Happiness, the Gross National Kind

It’s been too long since I posted. Busy. On the road for nearly 2 months with a small pit stop home. Last week I was at the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS conference in VT and then spoke on a GNH panel at the Green Festival in Seattle. This keys into my Summer’s theme: happiness. What it is? How we find it? Keep it? Spread it? Make societies that have happiness, not just economic activity, as the bottom line. So here’s a brief update on GNH for ya.Measuring to Manage

Karma Tshiteem is the head of the Gross National Happiness Commission in Bhutan, charged with tracking the happiness of the Bhutan people and making policy that will maintain or increase happiness. He’s a self proclaimed bureaucrat. He’s not all smiles. He doesn’t crack jokes. He measures 9 dimensions of happiness in order to manage the carrots and sticks that will keep Bhutan on track.

They do not believe the government is responsible for the happiness of the people. That’s an inside job. They do believe government can measure “subjective well-being” (how happy people report being in all realms of life) and provide incentives through policies and planning. Data from surveys draws government attention to what need to be addressed.

For example, one domain of happiness is cultural. For Bhutan, it’s important that people participate in traditional Festivals as a way to learn about Bhutanese identity and form solid cultural bonds. Through measuring (survey) they found that attendance at Festivals was down. They then mandated that wherever a Festival is happening, people will be given 3 days off since Festivals are usually 4 days. In a year they will measure again to see if this new policy works.

GNH measurements not only corrects but directs. It is used as a planning tool. Next post is about that. And then on to other dimensions of happiness – this precious sweetness of life, elusive, intermittent… and not at all what we think.


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