Wellbeing and relationships in public policy: The officer-recipient relationship in the Oportunidades-Prospera programme in Mexico

  • Viviana Ramirez

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This dissertation explores the role of relationships with front-line officers on the subjective wellbeing of the recipients of the conditional cash transfer programme in Mexico, Oportunidades-Prospera. To do so, it builds bridges between the literatures on wellbeing, development and public policy. In recent decades, wellbeing has acquired greater significance in public policy with the interest of changing the conceptualization of progress from one driven by economic growth to one which takes quality of life as its ultimate aim. Much attention has been placed on measuring wellbeing for national policy deliberation. This dissertation, instead, is interested in understanding how taking a wellbeing approach may contribute to street-level development: to the design, practice and implementation of social policies and programmes.The value of wellbeing is that it draws attention to dimensions of experience that policy has tended to under-estimate or ignore. In this respect, one of the most consistent findings of wellbeing scholarship is the centrality of social relationships in shaping action and driving how people evaluate their lives. While the main emphasis has been on close relationships, this dissertation asks how the relationships created during the implementation of social programmes may influence wellbeing – and hence the overall impact of policies themselves.This research focuses on relationships at the health clinics which clients of Oportunidades-Prospera are required to attend as a condition for receiving a cash transfer. It follows a mixed-methods approach that reveals that relationships with health officers have a significant role on recipients’ sense of what they can do and be in different domains. It also finds that the quality of these relationships has two dimensions, positive and negative, and that these have differential effects on wellbeing. The study concludes that paying attention to the wellbeing implications of officer-recipient relationships deepens understanding of the overall effect of social programmes on their clients, highlighting unintended effects that are usually unaccounted for. In addition, the significance of relationships in implementation indicates a vital dimension of the policy process that requires direct attention if social policy and programmes are to achieve their full potential to improve people’s wellbeing.
Date of Award6 Sept 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsConsejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia
SupervisorSarah White (Supervisor)


  • Wellbeing
  • Well-being
  • Social policy
  • Oportunidades
  • Prospera
  • Policy implementation
  • client-agent relationships
  • officer-recipient relationships
  • Subjective well-being
  • Psychosocial approaches
  • Mixed methods
  • Mexico
  • Conditional cash transfers
  • Public policy

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