Can government deliver happiness?

Photo: White House
Photo: White House

Within the context of digital government and civic engagement, we focus much of our efforts around concepts like open data, open source, analytics, technical frameworks and user experience, but rarely, if ever, do we discuss proactively delivering happiness to citizens.

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness framework is probably the most well-known and ambitious, and other countries have followed suit in various iterations, including Dubai, who launched a “Happiness Index” in 2014. However, perhaps because concepts around mindfulness and joy in the business context are just beginning to emerge as mainstream, we’ve yet to see this trend within the context of government, especially here in America.

Much like the open data and open source conversations that were meaningfully started more than five years ago and just now starting to come to fruition, I believe this aspect of civic innovation is something that will begin to evolve and grow sooner than later, especially as science continues to prove the value of mindfulness in the context of business.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I visited parts of Zappos.com chief executive officer Tony Hsieh’s “Downtown Project,” and began diving a little deeper into his work, including the company, Delivering Happiness, that emerged out of the inspiration by the tour for his book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about the concept of civic mindfulness, including how service providers (public and private) can and should go beyond the standard service delivery model and be more proactive around creating an experience that leaves citizens excited and even more happy.

Can citizens ever hope to see a Zappos.gov? Can government really deliver happiness and, if so, what is a framework for doing so?

I asked Delivering Happiness CEO and Co-founder Jenn Lim to share her thoughts.

What is the inspiration behind “delivering happiness?”

Originally, the intention was to put out a book to share how happiness can be a profitable business model for companies of any size/industry. After our book launch and bus tour, we observed a tipping point — a global demand for happiness filled with amazing stories of people/companies/communities (PCC) making changes after prioritizing (scientific) happiness. Because of this, we decided to evolve it into its own company — today, we help PCCs create sustainable culture change, with happiness.

What is “delivering happiness” in a business context, specifically as it relates to government?

It is about creating a culture and environment that is aligned and unified through a foundation of core values lived in action, led by a vision or higher purpose and fueled with frameworks of happiness and positivity.

We call these the DH culture elements and together they create trust, clarity, alignment, and excellence in a business / government context. They directly result in the outcomes that a global leader, like the Prime Minister of Dubai, is passionate about. Outcomes like excellence in innovation, global unity and a shift in consciousness towards positivity and love.

[The PM of Dubai actually uses the word “love” as 1 of his 3 tenets on his 3 finger salute]

How would government measure happiness?

Like any business, governments are looking to measure happiness through key indicators at the individual (ME), family / company (WE) and National (Community) levels. Measurable key indicators include: 

  • heath/wellbeing
  • engagement/productivity
  • collaboration/innovation
  • service/levels of excellence
  • unity / alignment to higher purpose
  • Positivity markers: Levels of Trust, Creativity, Growth

How are governments exploring and/or deploying happiness into their business practices? If a city, state or federal agency wants to begin factoring in happiness as part of their delivery model, how should they get started?

Happiness is much more than a word. It is an ethos and continuous deepening in Alignment with others and elevation in Consciousness.

Progressive governments and businesses recognize that individuals, teams, communities and countries all want to learn, grow, evolve and thrive / flourish.
 
To that end, they are deploying “happiness” in their practices by:

  1. Clearly articulating a powerful shared vision and higher purpose
  2. Developing deeply defined shared values
  3. Aligning peoples minds, hearts and souls to these (values, vision, higher purpose)
  4. Inspiring and cultivating the day to day actions and behaviors that bring this alignment to life
  5. Motivating and celebrating (recognition) people’s CHOICES towards these aligned actions and behaviors

How can governments who want to delivery happiness contact you to learn more

They can email me directly (jenn@deliveringhappiness.com) with questions or check out:

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh. He is also co-founder and CEO of ProudCity. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at luke@govfresh.com.

1 Response

  1. […] But even more than standard approach to design, what Tomorrow Partners and San Francisco did was take into account human emotion. It’s one thing to test whether a user had a good experience with a product, but it’s another to actually strive and gauge for delight, as mentioned in the article, or happiness, as discussed here earlier in “Can government deliver happiness?” […]

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