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Neil Thin

Neil Thin
Dr Neil Thin
Senior Lecturer, Social Anthropology; Director of Undergraduate Teaching (Social Anthropology)
5.27 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 3880
Research Interests
Happiness, wellbeing and the good life, appreciative research, aspirational social planning

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Tuesday 9-11 and Friday 9-10

Research Interests

  • happiness, wellbeing, and the good life 
  • appreciative social research
  • positive social qualities, social progress, and aspirational planning
  • civil society, sustainable development, and the sharing economy
  • virtue signalling and conspicuous compassion

PhD Supervision

Interested in supervising students in areas related to: Social planning; happiness; well-being

Biographical Statement

Neil Thin specialises in appreciative social planning, i.e. engaging multidisciplinary happiness and wellbeing scholarship in public policy and practice. To this end, he is currently (2015) a part-time Parliamentary Fellow in the Scottish Parliament. He also has over 20 years of practical and policy experience working towards the reduction of poverty and promotion of justice and wellbeing in poorer countries, working at all levels from grassroots to governmental and international official agencies.

He has frequently served as a social development adviser and trainer for international development agencies such as the UK Department for International Development, UN Agencies, the World Bank, and international NGOs.

For over 10 years he served as a Director/Trustee of Practical Action [formerly Intermediate Technology Development Group] and latterly also as Chair of Practical Action Publications (formerly ITDG Publications, now incorporating Oxfam Publications). He was also a Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Tropical Forests, Adviser to the Scottish Executive International Development Programme, and to NIDOS, BOND, and the UK National Lottery Charities Board's International Grants Programme, and the Diana Princes of Wales Fund.

Selected Publications

2018 [with Katherine Brookfield and Iain Scott] ‘Outdoor mobility and promoting physical activity among older people’ In S.R.Nyman  et al [eds], The Palgrave Handbook of Ageing and Physical Activity Promotion, pp.427-446

2018 ‘Are we too safe? Could we live better by living more dangerously?’ Rotterdam: Erasmus University School of Management CESAM

2017 ‘Qualitative approaches to culture and happiness’. In E.Diener, S.Oishi, and L.Tay [eds], Handbook of Wellbeing. Noba Scholar 

2017 [with Aaron Ahuvia, Dan Haybron, Robert Biswas-Diener, & Jean Timsit] 'Desirability of sustainable happiness as a guide for public policy.' Ch. 3 in Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH, Happiness: Transforming the Development Landscape

2017 [with Ritu Verma and Yukiko Uchida] 'Culture, development, and happiness.' Ch. 9 in the Report on Wellbeing & Happiness, by the United Nations/Royal Government of Bhutan International Expert Working Group on Wellbeing and Happiness.

2017 Happiness and Social Planning: an A to Z of Key Terms and Concepts. The Happiness Lens <>

2017 onwards  The Happiness Lens (Blog)  <>

2017 [with Chris Neale; Peter Aspinall; Jenny Roe; Sara Tilley; Panagiotis Mavros; Steve Cinderby; Richard Coyne;  Gary Bennett; Catharine Ward Thompson] ‘The ageing urban brain: Analysing outdoor physical activity using the Emotiv Affectiv suite in older people.’ Journal of Urban Health

2017 [with Elke Heins, Jan Eichhorn et al) Massive Open-acess Online Course on ‘Social Wellbeing’. FutureLearn

2017 ‘Quality of life issues in development.’ In H.Callan [ed], International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell

2016 ‘Social planning without Bentham or Aristotle: towards dignified and socially engaged wellbeing.’ in Joar Vitterso [ed], The Handbook of Eudaimonic Wellbeing. New York: Springer  

2016 ‘Culture’ In Biswas-Diener [ed], Noba Psychology online textbook on Social Psychology.

2016 ‘Place appreciation and purposeful relocation in later life.’ Anthropology in Action  (Special issue: Place and Wellbeing)

2015 ‘The home as enabler of more active lifestyles among older people.’ Building Research & Information 43,5:616-630 [with Brookfield, Katherine ; Fitzsimons, Claire ; Scott, Iain ; Mead, Gillian ; Starr, John ; Tinker, Anthea ; Ward Thompson, Catharine 

2015 ‘Happiness: An interactionist perspective.’  International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 1-18 [with Ahuvia, A., Haybron, D. M., Biswas-Diener, R., Ricard, M., & Timsit, J.]

2014 ‘Positive social planning.’ In A.P.Linley and S.Joseph [eds] (2004/2014) Positive Psychology in Practice.  2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

2014 ‘Positive sociology and appreciative empathy: history and prospects.’ Sociological Research Online 

2014 ‘Anthropology’  and 'Ethnocentrism' In A.Michalos [ed], Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research. Dordrecht: Springer

2013 ‘On the primary importance of secondary research.’  ch.3 In N.Konopinksi [ed], Doing Anthropological Research. London: Routledge

2012 Social Happiness: Research into Policy and Practice. Bristol: Policy Press  

2012 ‘Multidimensional concepts of poverty: beyond money, beyond measurement, beyond minimalism’ forthcoming UNESCO/International Association of Universities Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems.

2011 ‘“No-one is unmusical”. Elizabeth, everyday cheermongery, and active musical citizenship.’ International Journal of Wellbeing  ‘Fecilitators Symposium’, Special Issue ed. John Helliwell

2011 ‘Socially responsible cheermongery: on the sociocultural contexts and levels of social happiness policies.’ In Robert Biswas-Diener (Ed.), Positive Psychology as a Mechanism for Social Change. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 33-49

2009, ‘Schoolchildren's wellbeing and life prospects: Justifying the universal tax on childhood’ University of Bath Well-being in Developing Countries Working Paper 09/46 

2009, ‘“Autres aptitudes et habitudes diverses”: éducation sentimentale et disposition au bonheur’.[‘“Any other capabilities and habits”: sentimental education and the capability for happiness.’] In Salomé Berthon et al (eds), Ethnologie des Gens Heureux. Cahiers d'Ethnologie de la France, pp. 139-148

2008, ‘Good feelings and good lives: why anthropology can ill afford to ignore well-being’ in Mathews, G. and C. Izquierdo, Pursuits of Happiness: Well-Being in Anthropological Perspective. Berghahn, pp. 23-44

2008,  ‘“Realising the substance of their happiness”: how anthropology forgot about Homo Gauisus.’ in A.Corsin Jimenez [ed], Culture and the Politics of Freedom: the Anthropology of Well-being. London: Pluto Press, pp. 134-155

2007, 'Schooling for Joy? Why International Development Partners Should Search for Happiness in the Processes and Outcomes of Education.' Paper presented to the Wellbeing in International Development conference, University of Bath, June 28-30, 2007. [Session: "Wellbeing and Development Policy and Practice"] 

2006, Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations, Better Forestry, Less Poverty: A Practitioner's Guide   Rome: FAO Forestry Paper 149 ISBN 92-5-105550-5 

2005, ‘Happiness and the sad topics of anthropology’ University of Bath: Wellbeing in Developing Countries Working Paper No.10

2002, Social Progress and Sustainable Development. London: ITDG Publications 

2001, Branching Out: Joint Forest Management in India. Delhi: OUP (co-authored with Nandini Sundar and Roger Jeffery)

Topics interested in supervising

happiness, wellbeing, flourishing, good life sustainable development social planning appreciative research aspirational planning

If you are interested in being supervised by Neil Thin, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Anthropology; PhD in Social Policy; PhD in Sociology; MSc (R) Social Anthropology; MSc (R) Social Policy; MSc (R) Sociology and Anthropology of Health and Illness; MSc (R) Socio-Cultural Studies