Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Crafting an Open Letter to Happiness Ministers

Hello Happiness Friend and Fellow Happiness Movement Revolutionary!

We will be issuing an open letter calling on all governments to create happiness cabinets, appoint happiness staff and contribute to the beyond GDP movement through measurement of happiness, well-being and sustainability, use of happiness data,  promulgation of happiness, well-being and sustainability policies, and implementation of these policies. There is still time to give feedback on the letter, soon to be launched.

On September 22: we updated our letter as we recognize that we are writing to two different audiences with very different circumstances and goals.  See our updates below!


Earlier this year officials from the office of the newly appointed Happiness Minister of the United Arab Emirates reached out to us. We were happy to share our knowledge and resources. Shortly after
Read the World Happiness Report at www.worldhappiness.report
a Happiness Minister position was created for the state of Madhya Pradesh, India.

We (the board of the Happiness Alliance and those of us working on the ground in this very grassroots volunteer organization) decided to write an open letter to these two happiness ministers and to all future happiness ministers. Part of our hope is that every state, nation and union will appoint happiness ministers.

Our deep belief is that the purpose of government and the purpose of our economy is the happiness and well-being of all beings. We ground this belief in the revolutionary words embedded in the Declaration of Independence that the purpose of government is to protect our inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

To this, we feel that the job of happiness ministers today and in the future is to bring our governments and economies back to their original purpose.

And so, we ask you, dear reader, to tell us what you think of our open letter, and if you choose, to join with us in further crafting it and in ultimately sending it to today's happiness ministers and to those of our future.
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Open Letter to Governments:

This is a call encouraging the formation of happiness, wellbeing and sustainability cabinet level position in each level of your government. We ask that you create a Secretary of Happiness and Wellbeing for each state in your country and a Commissioner of Happiness for each local government.  We ask that these positions be tasked with measuring happiness, well-being and sustainability using survey and objective data collection; analyze the data, work with civilians and governmental agencies to identify policies and programs and implement such. 

We ask you to look to Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission and the appointment of Happiness Ministers by the United States Emirates and the state of Madhya Pradesh in India for inspiration. 

We ask you to join the beyond GDP or happiness movement. The happiness movement harkens to the once revolutionary concept in the US Declaration of Independence that the purpose of government is to protect each person’s inalienable right to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”  The following events are the foundation for the happiness movement:

In 2009, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (or the Stiglitz Report) called on governments to go “beyond  GDP” indicators to  measure “economic performance and social progress.' 

In 2011, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the organization that measures nation’s competing GDPs, issued its Better Life Index and then in 2013, issued Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Wellbeing in an effort to help governments go beyond merely monetary and economic growth measures as the primary metrics that guide policy decisions.

That same year, the United Nations issued resolution
65/309. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development inviting governments to develop “measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies.”

The next year, in 2012, the Secretary General of the United Nations with the Prime Minister of Bhutan, held a High Level Meeting Well-being and Happiness: Towards a New Economic Paradigm.

We ask your government to take a bold and necessary step in the happiness and beyond GDP movement.

We feel a fundamental goal of the happiness movement is to shift our values, individual and collective, from viewing wealth and material acquisition as the primary indicator of success and well-being to values that include the parameters of life satisfaction, environmental sustainability, culture, social support, community, material well-being, job satisfaction, education, time-balance, good governance, as well as physical and psychological health. Following Bhutan’s lead, these are the “domains of happiness.”  Although each country, community, individual will have somewhat different needs and approaches for improving satisfaction with life and sense of well-being, we agree with Bhutan and our research into the domains find that indeed, these domains reflect an over-arching commonality for all of us.  

We have been providing tools to communities and governments, including a subjective happiness survey for individuals (translated into many languages, and with full data analysis capability); training modules; access to research papers in the field; and tool kits for improving both personal happiness levels of individuals and community-wide well-being.  We would be pleased to share our knowledge, resources, including a happiness index, and experience with you.

Our Letter to Ministers of Happiness:

On behalf of the Happiness Alliance we are pleased to send you congratulations on obtaining the office of Happiness Minister, a rare but very welcome title in this unsettled and challenged world.  We welcome a collaborative relationship in the coming years to effectively assess happiness and design strategies to enhance it.

Since 2010, The Happiness Alliance, based in Seattle, WA, U.S.A, has been exploring strategies for increasing the happiness of individuals, communities, and nations. We have worked with policy makers, community organizers, educators and spiritual leaders, among others to make meaningful contributions to the happiness movement for a new economic paradigm. In 2012, we were pleased to participate in the United Nation’s High Level Meeting Well-being and Happiness: Towards a New Economic Paradigm convened by Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and Prime Minister Thinley of Bhutan. 

Our experience in the happiness movement, backed up by prominent research findings in the field, has taught us that happiness and well-being policy coupled with relevant data, both subjective and objective, that measure satisfaction with life and affect alongside the domains of happiness are core elements of happiness.

We call on you to use subjective and objective happiness metrics to gauge the degree of suffering and well-being among your people, implement policies, and again use these metrics to assess progress. Our data leads us to suggest a few illustrative examples of happiness policies:
  • Environment:  mitigation of climate change and water scarcity, sustainable growth, clean air and water, green spaces within communities and cities.
  • Education: training for future needs in the IT and green energy sector, sustainable farming, and also “soft skills” such as compassion, gratitude, community involvement, care-giving, sharing, resilience and coping techniques.
  • Economic security:  universal basic income, minimum wage statutes, progressive income tax.
  • Quality of governance:  human rights, corruption reduction, open and honest dialog between those governing and those governed.
  • Health and health care:  affordable universal coverage, more help for mentally ill, nutritional improvements.
  • Community wellness:  child care, social opportunities, integration, parks, neighborhood safety and  pleasant surroundings, care for the aged and disabled.

There are difficult and complex tasks ahead for all of us. Again, the Happiness Alliance hopes to establish a dialogue with you and is ready to provide assistance in any way possible.  Please explore our website at happycounts.org.