We are back from Bhutan and packing up for the final 2 weeks of this first leg of travel. However, there is one, very important topic that we haven't had the chance to cover yet - happiness. In fact, Bhutan's reputation as one of the happiest countries on earth is part of why we put it on our list.
While other countries measure their success in GNP, Bhutan has made a conscious decision to measure their success in GNH. The government, which is a democracy with a Prime Minister, also has a King (culture) and Abbot (spiritual), has a mind, body, spirit structure that reminds me of The Making of a Corporate Athlete. The 3 have united on an 100 year plan for the country based on 4 key pillars: Equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, Good governance, Preservation and promotion of culture and Environmental Conservation. These pillars are then supported by 9 domains: Living standards, Education, Health, Environment, Community vitality, Time use, Psychological well being, Good governance, Cultural resilience and promotion. These are measured by 33 indicators on the GNH index which includes a survey. The results are then used to inform policy. While Bhutan is not without its challenges, this approach has led to longer term thinking and decisions that take into consideration the impact to future generations. For example, the country has decided that hydro-power will be their primary revenue generator vs timber. As a result, 72% of the land is forested. This trade-off means slower economic growth but a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.
It is worth noting that Bhutan is not without its critics, nor its issues. My perspective is that there are always going to be trade-offs and room for exploitation. That said, what we observed is that this country, which had no TV until 1998 and internet until the early 2000s is developing at warp speed, thoughtfully. More importantly, it has a non-partisan lens for decision making - a core set of unifying values.
Sadly, I don't think our country is in a position to adopt such thinking. However, interestingly enough, (if you include tourists) the country has roughly the same population as Austin. As the Austin Community Foundation kicks off its strategic planning process, I wonder how much Bhutan could serve as a guide for our beautiful city?