Liz Zeidler reveals how Happy City has been collaborating with the OECD and EU to push alternative measures to GDP
Q: What was the conference?
A: It was the final conference for BRAINPOoL, which stands for Bringing Alternative Indicators into Policy. It is an EU funded project, coming out of the broader strand of work around ‘Beyond GDP‘, which has been a big EU strand of work since the Stiglitz Report instigated by Sarkozy. It was gathering experts in this area – politicians, policy makers, leaders etc. – together to decide on next steps for turning the research and piloting phase of the work into action and policy across Europe.
Q: Why was Happy City invited?
A: We were invited as one of the leading organisations in Europe (and the world) in this agenda setting work at a city level. We are seen as leaders in the communication and engagement element of this change in mindset at a policy level.
Q: Who else was invited?
A: I don’t have the full list – but there were politicians and political advisors, experts in new measures, EU/UN/OECD professionals and city/regional leaders.
Q: What was discussed?
A: The overall themes were how to better communicate these ideas – what’s the narrative that inspires confidence and will allow people and politics to move beyond a GDP focussed society – and how to we better engage the electorate and policy makers in this issue. An outline of the event is here.
“Current narratives about well-being and sustainability are politically weak, but Beyond GDP approaches do connect to some politically strong concepts, such as ‘good jobs’ in relation to labour markets, or security and quality of life in relation to the green economy.” – Charles Seaford of the New Economics Foundation.
Q: How were the Happy City opinions received?
A: Incredibly well! There was a real call from a number of the more influential speakers to make the narrative more accessible, (including a number of real endorsements for using the word happiness more! All my contributions (I wasn’t shy) about working at a community and city level, changing HOW we measure not just WHAT, using creative minds not just statisticians, and creating a network of practitioners on the ground to roll the Happy City ideas around Europe were all well received. I’ve since been back for a second OECD-based workshop to present our Index plans more formally.
Q: What were the conclusions?
A: Hard to sum up as there were lots at different levels, from global to local, but it felt like we plotted a positive path forwards for the happiness agenda. Which is great!
Q: What next?
A: I’m talking to Sir Gus O’Donnell, (who wrote the recent, excellent Legatum Institute Report on Wellbeing and Policy) about how to take the Happy City model forwards. I’ll also be talking to senior people at EU and UNDP about accessing support for Happy City to become a model for other EU cities. We’re working with wikiprogress on their online portals and discussion and opening up a conversation about ways to collaborate with them more. And we’re exploring opportunities with our partners NEF (New Economics Foundation) to use the Index and related Happy City engagement processes in other global cities.
All very early stages but exciting stuff!