engagement Officer, Engage Nova Scotia
  • Nora Spinks, CEO and Team Lead, Vanier Institute of the Family
  • Keren Tang, Participatory City Development Manager, J W McConnell Foundation

 

Closing Keynote: Lord Gus O’Donnell, Member of the House of Lords, Former Cabinet Secretary, Head of Civil Service, Permanent Secretary of the UK Treasury and Press Secretary, UK Government

Closing Keynote: The Honourable Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance

Discussion moderated by Chris Barrington-Leigh, Associate Professor, McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Bieler School of Environment

Panelists