How can the success of a country and the happiness of its people be measured?


Dr. Julia Kim the Program Director of the Gross National Happiness Centre Bhutan will deliver one of the IEC keynotes this year. 

At a time of unprecedented social, economic and environmental crisis, many leaders are starting to question our current measures of growth and prosperity. Why is it that in many countries, the pursuit of GDP growth has not translated into greater happiness and wellbeing? 

In Bhutan, the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was introduced in the 1970s, and is now attracting growing international attention. GNH draws inspiration from the Buddhist “middle path” of sustaining a balanced development that recognizes both the material and intangible aspects of wellbeing. It puts forward a holistic and sustainable approach to development, based on balancing 9 domains of progress. 

The nine domains

GNH asks “what does it mean to live a good life?” and embraces an eco-centric (rather than ego-centric) worldview – one that values and acknowledges the interconnected web of life.

Dr. Kim will describe how the principles and practices of GNH are being applied in Bhutan and beyond. How might a shift in consciousness, combined with wider systems change, point us towards a happier and more sustainable economy and society? 

We will explore the latest scientific research on wellbeing (e.g. neuroscience, positive psychology, social epidemiology) as well as describe how alternative measures of progress are being adopted within key areas such as government, education and business. Growing interest in GNH and other “Beyond GDP” approaches within Canada and among indigenous communities, will also be highlighted.

The concept of Gross National Happiness

GNH was promulgated by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan in the early 1970s. When His Majesty spoke about GNH at that time, he questioned the prevailing system of measurement that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) alone could deliver happiness and well-being to society. He was still a youthful monarch, and wise beyond his years. His Majesty firmly believed that happiness is an indicator and a sign of the progressive development of the Bhutanese people. He also believed in the legitimacy of public discussion in defining Bhutan’s development goals.

Today it is technically defined as a “multi-dimensional development approach seeking to achieve a harmonious balance between material prosperity and the spiritual, emotional, and cultural needs of society.” The key word is “harmonious balance” – which can be achieved by balancing the needs of the body with those of the mind.

Gross National Happiness Index

Since then, the idea of GNH has influenced Bhutan’s economic and social policies and has also captured the imagination far beyond the country’s borders. In creating the Gross National Happiness Index, Bhutan sought to create a measurement tool that would be useful for policy making and create policy incentives for the Bhutanese government, non-governmental organizations, and businesses to increase GNH.

The GNH index encompasses traditional areas of socio-economic concern such as standard of living, health and education as well as less traditional aspects of culture and psychological well-being. It is a holistic reflection of the overall well-being of the Bhutanese people and not just a subjective psychological ranking of “happiness”.

The GNH index is decomposable by any demographic characteristic, i.e. it can be broken down by population groups to show, for example, the composition of GNH among men and women or by district, and by dimensions to show, for example, which group lacks education. The indicators and domains aim to emphasize different aspects of well-being and different ways of meeting underlying human needs.

There are 33 indicators in the above 9 domains and the index attempts to measure the nation’s well-being directly by starting with each person’s performance in each indicator. The GNH index is based on the Alkire-Foster method of multidimensional measurement adapted for this purpose. It identifies four groups of people – unhappy, narrowly happy, extensively happy and deeply happy. The analysis looks at the happiness that people already enjoy and then focuses on how policies can increase the happiness and satisfaction of the unhappy and narrowly happy.

Since the GNH was introduced as the main measure of growth in Bhutan, nearly 100 percent of children are enrolled in school and the country has nearly doubled its life expectancy. Education policies have also been influenced by GNH principles. Children now learn about agricultural practices and environmental protection, in addition to mathematics and science. Meditation is also a typical part of the school day. In addition, the country’s waste management program ensures that all materials used in schools are recycled.

While Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is still widely used as a measure of development, Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index is gaining popularity right next to it.

Dr. Julia Kim is the Program Director of the Gross National Happiness Centre Bhutan, which aims to promote Wellbeing Economies based on human flourishing, in balance with nature. She previously worked as a global health & development advisor in Africa & Asia, as well as the UN in New York. Julia is a member of the Club of Rome and an associate of the Presencing Institute – a global network that views awareness-based systems change as a key capacity for 21st Century innovation & leadership.

http://www.gnhcentrebhutan.org/

Dr. Julia Kim is the Program Director of the Gross National Happiness Centre Bhutan, which aims to promote Wellbeing Economies based on human flourishing, in balance with nature. She previously worked as a global health & development advisor in Africa & Asia, as well as the UN in New York. Julia is a member of the Club of Rome and an associate of the Presencing Institute – a global network that views awareness-based systems change as a key capacity for 21st Century innovation & leadership.

http://www.gnhcentrebhutan.org/

The article is a contribution by Dr. Julia Kim to IEC 2021 Online.

May 19-23, 2021 one thousand people from fifty countries across the five continents and a hundred speakers are expected to attend the largest integral global event in virtual space of the year, titled The Future Of Collective Evolution.

IEC 2021 Online offers sessions including Online Workshops, Presentations, Global Sharing Circle, Lunchtime Integral Socializers, Find your Mate Integral Date games, Morning Practices, Integral Art and more.

Find event and ticket information! 

0
Your Cart