Mark Anielski – What Am I Skating Towards? Happiness Inc.

Here is Mark Anielski's response to What are you skating towards in 2012?

In 2012 a group of 10 inspired professionals are forming the first collaborative profit-sharing corporation in Canada called Happiness Inc.

Our mission is to help individuals, households, communities, cities/towns, organizations, regions, countries and the world to enhance Genuine Wealth, Happiness and ultimately Well-Being. Our vision is economies and organizations of well-being, characterized by the key attributes of happiness: a strong sense of belonging, trust, and flourishing relationships. Inspired by my book The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth we plan to advance the art and science of happiness through the use of the Genuine Wealth model for designing, building and enhancing well-being.

We require accounting systems that will measure the conditions that makes life worthwhile for humanity and contribute to genuine happiness and a good life. This requires wisdom and courage. It is time for a new form of genuine capitalism with heart and wisdom. We need to make bold efforts to restructure the global economic architecture, that makes the old system (born during World War II) obsolete and begin to measure and manage what matters most to people. I believe it is possible to re-engage the minds and hearts of all of humanity by designing a new global accounting system for measuring the well-being conditions that are relevant to the values of countries as diverse as China, Russia, the U.S., Tahiti or Pakistan.

As a professional economist, consultant, and professor of business ethics at the University of Alberta, I have laid out a road map for building such an accounting system. I have called this system Genuine Wealth, which literally means measuring the conditions of well-being in accordance with what we value most in our hearts. I have advised municipal and national governments and corporations in Canada, China, the Netherlands, Austria and the US on how to implement the Genuine Wealth accounting system. It has resonated intuitively with many because of its common sense and practicality. The Genuine Wealth accounting system is a tool for communities and organizations to inventory the assets that contribute most to their well-being. In order to be genuine these indicators must be aligned with the values of a community and what citizens consider most important to their quality of life.

The Genuine Wealth accounting system includes a new balance sheet that accounts for the assets and liabilities of five capitals: 1) human capital = people; 2) social capital = relationships; 3) natural capital = natural resources and the environment; 4) built capital = infrastructure; 5) financial capital = money. This includes indicators of well-being that are both objective and subjective. The system I have designed also includes a full cost monetary accounting of all public and private investments in order to evaluate the ‘returns to well-being’ that result from the investment of time and resources to improve and sustain the integrity of the five capitals of a nation or community or business.

Economics is failing humanity, in part, because it has lost touch with the original Greek meaning of the word economy, which is concerned with the wise management of the household. In a real sense we are all economists. Economists have forgotten the meaning of words like wealth, which in 13th century Old English originally meant, ‘the conditions of well-being.’  Moreover, the word value, generally associated with money, comes from the Latin (valorum), which means ‘to be worthy or strong.’  The word competition comes from the Latin (competere) meaning ‘to strive together.’

The Dalai Lama has said that ‘we need an economic system that enables the pursuit of true happiness.’ Bhutan is pioneering a new well-being accounting system with their Gross National Happiness framework. We need more leaders like Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley who states unequivocally “In Bhutan personal spiritual fulfillment is not just a spiritual pursuit, it is government policy. My role is to help create conditions that will help our people find happiness.” John Maynard Keynes, near the end of his life foreshadowed our situation today noting, “The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems — the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion.”

As Buckminster Fuller once said: "One must make a new system that makes the old system obsolete." It’s time for a compelling new system to replace the old one. Building a society based on Genuine Wealth will be challenging; the status quo won’t change easily. It will take a commitment to genuine engagement through listening to our neighbours, children, elders and politicians, rooted in the belief that solutions lie within a collective wisdom. Most importantly it will draw on our greatest strength: love.

Do we have the courage and wisdom to build economies of well-being and a civilization of love?

Mark Anielski is an economist specializing in measuring what matters; well-being and happiness. He is the author of the best-selling, award-winning book The Economics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth, which is a guidebook and roadmap for achieving what we all want: a good life, meaningful work and enduring happiness. His Genuine Wealth model is a tool that helps individuals, businesses and communities to evaluate and optimize their skills, gifts and dreams, aligned with their values, so that flourishing well-being is achieved. He has advised governments (Canada, China, the US, Austria, Bhutan, The Netherlands, and Tahiti) and companies (VanCity, Suncor) to measure and enhance their well-being. Mark will serve as the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of Happiness Incorporated.

Note: I am releasing individual essays from the collection, What are you skating towards in 2012?  on a regular basis. Upcoming contributions are by Kathy Bromley, Jack Pearpoint, Maggie Vilvang, and Richard Faucher. You can access the accumulated essays here.

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One Comment

  1. Brad Johnston

    Hi Mark,
    First, thank you for being a steadfast Canadian pioneer in the area of the economics of well-being.
    I’ve been watching the idea of the “Gross National Happiness” metric for ten years now. It immediately made sense to me when I asked the question of what do people want in their lives and how do we measure that at a societal level. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not measure social value but it has been the only economic tool in our common discourse. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.
    In my opinion, “Happiness” will not become a global economic movement. It is just too “soft” for people in developed societies to accept. We won’t be able to sell it. However, the measures of health, well-being, satisfaction, living a valued life are critical metrics of social value which must be brought into our daily economic and political discourse. We need new labels to capture new thinking. Blended value, whole system capital, social value. Something which blends human and the language of capital.
    Before you create your Happiness Inc. Cooperative, I urge you to consider joining with the Social Impact Financing movement which has a beach head at Social Innovation Generation (SiG) at MaRS in Toronto. I believe Social Impact Financing is the seed of the new economics. The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing will have private and foundation capital and they need the ways to measure social impact of their investments. I think your Genuine Wealth accounting system could be one of those measurement tools. Now is the time for the various initiatives for social and economic change to begin joining and forming more integrated relationships. We are stronger together.
    Here is also a conference which you are probably aware, but wanted to mention it for other readers.
    Creating a Better Economic Future for All:
    The Economics of Happiness Conference
    March 23-25, 2012
    David Brower Center, Berkeley, California
    Brad Johnston

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