Wellbeing big ideas

The Happy Planet Index

Nic Marks explains his new measure of national progression...

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When you think of every major blockbusting film predicting what the world will be like in decades, and even centuries, to come, chances are your vision is based more on dystopia than utopia. That’s partly because Hollywood has been peddling a nightmarish vision of the future since the mid-50s: think Fahrenheit 451, Logan’s Run, Nineteen Eighty-Four, A Clockwork Orange, Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, Blade Runner… the list goes on.

Even PixarNULLs Wall-E has a distinct dystopian undercurrent.

How often are we presented with a utopian vision of the future that focuses on the positives of progression? Not so much. Fear is easy to grab people’s attention; but isn’t it time to start thinking, and shouting, about what we want the world to look like?

Chubby, soda-slurping humans occupy the futuristic world of Wall-E

That’s the question posed by statistician Nic Marks in his 2010 TED Talk entitled The Happy Planet Index. His point is that, if we are serious about creating a better world for the greater good of mankind, we need a better system of how we measure societal progression other than the economic markers of how much we earn, spend and produce.

Even the architect of the United States’ national accounting system in the 1930s, Simon Kuznets, said that, “A nation’s welfare can scarcely be inferred from their national income.” Robert Kennedy put it another way, commenting in 1968 that “our dominant measure of progress in society, the Gross National Product, is measuring everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”

It really doesn’t make sense. Social justice, sustainability and wellbeing have typically been ignored as indicators of progress until very recently. Social scientists and the ONS have made a start in asking people what it is that they actually want, for themselves, for their family, for their children and for their community. It’s no surprise that the answer from nearly every country across the globe is the same: happiness.

Marks has decided to go one step further with his work for the New Economics Foundation by creating the Happy Planet Index, a measure of progress that focuses on what makes people happy. The ultimate outcome of the index is to identify how successful a nation is at creating happy and healthy lives for its citizens, and managing the consumption of scarce resources.

Watch Marks’ TED Talk below and let us know your thoughts at @gooddayatwork

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Cary CooperGood Day at Work®

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MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

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Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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