Founded in 2010 by Liz and Mike Zeidler, Happy City was set up to challenge the belief that economic growth is the only measure of success in society. Their aim was to put wellbeing at the heart of public discourse on what it means to truly prosper.
With an initial focus on their home city of Bristol, Happy City launched a ‘public inquiry into what works’ as an alternative to the conventional problems focused approach and came up with ‘a radically simple plan to grow happiness one city at a time’. They were soon joined by growing numbers of volunteers and supporters to help people ‘live more, share more, and enjoy life, for less’.
From 2010 to 2015; projects, campaigns, workshops and events were run in communities across Bristol and beyond. Thousands were engaged in thinking and acting on ways to improve their own, and their community’s, wellbeing. Art, music, media, film and performance were used to provoke conversation and connection. Happy City also developed a range of training programmes, delivered in schools, prisons, businesses, community centres and public buildings to help people of every background find their way to wellbeing.
It was clear from the start, that if a model was ever going to challenge the existing paradigm that put measures of economic growth and consumption at the heart of decision making, alternative measures were required. Whilst there was growing interest and development going on around this at an international and national scale almost nothing was available at the local level where people experience wellbeing (or a lack of it) most. Happy City began working with everyone from global experts to local change-makers, to translate the best of that theoretical and academic work into tool that would be useful to individuals, groups and local policy-makers – new measures to rival existing, GDP based, definitions of value and progress. Happy City have since developed a suite of tools to help measure both the drivers of wellbeing (health, economy, environment, education, culture, etc.), the reality of people’s daily lives (relationships, belonging, purpose, vitality, etc) and the impact and benefits of each on the other. In 2016, after many years of development work and piloting, we officially launched our suit of measurement tools.
Happy City are now entering an exciting time. We have proven tools to enable individuals and organisations and regions to measure their wellbeing and use that data to make real change. We are releasing the data for all English and Welsh Local Authorities in 2018 and have begun supporting pioneering places to embed new measures of progress in the heart of how they work. We are working with a wide range of diverse communities to offer training in wellbeing. And in 2017 we launched our national #InvestIn campaign to reach and challenge tens of thousands of individuals to think about what society should be investing in to bring real wellbeing and prosperity for all people and our planet. To find out more about how you can get involved with the many actions we have planned please click here.