18 August 2013

Happiness as a UN goal? The Inside-Out Development Paradigm?

Are we seeing a new, more holistic human development paradigm emerging? Can happiness be a UN goal? There are some interesting signs...

Since the UN General Assembly declared 20 March the International Day of Happiness in 2012 the idea of happiness as a goal for development and global well-being has gained even more traction. Discussions advance happiness not just as a personal matter but also a global development goal.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is personally very interested in the new development paradigm including global well-being, happiness and Bhutan's Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. The 2013 UN General Assembly Note called "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development" gives a clear recognition of broader measurement of development beyond GDP and a call to further action.

Recently and during my holidays in Germany, I attended the first 'Global Well-being Lab Forum' in Berlin. It was organized by Germany's GIZ Global Leadership Academy (commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)), the Presencing Institute and the GNH Bhutan Centre with OECD, Italy, Finland, World Bank Institute et al. also being active.

See a key diagram by Enrico Giovannini, former OECD economist pioneer, mapping the links between needs, skills, forms of capital, well-being and happiness with the new development paradigm (see also at the bottom the resource library giving an overview of other initiatives presented).

For me personally very interesting is that this new development paradigm seems neither top-down nor bottom-up but 'inside-out'. A key insight that I heard from both the Bhutanese monks at the forum but also Otto Scharmer, Founder of the Presencing Institute, is that "transformation has first to happen inside oneself, then it manifests outside".

This new field appears to be an exciting, innovative approach promising transformative impact and contributing to the realization of long-term development goals for all. Are we seeing a new development paradigm 'happiness' emerging?
At the moment this space is still relatively new and much more research is needed to make the new approach practical. Given my strong personal passion for the topic, I am considering to explore this new development paradigm through an action-oriented PhD thesis with a German university while continuing my work for the UN.

Key part of the initiative would be to interview global change-makers and transformative leaders to synthesize insights on realizing the new emerging development paradigm, from theory to reality, within the UN context. What about the title 'transformateurs'? Suggestions for interviewees?

For further information see also the very informative resource library by Stefan Bergheim, Centre for Societal Progress. Looking forward to hearing from you.