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The Happiness Initiative: Innovating towards vibrancy via better definition & measurement

It's said that "you can't manage what you don't measure." So in wanting to restore vibrancy, are we defining & measuring it for optimal results? The advocates of the Happiness Initiative, esp. in Bhutan & Seattle, think they have a better idea.

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All of us on some level are interested in restoring vibrancy in our cities and our countries…but how are we defining that vibrancy? And, what are we doing to measure it? 

They often say in business that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” And lately, there’s been a lot of thinking among economists and otherwise that suggests that focusing narrowly on traditional indicators like GDP isn’t conducive to promoting overall prosperity for a society. Now, governments and NGOs alike around the world are looking to change that – by measuring and managing towards gains in a more comprehensive “Happiness Index” – one that goes beyond employment and productivity figures, to map out progress along more ten more holistic determinants of societal prosperity such as: “Material Wellbeing, Physical Health, Time Balance, Psychological Well-being, Education and Learning, Cultural Vitality, Environmental Quality and Access to Nature, Governance, Community Vitality, and Workplace Experience.” (For more on each of these, refer to the site of the Happiness Initiative here.) I’d argue that whenever and wherever efforts are being made to restore the vibrancy of a community, adopting this more systems-level approach should form the basis of a strategic framework for mapping out the vision and various tenets of vibrancy to help yield any meaningful, sustainable strategies. For more inspiration, see more below on the initiatives of the country of Bhutan and the city of Seattle below.

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index 

[Content below excerpted from this recent Daily Good article, on The Economics of Happiness]

For many years, Bhutan has measured its general well-being—as the people themselves subjectively report it—using a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. Its government bases policy decisions on how they might effect the kind of happiness associated with contentment, family, community, spirituality, education, compatibility with nature and good physical health. After years of primary research, the Bhutanese have identified nine domains for assessing happiness: psychological well-being, physical health, time use (work-life balance), community vitality and social connection, education, cultural preservation and diversity, environmental sustainability, good governance and material well-being.

In 2004, the first annual International Conference on Gross National Happiness was held in Bhutan. Hundreds of government representatives, scholars and other thought leaders from more than 40 nations gathered to explore the possibility of making GNH the true indicator of a country’s health and quality of life. As of 2011, a non-bindingresolution by the United Nations General Assembly urges that countries now measure their health and happiness, as well as wealth. Sixty-six countries backed it.

A city’s efforts to mobilize around happiness, on U.S. Soil: Sustainable Seattle Happiness Initiativ

[Content below excerpted from this recent Daily Good article, on The Economics of Happiness]

Seattle, Washington, the first U.S. city to implement a measurement of life satisfaction, is parlaying Bhutan’s indicators—psychological well-being, physical health, work/time balance, education and capacity building, cultural vitality and access to arts and culture, environmental quality and access to nature, apt governance and material well-being—as part of its own Sustainable Seattle Happiness Initiative. Spearheaded by Sustainable Seattle Executive Director Laura Musikanski and her team with encouragement by City Council President Richard Conlin, it may become America’s first GNH city.

Initial survey results, intended to spark conversations that matter, will be discussed at future town meetings in Seattle neighborhoods and used to recommend policies for consideration by the city council. Repeating the survey every couple of years will reveal progress. Interest in a similar Happiness Initiative is growing in cities and towns from coast to coast, such as Napa, California; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Duluth, Minnesota; Santa Fe and Roswell, New Mexico; Bellevue, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Some 100 colleges and universities also are beginning to apply the Happiness Initiative survey.

For more info on the tools that any city or community can use to implement their own Happiness Initiative visit the Happiness Initiative site.

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Interesting stuff, Preetum! Tip: Instead of using coding which doesn't work here, you can use the rich text formatting bar above the Description field – like you did to add links. The 'B" button will make highlighted text bold. You can make these adjustments by hitting the Update Entry button on the right of your post.

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DeletedUser

Hi Meena, Thanks for the tip. It's funny, because when I'm in the Compose / Edit mode, it looks fine, but only after I hit "Publish" did that weird code pop up. (Believe me, I'm no coder here!) In any case, thanks for bringing this to my attention, and think it should be fixed now!