Wellbeing: Global Policies and Perspectives

Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond

by Annelies Kamp (Volume editor) Cheryl Brown (Volume editor) Trish McMenamin (Volume editor) Veronica O’Toole (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XVIII, 318 Pages


The idea of «wellbeing» is increasingly prevalent in global policy contexts. Yet, as the chapters in this collection demonstrate, any understanding of wellbeing is contextual: what wellbeing is depends on where and how we listen and speak, the concepts at our disposal, the humans and nonhumans with whom we engage, and the focus of their, and our, aspirations. Many of the chapters in this collection reflect the context of Aotearoa New Zealand, which, in 2019, introduced a wellbeing approach to public policy that attracted the attention of global policy makers and other stakeholders. In this collection, commentators both from within and beyond Aotearoa take an expansive stance in discussing the concept of wellbeing and its myriad possibilities. The authors speak from an array of disciplines to present and critique ideas about how wellbeing can be understood and pursued across the life course.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Epigraph
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One. What counts as wellbeing?
  • Chapter Two. Wellbeing in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond: : Intimacy, physicality and love
  • Chapter Three. Creating a shared understanding of wellbeing: A comparison in wellbeing discourse between Aotearoa New Zealand and Ireland
  • Chapter Four. The digital dilemma of wellbeing for adolescents
  • Chapter Five. Re-engaging a culturally and linguistically holistic approach to education in Aotearoa New Zealand: How teachers’ noticing fosters children’s socio-emotional development
  • Chapter Six. Wellbeing for student engagement in education
  • Chapter Seven. Positive youth development: Opportunities to expand conceptualizations of youth wellbeing to incorporate thriving
  • Chapter Eight. Urban youth wellbeing, citizenship and sustainability: An Ōtautahi Christchurch case study
  • Chapter Nine. Wellbeing for leadership work: Insights from scholarship, policy and practice
  • Chapter Ten. On the non-performativity of ‘being-well’: A critique of wellbeing in university policy
  • Chapter Eleven. Commoning for urban wellbeing in Majority and Minority Worlds
  • Chapter Twelve. Hurihanga mo te mauri ora: Braided rivers and pluriversal planetary wellbeing
  • Chapter Thirteen. ‘Being young’, ‘living well’, in/beyond the pandemic: Exploring the entanglements between COVID-19, the Anthropocene and young people’s wellbeing
  • Chapter Fourteen. Education towards a beautiful life in an imperfect world
  • Notes on contributors
  • Index

←xvi | xvii→


As editors, we acknowledge the support of research participants, contributing authors, colleagues and whānau [extended family] in the conceptualization and manifestation of this collection: our own wellbeing is sustained through these relationships.

We gratefully acknowledge Alan Roddick, literary executor for the estate of poet Charles Brasch, for permission to reproduce the poem Word by Night as a compelling epigraph for this collection.

We wish to acknowledge financial support offered by the University of Canterbury Child Well-being Research Institute in support of the production of this manuscript, and Tina Menzies for her careful administration of that support.

Finally, our thanks to the team at Peter Lang and, particularly, Lucy Melville, Global Publishing Director, for her interest in, and support for, this project.

←xviii | 1→
Annelies Kamp


In 2018, the Third International Conference on Wellbeing and Public Policy was held in Wellington, the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand.1 According to Weijers and Morrison (2018: 3), over 400 delegates left Wellington after the three-day conference with ‘great expectations’ as to the question of whether New Zealand could be a ‘leading light for the wellbeing approach’. The rationale for these great expectations was ‘a government placing wellbeing front and centre of its policy agenda’. Weijers and Morrison suggest that ‘none left more impressed than the keynote speakers invited from Europe and the United States […] where progress on wellbeing and public policy seemed to them sluggish by comparison’ (2018: 3). The authors note that a ‘striking feature of the conference was the apparent presence of a shared vision of a wellbeing approach to public policy’; the conference was engaged with by a cross-section of government representatives, academics and community actors. This diverse gathering was described as ‘momentous because the wellbeing approach is an important departure from the policymaking status quo’ (2018: 3, emphasis added).

This departure related to the question of how wellbeing can be measured, and whose measures are used. As a number of the chapters in this collection illustrate, the idea of a ‘wellbeing approach’ reflected continued dissatisfaction with both the use of measures such as gross domestic product (GDP) and the notion that if income and resultant wealth is growing, then wellbeing too will grow. Yet, in the pluralist, complex world in which we ←1 | 2→now live, many commentators argue that GDP addresses only a fraction of what matters to humans, much of which is not measured by any kind of economic transaction. As Chapter One surveys, economic indicators fail to consider quality of life domains such as health, education, equality of opportunity, or the state of the environment. In moving beyond the use of GDP there is, however, no consensus of what wellbeing is and how to measure it. Nonetheless, proponents of the wellbeing approach do ‘agree that the ultimate goal of policy should be to improve wellbeing for all citizens’ (Weijers and Morrison 2018: 3, emphasis added). For Weijers and Morrison, the successful implementation and sustenance of a wellbeing approach such as that set by the government of Aotearoa New Zealand must address three challenges: measurement, representation and engagement. In moving towards a consensus of the measurement and conceptualization of wellbeing, representation becomes critical: how do all citizens gain a voice in policy decisions concerning their wellbeing? While delegates may have left the 2018 conference in Wellington with great expectations of our ability to be a leading light for the wellbeing approach, there is certainly far more that could be, that must be, done.

Despite this increase in the prevalence of wellbeing as a policy concern, Sointu’s (2005) work demonstrates how conceptualizations and experiences of wellbeing ‘are produced in and through wider social perceptions and practices’. What wellbeing means and how we might achieve it ‘depends’; it is an idea that ‘evolves […] in the service of the people, communities and societies it speaks about and describes’ (Trebeck 2021: xv). For Atkinson et al. (2020: 1917), wellbeing examines ‘the complex relationships between interior life, self or relational selves and the external environment’. As the chapters in this collection demonstrate, it depends on where and how we listen and speak, the concepts at our disposal, the humans and non-humans with whom we engage, and the focus of their, and our, aspirations. Many of the chapters in this collection listen and speak from Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand has become, over recent decades, of interest to policymakers on the global stage. This interest has a number of sources. In education, one driver is our status as a small, independent nation state with a commitment to biculturalism formalized in Te Tiriti o Waitangi [the Treaty of Waitangi]. Over the past two years, Aotearoa has gained an ←2 | 3→international profile for the social response of the New Zealand people, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to the 2019 mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques. More recently, and currently, the COVID-19 global pandemic has generated further interest in New Zealand’s way of ‘doing things’. Particularly relevant for our interests in this collection, in 2019 New Zealand went on to declare and introduce a wellbeing approach to public policy (Grimes 2021). For the New Zealand Government in 2019, wellbeing was present ‘when people are able to lead fulfilling lives with purpose, balance and meaning to them’ (Robertson 2019: 3). Having governed in coalition with New Zealand First since October 2017,2 in their first term Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led government articulated this approach in the Wellbeing Budget (Robertson 2019: 3)

This approach represents a significant departure from the status

quo. Budgets have traditionally focused on a limited set of economic

data. Success has been declared on the basis of a narrow range of

indicators, like GDP growth. But New Zealanders have questioned

that claim of success when they have seen other things that we

hold dear – child wellbeing, a warm, dry home, or being able to swim in our rivers and lakes – getting steadily worse. The old ways have left too many people behind. It is time to change.

This positioning of wellbeing of New Zealanders at the heart of all the government does is unsurprising to those who live in or are closely engaged with Aotearoa, given the shameful wellbeing statistics that have plagued this privileged country. The Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy implemented by the Ardern government has a vision of New Zealand as ‘the best place in the world for children and young people’. In early comparative child wellbeing measures published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2009, New Zealand ranked twenty-first on material wellbeing, fourteenth on housing and environment, thirteenth on educational wellbeing, twenty-ninth on health and safety and twenty-fourth on risk behaviours. While some ←3 | 4→New Zealanders enjoy wellbeing, others do not. By comparison, Norway ranked first on material wellbeing and housing and environment, Finland ranked first on educational wellbeing, the Slovak Republic ranked first on health and safety, and Sweden ranked first on risk behaviours.

In the broader and more recent OECD Better Life Initiative of 2018 (<https://www.oecd.org>), New Zealand continued to show inequalities in income and wealth, work and job quality, life expectancy for men, knowledge and skills, environmental quality, subjective wellbeing, work-life balance, social connections and civic engagement. These measures illustrate the complexity within the notion of wellbeing as that which makes life worthwhile, both within and beyond Aotearoa. Thus, if wellbeing concerns people’s abilities to live the kinds of lives they have reason to value, there is a need to engage with fundamental questions concerning diverse perspectives – policy and personal – on the kinds of lives people have reason to value and the radical implications of this for policy and practice. As Atkinson (2021) warns, the integration of wellbeing discourse into policy has not, thus far, reanimated the radical policy possibilities of wellbeing. Adopting a local-to-global structure, this collection aims to open the space for engagement with fundamental questions and the potential, or not, for radical possibilities.

Overview of the chapters

In Chapter One, the authors read more deeply into the issue flagged in this introduction to the collection – the ways wellbeing has been conceptualized over time and the implications of such conceptualizations for commitments to citizen wellbeing. They consider how we might best mobilize wellbeing commitments in the globalized world we inhabit now, and our descendants will inhabit into the future. In this, the chapter provides a foundation for the thirteen chapters that follow, the first of which takes our youngest citizens as its focus. In Chapter Two, the authors reflect on the context of early childhood education and argue such contexts constitute intimacy, physicality and love. Using the early ←4 | 5→childhood curriculum of Aotearoa New Zealand, they explore how these three aspects of wellbeing are produced through the curriculum. Chapter Three similarly engages with education, asking how educators north and south of the equator, working in a world challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, should support children to achieve a state of wellbeing. Using data from the comparable contexts of the Republic of Ireland and Aotearoa New Zealand, the chapter uses Spratt’s analysis of discourses of wellbeing in schools to discuss and critique the wellbeing strategies of Ireland and New Zealand.


XVIII, 318
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (January)
Wellbeing as Flourishing Physical, Emotional and Social Wellbeing Wellbeing in Context Wellbeing: Global Policies and Perspectives Annelies Kamp Cheryl Brown Trish McMenamin Veronica O’Toole
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2023. XVIII, 318 pp., 4 fig. col., 7 fig. b/w, 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Annelies Kamp (Volume editor) Cheryl Brown (Volume editor) Trish McMenamin (Volume editor) Veronica O’Toole (Volume editor)

Annelies Kamp is Associate Professor in Leadership and former Head of School, Educational Studies and Leadership at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | the University of Canterbury. Her academic career has been undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. Her books include Rethinking Learning Networks: Collaborative Possibilities for a Deleuzian Century (Peter Lang 2013); A Critical Youth Studies for the 21st Century (2015), Re/Assembling the Pregnant and Parenting Teenager: Narratives from the Field(s) (Peter Lang 2017); Education Studies in Aotearoa: Key Disciplines and New Directions (2019); and Leading Educational Networks; Theory, Policy and Practice (2022). Cheryl Brown is Associate Professor in e-learning in the School of Education Studies and Leadership at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury and co-Director of the Digital Education Futures Lab (https://blogs.canterbury.ac.nz/UCDeFLab/). She has worked in higher education in South Africa, Australia, and now Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research focuses on how inequality influences university students’ digital experience and, consequently, their digital identities. She is currently exploring the role technology plays in students’ learning and in the development of their digital literacy practices, particularly in resource-constrained contexts. Trish McMenamin is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the Te Whare Wānanga of Waitaha | University of Canterbury. Her primary research interests are inclusive education, disability studies, diversity, philosophy of education and education policy. She is the author of Special Schools, Inclusion, and Justice (2018) and co-editor of Belonging: Rethinking Inclusive Practices to Support Well-being and Identity (2018). Veronica O’Toole is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Te Whare Wānanga of Waitaha | The University of Canterbury. Her primary research interests are emotions, emotional intelligence (EI), emotion regulation and social emotional wellbeing of teachers and students. Recent publications include the co- authored article «Emotional Wellbeing as Perceived and Understood Through the Lenses of SEL and PYD: A Qualitative Commentary and Suggestions for Future Research in Aotearoa New Zealand», in New Zealand Journal of Psychology (2019).


Title: Wellbeing: Global Policies and Perspectives
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338 pages