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Do we need to create something new?

Often when we design policies, projects and initiatives we think we need something new or innovative that doesn’t already exist. The final wellbeing design principle gives an alternate view, that we can find innovative solutions by building on what’s already working in the communities we are partnering with.

What does this look like in practice?

The Justice, Health & Democracy Impact Initiative (JHD) at Harvard University’s Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics is helping local and federal leaders create a more inclusive economy by centering economic dignity and equitable wellbeing in the public policy process.

Through their collaborative partnerships, JHD encourages government officials to start with what matters – wellbeing – and activate economic dignity to build assets and innovation within communities. By cultivating new structures for widespread ownership and demonstrating grassroots approaches to community wealth building, JHD uses ethical principles as the foundation for cooperatively designing a world where the structure of the economy does not exclude anyone from being able to create, care for those they love, or be individually and collectively whole.

The Greater Sum Foundation supports early-stage nonprofits that are doing innovative and scalable work with funding, tools, connections and assistance – all through a wellbeing-oriented approach. The Greater Sum Foundation embodies Principle 6, while at the same time supporting nonprofits who are also putting this wellbeing design principle into practice.

The Greater Sum Foundation’s 6-week nonprofit incubators encourage innovation and asset building. Designed for leaders of early-stage nonprofits, incubators make it easier for nonprofits to learn from each other and grow together. Through weekly peer discussions, participants have the opportunity to build their networks and expand knowledge of local resources. Nonprofits that have completed the incubator include Respond Crisis Translation, Start Lighthouse and Brain Education Strategies & Technology.

The Greater Sum Foundation also includes the Wellbeing Blueprint in grant reviewer training to prioritize funding for organizations that are tapping into people’s drive for wellbeing.

Resources & Examples

Guiding Questions to Put Principles into Practice

These guiding questions are meant to help you apply the wellbeing design principles to your work to create lasting and equitable change. The questions are also good starting places for conversations with colleagues about how your work aligns, or could align more, with the principle.

Start by asking, do we:

  • Start with what communities already have and diligently seek ways to avoid circumventing what works well, as defined by the people who are impacted?
  • Address policies that undermine people’s and communities’ ability to accumulate wealth, knowledge, data and other kinds of capital?
  • Resist always adding something, when doing nothing or taking something away can be the most important innovation?
  • Preserve innovations sparked by the pandemic or other calamities?
  • Reflect a new way of understanding a problem, not an improved delivery on an old mindset?