Global Wellbeing and GNH Lab
"I think [the Lab] has made me realize that true systems transformation really starts with...read more
"I think [the Lab] has made me realize that true systems transformation really starts with individuals, that the ability to transform the economy or transform our healthcare system ultimately depends on the ability and willingness of the individuals within a system to transform themselves; to look at things differently; to act in accordance with their values. And that was a very profound but actually obvious fact when you stop and think about it."
--Governor John Kitzhaber, State of Oregon, USARead less
“Our gross national product… counts air pollution and cigarette advertising… special locks for...read more
“Our gross national product… counts air pollution and cigarette advertising… special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder…It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile."
- Robert F. Kennedy (1968)
”The kind of civilization we build depends on the way we do our accounts, quite simply because it changes the value we put on things.”
- Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up (2010)
“The old model is broken. We need to create a new one…a vision for equitable human development, a healthy planet, an enduring economic dynamism."
- Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General
For many decades, experts have recognized the need to develop metrics other than gross domestic product (GDP) to measure economic progress. Over the years, countries, communities, and global think tanks have been developing alternative metrics and indices relevant to their own contexts. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is one of these, as pioneered and exemplified in Bhutan.
Despite the proliferation of metrics and indices, the dominant global economic paradigm is still oriented toward the pursuit of limitless growth. Limitless growth on a finite planet is environmentally unsustainable – and its perilous impacts have been well documented by climate scientists, biodiversity experts, and many others over the past 30 years. Furthermore, increased material consumption does not correlate to increased wellbeing in society. And yet, transformation in business, government, and civil society has not taken place at the scale necessary to address today’s social and environmental challenges. While prosperity is increasing a very small percentage of society, the global economy is proving unable to protect scarce natural resources, preserve biodiversity, and improve wellbeing for the majority of humanity.
The Global Wellbeing and GNH Lab aims to accelerate societal transformation toward a more equitable and sustainable economy. It aims to do so through the development, implementation, and study of prototype projects that demonstrate how economic development can serve a more meaningful purpose than just material consumption.
The Lab is a partnership between the Presencing Institute, the GIZ Global Leadership Academy - a program commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) - and the GNH Centre Bhutan. The Lab dives deeper into the question of what promotes the wellbeing of people and societies - not through theoretical analysis and argument, but instead through action and reflection.
The Global Wellbeing and GNH Lab invited early adopters of new economic models, indicators, and organizational structures from across the globe to join. Participants came from business, government, and civil society.
Around 40 - 50 dialogue interviews were initially conducted to identify potential participants’ current experiences, challenges, questions, and expectations. Twenty-five participants were ultimately selected, representing a wide range of institutions and geographic locations. These include:
- India: Oxfam: SEWA
- Brazil: Natura, Ministry of Environment, Minas Generais State Office for Strategic Priorities, Arapyau Institute
- USA: State of Oregon, Eileen Fisher, Demos, BALLE
- China: Tsinghua University
- Germany: Wuppertal Institute
- International: OECD
- Bhutan: GNH Centre, Greener Way
- Sri Lanka: Centre for Environment & Development
- UK: Oxfam
Together they went on learning journeys where they were immersed in places of innovation around societal wellbeing. They were simultaneously trained in methods for leading profound personal and institutional transformation.
In January 2013, Lab participants traveled to Brazil to take a deep dive into places of innovation around wellbeing in both urban and rural contexts. One of the Brazilian hosts for the lab was Natura Cosmeticos, a company recognized for its pioneering commitment to sustainability and wellbeing. Part of the Brazil learning journey involved an exploration of the urban and rural components of Natura’s supply chain.
As a tool for social change, learning journeys are not only about visiting new places; they are also about discovering new ideas. Layered with reflective practices such as dialogue walks and journaling, a learning journey creates a space for the people to let go of existing patterns of thinking and to explore new ideas. Ultimately, the process is designed for participants to develop new leadership skills, form partnerships across sectors and geographic regions, and collaborate to create new initiatives.
"There’s a lot of discussion [in my line of work] about what experts are doing. We should stop deferring to the community of experts, and start referring to the community as experts."
-Katherine Trebeck, Oxfam, UK
Following the first learning journey, participants joined monthly peer group coaching calls to support their continued learning.The same participants met again in April 2013 in Bhutan, a country recognized for its groundbreaking commitment to placing a holistic measure of social and environmental wellbeing (Gross National Happiness) at the center of its development paradigm. In Bhutan, through reflection and sense-making, they identified a constellation of prototyping ideas and a framework for supporting the next phase of work.
Prototyping ideas are currently being explored, refocused and implemented as multi-local prototyping activities. Progress will be showcased and documented as case studies. Next phase plans will be developed into fuller proposals, with ongoing integration of prototypes within institutions.
During the prototyping phase, implementation is being supported by periodic coaching calls to support emerging initiatives, as well as to provide linkages to other prototypes. On July 5, 2013 a one-day event at the GIZ office in Berlin, Germany brought together participants from each prototype to share their experiences and showcase early results.Read less
Global Wellbeing and GNH Lab Prototypes:
GNH in Business Lab
The purpose of this prototype is to change the way we frame and conduct our economy from “us” versus “them” to a business value proposition which builds community by better serving society and nature and engaging the creativity and potential of all citizens.
Prototype collaborators described their shared values and goal as follows:
We believe that individuals driven by their life purpose build communities based on compassion, which then transforms larger systems. Our goal is to develop the processes and practices that support large number of business leaders and entrepreneurs. To start, this Lab will prototype deeply personal, transformational leadership forums with dozens of top business leaders in various countries, as well as widely accessible workshops and events for hundreds or thousands of community entrepreneurs. We will develop a learning field and collective platform to share up, down, and across the prototypes.
- Eileen Fisher Inc. is using individual transformation as a gateway into organizational and eco-system-wide transformation. Thirty change makers within the company, including the entire top leadership team, have conducted two workshops on this subject. A subset of the group took a learning journey to Brazil to learn from Natura Cosmeticos' innovative leadership methods - with the goal to create new environments for change within the company. An additional initiative on applying GNH metrics to business has been formed and is in its early stages.
- In Oregon, Governor Kitzhaber's health care transformation efforts may be a powerful example of how emphasizing outcomes and strategic metrics can bring transformation to large industry groups and economic sectors. Requiring the health care sector to deliver improved health rather than just administer medical services is resulting in profound shifts and significant cost savings in the health care sector in Oregon. Additionally, conversations about measuring what matters and the Genuine Progress Indicator in particular have been held with the Oregon Business Council Leadership and several key Oregon-based businesses. Finally, work is underway to integrate effective, triple bottom line metrics in the Oregon Ten Year Budget Plan.
Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI) In the States Prototype (USA)
The purpose of this prototype is to catalyze movement toward more effective, triple bottom line economic metrics and realignment of capital investments in the U.S by leveraging state-level GPI initiatives. It aspires to help the U.S. culture and people to heal from the problems stemming from consumer society.
- Demos hosted its second GPI in the States Summit in June 2013. Ten months earlier, its first summit attracted four states. Their goal for the second summit was to add an additional 6-8 states. Impressively, the second summit convened representatives from twenty US states. The keynote briefing included Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University.
Transformation Hub (Brazil)
The intention is to create a “hub”, located in Brazil, where systemic changes in the direction of a more sustainable, equitable and just society will be prototyped and taken into practice. The Hub will adopt a multi-sector, cross-disciplinary, and multi-intelligence approach, linking science, societal transformation and mindfulness into a coherent framework of awareness based action research. This hub, besides primarily orienting its initiatives to supporting the desired and necessary sustainability transition processes within the Brazilian society, is also part of a network of other similarly oriented organizations, located elsewhere in the world (Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Europe, US, etc.), with which it will Interact and collaborate.
- The place of the Hub already exists. Currently, stakeholder conversations with founding partners such as Natura, the Brazil government and with academic partners are being conducted. At the same time, conversations with international Hub partners are also making progress.
Whose Development Prototype (India)
A collaboration between Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Oxfam India, the purpose of this prototype is to change the way Indian policy makers think about and pursue development. The intent is to create a shift from a model that prioritizes rapid economic growth (with little regard to its quality or distribution) to an economy that prioritizes the wellbeing of citizens and protects, rather than exploits, the environment. At root of this project is an interest in enhancing the wellbeing and development aspirations of young people in India.
- The Presencing Institute facilitated a workshop with SEWA Master Trainers from Septemeber 15th-18th, 2013, at SEWA headquarters in Ahmedabad, India. Read more here.
GNH Centre Prototype (Bhutan)
The GNH Centre’s purpose is to manifest in living practice Bhutan’s unique balanced development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which seeks to integrate equitable and sustainable socio-economic development with environmental conservation.
- The Mind and Life Institute (MLI) has embarked on a new initiative to develop a pedagogy and curriculum in ‘secular ethics’ as part of its mission to promote human flourishing around the globe. Recent conversations with the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Centre in Bhutan have revealed a shared focus on compassion as the basis for ethical conduct, and an intention to explore how we can better nurture compassion in education and other social institutions.
In partnership with the GIZ Global Leadership Academy, commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Presencing Institute has initiated a living laboratory exploring new ways of measuring and implementing wellbeing in societies worldwide.
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