In the policy world there is growing interest in the importance of a set of personal attributes that might be summarised as ‘character’. Capabilities such as empathy, resilience and application that describe aspects of our character are strongly related to a range of beneficial outcomes. This collection draws together emerging research from the social sciences about the formation and development of character across the life course, in order to inform debates around public policy and the role of civil society.

The Inquiry itself comprises a set of expert members from a range of backgrounds – journalists and practitioners, academics and policymakers – all of whom took part in conducting research or contributing essays to this collection. Through reviewing existing research, conducting new analysis and taking part in public engagement work, members arrived at conclusions – and lots of further questions – about the nature of character and its relevance to current policy debates. In so doing, The Character Inquiry gives contemporary resonance to a debate that dates back to Aristotle. It sets out a vision for how developing individual and collective character can lead to social goods like a sustainable economy, active citizenship, greater wellbeing and stronger communities.