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Invitation to Tender (ITT)

Rapid Evidence Assessment of wellbeing evaluation research that uses the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scales ((S)WEMWBS)

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing (WWCW) 

At the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, we believe that improving wellbeing is the ultimate goal of policy and community action. We are an independent collaborating centre that develops and shares robust and accessible evidence to improve decision-making.  As a bridge between academia, government, business and civil society, we value evidence from all sectors and work to build learning systems that can improve wellbeing knowledge through high quality and accessible evidence syntheses. 

As a Centre, our work aims to move the wellbeing evidence base forward by contributing to:  

  • Conceptualisation – ensuring wellbeing definitions and frameworks are clear, workable and that they are understood by our audiences;
  • Measurement – ensuring the wellbeing measures we recommend are valid, reliable, context-appropriate and fit-for-purpose for our policy and practice audiences; 
  • Collation and Synthesis – identifying, summarising and synthesising data to build the evidence on wellbeing causality for each of the 10 ONS dimensions of wellbeing; promoting the evaluation of programmes and interventions using methodologies we have confidence in;
  • Translation & Dissemination – making recommendations about what evidence-based action should be taken; ensuring our outputs are accessible, useful and that they reach audiences in a way that can inform decision-making. 

We aim to improve wellbeing in the UK and reduce wellbeing inequalities through our priority areas of research and action: 1) Working life, 2) Community and Social connection, and 3) Methods and measures.  Since 2015, we have worked with cross-disciplinary academic teams to conduct systematic reviews of the evidence on wellbeing and culture and sport, work and learning, community wellbeing and methodological approaches. 

Rapid Evidence Assessments and Background to the work 

We conducted some scoping work with funders and civil society stakeholders in 2018 to survey the sector’s needs and current practice in regard to wellbeing evaluation. Findings suggested that the sector is generating a diverse body of wellbeing evidence and that there is an opportunity to inform the design of wellbeing programmes and pilots by giving higher quality evaluations greater visibility.   

Since 2019, our Centre has conducted more targeted searches for studies using pragmatic review methods. To date, we have carried out rapid evidence assessments both to build a summary picture of the evidence from on personal wellbeing outcomes (ONS4), and to explore key factors and wellbeing outcomes linked to volunteering. These findings form part of our knowledge bank which now includes over 500 evaluations of wellbeing programmes and interventions delivered across 29 OECD countries.  

We would like to build on this work further by reviewing evaluation research that reports findings on “what works” to improve mental wellbeing using the (S)WEMWBS scales. 

The collation of studies that use mental wellbeing / (S)WEMWBS as a dependent variable offers several benefits:    

Widely used by our Centre audiences and target sectors 

  • Data from our organisational knowledge base suggests that a sizeable proportion of the wellbeing evaluation literature reports findings on physical and/or mental health and that the (S)WEMWBS scales are used widely in both published and grey literature studies.
  • Data on the free licensed use of (S)WEMWBS measures between 2006 and 2016 suggests that they are used in a range of settings, more commonly, within the public sector and in particular, within healthcare and educational settings. *

Clarity of construct and comparability of evidence

  • The (S)WEMWBS scales measure two primary components of positive mental health, namely, the hedonic perspective, which focuses on experience of happiness and life satisfaction, and the eudaimonic perspective, which focuses on psychological functioning. **
  • (S)WEMWBS results can be used to compare the efficacy of interventions in promoting positive mental health. 

Fit-for-purpose and availability of population-level data 

  • WEMWBS shows high levels of internal consistency and reliability against accepted criteria, as well as being relatively short, acceptable and meaningful to general population groups, and relatively unsusceptible to bias.
  • (S)WEMWBS scales are included in several government surveys such as the Understanding Society national panel longitudinal survey, all Scottish government cross-sectional surveys and the Coventry City Council Household survey. Population-level data can be used for benchmarking purposes or to build reliable counterfactuals using synthetic control methods.

Research questions and scope of rapid evidence assessment

We are looking for a senior researcher or research team with experience of conducting evidence reviews and with familiarity of wellbeing concepts and research.

The purpose of this work is to support the What Works Centre for Wellbeing to carry out a rapid evidence assessment of evaluation research that presents evidence on mental wellbeing as an outcome using (S)WEMWBS measures. This role will involve working with our Centre to answer the following review questions:  

  1. What evaluation research has been carried out to assess the effectiveness of programmes and pilots on mental wellbeing?
  2. What is the strength of evidence of the evaluation research?
  3. What are the key findings from the evaluation research?

Guiding principles of the work

To collate studies that present high quality findings that can inform the design or commissioning of programmes and pilots

  • We would like the review to focus on controlled before-and-after studies to increase the likelihood of identifying evaluations that use more robust designs and provide evidence on causality.      

To capture the range of interventions and settings in which (S)WEMWBS measures are used to report findings on mental wellbeing

  • The researcher / research team will be expected to develop a multi-faceted search strategy which includes subject-specific databases, google searches and citation tracking. The strategy must also include the search for grey literature to determine the presence of publication bias, ideally, by supplementing google searches with a call for evidence and interviews with relevant experts.  

To make a strong case for the study inclusion/exclusion criteria 

  • In the scoping stage of the work, the researcher / research team will be expected to work with our Centre to explore the trade-offs for refining the study inclusion/exclusion criteria by intervention type, delivery context, population, language, and country. 

Roles and responsibilities  

The appointed researcher/team will be responsible for: 

  • Conducting scoping searches and making recommendations on how to maximise relevant returns 
  • Conducting main searches
  • Extracting key data from the studies 
  • Conducting critical appraisal of the included studies using our Centre’s predetermined quality criteria (Appendix 1) 
  • Developing an approach for summarising and/or synthesising the findings by intervention thematic area or type, where relevant.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will be responsible for project management and methodology, as well as the leading on the following specific aspects of the work:

  • Producing a final scoping report to inform the development of the search strategy and protocol
  • Approving the final search strategy, including basic parameters for study identification and inclusion criteria
  • Chairing the project consultation group
  • Conducting final quality assurance to assess robustness, usefulness and accessibility of study findings.  

We will set up a project consultation group which will include our Executive Director and will be composed of academics and practitioners to act as a ‘sounding board’ on methodological issues. The group will ensure that findings are analysed and disseminated in a way that is clear, relevant and useful for our Centre’s key audiences. 


We would like the researcher / research team to produce a technical report which should include:

  • Project PICOS and PRISMA diagram
  • Details of included studies using our Centre’s study data extraction template and Critical Appraisal framework 
  • A brief summary that addresses the following questions: 
  1. State of the Evidence:  How developed and how consistent is the evaluation evidence base on mental wellbeing? What evidence is there for causal inference by intervention thematic area or type?
  2. Evidence Gaps: Where are the gaps in existing knowledge, including uncertainties for specific intervention thematic area or type?
  3. Applicability: What are the implications of this research for the design of future interventions aimed at improving mental wellbeing
  4. Recommendations: How can the What Works Centre for Wellbeing build on this work in the future?

Expected Timetable (July 2021 – January 2022)

How to apply

If you would like to be considered to undertake the review please detail your expression of interest and a short research proposal in no more than 2000 words (excluding tables and references) to cover: 

  • Your understanding of the brief and proposed methodology for refining the thematic scope, breadth and depth of the review.
  • An outline of the search strategy you intended to use and how you will access this data (in light of potential covid-19 restrictions for accessing data secure labs etc).
  • Your ability to carry out the proposed work, including relevant skills and demonstrable thematic and technical expertise.
  • A Project Plan with key activities and deliverables, including number of days expected for each task.
  • A Budget, including a full breakdown of your proposed fees, identifying the day rate and  seniority of member(s) of staff assigned to each role. The proposed budget should include all expenses and VAT, where applicable.
  • An example (and link, if possible) of two pieces of related work carried out that demonstrates your ability to deliver similar assignments. 

Please send your proposal with the subject line: Proposal for (S)WEMWBS ITT to  no later than 5pm on 29th July 2021.

Assessment Criteria 

Our criteria for assessing the applications includes quality and price and is set out below: 

Please submit any questions by email to by Monday 19th July with the subject line: Question regarding the (S)WEMWBS ITT.

* Shah, N., Steiner, D., Petrou, S., Johnson, R., Stewart-Brown, S. (2018). Exploring the impact of the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being scales on public health research and practice (unpublished).
** Tennant, R., Hiller, L., Fishwick, R., Platt, S., Joseph, S., Weich, S., Parkinson, J., Secker, J., Stewart-Brown, S. (2007) The Warwick-Edinburgh mental well-being scale (WEMWBS): development and UK validation. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 5(1):63. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-5-63.
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Civil Society and Community Wellbeing Lead