H is for The Happiness Initiative: Towards A New Economic Paradigm

The Happiness Initiative aims improve the well-being of society. It aims to do this by reducing the emphasis on economic growth and focusing on the domains that lead to life satisfaction, resilience and sustainability.

Below are excerpts from its website. You can discover more via the following link.


Happiness I


We believe that individual happiness is intrinsically linked to societal well-being  – the domains of happiness  – and that there is a deep interrelationship between individual happiness and the well-being of our society, economy and environment.  

We believe in grassroots activism; that while change happens from the bottom up, you also need the top.  

We support the spread of Happiness Initiatives at all scales.

Our tools and resources for cities, campuses, companies, communities and groups as well as our education programs and individual happiness programs are ways we are a part of grassroots activism. 

We believe that you get what you measure, and that measuring the happiness of our society, companies, campuses and institutions will set us all on the path for happiness.  

Our Gross National Happiness Index is the measure we provide. We provide happiness data at the individual, community and national level. 

Project History

The Happiness Initiative was inspired by the country of Bhutan’s work to measure Gross National Happiness (GNH) and a global trend to measure happiness instead of just gross domestic product.

The Happiness Initiative (HI) began as Sustainable Seattle’s (S2) as its fifth set of regional sustainability indicators.

The project was a departure from S2′s 20-year history of just objective sustainability indicators.  

S2 was the first organization to develop local indicators of well-being as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is widely acknowledged as the first “community sustainability organization” in the United States (Holden 2004).

In 1996, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements awarded S2 the “Excellence in Indicators Best Performance” Award.

In 2011, it became apparent the Happiness Initiative was a national organization, and so it was spun off as its own entity.

The Happiness Initiative gained 501(c)3 status in March of 2012.  The vision for the future is of social justice, compassion, sustainability, interdependance and inclusivity.  

The mission of the Happiness Initiative is to work for a just, healthy and resilient society where all people have the opportunity to pursue happiness.  Why? Listen to what NPR has to say.

Be happy

The Happiness Initiative began by offering a subjective indicator of well-being anyone can use.  

It is a survey that an individual can take to get an idea of their own personal assessment of their happiness, and any group or region can use to find out where the community is hurting and thriving. This is the Gross National Happiness Index.

The work with immigrant and refugee communities in 2012 told us there is great social inequity in this country. The communities we worked with made lasting changes to how they interact with each other and their neighborhoods.

Our national data told us the youth our country (ages 19-25) are suffering: they do not see a bright future for them. These are examples of how happiness data helps us understand where we are headed and take a path for a better future for all.

Empowered by this data, anyone anywhere can revitalize and reframe the debate and provokes richer broader conversation on a local and national level about what really should guide our policy makers in governing our country: just the economy and profit or well-being and happiness for all.

The work of The Happiness Initiative is rooted in collaboration. Areas all over the US are conducting their own happiness initiatives.  

Contributing To The GNH Index

Below is a link that enables you to contribute to the Gross National Happiness Index. The Happiness Initiative has kindly provided this unique link for readers of this blog.


Below is a video of John de Graaf giving an opening talk at the Happiness Conference in 2012. The conference was sponsored by The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, The Compassionate Action Network and the Communications Department of Seattle University

John is one of the co-founders of The Happiness Initiative. You can discover more about his work via the following links.



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