Following the launch of Happy City’s wellbeing and measurement tools on 8th November, Bristol was featured in the Cities section of the Guardian online. The journalist, Ajit Niranjan puts our work in a national context, and seeks reactions from policy-makers and the man-in-the-street. Read the article in full here.
We like the article as a whole, and have only two minor comments to add. The first is to take issue with the challenge Niranjan encounters that this work is ‘beyond’ economics. It’s not – it’s at the heart of economics and provides the kind of data economists have always yearned for.
The hope is that interactive measurement tools like these will help provide the kind of consistent proofs to improve our understanding about human wellbeing and associated behaviour. To date, economists have relied on sweeping speculative assumptions which leave it vulnerable as a discipline to accusations of being a soft and spongy science. So happiness indices are NOT peripheral or an optional extra, they are the cutting edge of economic debate.
The second point is about the scale of the challenge to convert a healthy public skepticism about happiness indices into an enthusiastic embrace. Yes, it’s a big challenge, but it’s not necessarily a very hard one. Our measures work is designed within a system of skills, partnership and campaigning work each with their own mutually reinforcing powerful tools. Appreciative Inquiry is a key part of the skills work, and it is highly effective in moving people from a cynical, problems focussed space into a collaborative and constructive one. Sudden, transformative changes can be surprisingly effortless if you can find the right levers in a system. We hope we’re homing in on some good ones.