Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Happy State: The Happiness Ministers (part 2 of 3)

To date only two nations and one state host offices of happiness: United Arab Emirates, Bhutan and the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is my dream that someday every nation, state and city will have an office of happiness. I do not believe I am alone in that dream. In 2012, the United Nations issued a resolution urging nations to develop happiness and well-being measures in light of the fact that Gross Domestic Product (the sum of all goods and services produced in a year) is not an adequate measure for governments to use a guide by itself.

At the time of the proclamation, Bhutan was the only country in the world with a happiness office, entitled the Secretary of the Gross National Happiness Commission. Then and now the Secretary of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Commissionworks with other officials to screens all national policies. A complete list of their tasks ranges from using GNH index as a “guide” and “monitoring stick” to forming a twenty and five year plan, from overseeing smooth functioning of government agencies to budgeting.

Sonam Wangchuk currently holds the office of GNH Secretary. His administrative duties are vast. Prior to Sonam,Karma Tshiteem held the office, and sometimes acted as an ambassador for the spread of the GNH philosophy. His work is different from other current or future happiness officers as happiness is already the chief purpose and aim of the government.

In the United Arab Emirates, Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi holds the office of theMinister of State of Happiness. She was appointed earlier in 2016.  She is integrating happiness into government and business. A similar but different take the customer service chats that are a part of most every online interaction today, she created a happiness customer index. She is also bringing happiness trainings to corporations and well as investigating happiness metrics for wider use.

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, India, the Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, created the office of happiness minister and holds the office. Chouhan has plans to create a department of happiness which will include a president, chief officer, research director, coordinators and assistants. A panel of experts is being convened in the next step to implement these plans. Bhutan is the source of inspiration for Madhya Pradesh’s happiness ministry and department.

These three offices have scant examples to look to in doing their jobs. No doubt each has and will make mistakes, and will put in place plans and actions that receive a great deal of criticism and lack of understanding. Nevertheless, they at the forefront of the happiness movement, and as such, will provide for other nations and other states the hard won lessons and foundations for best practices that someday will compose a commonly understood definition of happiness minister.
First posted on Medium, written by Laura Musikanski. 

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