Seeding New Narratives About What Matters Most

To read more about our recent exploration of global well-being narratives and U.S. projects and ideas for how to advance them, please download the full report and stories from the field. Done in partnership with the RAND Corporation and funding from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Global Insights

  • New Zealand has made headlines for its well-being budget, massive investments in mental health and early education, and just 27 total COVID deaths (0.5 per 100,000 residents).
  • England did pioneering work on well-being measurement more than a decade ago, and there are concerted efforts by several nonprofits to call for a “well-being economy.”
  • Mexico developed a subjective well-being indicator in 2012 (by asking people how they are doing) to help inform decision-making. The current National Development Plan includes a “well-being economy” and “well-being minimum wage.”
  • The “economy plus” narrative: This nascent narrative — something like “the economy should deliver good, meaningful lives for everyone” — is being intentionally advanced by a handful of nonprofits and think tanks, and echoed among progressive media, isolated sectors within government, niche economists, social justice advocates, and academia. It makes the case that the economy is something that was intentionally created and that it can be rebuilt in a more just and sustainable way. Well-being, then, would be the outcome of a refined economic system. We wonder whether this inadvertently reinforces an economics-centered narrative and prevents transformative change.
  • The pure well-being narrative: This narrative — along the lines of “well-being must be at the core of all decisions and actions,” is enduring at the grassroots level, often tied to specific issues, such as violence, migration, racial justice, gender equity, environmental sustainability and justice. Themes of human dignity, decolonization, and deconstruction of patriarchy are strong. This narrative is deeply embedded in the words, practices and cultures of grassroots movements, Indigenous communities, social justice advocates, and niche media and social media voices, yet remains relatively invisible in media, political discourse and policy deliberations.
Download this report from our website.

On-the-Ground Learning

Where to From Here?

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