Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gross National Happiness Convention

We've been talking about measuring happiness and Bhutan's Gross National Happiness index. Last week was the Gross National Happiness Convention, and here's what some folks had to say about it.

Besides calling GNH "rhetoric we use to impress foreigners", a local editorial said Bhutan's efforts to concentrate on happiness are critical but incomplete:

As an inspiration it has worked. The challenge is for us to construct the academic structure around GNH and to make it a practical basis for our planning process. As development experts say, we must “operationalise” GNH. Because Bhutanese people in general, and that includes the so-called educated section of society, do not read academic papers, GNH has to be operationalised by the small community of academics and decision-makers.

When His Majesty the King addressed the university graduates of 2007 in October, he said that Bhutanese must not just love our country but love our country with intelligence. That is it.

GNH must stir conscious intellectual thought. It is the use of reason to find reasonable solutions to the problems we face. We are essentially trying to make educated decisions in our policies. We are using common sense and ethics and imagination in our decision making process.

As we sit in an international conference, Bhutanese participants are acutely conscious that we are not going out to preach Gross National Happiness. We are not out there to solve the world’s problems. As much as Bhutan is praised for its enlightened development approach, we are not yet in a position to offer the alternative development paradigm that the world is seeking.

p2pnet quotes Bhutanese prime minister, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, as saying, “It is important to note that a considerable space exists between the inspirational ideal of GNH and the every day decisions of policymakers.”

The AFP quotes World Bank managing director Graeme Wheeler in saying, "Other countries need to follow Bhutan's lead in promoting Gross National Happiness as a gauge of national wellbeing."

For some in Bhutan, the key is volunteerism. Bhutan Majestic Travel (what a great name!) reports on a showcase of volunteer experiences, and makes this point:

Her Royal Highness said that Bhutan has always had a rich tradition of volunteerism, especially in the construction and preservation of community lhakhangs and chortens - as people believe in merit earned from such activities. “While volunteerism is not a new concept for Bhutan, the context, in which it can be made more relevant to developmental initiatives, needs to be looked into.” ...

B B Misra, a Bhutanese volunteer, said, “What United Nations volunteers are doing to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, Bhutanese volunteers do to achieve Gross National Happiness.”

I'm looking for someone who attended the convention to drop me a note (or guest article!) about what they learned. (I've heard from one person it was fantastic, but I need more detail!) Is the GNH concept advanced far enough along to implement in a community indicators report? Why or why not?


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