Together with academics at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy and people with lived experience of financial hardship at Turn2us, we have done some deep thinking on what it means to thrive. You can read our Thriving report or scroll down to see more about it. 

Our research showed there are different elements people need to thrive. A helpful way to think about this is by imagining a tree, and what a tree needs to grow and flourish.

A tree is useful for understanding our model of thriving. The means are the basic requirements for a healthy tree: roots (material needs) and soil quality (justice). The process is the trunk and branches of the tree: we grow in our own unique ways to take the shape we want. And the outcomes are the leaves and flowers, which let us know that a tree is really thriving.

If we have financial security but we are held back by racism or other forms of prejudice, then it is social justice we need. If we have found our calling but we are still struggling to flower, then we are probably lacking the practical means to achieve our goals. Thriving is different for each of us and changes over time as our needs change. Turn2us should be sensitive to how people are growing, and help them adapt to shocks like unemployment just as a tree needs time to adapt to losing a branch.


What are means?

Listen to Abby, one of the people involved in creating the report, explain what the means are in our model of thriving

Transcript of audio clip: 

When we say means, were talking about the resources that allow us to be who we want to be and do what we want to do. And we put these in to two categories; the practical means and the justice focused means.  

So with the practical means, we’re thinking about practical things that affect everyone; we all need money to pay for food and bills. Justice focused means are different depending on who you are. We are talking about the social economic and political conditions that either help or hinder our ability to thrive. So if we are frequently disrespected just because we’re disabled for example, it’s going to hurt our ability to thrive.  

What does means mean in practice?

Nina, 33, lives in a rural town and is disabled. She has a passion and skill for basketball. She has just enough to pay her bills each month, but not much more. She is offered a grant of £500, which is enough to purchase an annual basketball membership and kit. However, there are no disabled basketball clubs in her area. So she uses the grant to help with her living costs, and feels disappointed about the basketball club.  

Thriving is about doing what you want to do and feeling a sense of freedom and competency because of it. Nina’s story shows how we need more than money to thrive, and how systems can work against some of us more than others. That is why we have two types of means in our report; material means (like money and housing) and justice focused means (like freedom from ableism). It is important to think about how to combat both.

What is the process?

Listen to James, one of the people involved in creating the report, explain what the process is in our model of thriving:

Transcript of audio clip: 

The process goes above and beyond our means, like our homes or money. Sometimes we need more than that to thrive. It takes us to the next level of fulfilment and is an enabling part of thriving. Having the time, opportunity, access and provision to explore what suits us, what applies to us and what is really relevant helps us to grow and expand our horizons. The process is where we are able to determine what we value, what makes us feel better. In many respects, the process builds our emotional resilience, increases our independence of choice and increases interconnectivity with others, and ultimately helps us to thrive.  

What does process look like in reality?

Ugo, 44, lives in Manchester and works in customer service. He doesn’t feel fulfilled by his job, and his closest friends live in Birmingham. Whilst he had the money to pay his bills, he didn’t necessarily feel like he was thriving. Despite his fears about not working full time (he was worried he would be judged by people as being lazy), he decided to request part time hours at work and start free night classes at his local community college. Initially, he did an IT course but found it boring. He then tried a construction course as it was on a suitable day and time.  

What are the outcomes?

Listen to Talulah explain what outcomes mean in our model of thriving:

Transcript of audio-clip: 

Outcomes can be a big range of things, but some of the most important ones are; strong and supportive relationships, feeling a sense of purpose in our lives and that what we are doing is important and helps others and also that we feel in charge of our lives, meaning we can spend our time, energy and resources as we would like. 

When our means are secure and we can do the things that suit us, we feel contentment and at peace with ourselves. This is how we know that we are thriving.  

What do outcomes look like in reality?

Ugo really enjoyed doing some physical work and seeing the finished products he had created. He now works in construction and feels a sense of competency and purpose, especially when he builds things for people he knows. The hours are more flexible than customer service and this means he has more time to go visit his friends in Birmingham, which gives him a feeling of freedom and control over his social life. These feelings indicate Ugo is thriving.  

Our research found that we might initially use our means on things that don’t suit us, perhaps because of cultural expectations or family pressure. But if we have the time, money, support, and freedom to keep experimenting, we will find our way. Having the time and capacity to not only identify what we want to do but to also pursue them is a strong indicator that we are trying to thrive. As we grow and change over time, we may re-examine what enjoyable activities we choose to do, and what means we need to do them.