21 Artists designed and implemented the social impact evaluation framework for The S.M.I.L.E.-ing Boys Project, a Wellcome Trust-funded project created by artist Kay Rufai that used research around the 8 Pillars of Happiness as outlined by the Happiness Research Institute to create a series of workshops for young boys in south London.

The project focused on using creative, arts-based approaches such as creative writing, poetry and photography to provide a safe space for these boys to express themselves throughout the 8-week programme.

SMILE-ing Boys

The project explored what the role of the 8 Pillars of Happiness meant in the context of young men from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds as those in the original study. The 8 Pillars are outlined as follows:

  1. Trust
  2. Belonging
  3. Wealth
  4. Freedom
  5. Democracy
  6. Health
  7. Balance
  8. Purpose

While some of these areas, such as wealth and democracy, the boys could not directly change based on their environment and home situations, the workshops focused on those aspects they did have agency over. How could they shift their perceptions about the importance of wealth? Or different types of wealth that are non-monetary, for example?

The evaluation focused on four key areas of impact:

  1. Well-being and happiness
  2. Isolation and conflict resolution
  3. Self-efficacy, self-confidence and self-worth
  4. Aspiration

Our theory of change for the project was as follows:

SMILE-ing Boys Project Theory of Change

The impact these workshops had on the young boys was profound as demonstrated by these average scores:

  • 22% increase in well-being
  • 17% decrease in feelings of isolation
  • 19% increase in self-efficacy
  • 22% increase in aspiration
  • 28% increase in overall happiness

The project is in the planning phase of of its second iteration in south London. Read the full report here.


Overall, there was a significant shift in the boys’ ability to express themselves and articulate their emotions. It was pretty incredible to see it from beginning to end.

-Kay Rufai