Category Archives: Events

Soon, in a theatre near you… Kim Kardashian, Nelson Mandela, Buddha, and a mountain climber

When launching this blog, I called For A State of Happiness a blog without blah blah but with a mission. And to realise the mission – help our countries and societies to achieve a state of happiness – my words here online aren’t going to get me all the way. To be really effective I need to speak to people directly.

That’s why I am very happy to announce to of my speaking opportunities in the next weeks:

Pecha Kucha Brussels, Tuesday 26 January 20.00, Halles de Schaerbeek

Pecha Kucha is a Japanese presentation format. A presenter in this format will show 20 slides, for 20 seconds each. No loooooooong and boring speeches, but quick and dynamic presentations. After 6 minutes 40 seconds, time’s up and over to the next speaker.

I’ll be speaking on ‘Jasper, The Search for Happiness, & You’. I’ve identified four archetypes for happiness. Curious what Kim Kardashian, Nelson Mandela, Buddha, and a mountain climber can teach you about happiness? Come listen on Tuesday 26 January, in the Halles de Schaerbeek, Rue Royale St Marie 22.

Radio Alma, Monday 1 February 21.00-22.00, www.radioalma.eu (in Italian)

For the Italian speakers under my readers, tune in to Radio Alma on Monday 1 February from 21.00 to 22.00. Last year I spoke abut happiness, and now I’ll make a retrun visit speaking about my trip to Bhutan and what I learnt about happiness.

Come listen soon in a theatre near you!

Happiness… at work!

Is happiness at work a contradiction in terms?

Last month, I had the opportunity to discuss this question with a group of smart and inspiring members of the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. I gave them a workshop about happiness at work.

It’s a pity I had to focus on my own parts in leading the workshop so much that I didn’t make detailed notes about their questions and comments. They made me realise how many people are struggling to determine what a good workplace is for them – and if they aren’t better off elsewhere. But I also found out that virtually everybody is able to point at something they love about their work.

I remember the inspiring answers I got when asking what made my guests happy at their work place. Answers included:

  • Working together with great colleagues and friends (by far the most common answer!)
  • Having a purpose or meaning
  • Doing something in a field I am passionate about
  • Developing and using skills that I want to work on
  • Making a difference day-to-day
  • Using my creativity
  • Being independent

My own answer to the question? Moments of flow!

Are you interested to invite me for a speech or workshop on happiness at work or another topic related to happiness? Just get in touch at jasper [at] forastateofhappiness.com.

You can access the presentation here:

“It’s not easy to do the right thing” – lessons on GNH from Bhutan

These days I’m spending in Paro, Bhutan, attending the international conference on Gross National Happiness (GNH). I’ll share more detail when I’m back. But this is what I learned so far:

1. GNH is a gift of Bhutan to the world

Panellists are flanked by the 4th and the 5th king of Bhutan at the podium.

Panellists are flanked by the 4th and the 5th king of Bhutan at the podium.

Imagine your country is quietly sitting in a remote area of the world, the Himalayas. Then, by launching (and redeveloping) GNH you’re thrust on the world scene. People from all over the world flock to your country to learn and be inspired by the wisdom that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product”. This phrase was first expressed by King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1979. Now, people in countries as diverse as Bolivia, United States, Japan, Ecuador, Bangladesh, UK, Brazil, Germany and South Africa all come to benefit from the Bhutanese generosity in sharing the idea.

2. We are in the third phase of development of GNH

The concept of GNH dates back to the 1970s and the name to 1979. But for a couple of decades it remained a philosophical concept, valuable to the Bhutanese but seen as too abstract for outsiders. That changed in the late 1990s and the 2000s, when with international support and interest GNH was further engineered to become an index with 9 domains. It also gave rise to two surveys, in 2010 and 2015, mapping the level of GNH in Bhutan. (In the 2015 survey with 7153 individuals, 43.4% were ‘extensively’ or ‘deeply’ happy).

Now we are in the third phase. The main question now is not what GNH is about, but how can it be implemented in policy and hands-on projects. There are a set of policy tools and institutions in Bhutan available, but practical implementation is patchy now. But watch this space – GNH is in movement.

3. GNH is not an excuse not to do the right thing

The most powerful presentation by far was by Dasho Neten Zangmo. She served in high functions in the Bhutanese administration, most recently as anti-corruption chief. When her term ended last June, she didn’t stay in the capital Thimphu. Instead, she went back to a small village in Samdrup Junkhar in Eastern Bhutan, to promote zero waste, environmental preservation, and organic farming (the rise of education in Bhutan has made young people better equipped. But it also results in unemployment and a lack of new farmers unique in Bhutan’s history). In Bhutan as in Western countries, everybody say they care about the environment. But doing the right thing is not easy – it’s hard to avoid plastic bottles.

The fundamental underlying point is another one: if GNH is only about providing an alternative indicator, it is not enough. We need material change in the way we look at and act in development and progress in both developed and developing countries. Or in academic terms, a paradigm shift.

GNH is not only an inspiration. It should ultimately change our actions. GNH should help us to DO the right thing.

Comments? Write jasper (@) forastateofhappiness.com.

Bhutanese performance during one of the breaks

Bhutanese performance during one of the breaks

Beyond GDP event: does happiness make good policy?

Can developing countries afford the money to develop happiness-based public policies?

Why is Saudi-Arabia a fairly happy country, despite low levels of personal freedom?

How is it possible that Sweden is one of the happiest countries of the world, but also a country with one of the highest suicide rates?

Are measures of happiness accurate? Shouldn’t weather and gastronomy be part of it, given their importance for happiness? 

This is just a snapshot of some of the great questions that I got fired on me from the audience at a conference on ‘Beyond GDP. Why Happiness Makes Goood Policy’. They provide plenty of material for future blog posts!

The event was organised by the Danish Embassy in Brussels and the Young Professionals and Foreign Policy (YPFP) in Brussels. Fortunately I wasn’t alone in answering them: I spoke alongside Marie Louise Dornoy of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen.

Happiness is all about statistics

Apart from challenging my arguments and thoughts about the topic, I felt that the questions also revealed a deep interest and understanding from the audience. Happiness is a universal topic, and everybody in the room seemed to reflect on the question what happiness means for themselves and for society they live in.

As in many events, people were curious whether happiness and well-being can really be used in public policy. I feel that progress has been made in the last ten years to strengthen the scientific base and to gathering of statistical evidence underlying well-being policies. Often this is up to academia and central statistical agencies. As I formulated it during the event, happiness is a lot about statistics.

Local governments ‘experiment’ with happiness policies

For the concrete policy initiatives, it is especially local and regional authorities that are discovering and experimenting in this area. The great thing is that field is expanding quickly and that in a couple of years, we will have a lot more knowledge than we have now.

I raised the example of the ‘Geluksbudget‘ (Happiness budget, see here in Dutch) used in some Dutch municipalities. With this budget, socially deprived people are granted a sum of money they can invest in an intervention to increase their happiness. Marie Louise mentioned various initiatives, such as ‘National Neighbours Day‘ in the Netherlands, and the ‘Mobile Mini Circus‘ in Afghanistan. The Happiness Research Institute has also started to collect examples from happiness-based policies and so far has gathered about one hundred examples.

 

Want to know more?

See some tweets below and my powerpoint presentation to get an impression of the event. 

Part of the conference was live-tweeted. For some of the coverage, see the accounts @YPFPBrussels and @DKinBelgium or the hashtag #YPFPBXL

 

Event on Beyond GDP, 4 June in Brussels

Can human happiness be a basis for policy-making?

To hear my thoughts on this topic, join the event on “Beyond GDP – Why Happiness is Good Policy” on 4 June at 19.00 in Brussels. Find the details and the link to the registration form here.

The event is organised by the Danish Embassy in Brussels and the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). The main speaker is Marie Louise Dornoy, a researcher at the Danish Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. The Institute is a think-tank dedicated to the study of happiness and well-being, as well as policies and interventions to increase them.

Full text of the invitation:

beyond gdp event

Picture by Camdiluv, Chile, taken from WIkipedia.

WHAT: Beyond GDP – Why Happiness is Good Policy
WHEN: Thursday, 4 June, 19.00 – 20.30
WHERE: Danish Church, Rue Washington 27, 1050 Brussels (Ixelles)
WHO:YPFP Members and friends. In the event of over-subscription, YPFP members will be given preference.

REGISTER: https://goo.gl/Gf88IH

Can human happiness be a basis for policy-making?

In the 1970s, Bhutan based its public policy on the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH). Instead of economic goals championed by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the aim of GNH is to contribute to public policies that directly affect the well-being of citizens.
Since the early 2000s, global discussions on ‘beyond GDP’ policies have sought to include happiness as an alternate criteria for policy-making.

On Bhutan’s initiative, the UN adopted a resolution recognising the human aspiration to happiness. The UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network reports on world happiness levels. The 2015 World Happiness Report ranks Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark as the three happiest countries in the world. But ‘beyond GDP’ policies are also questioned. Can governments legitimately decide what happiness is? Can public policy really increase well-being? Does a focus on happiness distract governments from more important policy objectives?

Join our discussion with:
- Marie Louise Dornoy, Research & Communications, The Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Jasper Bergink, Editor and Happiness Researcher, For a State of Happiness

Please note that you will be asked to provide ID details upon registration. Participants will need to provide photo ID to gain entry to the event.