Choose Life. Choose Self-Efficacy…

10th February 2017 Blog

Why we at Osca are focussing on self-efficacy in public services in 2017

As I stepped out of the cinema last Thursday having watched Trainspotting 2 I couldn’t help feel the resonance of Irvine Welsh’s classic Choose Life monologue today.

“Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers… Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning…” [edited]

Whether we voted for or against Brexit or Trump many of us think that the system is failing. I’m someone who thinks that Brexit and Trump were the wrong answers to the right question. I’m not sure precisely what the question is but I think it’s something like: how do we create a fairer society where our communities, jobs and well-being are nourished, not savaged, by globalisation?

In seeking an answer to that question, we at Osca have become very interested in self-efficacy. If you’ve no idea what self-efficacy is, don’t worry it’s very straight forward. Self-efficacy is a type of self-belief the refers specifically to the confidence someone has to succeed in specific situations. It is very well evidenced that self-efficacy is a pre-requisite for action on anything. If we want to help people change their diet, get fit, find work or enter rehabilitation they need at least some self-efficacy just to get started. This means that self-efficacy is a critical ingredient for tackling today’s crisis in jobs, health and public services. We think of self-efficacy as the oil in the machine of society. With it everything works better, and without it, as we are seeing currently, things start to seize up

The NHS already believe the amount of self-efficacy you have effects whether you live or die. That’s why they’ve trailed Patient Activation Measures with 1.8 million people in 37 areas across England.

If that wasn’t persuasive enough for us to take self-efficacy seriously, we think it may also helps us understand the structural inequalities across society. For example, our initial analysis suggests that low self-efficacy may correlate both with poverty and low political-efficacy. Political-efficacy is the extent to which people trust in their government and believe they can influence politics. Self-efficacy also appears to be a key factor which explains why many low income individuals have very high well-being. When you have chosen to have a low income, perhaps to become a volunteer, artist, campaigner, carer or simply to take a job for its purpose not the money; then those individuals often appear to have higher self-efficacy.

If this is true then building self-efficacy across society should become a key response to the original question: how do we create a fairer society where our communities, jobs and well-being are nourished, not savaged, by globalisation?

Fortunately there’s a lot of people who’ve known the importance of self-efficacy for a long time; and have been developing techniques for cultivating it in specific contexts such as the workplace, schools, families and various public services. For more information see our self-efficacy explained blog.

In 2017 we at Osca are starting a major new work programme to explore how we can turn our public services into engines of self-efficacy. If you are interested at all please take a look at our initial analysis and let us know what you think.


Photo credit: aparkersmith