A proposal delivered to the policy unit at 10 Downing Street

This proposal came from a lengthy discussion with Daniel Korski, deputy head of policy at 10 Downing Street and special advisor to the Prime Minister, David Cameron. It was delivered to the policy unit at 10 Downing Street in early 2016.

 

A New Approach To Policy: 
How Experientialism Can Tackle LONELINESS

 

Summary

We propose using an experiential approach to reduce loneliness by encouraging lonely people to spend less time, energy and money on material goods, and more on experiential goods instead. 

 

The insights in Stuffocation (London: Penguin, 2015) suggest a compelling new approach to policy that can effectively and efficiently tackle policy issues in the UK.

This new approach is based on: 

  • the insight that British society is moving from materialism to “experientialism” — instead of looking for happiness, identity, status and meaning by accumulating material goods, people are increasingly interested in experiential goods instead; 
  • the research which shows that spending — time, energy and money — on experiential goods is better for wellbeing than spending on material goods, both for individuals and for society.

Background

Loneliness is as bad for health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This is worrying for the UK: 10% of Britons often feel lonely; 48% think we are getting lonelier in general. The Care Act 2014 is addressing this.

Our aim is to turn lonely people away from materialism, in both attitude and behaviour, and towards experientialism. This will bring them into direct contact with others. It will make them feel part of a wider community, and more likely to be social. Therefore, it will reduce social isolation and loneliness.

At the end of each stage of the intervention, we will compare participants to a control group, to evaluate if, as predicted by the scientific literature, their attitudes and behaviours are less materialistic and more experientialist, and if they are now less lonely. We will trial this in ever increasing circles.

Proposal

  • Participants:
  • Identify participants with loneliness issues to take part: in particular, lonely people in the 18-34-year-old cohort.
  • Intervention: 
  • Each participant will be given one hour of “experiential” coaching per week in order to identify and reduce any materialistic tendencies, and encourage them to be more experiential in their attitudes and behaviours.
  • For instance, participants could create “implementation intentions” of how they will spend more (time, energy, money) on experiential goods.
  • Measurement: 
  • Measure participants’ behaviours and attitudes over the study’s time period, including: how they spend their time and money, their wellbeing, and their loneliness — using the standard UCLA Loneliness Scale.
  • Measure three months, six months, and one year after the study has finished.
  • Partners, timelines
  • Again, proposed partners include Greg Wilkinson to assist with project-management and intervention design; BIT to assist with trial design to ensure it provides actionable measurements; the Treasury to provide funds.

Next steps

The next step would be to hone this proposal, which are currently at an early stage of development.

Given the Future Is Here's deep understanding of experientialism, we believe we are well placed to lead these interventions. However, this proposal requires partners. Hence, we would like the Downing Street Policy Unit’s support and assistance to identify: the best partners to develop the design of the interventions and trials (eg, the Behavioural Insights Team); the most appropriate sources of finance (eg, the Treasury and/or the Centre for Ageing Better); any further relevant partners (eg, DCLG, the What Works Network, media, and technology partners).

Our intention is to champion and project-manage these trials in partnership with Greg Wilkinson, who, inter alia, was interim chief executive for the Centre for Better Ageing, and whose input has been invaluable in formulating these proposals.
 
Subject to success with the interventions in this document, we propose we trial “experiential approaches” for other key policy issues, including: wellbeing, consumer over-indebtedness, inequality, employment, growth, productivity, obesity, education, the environment, immigration, social cohesion.