Friday, May 30, 2014

Tidbits on Happiness In Policy - At A Happiness Conference Post 7

Gwen Coleman of GPI Atlantic, the organization that helped form Bhutan's GNH and the Canadian Index of Wellbeing Index, gave a talk this morning. She began with the basis of the wellbeing and happiness indexes: ethics and values.

Gwen teaches GNH to youth in Bhutan. Because Gwen was one of those who helped form the concept of GNH.
She gave an example of a lesson:
What is happiness?
What is wellbeing?
The kind of happiness where you have enough to eat.
Have you ever seen someone starving in Bhutan?
Why not?
Because no Bhutanese person would ever see someone go hungary. Because they would give their food away.

It all comes to a spiritual or ethical path that is individual. What does wellbeing mean to you? She beings it down to: counting human, social, environmental, democratic, and other capitals. 

Most of Gwen's work focuses on an objective measure of wellbeing, the Genuine Progress Indicators. With this indicator, she has worked in Nova Scotia, Canada to measure happiness and wellbeing and influence policy. Examples of her work can be found here. She has also worked with the Mauri Nation in New Zealand to help them adopt the GPI, in short, revolutionary work. 

Past Governor of Vermont and current Vermont State Senator Anthony Pollina spoke about the importance of using the GPI and GNH. He gave the example of balancing the budget where the fallout was leaving clean-up for future years and healthcare needs unmet. He talked about how a singular focus on monetary goals is remedied by use of the GPI and how using the GPI can help address crucial issues of unemployment,  inequality and investing in renewable energy. He called on the building on of GPI.  

Tony Cortese spoke of the transformation from the old ways of thinking (and educating) that created the problems needing to be fixed. He created an organization called Second Nature and works with schools, and has had wide ranging. He gave us the foundations for change: building broad coalitions. 

Reverand Mac Langerton speaks on Recollection and Spirituality at a Happiness Conference - post 6

Reverand Mac Langerton speaks on Recollection and Spirituality at a Happiness Conference 

Rabbi Larry Troster on the difference between spirituality and religion- at a Happiness Conference post 6

Rabbi Larry Troster on the difference between spirituality and religion at the Happiness Conference 2014:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ken Kitatani on the connection between spirituality and the happiness movement - A Happiness Conference post 5

Ken Kitatani talks on how and why we make the connection between spirituality and the happiness movement at the Happiness Conference in Vermont today! Spoiler: Values and Ethics

The Wizard of Us- At a Happiness Conference post 4

The Happiness Conference is divided into four segments: Personal Happiness, Policy & Application, Movement Building and -- Data (yawn -right? Nope!)

The Data Segment was not speakers, not a panel, but.....announcing: A Play!!
The Wizard of Us. Here is the script, written by John C. Havens with help from the "panelists"

The Wizard of Us
A short presentation on data in the happiness movement:
Cast (in order of appearance)
·       Tin Man, who teaches us about happiness indicators globally and how to interpret one’s personal assessment of their wellbeing, played by John C. Havens, author of Hacking H(app)iness - Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World and Founder of The H(app)athon Project at
·       Strawman, who teaches us why we need a new economic paradigm, played by Rickey Gard Diamond, MFA, founding editor of Vermont Woman at
·       The Lion, teaches us how to use happiness data for community wellbeing played by Lauren-Glenn Davitian, Executive Director of Center for Media and Democracy at
·       Glinda the Good Witch who teaches us how to manage happiness data, played by Kathleen Paterson, Co-director, Early Childhood Data Reporting System Project, Vermont Building Bright Futures at
·       Wizard of Us, who teaches us why we need happiness indicators to guide policy makers is played by Jane Kolodinsky, Ph.D. Professor and Chair of Community Development and Applied Economics Department at University of Vermont at

Presenters on stage wear hats/costume pieces to indicate their characters.

As the session opens, we see a slide featuring economic data with metrics from the GDP.  Words like “financial” and “productivity” and “growth” are featured prominently.  After the slide is up for a long moment, Dorothy enters, looking towards the ground, walking in circles.

Dorothy (muttering to herself, but loud enough for the audience to hear): Follow the yellow brick road. Follow the yellow brick road.

Tom enters as Dorothy’s Uncle Tom, wearing a hat to show he is the Tin Man before the tornado hits (worker on Dorothy’s farm).  He watches Dorothy pace for a moment, worried.

Tom: Dorothy!  Didn’t you hear me calling you?  The carnival is here.  Don't you want to meet the magician who’s going to tell you your fortune?

Dorothy: I’m making my fortune, Tom, (gesturing to Tom), the kindly man who works on my farm who also provides narration as a form of lazy exposition.  Don't you see the yellow bricks?  The gold? Everyone knows money makes you happy.  So I’m following the yellow brick road.

Tom: But money doesn’t bring happiness, Dorothy.  Who told you such a thing?

Dorothy: The munchkins.  

Tom: Who are the munchkins?

Dorothy: A Wall Street Brokerage firm.  

Tom: Dorothy. You’re looking at happiness the wrong way.  You’re measuring the wrong things.

Dorothy: That sounds like a segue!

Tom: Yes, Dorothy.  Yes it is.   

We see a video or static picture of a tornado while Tom/Tin Man makes storm sound effects into his microphone.

Dorothy: (swinging arms around as if she’s caught in the storm) What’s happening?

Tom: You need to rediscover what makes life count, instead of just counting on money to make you happy.

Dorothy is blown off stage as we see/hear RFK’s Beyond GDP speech.  At the end of the speech, she is blown back onstage.  As she comes back in, we see Tom/the Tin Man wearing a different hat – he is now the Tin Man.

Dorothy: Tom, is that you?

Tin Man: No, I’m the Tin Man.

Dorothy: Tim?

Tin Man: Tin.

Dorothy: Is it Mister Tin, or…

Tin Man: Welcome, Dorothy, to The Land of Us.  A place where happiness data can be used to make a difference in the world.  Up until now, the economy has focused largely on the idea that if you have more wealth, growth, or productivity you’ll be happy.  But in the Land of Us, we recognize a fuller range of metrics than just money that measure value.   

Dorothy: Like Mr. Kennedy spoke about.

Tin Man: Exactly.

Dorothy: But I’m confused.  How can you measure happiness?  Isn’t it a mood, and completely subjective?  How could economics measure those kinds of things?

Tin Man:  Well, Dorothy…

Music starts to play to the tune of, “If I Only Had a Brain.”

When your outlook is financial, increasing growth seems quite substantial, and only money plays a part.
Economic-ally speaking, sorry but your theory’s leaking, you’ve got to measure heart.
I know at first it sounds deceiving, that money can’t increase wellbeing, but it’s time for a clean start.
Please be open and not churlish, there’s more metrics make you flourish, when you start to measure heart.

Oh I can see just why, you’re struggling to comprehend.  But don’t worry now, my data-loving friend.
Here’s where we start, it’s not the end.

So don’t fill yourself with tension, ‘bout these metrics that I mention, like education, health, and art.
Cause the paradigm is changing, economics rearranging, now we get to measure heart.

Dorothy: Thank you, what a great song.  Did we have to pay royalties on that, because this conference is volunteer driven and…
Tin Man: No, it’s fair use.  But now that you understand why we call this, “The Land of Us.” Measuring wellbeing has to include measuring all the aspects of what makes us human and happy, not just money.

Dorothy: Wait a minute, didn’t I take a survey a while back.  Something about happiness…what was it…Oh yeah – the Gross National Happiness Index?  That was just a game wasn't it?  Are you serious?  You can’t measure happiness.

Tin Man: Well, actually, you an. Some countries are already measuring happiness like Bhutan, Australia, the UK, even the US Census Bureau.  Organizations like Gallup and even Google, Facebook and an explosion of apps are gathering happiness data as we speak.  And the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development just issued guidelines on measuring subjective wellbeing.

Dorothy: Subjective wellbeing? What is that?

Tin Man: Its what you feel and what you think about your life.  Remember in that survey, you were asked if you felt your life was worth living?  That's a way of measuring satisfaction with life. And the questions about feeling happy or anxious are how we measure affect, or how you feel.

Dorothy:  So wait a second – I remember that my Satisfaction With Life scores were lower than the everybody else’s scores.  So what this is saying is that even though things may be going good for me in a lot of domains of happiness of my life if I truly want to be happier, I need to change my mind, not my pocket book.

Tin Man: Correct. 

Dorothy: So in order to be happier, I should do things like we learned about in the first session – practice gratitude, giving and compassion; and I should spend more time volunteering and less time trying to make more money and getting more stuff.   Because more money, and another pair of shoes, just isn't going to give me my biggest bang for my buck anymore.  

Tin Man: That’s right.  Do you want to try a quick experiment to show you how you can increase your satisfaction with life, or your wellbeing?

Dorothy: Sure.

Tin Man:  You mentioned gratitude, so our experiment is going to focus on that.  And do you think we can let them get in on the fun? (Gestures towards the audience).

Dorothy: Who are they?

Tin Man: They’re the audience.  It’s okay, we’ve already broken the fourth wall. Okay, everyone, turn to the person next to you.  Pick a “Person A” and a “Person B.”  Person A will tell Person B, in a short sentence, something they’re grateful for.  So you might say, “I’m grateful for my family.” Then Person B will repeat that back.  “You’re grateful for your family.”  Go ahead and give that a shot everyone, and then switch places so you both get a turn.

(Actors do this on stage and audience members do as well).  

Tin Man:  Gratitude, like altruism, is an action we can take to increase our wellbeing.  And the effects of both of them can be tracked, via our health and the communities we help.  You know, it reminds me of a song….

Music to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” begins to play.

Tin Man: Somewhere over the….

Dorothy: Tin Man (stopping the music).  Sorry, it’s just we’re tight on time, and…

Tin Man: No, that’s fine, that’s fine.  I’ll go oil myself or something…(he exits off to the side).

Dorothy: (speaking to Toto and out to the audience)  Oh, Toto.  Now I’m beginning to see how to take a new measure of my life.  I’m worth more than just my wealth.  I realize I can actually be happier by focusing on data and metrics beyond money.

During her speech, she pretends to walk, and Scarecrow: enters

Scarecrow: Hey, who are you talking to?

Dorothy (startled): I’m sorry?

Scarecrow:  Who’s Toto?

Dorothy: Why, he’s my dog.

Scarecrow:There’s no dog there.

Dorothy: Sure, don’t you see him?  He’s sort of a poodle, bishon mix…

Scarecrow: And I thought I was the one without a brain. That’s fine, that’s fine.  
Look, Dorothy, now that you understand how to measure happiness in a new way for yourself, it’s time to understand how to do the same for other people.  I want to tell you why it’s important to measure what really matters.

Dorothy: Wonderful!  Are you going to sing, like the Tin Man?

Scarecrow: No, sorry.  I have all this hay in my throat.  Scratchy.

Dorothy: Is it a rights thing again?

Strawman: No, I just wanted a different segue to my section.

Dorothy: Ah, great.  What’s your segue.

Strawman: I’ve got some more audience participation, which is a cheap but fun way to keep people awake after lunch.  (Turns to audience) Okay, folks.  I need you to be Flying Monkeys.  It’s pretty easy.  Flap your arms and make monkey sounds.  Go ahead, give it a try.  (They do).  Great.  Now every time I point to you and make a flapping motion, do your thing.  And remember we’re capturing all this on video.

Now I’ve been here in the Land of Us a long time, when the Flying Monkeys (points to audience) lived in trees and knew their neighbors and threw down bananas and nuts and fruits for everybody in the Land of Us. We looked up to them. That was our first mistake. Now they’re flying off to Davos, or Wall Street, or drinking with the IMF with World Banksters. They only talk to other Flying Monkeys now.

They pile up these huge mountains of paper money. So much, it scares me--I mean all of it could catch on fire, right?  It has before! (Shivers & looks frightened.)

Dorothy: Don’t be afraid, Scarecrow. PLEASE. You’re scaring ME.

Strawman: Well, they call them dollar bills for a reason, you know. They’re IOUs, all betting on the future—but what about now? They cut down all the trees in the Land of Us to make more paper money, and got sawdust in the water, and killed the fish, which hurt the birds, which starved the coyotes, because the forest and fields are mostly paved now.

Dorothy: Yeah, but we have to park somewhere. To get stuff. That’s business.

Strawman: Me, I was down-sized. Replaced by computer simulation. Until some local farmers reminded Land of Us-ians that food wasn’t always thrown at us, or flown in and dropped from the sky. We don’t need Flying Monkeys (points to audience) —they need us. We have each other, and together, we create aggregate demand.

Dorothy: What’s that? Aggregate demand?

Strawman: Oh, that’s their monkey name for The Land of Us. Aggregate demand makes for a good “economy,” another monkey word.  See, money monkey-talk like that kind of covers up that there are many more of us, than there are of them. And under their cool hats, they’re kind of ugly. Frankly, I think they’re sexually insecure, all those flying monkeys, all fighting over who’s on top!

Dorothy: Well, that gets too personal.

Strawman: Have you seen the Wolf of Wall Street? Oh, the economy is very personal. But is it me, me, me, me, me? No, it’s we, we, we--The Land of Us and our many connections. We couldn’t see these when we only measured money. We’ve all got an important part—or flying monkeys will come out of my butt!

Dorothy rolls eyes. OMG.

Strawman: (to the audience) P.S. I’m not saying that YOU ALL are flying monkeys, by the way.  Just letting you have a little fun PLUS you saved us money on needing to buy a sound effect.

Strawman: See, the ants and the busy bees and beavers started these breweries and bakeries, for the Land of Us, with some help from the microbes. Small businesses. And more of them got solar panels for socially responsible business—the Munchkins are adding in childcare and healthcare and we’re measuring what happens. That way we all know we are working together. And whether everyone has a job and pays a fair share for roads we need—out of Wall Street—back to home-base.
We measure how our homes are doing, and people in them, and the babies and old people. Their job is to keep nurses and doctors and teachers working and laughing. We even measure how many grasshoppers get jobs, fiddling. Because their music makes us happy. And dancing to it keeps us fit! I’ll show you….

(“Happy” by Pharell plays, and the Strawman encourages everyone to dance).  Come on, everybody, dance break!

Scarecrow: Well, we measure fitness, too, and for the forests and the water and air. We even know now the Monkeys used to be happier before they started flying and hoarding paper. When they were sharing fruit most of us couldn’t reach?  We all were happier when they were still loaded –with fleas and lice, I mean, just hanging out, grooming each other, picking a little cootie snack every once in awhile. We should measure what would happen if we clipped their wings a little, and invited them to The Wizard of Us potluck—

Dorothy: Well, I hope they’ll wash their hands first!
(Lion roars)
Omigosh! What’s that!

We hear a lion roar from offstage.  Lion enters.

Dorothy: Oh my goodness, why were you roaring like that?

Lion:(pounding her chest) Sorry.  Just ate a munchkin.  Didn’t go down well.

Scarecrow: Woah! You scared the straw out of me.

Lion: Dorothy, now that you’ve learned how to increase happiness and wellbeing for yourself, for others, and how to measure it so it can count, I’m here to tell you how to use that data to make a real difference.

 (Lion sings)
If I were Queen of the Metrics, Not king, not duke, not prince.
My regal reports would make news, have power, make change, not chintz.
We’d answer how much is done, show how well it’s done,
And, who in my kingdom is better off.
As word of our progress spreads, all will be clear.
My public will hear, Policy makers draw near.
Communities would thrive - If I - If I - were Queen!
Funders would show respect to us.
The government, genuflect to us.
Our lives would improve, we’d be in a groove
Across lake and land!
If I - If I - were Queen!
Just Queen!

At the end of the Lion section, we hear ‘magical’ music playing as we see Good Witch Glinda’s picture on the screen, swirling in circles.  Her picture swirls off to one side of the stage which she then enters twirling and carrying a gigantic book.

Glinda the Good Witch: Hello!

Dorothy: Wow!

Glinda: It’s all about the entrance.  (Looking dizzy)
Dorothy: Who are you?
Glinda: I’m Glinda. The Good Witch.
Dorothy: What is that giant book you are carrying?
Glinda: I keep the records in the Land of Us.

Dorothy:  Oh! A story book! I love stories!

Glinda: Right.  It’s a data informed storybook (very serious.) I write down all the historical events that take place in the Land of Us and keep everything updated and neatly chronicled in this treasure book. Isn’t that magical?

Dorothy: Actually it sounds a little scary. What kind of things do you write down?

Glinda: The smallest things and the biggest things, like … well everything good and wonderful.  

Dorothy: There’s nothing for me in that book then.

Glinda: OF COURSE there is. Because there’s no place like home.

Dorothy: But, I only have simple things like, reading books with Auntie Em or working in the community garden.

Glinda: (looks in book) It’s all here!

Dorothy: What about when I cry or laugh?

Glinda: Page four thousand and forty-three.

Dorothy: Can anyone read the Happiness and Wellbeing Record Book?

Glinda: It’s very precious you know.  But I often shared it with a few people I trusted.

Dorothy: Wait, you wrote down things about everybody but then they couldn’t read it?

Glinda: Dear girl. It didn’t make sense to anyone else! We used highly complex statistics. You see. (Glinda shows Dorothy the book)

Dorothy: It’s all strange! What does it mean?

Glinda: HERE (she hands over magical big glasses)

Dorothy: Oh! There! Dorothy works in community garden!  Dorothy hugs her Auntie Em!  Dorothy laughs and pets Toto! These are wonderful glasses!

Glinda: Yes, but there are only three pairs. (Sighs) They are data literacy glasses! I call them my RNMK glasses.  Whoever puts on the glasses can Read Numbers that Make Sense. The magic glass had a special ingredient in the formula – data literacy.  They are sort of like Ruby slippers.  They’ll take you home!

Dorothy: Where are the other glasses?  And could I get a pair of Ruby slippers?

Glinda: I only let dear friends read the book. We meet every Friday over a double mocha latte and talk about the data and stories.

Dorothy: How interesting and fun!

Glinda: Not always. It shows the truth.  So we saw patterns and trends of good and not so good things happening in the Land of Us.

Dorothy: Oh no! What did you do?

Glinda: We began to share the book with a few others first and then everyone in the Land of Us so they could use the Happiness and Wellbeing Record Book for good.
Dorothy: But how can you share the book with everyone? You only have three RNMK glasses!
Glinda: I’m a witch! I used my magic and made a portal. You only need a RDMK nano! (pulls out nano inside book.) Now it’s possible that everyone can access and understand the Happiness and Wellness Record Book.

Dorothy: I’m not so sure I want everyone to know what you wrote about me! We’re not in Kansas anymore, if you know what I mean.

Glinda: Uhmmm.

Dorothy: My oh my.  Tell me more.  This sounds like a story worth sharing.  (They both face the audience as the iconic TED music plays and Glinda faces forward as if delivering a TED talk). 
Glinda: Data and happiness….(She is interrupted by Dorothy who holds up a big red circle, ala the carpet all TED speakers must stand on when delivering their talks). 

Dorothy: Here, you need to stand on this, because that’s how they do it at TED.

Glinda: Right, thanks. (Continuing her talk)  The great news about the Happiness and Wellbeing Record book being available in the cloud through wee-devices (holds up nano) means social good technology innovators are creating data portals to access it from anywhere, no matter what land you are in or who you are.  
And you don’t need to worry about data protection or privacy.  This technology allows only you to see your own data and stories. But you still get to see other data and stories that are all woven together to help us answer important questions so that we can take good care of the earth and people. There are data portals to the Record Book everywhere, all stored in clouds, no matter what land you are in or who you are. (Glinda twirls off the circle)

Dorothy: Glinda! The red circle. Do you have an example?

Glinda: Oh! Right! Yes, here’s an example of a data portal,  (Early Childhood Data reporting System that Kathleen Paterson, Dave Lapointe and Julie Coffey from Vermont’s Building Bright Futures are working on)

Dorothy: It’s like the yellow brick road to happiness and wellbeing.

Glinda: I just wrote down in my HW Record Book the results of the first state-level Gross National Happiness Survey.  Social connections and environmental quality domains ranked the highest by Vermonters

(Now all of the cast members stand up to look at the charts and say in unison):

Lion: You’re talking about data democracy where everyone is empowered to work with the data and stories for social good. Courage!

Glinda: YES!  Data democracy for social good; data literacy + digital access + digital trust!
Tin Woodman: Social good - that means compassion, caring and social justice.  It’s about people, places and possibilities. Have a heart!

Glinda: Such forward thinkers.  (To Dorothy) By the way, are we done with the TED thing?  (Pointing to the red circle).

Dorothy: Oh, yeah.  (To audience) Anyone want this?  If you stand on it, you magically sound important and are bathed in red light (she throws it into the audience).
I get it!
Data analyzed yields information
Information leads to knowledge
Knowledge helps us understand
Understanding points to wisdom
Wisdom leads to vision
Shared vision leads to collective action
Collective action turns to collective impact
I think I’m ready now!  I think I understand how to make a difference by measuring happiness and wellbeing data and using it to increase wellbeing for every being, in the Land of Us. Is there a way back home now?

Glinda: Well, Dorothy, you were wise and good enough to help your friends to come here and find what was inside them all the time. That's true for you, also. 

Dorothy: Home? Inside of me? I don’t understand?

Glinda: Home is a place we all must find, dear. It's not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we're always home, anywhere. 

At the end of this section, we segue to:

The Wizard of Us appears. Everyone on stage gets down on one knee except Dorothy.

Wizard of Us: Well done, Dorothy.  You have learned well on your journey.

Dorothy: Wait – are you the Wizard?  I thought the wizard was supposed to be a guy.

Wizard of Us: I think women have been ignored long enough in important roles and measures, don’t you?

Dorothy: That’s right, girlfriend!  (They fist bump or bump chests).

Wizard of Us: Audience, don’t you agree women have been ignored, long enough?  The proper response here is, “Yes, Mighty Wizard.”  Say it!

All cast: Yes, mighty Wizard

Wizard of Us: Nice.

And now, Dorothy, I have just one more lesson before you go

Wizard of Us speaks on a New Economic Paradigm
·      What counts and what doesn't: grocery shopping/gardening; volunteering/working a job; bottle feeding breast feeding
·      States with the largest difference between economic indicator well being and social indicator well being:  Delaware and Oregon,
·      The differences between these two states that are not “counted”
·      The missing element in the economics equation:  happiness

As she ends, Tin Man and any remaining cast members reenter.

Dorothy: Scarecrow!  Lion!  Tin Man!

(Tin Man as Tom): I’m Tom again.

Dorothy: Tim?

Tom: Don’t…we’re already running over.

Go ahead, Dorothy.  Click your heels together three times and we’ll take this bad boy home.

The times they are a’ changing, a new wind is starting to blow.
And now just like you, Dorothy, there’s a few things that we all know.
When you don’t just measure money, that’s when happiness can grow.

And the power to make this change, it’s not just in Us but also you (pointing to the audience).
And now that our journey’s over, there’s just one thing we need to do:

Sing with us!

It’s time to count what matters.  (Audience – it’s time to count what matters)
It’s time to count what’s true.  (Audience – it’s time to count what’s true).
It’s time to count what matters.  (Audience – it’s time to count what matters)
It’s time to count what’s true.  (Audience – it’s time to count what’s true).
You want to really get happy?  Measure unto them as you want them to measure unto you.

One more time!

It’s time to count what matters.  (Audience – it’s time to count what matters)
It’s time to count what’s true.  (Audience – it’s time to count what’s true).
It’s time to count what matters.  (Audience – it’s time to count what matters)
It’s time to count what’s true.  (Audience – it’s time to count what’s true).
You want to really get happy?

I said, do you really want to get happy?

(Music plays big bluesy ending)

 ….Measure unto them as you want them to measure unto you.