Wellbeing Investments in Schools and Employers (WISE) study

WISE group


The WISE Research Team are studying how schools and workplaces invest resources in mental health and wellbeing. We use in-depth case study methods to better understand how schools and workplaces use their financial, human and space resources for mental health and wellbeing activities. We aim to discover the best ways to support mental health and wellbeing investments in these domains. The WISE project will run from 2021 to 2025. It is funded by a Wellcome Trust investigator award in Social Science and Humanities.

The WISE Project overview video


The WISE project will provide a comprehensive understanding of the processes by which schools and workplaces invest in mental health and wellbeing promotion. This is urgently needed, as these organisations, though not traditionally designed for this function, are increasingly required to support individuals’ mental health across the life-course. To date, economics has contributed valuable information on the cost-effectiveness of specific interventions. However, this only goes part of the way to informing how resources could be best allocated. A better understanding of processes, needs, and values, within these organisations is required to establish how they can be best supported and connect evidence to practice. 

The WISE programme of work seeks to establish how schools and workplaces invest resources in mental wellbeing. This includes how money, time, and space are allocated to wellbeing interventions, staffing, culture, and infrastructure. The study will generate models of decision-making processes, establish how schools and workplaces can be best supported to make equitable and efficient decisions, and develop new research methods for studying investment decisions in organisations.

Meet the Team

Professor of Health Economics, Project Lead

Tel. 0121 415 8483

Email: h.aljanabi@bham.ac.uk


Research Fellow

Email: c.allard@bham.ac.uk

  • Luke Henstock

PhD Student

Email: lxh168@student.bham.ac.uk

  • Yusuf Ozdemir

PhD Student

Email: mxo143@student.bham.ac.uk 

  • Sally O'Loughlin

Research Project Administrator

Email: s.r.oloughlin@bham.ac.uk


Project collaborators

  • Rachel Baker, Professor of Health Economics, Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Sarah Byford, Professor of Health Economics, Kings College London
  • Derek Beach, Professor of Political Science, University of Aahus, Denmark
  • Sarah-Jane Fenton, Lecturer in Mental Health Policy, University of Birmingham
  • Amanda Owen-Smith, Senior Lecturer, Bristol Medical School 
  • Collette Soan, Senior Specialist Educational and Child Psychologist, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Aims of the Project

The project aims to establish:

1. Causal processes involved in allocating resources to mental wellbeing in schools and workplaces;

2. How decision-makers in schools and workplaces use evidence in allocating resources;

3. The diversity of viewpoints on investing in mental wellbeing in schools and workplaces.

We are using a range of qualitative and mixed-methods to investigate these issues.

Overview of Study

There are four work packages in the WISE project.

SCHOOLS: In this work package we will conduct in-depth case studies with schools to investigate how they invest in mental wellbeing. We will apply ‘process-tracing’ (a method primarily used in political science) to understand the sequence of events and who is involved, synthesise diverse sources of data, and ‘get inside the black box’ of decision-making.

WORKPLACES: In this work package, we will study decision-making in large workplaces.  As with SCHOOLS we will be using process tracing methods to investigate how workplaces invest in mental wellbeing, with the aim of understanding how they can be best supported in their resource allocation decisions.

EVIDENCE: In this work package we will study how schools and workplaces use evidence, particularly economic evidence, in allocating resources for mental wellbeing promotion. The emphasis will be on understanding both current uses of evidence and future needs for evidence. We will also be using cognitive interviews to study how ‘decision-makers’ respond to different sources of evidence.

PERSPECTIVES: This work package will focus on the different viewpoints individuals (including workers, policy-makers, and the public) hold about mental wellbeing investment in schools and workplaces.  We will identify and analyse these perspectives using qualitative research and Q-methodology.

Latest update

April 2022: We are pleased to say that we now have ethics approval for the WISE study fieldwork in schools. In the coming months we will work with schools to understand more about their processes for investing in mental wellbeing. Currently, we are at the stage of sampling schools and identifying potential case study sites in the West Midlands.

Alongside this we have started to conduct focused reviews of the literature to inform each of the four work packages. The reviews will identify what we can learn about:

  1. How process tracing methods have been applied in the health field;
  2. How different sources of evidence are used by schools and workplaces to guide their health investments;
  3. How workplaces allocate resources to mental wellbeing services;
  4. Individuals’ attitudes to mental health investment in schools and workplaces;

The findings from these reviews will provide important insights in their own rights, as well as helping to inform the design and interpretation of the fieldwork.

We continue to work closely with our collaborators on the project, meeting every six weeks to steer progress, as well as providing insight into our review work

If you work in a school in the West Midlands and are interested in participating in the WISE study, please contact Rebecca Johnson.

November 2021: The WISE study team has been steadily growing over the summer and autumn and, with the recent addition of PhD students Luke and Yusuf, we are now at full strength. Over these first six months, we are focusing on laying the groundwork for the project. This will include:

  • Reviewing the literature in this new field, including that on process tracing, organisational theory and mental wellbeing support in schools and workplaces
  • Understanding the policy and practice context for this work
  • Developing study research plans
  • Developing research and professional networks
  • Training in health economics

We are looking forward to our first external advisory group meeting in mid-November and starting to identify our case study sites.