WellFare: Nordic Research Center for Wellbeing and Social Sustainability

Research Center

WellFare: Nordic Research Center for Wellbeing and Social Sustainability


Girls holding hands running away from the photographer. Photo
Photo: Josue Michel/Unsplash

Transforming societies towards universal wellbeing and social sustainability

About WellFare

About WellFare

WellFare is a Nordic Research Center for Wellbeing and Social Sustainability at NTNU. WellFare brings together researchers, practitioners, students and relevant stakeholders from a wide range of disciplines and sectors. WellFare leads transdisciplinary and cutting-edge research to transforming communities and welfare systems towards a fairer, healthier and more socially sustainable future. 

The Center’s missions and activities are concentrated on four interlinked spotlight areas on:


Well and fair development across the lifespan:

WellFare has a particular emphasis on social justice, and the United Nations universal value of “leaving no one behind”. Our focus is on how ongoing transformations of the Nordic welfare states can enable democratic governance and joint action across the whole of society, and how the Nordic model both can inspire and be inspired by promising practices in other contexts. The aim of WellFare is to support and sustain health and wellbeing for all as a public value and common mission for both current and future generations. Thus, WellFare explore and progress co-creation and socially just societal development to create and sustain health and wellbeing across the lifespan, and to tackle inequities in processes and outcomes. 


Transforming policies, economies and societies:

WellFare focuses on transforming planning, policy-making and economies to promote wellbeing for all as a common mission. We especially emphasize participation, citizenship and relational responsibility to ‘leave no one behind’ at different levels; locally, regionally, nationally and internationally; the transformative promise that connects UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


People-centered and place-based changes:

WellFare is particularly focused on the impact of everyday life on people’s wellbeing. By adopting a participatory and place-based approach to transformative change, we focus on settings and environments (play, learning, work, trade, leisure, neighbourhoods, digital meeting places) in connection to welfare services and other socio-political institutions that influence the development of people's wellbeing and participation in society. 


Radical and responsible welfare innovations:

WellFare focuses on innovative welfare solutions. We bring together experts and students to lead critical and cutting-edge research to experiment and co-create knowledge and solutions for wellbeing and social sustainability in collaboration with citizens, communities, NGO’s, businesses, practitioners, and researchers. 

Research, partners and promising practices

Research, partners and promising practices

  • World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe (2023); Deep dives on the well-being economy showcasing the experiences of Finland, Iceland, Scotland and Wales: summary of key findings
  • Pilot 0–24 in Trondheim Municipality, Norway
  • Rapid review on Inequalities in Health and Wellbeing in Norway. Project leader Marmot Review Team, Institute of Health Equity, University College London (UCL)
  • Participant in WHO New Economic Expert Group
  • Country Deep Dives to document, support and progress the Well-being Economy agenda. Project leader WHO
  • SoVei (in Norwegian)
  • Preventing an Opioid Epidemic In Norway: Focusing on Treatment of Chronic pain (POINT). Coordinator: University of Oslo – SERAF; funded by Norwegian Research Council 2021–2024.
  • Future Lab: Empowering children and young people through research and giving them a voice (Erasmus+ ENHANCE-project)
  • WELCOME: WELlbeing COMmunities in Europe – Experimenting with deliberative and participatory democratic processes towards wellbeing for all
  • Inter-professional collaboration for children and youth in schools who are in contact with child welfare services (a PhD-project in collaboration with the COIN-research group)
  • Citizen assemblies in local communities
  • Think it out – dialogical reflection groups in prisons
  • Health promotion at the local level: From disease prevention to community development (Edited book)
  • A life in the community for people with severe mental health problems: An exploration of young people's views on processes of citizenship and recovery. Collaboration between Equality research collective, Ghent University, Belgium, University of Bergen and NTNU
  • Promoting Student Mental Health and Wellbeing in Gjøvik and Trondheim through Service Design and Relational Wellfare
  • Mattering-research
    • Wellness, Fairness, and Worthiness in the Lives of Minority Populations
    • Measuring the Experience of Mattering as Citizens

Nordic Journal of Wellbeing and Sustainable Welfare Development is a scientific interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary journal that focuses on social conditions and services that promote wellbeing, participation and citizenship at multiple levels: locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Local practices

Example from neighbourhood:

  • In the place-based public service 'From stairway to stairway' in Århus municipality, Denmark, an interdisciplinary team work together to support wellbeing and community connectedness among some of the district's most vulnerable families.

Examples from municipality:

  • Wigan in the UK has developed a “Deal”, where the municipality’s strategic master plan serves as a community contract between the municipality, actors in the local community and the citizens. 'The Wigan Deal' is concentrated on “Our People, Our Place, Our Future”, stating that all actors and stakeholders in the borough play a part in the change they want to see. The Deal describe the various parties' responsibilities in achieving common missions, where health, wellbeing and equity is placed at the heart. 

Experiences from the Wigan Deal.

  • In their strategy "Rock-scissors-paper", Trondheim Municipality has emphasized the importance of strengthening the community connectedness of children and intergenerational support as a foundation for societal development. The strategy is co-created with citizens and local communities, where also NGO´s and private actors have committed to contribute to common missions and social sustainability.

National practices

  • New Zealand has developed the world's first "wellbeing budget" with a focus on human rights and sustainable development and is a leading nation in the global community of “wellbeing governments”.

International practices

  • The Wellbeing Government (WeGo) network is an international collaboration between countries who commit to working together, sharing best practices and examples and building capacity to promote wellbeing, sustainability and social justice as their ultimate public values.


The logo for the Wellfare Research Centre. Illustration.

Advisory board

Advisory board


  • Ragnhild Bang Nes, research professor at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH)


  • Larry Davidson, professor, Yale University, USA
  • Heikki Hiilamo, professor, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland
  • Peter Goldblatt, professor, Institute of Health Equity, University College London, UK
  • Dora Gudmundsdottir, PhD, Director of Public Health at the Directorate of Health in Iceland, Iceland
  • Christine Brown, professor and head WHO European Office for Investment for Health and Development, Italy
  • Sheila McNamee, professor, University of New Hampshire, USA
  • Arthur Grimes, professor, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Svend Brinkmann, professor, Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Louise Bringselius, senior lecturer and researcher, Lund University, Sweden
  • Morten Hulvej Rod, Professor, Director, National Institute of Public Health, Denmark

Associated researchers

  • Thomas Szulevicz, Associate Professor, Centre for Cultural Psychology, Denmark; Associate Professor, NTNU, Norway