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Gross National Happiness in Business


– theories and methods for cultivating GNH in Swedish worklife

”Within us all is a noble heart. This is the source to all our most beautiful ambitions for ourselves and the world…When we cleanse what is blocking it, this heart may change the whole world…Sharing visions and experiences can bring us together on a deeply human level. This in itself can make us happy.” (H.H 17:th Karmapa)

Anna Rosengren
Anna Rosengren is a senior consultant and founder and CEO of her company Ethics in worklife Ltd. Anna has also initiated the organisation and network GNH Sweden for innovative co-creation around holistic social sustainability in Sweden, based on Gross National Happiness. Anna is a theologian and an author with a focus on paradigm shifts, social sustainability, community building, trust cultivation, multi sector collaboration and leadership. She is also a priest in the Swedish church, since 21 years, with additional long experience of Buddhist practice and Buddhist philosophy. Anna may be contacted via mail: or

A hundred years from now we might not even have business organizations in the same sense. By then we may already experience the blessings of a gift economy, where we simply give each other what we need to live. Until then, however, it is fruitful to make the most of the structures we have by allowing them to be embedded in a GNH based vision. This means, as I see it, a process of slowly transforming them into communities of practice based on the profound principles of GNH.
The GNH model may be seen as a mandala, a compact way of describing and understanding multi-dimensional forms of organization. In this way it equips our understanding of organizations and collective strategies with more complexity-friendly potentials. GNH as a mandala shaped vision may thus function as a map for cultivating next generation business organizations and transform them into communities.
Inspired and ignited by the wisdom and compassion inherent in the GNH process of Bhutan, GNH Sweden has in a few years grown from a tiny seed to a young tree with roots and branches of all kinds. Working as a community of practice, the movement is involved in societal as well as personal and worklife transformation. Although the three arenas are clearly intertwined, this article will be focusing on the worklife processes. I will describe some of the potentials of GNH, Gross National Happiness, in relation to holistic models for developing business organizations in Sweden. In this paper I will present key examples from Swedish business organizations while clarifying and analyzing the modus operandi.
When ”translating” the models and ideas from East to West, many differences and preconceptions emerge in the process and that need to be dealt with. Obviously GNH and Bhutan cannot be used unreflected as a blueprint for Sweden. For this reason it is important with research, but also to cultivate a living dialogue around the essence and practical implications of the model. Therefore, this particular report is somewhat pragmatically shaped, focusing on sharing experiences and examples as an invitation to further dialogue and co-creation.

Background – GNH in Sweden

A hundred years from now we might not even have business organizations in the same sense.
By then we may already experience the blessings of a gift economy, where we simply give each other what we need to live. Until then, however, it is fruitful to make the most of the structures we have by allowing them to be embedded in a GNH based vision. This means a process of slowly  transforming them into communities of practice, while also connecting the clusters.
GNH, Gross National Happiness, is a Bhutanese way of measuring and sustaining welfare in a more holistic way, based on nine dimensions for wellbeing: Living standard, Health, Education, Good governance, Ecological resilience, Inner wellbeing, Community vitality, Cultural diversity and Time use.
The more profound principles behind GNH are not limited to measurements or methods, but are also connected to a deeper mindset that has emerged within a framework of Buddhist philosophy. Although this does not mean that GNH is in any way limited to Buddhism, it still has some deep values of meaning making and holistic resilience that are specific. These basic values have been described as follows:

  • holistic: Recognizing all the aspects of people’s needs, be these spiritual or material, physical or social
  • balanced: Emphasising balanced progress towards the attributes of GNH
  • collective: Viewing happiness to be an all-encompassing collective phenomenon
  • sustainable: Pursuing wellbeing for both current and future generations
  • equitable: Achieving reasonable and equitable distributed level of wellbeing

It has also been described in other words, such as: ”deep critical and creative thinking, ecological literacy, practice of the country’s profound ancient wisdom and culture, contemplative learning, a holistic understanding of the world, genuine care for nature and for others, competency to deal effectively with the modern world, preparation for right livelihood, and informed civic engagement”.

These values are essentially easy to align with, regardless of cultural background. Still, in ”translating” GNH to Swedish culture, imbued rather with a certain mixture of ”grassroot democracy”, secularism and Christian heritage, questions arise such as what interpretations and implications may be relevant for GNH and its basic principles, when applied in Swedish life in general and worklife in particular. Swedish politics and business are strongly influenced by a long tradition of equality in decision making and in implementing new ideas. The interest for GNH in Sweden has slowly expanded in many ways during many years until the formal non-profit association was established in 2016. The essence of GNH still seems to be a wise vision also for Sweden and the networks around GNH have grown out of grassroots engagement into powerful pop-up fora for a new emerging paradigm that stimulates personal, political as well as organizational development. During the years we have also formed principals and values for our programs and projects. These are not very different from the ones formulated in Bhutan, but maybe a bit more elaborated when it comes to equality/diversity and democracy:

  • holistic (including all dimensions of welfare in alignment with GNH dimensions)
  • based on shared value (inspired by the democratic culture of Swedish grassroots movements)
  • inclusive (including diverse sectors such as business/academy/politics/non-profit/citizen)
  • multi-dimensional (striving to raise individual/collective awareness and the ability to handle complexity)
  • balanced (gender/age/religion/ethnicity/functionality/LGBT equality, practical-theoretical/body-mind)
  • organically growing – emerging as we go (self organized or formed with a self organizing intention)

We also formed overall basic values that are: natural wisdom and compassion. Natural means that we always striving to work close to nature and the voice of nature and that we cultivate atmospheres and conditions that support natural, i e open and authentic, relations. Wisdom means challenging ourselves and others into ever deeper levels of wisdom by personal as well as collective awareness. Compassion means ensuring that we care about healing suffering and injustice in society as well as cultivating already flourishing happiness and welfare.
It has been important to do this formulation process for ourselves in dialogue with the enterprises and organizations we work with, rather than merely inherit values from Bhutan. We have learned a lot from Bhutan and in essence our principles are not that different, but being able to do it ourselves also meant that now they are sustainably integrated and authentically embraced by our hearts. Based on these principles and values all our initiatives are now designed and performed, whether we do it privately or in our professions as consultants, societal leaders and influencers, academic researchers, politicians or activists. It is also important to note that the surplus profit from members contributions and consultant assignments has always been invested in further work with GNH awareness. This is not something unusual, but a natural aspect of the Swedish tradition of grassroot movements sharing knowledge and building strength together. This tradition has become so natural to Swedish people that we hardly even think about it. We have a deep sense of democracy that we have struggled a lot for. The habit of raising awareness, equalizing the levels of power and education through labour units, womens movement, environment activism and so on – all of this is a treasure that we have paid a huge price for, but the fruits of which we are happy to share with others.

1. Purpose

This paper aims to be a pragmatic contribution to the applications of GNH in business. This in turn will contribute to the ongoing dialogue between GNH-inspired communities all over the world.
Hopefully this contribution will also align with what I see is the higher purpose of cultivating GNH values and communities: global natural harmony by re-connecting with ourselves, each other and nature.

2. Method & approach

2.1 Four pragmatic themes & four examples
With this paper I really wish to share some concrete examples and experiences that may be valuable or at least shine some light on how we actually work with GNH in Sweden. For this reason it is written a bit like a report, rather than a strictly academic article. It is based on literature too, but mainly on direct experience.
I will present four different themes and four different workplaces. The themes are chosen to give an idea of how we bring GNH values into business organizations. The first theme is about how to start and ignite an intention, the second about mapping the context before designing a significant process, the third about how we bring about real transformation and the fourth about our emerging community of practice.
Karolinska University Hospital, Kiruna city, Polyamp Ltd and Ekerum Golf & Resort. The work at Karolinska University Hospital has also been documented more formally in the report ”Paradigmshift – quality and trust in a time of change at Karolinska University Hospital”.

2.2 Dissolving preconceptions between East and West

There are some lingering preconceptions between East and West that call for attention in the light of the processes around GNH in Swedish worklife. These preconceptions need to be adressed clearly and openly so that we do not fuel or develop stereotypes. We need to learn from each other through trustful dialogue. This is nothing new or controversial, but still important to mention, since it comes to surface when working so closely in international contexts, with tools from both East and West. The real challenge is that often a ”horisontal bias gap” is linked to a ”vertical status gap”, which means that the more we categorize and separate one group from the other, the more we fuel dysfunctional power structures and vice versa. This influences what and whose stories we tell and it leads to misunderstandings and mistrust that affect all dimensions of welfare, not least our use of time.  These biassed behaviors and mindsets need to be fearlessly confronted and dissolved if GNH is ever going to be meaningful in any way anywhere. There are also many phenomena that we need to improve in all global directions, such as developing respect and compassion for minority groups. As Earthlings, we humans have more in common than we differ and  openly learning from our diverse perspectives while continuously transcending our current views for the sake of global welfare is precisely what I believe GNH is about.

2.3 Unity in diversity – essence as a key

One of the main questions that arise in the encounter between these discourses or cultural spheres, is how to translate and adapt the idea in a relevant way, that is still true to the idea. How much diversity can we tolerate within the GNH framework? How much alignment can we request from each other? At its core, this is of course a profound question about political philosophy and the limits of democracy and we will not solve it in this paper or even this conference. However, it is an important question to bring along in our dialogues: How do we present and shape the contour of GNH globally?
When it comes to the very basic principles, such as welfare for all, wisdom and compassion, this might seem like an easy task. The deeper meaning, though, might be different and even develop in new ways by the very combination. And the question becomes all the more complex when we bring in all dimensions of GNH and all the dimensions of our specific contexts – plus our human factors.
In order to make things a bit more easy to grasp, we have often been helped by searching for the essence. As soon as we find what we believe is the essence of any aspect of GNH, it is easier to translate and understand each other, regardless of cultural context, organization format, personal or collective preferences, values and maturity. Essence seems to be a key, even though that too may be an object of interpretation, of course. In alignment with the pragmatic approach of this paper, however, I wish to share our good experiences of this approach: finding the essence, then translating and adapting to a new context. From there it is easier to bring up complexity again.

3. Cases and methods

3.1 Igniting a profound intention – how GNH has been introduced.

The first step has been to find a reasonable resonance to start a GNH inspired process that is intended to be more than just another ”jewel in the crown”, i e a superficial decoration of the brand but with no real transformation included.  Ensuring a clear and authentic intention, deeply anchored in wisdom and compassion is crucial for a fruitful outcome. However, many business organizations have needed to start at ”lower thresholds” that are easier to understand and connect to everyday experience. Others have already a deep and mature understanding of sustainability and resilience.  Therefore it has been necessary to develop a diversity of entrances.

3.1 a GNH as a tuning fork
One of the most effective methods for this that emerged recently has been my special way of connecting GNH to the 17 UN Sustainability Goals, the SDG:s. As seen in the image, GNH may be placed in the middle, just like a sun in a solar system, while the 17 goals are placed around according to the dimension  in GNH that it correlates to, such as clean water and climate action in the SDG:s correlating to Ecological Resilience in GNH.
When comparing the two models like this it becomes clear that two aspects are missing in the SDG list, that are present in GNH: time use and inner wellbeing.
In this way GNH may be a useful tuning fork (camertone) for wise decisions by reminding us of aspects that we might otherwise forget, ensuring that every important dimension is included. This has helped many Swedish organizations ignite a more profound intention for working with sustainability.

3.1 b Connecting change to paradigm shifts
Change or the need for change is very often part of the reason why a process is called for. A very useful introduction, then, is to connect the changes within the organization to an ongoing global paradigm shift  or the need for such a shift.  In opening the mind for the local context mirroring the larger arena, very often something very profound and beautiful emerges. It opens for a sheer sense of existential meaning and hope that, more often than not, quietens unnecessary resistance and conflict, while focusing the energy on the wisdom emerging in the group. This is usually done by referring to how the current systems tend to crack, realizing mainly the social, ecological and existential gaps that may be seen as an underlying pattern of all division and suffering.Once we get a wider understanding of the need for change, the connection to global welfare and GNH is very natural.

3.1 c Starting where it hurts
Another, more obvious, way of igniting intention is to simply start where the organization feels a need to change, where it hurts. The point with GNH is that, when working with for example diversity, it is possible to do so in connection to a larger map, where even diversity itself is one of many perspectives. This means that GNH helps us include and transcend whatever the current needs are, thus widening the mindset. In these cases GNH may not be mentioned until later on in a process, after completing the first steps to healing the initial wound. Sometimes GNH has, even in these cases, been included in the ”ouverture” of a process, similar to what is called psychological priming or, rather, nudging, whereby the essence of the emerging future or of a planned process is embedded in a  more or less sublime way within a preceding message. This is sometimes done by referring to the solar system and the ”Copernican” (which was known long before Copernicus) insight that the Earth is not at the center, but one planet in a whole system. In this simple manner, a systemic approach has often been introduced, while at the same time opening for more existential reflections in connection to the Universe as a whole.
So, once we can see a need for healing in the organization, whatever it is it may quite easily be connected to GNH and to a global perspective by doing whatever needs to be done within the context of a larger framework or system.

3.1.d Finding the axis mundi
The best way for igniting intention is of course to go right to the very soul of the organization, what I have called its ”axis mundi”.  Axis mundi is a term used in mythology, to symbolize a point of connection between heaven and earth. Just as the geographic poles are a connection spot for the four directions, the axis mundi may be seen as the point where all dimensions meet. In a similar way we could say that every context has its ”navel” that, when we become aware of it, naturally reveals and dissolves many patterns that hinder our complete harmony and re-connection.
The axis mundi of an organization can be difficult to discover and is therefore as rare as it is effective as a starting point. It may take time to see what is its central pattern and deepest value. However, in times of crisis it is often easier to grasp. When the everyday safety cracks open, the real values and the soul of the context lays bare and the most authentic questions arise. Being able to use this central point and these deeper questions as a starting point is very precious and can transform any crisis into the most fruitful healing process.

3.1.e GNH as a holistic overview – mandalas at work
The model has also been useful for organizations that wish to work with the SDG:s but find it difficult to know where to start and to get an overview. In organizations that are used to working in the form of projects, this helps translating the essence of GNH in that the SDG:s can be seen as project goals, while GNH can be seen as effect goals. The model thus makes it easier to se the whole picture and to connect sustainability work in the organization with individual life balance as well as global welfare. Presented in this way, GNH becomes a key to understanding the connection between micro and macro. This also relates to seeing GNH as a kind of mandala in worklife, where fractals in the form of for example departments or pilot projects, may mirror the pattern of the (visionary or real) whole. I have written about this in an earlier article where I described the potential and tendency of patterns to repeat themselves and thus the fruitfulness in creating patterns that are worth repeating.

3.2 Embracing complexity –  designing a GNH process

Another important aspect has been the cultivation of a practical framework that both facilitates and explains complexity. GNH is in itself a complexity-friendly model, yet there is a need for other explanations and structures that may help us adapt the design of a GNH process to a specific context. Both the initial survey and the process itself call for methods and theories with this potential, in order to match the maturity of the organization with the mindset that is essential for a fruitful GNH initiative.

3.2 a Integral awareness
One of the most helpful models for this has been certain practical applications of the integral model called AQAL  (All Quadrants All Levels) that clarify and discern mindsets and levels of awareness, together with connections between the personal and the professional, the outside and the inside of an organization. This may be described as a house with apartments in four directions symbolizing the individual inside, the collective inside, the individual outside/external and the collective outside/external.
Each apartment is connected to certain skills or arenas of learning and all of the apartments need to be in perfect alignment in order for the individual or organization to be in harmony.
This integral model may also be combined with different levels of awareness and ability to handle complexity. When all the apartments at one floor are in alignment, then only it is possible with vertical leverage for the organization or individual. Vertical expansion means increased maturity and ability to handle complexity, which means that the former level is included and transcended into a whole new paradigm. Since the transformation from one level to another involves every aspect of life, it is not something that can be accomplished with a normal project plan. Life changing processes need to be involved. The AQAL model obviously involves all aspects of maturity and integration, which makes it very useful for analyzing the status of an organization. Based on this kind of analysis we have been designing the GNH based processes in this way:

1. Choosing a significant entrance
2. Mapping the level of awareness and the exact needs
3. Finding the transformation leverage points and starting the healing integrative expansion
4. Allowing the results to have impact in wider circles through communities of practice

If an organization is, for example, experiencing problems in the field of diversity, this may be a great entrance. That will then be focus for the first step that could be a full day workshop or a brief lunch seminar. The point is to make use of this entry point for igniting a deeper motivation by placing the diversity issues on a larger map. If the same organization then wishes to examine how they could continue (with or without including GNH) we would benefit from mapping the level of awareness. This can also be done in a very simple way, there is no need for elaborate interviews and so on if this is out of proportion in the situation. Let us say that this workplace seems to have its major problems in collaboration and trust. Let us also say that they talk a lot about conflicts and mistrust, decisions that do not last and an atmosphere that is competitive rather than supportive. This will help us see how to design the process for the next step, so that we may help them with diversity in a significant way, while at the same time creating the conditions for leveraging and expanding the mindset of the group. Working with trust and relations will only solve a small part of this equation, while designing from a level that is slightly wider (in this case the integral yellow level) will widen the arena and make everything so much easier. This is called being one step ahead – with compassion and wisdom. It is about shifting mindsets in order to raise awareness and the ability to handle complexity in fruitful ways. This involves working ”vertically” too, not only ”horisontally”, i e developing new ways of thinking altogether rather than merely fixing what is broken on the current level of understanding. In order to raise awareness we need to include and transcend all the former experiences. This means being more whole as a human being, and also as a community, organization, nation or planet.

3.3 Real transformation at work – through key leverage points.

A seed does not sprout unless it is surrounded by the conditions for growth. The same is true for any process intended to transform business. There is a need for concrete key models, but also for finding concrete keyholes, i e the areas to work with that may generate expanded awareness. What part of the organization should be in focus? Where exactly may the smallest input generate the largest outcome? Where are the key leverage points for an organization?

3.3 a Decision making as a key
One such leverage point that has emerged in many settings is decision making. Decisions are made in all contexts and involve many aspects including all the GNH dimensions as well as all the dimensions of horisontal and vertical expansion. It involves the awareness, mindset and maturity of the individual as well as the context. It involves also the structures and the organization form where it takes place. In this way it is already multidimensional. We may then add the GNH dimensions to see even more variables that are – consciously or unconsciously – part of every decision making process. All forms of decision making have a significant value in certain contexts and situations. However, aligned to the understanding of vertical expansion, it is always more fruitful to have access to more than one mindset and method,  just as the music may be more enjoyable with more than one string on the guitar. So the more our mindset expands, the more forms for decision making we will understand and be able to choose between and make use of in diverse situations. These are some forms for decision making that are more or less commonly used:

  • Authoritarian
  • Taking advice
  • Democracy

Of the commonly used approaches is the authoritarian model, where one person determines all the decisions. In other contexts, the authoritarian decision may be preceded by advice from a selected group. This is also quite common in management boards. However, there is also a more collective way, that is  preferred in many committees and democratic bodies is majority and this is voting, where the decision that gets votes from more than half of the group will win.
From a perspective of sustainability and the deeper principals of GNH, we would need access also to deeper forms of decisions. Therefore, I wish to add a few levels, of which I will describe briefly two:

  • Consensus
  • Concordance
  • Multi stakeholder and/or cross-sector dialogue
  • Space Tuning

Consensus as a decision model involves a process that takes advantage of individuals as well as the team. It aims to strengthen capabilities of working effectively together as a collective. However, these processes often seem to be incomplete in that some participants, although invited to contribute, would not speak up until after the decision is made, often complaining back-stage, not following the decision or not being able to use their full potential. For this reason models like Concordance are often more useful.
Concordance decision-making method encourages everyone involved to arrive at solutions that none may have thought of alone. It builds on three criteria, that are also similar to three dimensions of inner wellbeing. The first is Inclusion mirrored by involving those people most qualified to make the decision, and those most affected by the decision. The second criteria is Control, so that all participants have equal voting power, and veto power on every decision. The third criteria is Openness, granting that all members express themselves openly, meaning, i e not lying, or withholding, and, to the best of their awareness, not deceiving themselves. Concordance, when it is based on authentic trust and conscious choice, is often a very functional method, connected to the green level of vertical expansion. However, it does not involve the context outside the team. This is why it is sometimes beneficial to bring this form of decisions into a wider context of dialogue.
Multi-stakeholder and/or cross-sector dialogue may take diverse forms, sharing a similar aim of widening the scope of influence and overview, so that diverse clusters and perspectives may be integrated and influence each other more consciously. This means gathering groups and participants representing diverse aspects of a certain question that is important for all, such as city planning or change in an organization. Now, this does not mean that other decision models may not be used as well. The wider scope will include all other methods, while transcending them too. This would be the perfect model if it were not for the fact that it seldom involves inner existential dimensions nor deeper re-connection with nature and context.
Space Tuning is my own model for decision making that may complement the other methods, in that it deepens and widens the scope almost infinitely, while not necessarily involving more than a small dedicated and wisely selected group. The method has been used within the GNH network for many years, with amazing results of sustainable decisions, strengthened trust, compassion and wisdom.
The word space can be described and used in many ways, one of which is the emptiness embracing every movement, process, idea and initiative, in a physical, mental and/or spiritual sense. Nothing can ever take place or be created without this space, just like music happens in collaboration with the gaps between the notes. These empty spaces or gaps could also be described as an abode for, or source of all that takes place, the very essence of all that is. When we get a thought or an idea, it starts in the very same way as a most sublime shift of nuances within the empty space of our mind.  In the theory of transformation called Theory U, space is what is perceived as the bottom of the process. Having let go of all our downloaded information as well as opened our minds, hearts and will, this is what awaits us. Space is where we end up when we have pealed off all our theories, preconceptions, self-images, patterns of behavior, reiterative mindsets emotions and other more or less conscious blockages. We thus drop all that we know about ourselves, the world and what is and so we simply rest for a while, as awareness. While resting as awareness we can then notice something new coming up from within the empty space of pure presence. This would be the crystallizing of a new idea or mindset, transformed by the empty gap between letting go and letting come. It is this very dimension that Space tuning aims to elaborate and expand and allow the decision to emerge from there, collectively, almost like a conscious collective intuition.
This kind of method might seem complicated or abstract or both. It does not have to be perceived as neither. In fact it could be seen as very simple and in a way it is already being practiced within many forms of more conscious group meditations or prayer where we allow ourselves to focus our attention to the essence of our being, while staying attentive and mindfully alert. A simple and neutral form for this practice might be simply gathering for such a meditation, sitting in a circle thus allowing space within as well as without. After this meditation, where each individual becomes aware of his/her source, the group might then open for a more holistic experience of awareness, where the group as a whole would allow itself to sink into its source, abiding in this essence of existence for a while. This way we might become more aware of new ideas emerging, without any preprogrammed result. The group could continue to exist as it is if there is enough attraction. It could also allow itself to be in dynamic change so as to include new participants while others leave. This could be an ongoing process itself, shifting participants whenever it feels necessary, natural or nice with new perspectives. The group could also temporarily have a function, such as being a tuning fork for diverse. For instance, this group function as an advisory board or a vision incubator for projects and initiatives.

3.3 b GNH + Theory U – Multidimensional transformation as method
Once we have found at least one key leverage point, our main method for transformation is Theory U, but in a certain combination with GNH.  Theory U in itself is deeply transformative, leading individuals as well as their context through a process of paradigm shifting potential. Within the process we open our minds, hearts and will in such a way that we may allow current mindsets, habits or ideas to die, while new may arise through the emtiness that follows. When this process is fulfilled in an authentic way, it widens the mindset radically, giving space to completely new possibilities and ways of being in the world. What is new with this method, apart from its widespread effect in motivating people all over the world, is that it is som much more deep and profound. The basic idea if combining Theory U with GNH is a multi-dimensional perspective, where the ”U” may  depart from any dimension/domain in the GNH mandala, while again entering in the same – or another dimension/domain. Practically this might mean that our process could start in a desire to develop our ecological resilience and end up in adjustments of the domain of cultural diversity. Or go from participation to health, or from living standard to leadership. Or it could start and end in the same domain. The starting point of a U-process – into presencing as well as into absencing – is thereby more of an ”inner core” or ”inter-dimensional airport”, where processes take off and land. The model thereby equals to a tibetan varja, a tool that is used in tibetan buddhism for transformation by skillful means. It is used, most often to enhance compassion, together with a bell, symbolizing wisdom. The open womb of this bell may be represented by the GNH mandala. In this way the combination of the two models – as well as the tools – represents an alchemical wholeness. The whole combination, however, takes place in a space, an empty space, that may remind us of what we essentially are, the essence of pure awareness, to which this model has two more specific entry points: presencing and absencing. This means that both may be an entry to, or from, pure awareness. As if awareness (dissolved or more subtle) would rise as (more gross) consciousness in these two ways: empty or full, present or absent, thus creating the potentials for creation or dissolvement, life and death.

3.4. A community of practice – a compassionate refuge for visionary leaders.

Many visionary leaders aiming for true transformation are describing a kind of loneliness in their situation. It is not always easy trying to be ”whole” in a society and business climate that often is defined by competition and getting ahead. There is a need for a refuge where the signs of wholeness are understood as healthy, rather than strange and where methods are shared that help integrating and making the situation more holistically whole.

3.4 a GNH Leadership Global Community of Practice

In Sweden the GNH Leadership Community of Practice forum is meant to be a refuge in the form of a community of practice where visionary leaders may reload their batteries and become part of a transforming movement. This community functions like an abundant and harmonious garden, where the fertile humus allows for any project to be planted and transformed into a plant that will transcend the initial idea by far.
The program s based on a one year structure that starts by defining a project that will be planted. This project seed then will be introduced in February into the structure of the community process. By March there will be a group process based on the first three dimensions of GNH. This process will also include self awareness, mindset training and meditation in combination with dance, art and other forms of creative expression, whereby deeper wisdom may be discovered. This first process is focused on the EGO aspect, the mindset and the life balance of the project owner.
In the next phase there will be webinars and e-courses, individual coaching and self organized group coaching circles, to support an external interaction between the garden and the project context.
Next, there is another process, based on the next three dimensions of GNH. This time focus will be on the ETNO aspects of the project and its relations at work or in society, for example collaborative skills and leadership. The project owner will now expand in awareness to include the EGO aswell as the ETNO, i e  the wider context. After this there will again be supporting webinars and coaching.
Finally, the last three dimensions of GNH will be introduced, while focusing on an ECO awareness.  Hereby the conditions are strengthended for an emerging global mindset where the project more and more becomes a natural expression of the wisdom of the whole. This will also be the preparation for a journey to Bhutan, where the community will be enriched by connecting to other communities in the world.
This process will lead to a transformation of each project, while also transforming the whole process as a whole. The individual as well as his or her context will find its place on a global map, re-connecting with our deeper wisdom, each other and nature. This will, then, be a good humus for communities and projects that are in alignment with the profound principles of GNH.
The first process of this kind is just about to start now in Sweden, inspiring and including both individuals and organizations. We have yet to see what the outcome will be in this well prepared structure. If it turns out well, this might be a pattern worth repeating. A garden for the cultivation of global mandalas.

4. Examples

4.1 At Karolinska University Hospital
change has become a part of everyday life. The whole hospital has undertaken a huge renewal, moving departments, reorganizing the governance in a way that has been very stressful, for the patients as well as for the staff and the context around. Whether the change has been for the better or not is a constant subject of discussion. In this atmosphere of inevitable but not necessarily welcome change, I came to work with one of the larger departments.
We started out with the management group, who offered one and a half days only for deciding what needed to be done. We did a brief meditation focusing on the Earth as seen from Space. This is in itself remarkable, since many management boards do not take time even to sit still for a minute together, far less do they take time for meditation – if they at all feel free to even talk about such things. Now this brilliant group of leaders opened for deep reflection already from the start and decided, very wisely I think, to concentrate on ensuring quality and trust in a time of deep change. The principles of GNH were in this case very natural for the group to embrace. It was a comfort for the whole department to connect the ongoing change in their organization to a larger perspective of paradigm shift. This connection offered a sense of meaning and hope, which made all other organizational treatments much easier to fulfill.

4.2 At Kiruna city – a city and a municipality in the far north of Sweden, the process has just begun, taking its start in cross-sector dialogue, mindsets and trust building. The city of Kiruna is being moved, to escape unstable underground movements from the mines. This means that the whole city is literally shifting from one place to another. This situation tends to be the kind of crisis that reveals the axis mundi of the whole context, which seemed to be connected to the history of the city, which to a large extent has been about grassroots empowerment. Now again, this essence reveals itself in that it has become very important to collaborate across the societal borders. My task was thereby easily designed, based on process leading cross-sector meetings on the theme ”How do we re-create Kiruna?” and arranging education for the municipality management, regarding trust building, radical collaboration and integral sustainability. In this case GNH has of course been a very obvious inspiration for vision building. It becomes very obvious for everyone in the city, that many perspectives need to be embraced and integrated in the new social patterns.

4.3 Polyamp Ltd is an international SME working with hi tech solutions for mine protection and switch craft, there was also a change coming up. Being a family business since 50 years, the company was now up for a generation shift. Such shifts are never easy, often bringing about other changes as well. So this was a great occasion for introducing a new vision, that opens for the basic values of GNH. The inevitable generation shift has thus been their entry point, that has opened new doors to innovative solutions for ecological sustainability, within the framework of Smart Cities. In this context, that emerged as a new market when a new family member entered, the company´s inherent spirit of innovation and development as well as focus on sustainability, quality and environment has become more and more clear. Even though the company is not yet working outspokenly with GNH, the potential is there as well as the core values that may grow in alignment with the principles of GNH.

4.4 Ekerum Golf & Resort is a golf hotel located on Öland, an island in the south of Sweden. This workplace was one of the first in Sweden to start working with GNH, connected to a GNH based regional project called ”Happiness works”. We started the project in 2014, but did not get enough fundings as yet, so the stakeholders are working as best they can based on their own funding. In 2014 the hotel took the initiative to develop a GNH certification program in collaboration with GNH Sweden and other stakeholders. The program is evolving as we go, getting inspiration from creating something new that may connect different sectors, thus inspiring and benefitting the whole island. The intention has deepened by the process, ignited by the potential of being ”first with GNH in Sweden”. This might seem a bit shallow to some of us, but it also has some very important consequences, such as inspiring others, pushing the process forward to results, making space for cross-sector dialogues and also allowing the dialogue to continue, thus deepening the understanding of GNH and sustainability. Also, the management group has a profound intention, which manifested already in one for the first sessions a few years ago, where we deeply analyzed their leadership in the company, in a process based on not only defense mechanisms, but also the buddhist concept of ”kleshas”, spiritual shadows of greed, ignorance and anger. The depth of this process, although translated in a contextualized way, is an example of how a process can be inspired by not only GNH but even Buddhist philosophy while still well situated in a western context. This is of course not necessary for a GNH process (that is politically and religiously neutral) but I mention it since it shows the depth of true intention and the open minds of the managers.


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