Challenging the Current Approach to Development
The current popular measure of development, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a purely economic measure, unfortunately does not reflect the urgent and important issues facing mankind currently. As Robert Kennedy (1968) is quoted to have said:
“(…) the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen have been making the case for frameworks and measures which are much more holistic and all-encompassing of our collective well-being. Stiglitz argues: “What we measure affects what we do: if we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing”. Simon Kuznet, the inventor of the GDP also warned of its limitations when he said, “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income”.
The Well-being Framework
A well-being framework is increasingly being recognised as the new way of mapping and understanding long-term holistic and collective well-being of human societies. It shifts out of the narrow confines of economic growth and expansively lays out how improvements in multiple variables from various spheres such as the economic, social, environmental, democratic, civic and personal, independently and collectively interact to make a happier and healthier society.
Progressive countries and institutions around the world are already developing similar frameworks to revamp how we holistically approach our individual, collective and planetary well-being.
The Curio-city Collective’s Well-being Framework for Cities
We, at TCC, studied multiple progressive frameworks of well-being that are currently being tried out across the world to build the framework that our learning eco-system is created around.
We believe that the well-being of an individual and community in a city is a complex outcome of multiple variables and these can be mapped across 3 arenas. These are:
- Democratic values: The fundamental values that underpin a democratic society.
- Resilience: Elements to ensure long-term sustainability and inter-generational equity and justice.
- Local conditions: Basic social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions necessary for healthy and happy societies.
At TCC, we are working hard to bring to our collective the interconnections that exist across issues so that the actions we take are also in resonance to this complex and beautiful tapestry of life and living.