GNH as a strengthening agent for the transition movement

By: Emilia Rekestad
Translation: Anna Rosengren
See the whole article here.

Monday, February 8, 2016, a meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, on Gross National Happiness (GNH), a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s. Influencing the whole country’s leadership and structure, GNH means that sustainable development should take a holistic approach to notions of progress, giving equal weight to the non-economic aspects of wellbeing. GNH is based on 9 different dimensions used for measurement of wellbeing and welfare. These are; living standard; health; education; time use; good governance; ecological diversity and resilience; psychological wellbeing; Community vitality and cultural diversity and resilience (resilience).

The meeting was convened by Anna Rosengren (www.etikiarbetslivet.se), who brought together a variety of stakeholders – from civil society, governments, universities and companies. Most are in their professional roles engaged in health and/or sustainability issues based on individual, social, economic and ecological perspective. But the day began with us taking off this ”coat” representation, thus participating as the persons we are apart from our roles in life. Using the methodology of Theory U, we worked with a process of sharing and co-creation of knowledge. Questions such as ”Why did we come?” gave us a clearer view of our common interpretation of the holistic approach of GNH. Exciting reflections, stories and sharing of experiences led to the emergence of a strong consensus.The dialogue, which in various ways has been going on in the emerging network for some years, deepened and strengthened into an arising common vision.

Several representatives from the Swedish Transition network attended, and ”consistency” with its current view of paradigm shift was evident, the focus of the transition movement being precisely this kind of principles of resilience, inclusion and openness, internal and external adjustment as well as a systems thinking. There is also a strong similarity in the understanding of the opportunities for increased sustainability and resilience that is developed through enhanced observation, knowledge and interaction with the natural and inherent features found in our surrounding and ‘living’ systems (such as ecosystems and social systems).

This perspective – to design and interact ”with nature” we find in many other contexts; for example in perma culture design, in biomimicry, within the concept of bioregions and agro ecology, and not least, in the theory of complexity/living systems and its research.

The same perspective is, thus, evident in the principles of GNH and among the people who gather around it.
A general view for all these methods and approaches is the realization that a holistic and integrated approach is fundamentally important for effective integration as well as for designing sustainability.

We are many now, who see that this kind of view is extremely important today, in a time where, for example, segregation and profit maximization lock us up in a social machinery with high rigidity and control from above. But how can an alternative system more adapted to today’s complexity and of humans and the environment to the real needs, take hold? And how can it be fleshed out in a favorable way in our common social structures?

GNH might well inspire such a fruition, fusion and expansion of our ”paradigm shifting” networks.

Other issues that seem to summarize the meeting is ”What does GNH mean for us locally, in this case within the Swedish context ?,” What does that mean in relation to ourselves and our capacity as change agents? ”And” What stories do we allow to influence our society and development? ”

The similarities of GNH network and the transition movement are striking and a cooperation between these networks is inevitable. And in this collaboration, it is time to go beyond the concepts – such as organization name, title, non-profit contexts and other ”identities”- to truly meet. There is a part of us that is getting ready to throw away concepts at times when they seem to isolate us from eachother instead of empowering our goals. How can we use a skill of discernment to see when and where the concept of Transition as well as GNH are fruitful for inspiration and growth – and when they should be set aside in order to make way for more authentic processes, in the here and now? In observation and co-creation.

The day led to expansion of the informal networks around GNH and, most of all, strong wishes for further cooperation and exploration of GNH in Sweden, for example through the establishment of communication tools, open meetings as well as the establishment of a learning community – a ”sangha” – as a basis for deeper leadership training and specialization.

But one of the main results of the day was maybe that the meeting grew to become an important hub in an emerging network of friends and co-creators – where many met for the first time.