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Designing for a Fair Shot at Wellbeing

How can we ensure that everyone has a fair shot at wellbeing? Utilize our wellbeing design principles to help you evaluate.

Even with the best intentions, the creation and management of programs and services can lead to collateral harm. By prioritizing equitable access to wellbeing as a measure of progress, however, system leaders can shape their projects and policy recommendations to undo past harms and reconnect communities that have historically been impaired by decision making.

We put together these principles to serve as guideposts for creating equitable access to wellbeing in your work.

Interested in putting these principles into practice? Join our Wellbeing Design Challenge to take your systems change work to the next level.

Principle 1: Start with what matters to people: wellbeing.

Do we:

  1. Tap into people’s inherent drive for belonging and connection, safety, stability, purpose and choice and meaningful access to resources?
  2. Uncover and build on how a community defines wellbeing for itself?
  3. Guard against pushing progress that requires tradeoffs likely to be unsustainable, or that will be borne primarily by those who historically and currently have less power and fewer resources?
  4. Focus on removing systemic barriers to equitable access to wellbeing more than individual action or choice?
  5. Think at the level of the family and community, not just the individual?

Principle 2: Design and implement with, not for.

Do we:

  1. Partner with community to vision and frame issues, rather than engaging community for feedback around solutions designed by others?
  2. Ensure that those more impacted dictate what matters, rather than externally determining what “should” matter?
  3. Shift power to community and shift risk and burden out of community?
  4. Allow communities to be complex and non-monolithic?
  5. Value — not exploit — people’s and communities’ vulnerability and shared experience?
  6. Hire/fully compensate people with lived expertise in navigating structural challenges and changing systems and history?

Principle 3: Heal and regenerate.

Do we:

  1. Understand the history of an issue and the perspectives from those who bear in that history?
  2. Incorporate healing into process and outcomes?
  3. Explicitly tie our work to shifting harmful patterns of the past?
  4. Use restorative and transformative practices within our communities with others?
  5. Respect Indigenous and informal cultural norms and values?
  6. Push against concentrating harms in communities already facing the greatest adversity?
  7. Use mindful language?

Principle 4: Foster social connections and social capital.

Do we:

  1. Support people helping people before adding programs to help people, including removing obstacles to family/community members helping one another?
  2. Recognize that no relationship, person or social connection is “perfect” or “perfectly heathy”?
  3. Build on and not undermine social connectedness, belonging and social capital in community?
  4. Support bridging and linking capital (relationships that connect us across differences of identity, experience and power), not just bonding capital (relationships with those most like us)?
  5. Focus less on individual change and consider how changes in relationships between and among people might be more useful?

Principle 5: Span boundaries.

Do we:

  1. Seek out uncommon partners and solutions?
  2. Integrate with and advocate across other systems, and leverage other fields and sectors?
  3. Expect and accelerate change coming from people and spaces not usually consulted?
  4. Resist centering fields and programs, and instead center people and intersectionality?
  5. Leverage different aspects of the human experience, including arts, culture and joy?
  6. Identify and advocate when policies of one system (including the one in which we work) create barriers in other systems?

Principle 6: Build (on) assets and innovation.

Do we:

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

Download our resource and start using wellbeing as a design principle to provide a pathway for addressing our country’s greatest challenges, no matter what sector, field or issue area you work in.

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