Filmmaker, Author, Speaker, and Compassionate Action Network member John de Graff has produced 40 documentaries for KCTS, the Seattle PBS station. Here's information about John's ground-breaking "Gross National Happiness" project:
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS SEATTLE - A TENTATIVE PLAN
Our campaign to make Seattle America’s first “Gross National Happiness City,” or at least, America’s happiest city, is well underway. On Monday, April 19th, Michael Pennock of the Vancouver Island Health Authority in Victoria, British Columbia, addressed our Seattle City Council and explained the process that Victoria is currently using to create a happiness partnership, survey city residents regarding well-being and assess the results of the surveys. He was well-received by our council, which sponsored his visit, thanks to the efforts of City Council President Richard Conlin.
Conlin then welcomed attendees to a small “town hall” type meeting (called “Seattle Sunny Side Up!”) at City Hall that evening. The forty or so attendees listened to Pennock’s presentation and several others and discussed the possible Happiness City campaign in small groups. Many signed up to work on committees promoting the idea. Jerry Large of the Seattle Times wrote a fine column about the meeting and the concept. You can read it at:
SEATTLE GREEN FESTIVAL—June 6th
We held a panel on Gross National Happiness (GNH) at the annual Seattle Green Festival on June 6th. Roughly 350 people attended and more than a hundred signed our volunteer sheet. Speakers included activist authors Vicki Robin, Cecile Andrews and myself, as well as Anjani Millet, founder of GNH World, and special guest, Karma Tshiteem, director of the Gross National Happiness Commission of Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan country which first promoted the idea of GNH. The following day, Karma met with several members of the Seattle City Council and did a webinar at the Environmental Protection Agency. He was also interviewed for public television, spoke at Antioch University, attended a dinner for the Compassionate Action Network and spoke at an evening meeting at St. John’s Lutheran Church.
SEATTLE HAPPINESS PARTNERSHIP
It’s time now to take the next steps toward our goal of making Seattle America’s first Gross National Happiness City and setting an example for the entire country. The following is intended as a suggestion of what path the process might take. It is offered to get the ball rolling; virtually none of this is fixed in stone, and your ideas and input are welcome and encouraged.
Now that the Green Festival is over, we must put together an effective partnership of interested organizations, both to build the campaign and to fund a well-being survey for Seattle residents, as was done in Victoria. The Victoria partnership included the City Council, University of Victoria, United Way, Victoria Foundation, Vancouver Island Health Authority and several other groups. In Seattle we hope the partnership will include many organizations such as the city council, the United Way, local foundations, local universities and colleges, social and neighborhood organizations such as El Centro de la Raza, environmental groups including Sustainable Seattle, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sierra Club and the Mountaineers, health organizations, media outlets like the Seattle Times, labor and business organizations, religious organizations and coalitions and many other groups. The more the merrier. Already, the Compassionate Action Network and Antioch University are on board. We ask you to encourage the organizations to which you belong to join the partnership. This is a non-partisan effort. Our new intern, Maureen McGregor, a student at Antioch, will be helping to organize this partnership.
TIMELINE: To be completed by Fall, 2010.
THE HAPPINESS SURVEY
The next step is a scientific sampling of city residents using the survey currently being employed in many cities around the world, including Victoria. You can find the basic survey at: http://survey.dialogueresearch.com/
and information about the Victoria partnership at: http://www.victoriafoundation.bc.ca/web/node/353
. To see the Victoria results, go to: http://www.victoriafoundation.bc.ca/web/files/Happiness_Summary_%20...
The survey uses multiple questions to determine life satisfaction in such life dimensions as: material prosperity, economic security, time balance, environmental quality, community vitality, social connections, democratic governance, health, and subjective well-being or mental health.
While we believe that all cities should use the basic core questionnaire so as to see how their results compare with other locations, each city is encouraged to add some of its own questions—the EPA in Seattle is interested in a set of questions about attitudes and behaviors regarding consumption and waste generation, for example (are eco-friendly Seattleites happier than their more wasteful peers?). Adding additional questions would need to be limited, but it can be done.
Completing a scientifically valid survey will require funding. We need to compile a list of random contacts, assure that we get at least 1,000 valid responses, administer the survey either online or by phone or both (in one Brazilian city, middle-schoolers actually took the survey around to houses—it was a great learning experience for the students and helped build the sense of community), tabulate and analyze the results. In Victoria, BC, this process cost between $15, 000 and $20,000. We may be able to do it for somewhat less. Members of the Victoria partnership contributed to defray costs. We need to find organizations, especially foundations, who can contribute to this, our greatest expense.
TIMELINE: To be completed by the end of 2010.
PROCLAMATION AND RELEASE OF SURVEY RESULTS
Our current plan calls for releasing the results of the survey at a press conference at City Hall. At that time we hope the Seattle City Council will introduce a resolution proclaiming the day Gross National Happiness Day, or perhaps, Happiness Day in Seattle and its intent to make Seattle the happiest city in the country. We hope the Council will indicate its willingness to take the survey results seriously enough to consider policy options that might help increase subjective well-being in our city. I expect there to be strong media interest in this. Already, several radio stations and even international publications have contacted me.
TIMELINE: January, 2011.
Following the release of data, a series of town meetings, open to the public and carefully facilitated, would be held in each Seattle neighborhood to discuss the survey results and various ways to increase happiness in Seattle. These might include public policies to do such things as reduce economic stress and time pressure (the two greatest barriers to life satisfaction for Victoria, BC residents). But it would also include such things as teaching happiness and happiness-producing behaviors in schools, sponsoring enjoyable artistic and cultural events, encouraging community gatherings, public spaces and greater social connection, volunteering, environmental restoration efforts, etc. Excellent suggestions for public policy changes to increase happiness can be found in the new book, THE POLITICS OF HAPPINESS, by former Harvard University President Derek Bok. Results of these town meetings would be presented to the City Council.
TIMELINE: To be completed by beginning of summer, 2011.
Michael Pennock has suggested that the City of Victoria would be delighted to cooperate with Seattle in our efforts and there is great interest in Vancouver, BC as well. I have presented the idea to several groups in Portland that also expressed keen interest in the idea. Perhaps we could encourage these other cities to follow the lead of Victoria and Seattle, conduct surveys and engage in a little friendly competition to increase happiness. All of this might be initiated with a major conference in Seattle, inviting participation from all Pacific Northwest cities, but also bringing as speakers some of the happiness experts from Bhutan and around the U.S. and the world.
TIMELINE: To be held in the fall of 2011.
We should consider repeating the survey, though perhaps with a smaller sampling, every two years to see if we are making progress toward greater well-being. It might be useful to poll some of the same people from the first survey and follow their own progress over time. Release of each survey should be a much publicized media event.
Your response to this plan is requested. Please let us know if you wish to be included in the GNH Seattle email list and please send us your ideas. We will be sending you a set of ways to get involved, possible meetings to attend and an encouragement to join one of our program committees. For more information, check out GNH World: http://www.gnhworldproject.com/GNHWP/Welcome.html
and/or email John de Graaf at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 206 443