Social wellbeing in Scotland – the ‘career network’ of a policy concept




governance networks, Social Network Analysis, Scotland, National Performance Framework,


Scotland presents a case where ‘social wellbeing’ as a policy concept and a societal aspiration has had considerable traction over the past decade. Wellbeing is now, according to Scotland’s outcomes-based National Performance Framework, at the centre of local and national policy-making. This article, by employing the analytical lens of governance networks, discusses how wellbeing has become such a prominent policy concept in Scotland. The article first maps the development of the concept through an analysis of the actors which make up the ‘wellbeing coalition’ and then discusses the role that these different actors played. Interviews and published documents form the basis for the analysis and also feed into software-supported social network analysis.

The analysis shows that the Scottish Government is taking a central position in a fairly extensive wellbeing network composed almost exclusively of public and third sector organisations, with a very limited number of organisations being particularly prominent over the past decade. Contrary to expectations, the Scottish media took relatively little interest in the ‘wellbeing debate’, and academics played only a very minor role. It also highlights how a number of concurrent domestic and international political developments contributed to putting wellbeing on the agenda in Scotland, in particular the Global Financial Crisis and the subsequent recession.


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Author Biographies

Elke Heins, University of Edinburgh

Senior Lecturer in Social Policy

School of Social and Political Science

University of Edinburgh

Hartwig Pautz, University of the West of Scotland

Lecturer, School of Media, Culture and Society







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