La Fabrique Spinoza
The Spinoza Factory
General well-being at the center of the democratic debate.
The Spinoza Factory aims at promoting general well-being, via the production of innovative societal ideas. We believe general well-being is a desirable goal of politics, and that it is the only goal that is for itself rather than in preparation for another one.
Following an interest in GDP growth that started gloriously during the 30 years post-WW II, the Rio conference of 1992 initiated a policy paradigm shift towards sustainable development. It seems to us that a policy aiming at the well-being of the general population will be, if aided, the next true change in public policies. We aim to be a catalyst in this process in the French context.
The Spinoza Factory think tank intends to be a French speaking platform for well-being content, in order to: give additional visibility to content initially produced in English; empower French political decision-makers via accessible knowledge in French; give access to content for the general public about this topic of interest (which is unfamiliar or even counter-cultural in France).
The Spinoza Pact
Committing the French presidential candidates to constructing well-being indicators
The France-based think-tank La Fabrique Spinoza is releasing its SPINOZA PACT, for new indicators measuring citizens’ well-being in France.
Observing that since the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report in February 2009, French politicians have shown little interest or given little support to the construction of well-being indicators adapted to France, the Spinoza Pact is asking the French Presidential candidates to commit to :
- Devising such indicators, with input from the civil society, aiming at releasing them within 2 years ;
- Making an effective use of those indicators in the policy making processes
In times of near-recession, well-being indicators are even more appropriate, as they allow to better assess how to maintain or increase citizen's well-being. They also represent an opportunity to give inspiration to the society in those troubled times. Last but not least, they shed light on an innovative course to sail out of the crisis, by leveraging citizens' well-being as a powerful economic performance driver.
Sources of knowledge and academic development
The two main inspirations to our work are the massive academic research and work done about social progress indicators and the construction of a new “happiness science”, gathering findings of multi-disciplinary fields: happiness economics, cross-country comparative sociology, social neurosciences, positive psychology, philosophy, etc.
This Happiness Science research is much further developed in the USA than it is in France. The Spinoza Factory intends to encourage the production of knowledge in this cross-disciplinary field by giving visibility to the content produced and, one step further, using state-of-the-art research available, producing political recommendations to decision-makers.
Introducing the 1st MASTER CLASSES in France on the science of happiness and well-being science
The scientific works described above have been aligned with a growing interest for well-being and happiness from the general public, as well as medias, and the economic and political realms. The Spinoza Factory is dedicated to bringing this knowledge to civil society, in order for individuals, organizations and collectivities to benefit from it.
Well-being, a concept that is both compelling … and effective
This crossing of science and different parties have triggered the emergence of thoughts and uses of these academic contents in all the components of society. Happiness and well-being have nowadays become powerful concepts that are new raw material, as well a new analytical prism, a tool to design solutions, a vector for transformation, at all three levels : individual, organizational and civil society at large.
Practical applications for society
1. An employee feeling well performs better at work (Lyubomirsky, 2005),
2. 1 country that takes into account its citizens’ well-being can exit economic recession faster (Stiglitz Commission, 2009),
3. Positive psychology-based coaching on strengths and well-being potential results in a faster improvement in an individual’s performance (Seligman, 2000),
4. An organization aiming at social performance performs better economically (Margolis, 2010),
for all those reasons, the Spinoza Factory and Dr. Ilona Boniwell are organizing the 1st MASTER CLASSES in France on Well-being Science and its applications :
--> November 28-30 2012 : « Advanced Happiness Studies » - Read class description --> February 18-20 2012 : « The Positive Enterprise » - Read class description --> April 8-12 2013 : « Positive Psychology Coaching » - Read class description
For more information, email@example.com
Feeding the French political system with fresh ideas
We believe that the work done on the social progress indicators has not yielded a real change in policy making or policy objectives in France. As an example, the 32 minute delivery speech of Nicolas Sarkozy for the Stiglitz Commission report did not use the word “well-being” or “happiness” once, in comparison with the 15 page conclusions of the report mentioning those 33 times. A compilation of 35 politician speeches during 6 months (jan 1st - june 30th 2010) averaging 500 000 words each, did not show those 2 words. French political rulers are far from engaging fully the issue and need to be exposed even more so to the works on those indicators and the political finality implications.
The tools used to serve the different goals are the following:
- Constructing an effective French-based diffusion web-platform Striking media partnerships to gain visibility: articles, interviews, documentaries - Reaching political rulers with short-format impactful recommendation-papers to influence their policy making towards well-being.
Methodology for translating academic content into policies
Our method to produce innovative political recommendations is a combination of two principles:
1. We will use classical think tank methodology: for a specific study a core study-group of citizens gathers biweekly to confront ideas collected from experts and literature.
2. The content is being enriched and compared with well-being research from the academic world, including Happiness Science researchers. With this approach, we combine robustness of the expertise on designated public policy topics and innovation through a different prism of analysis, thanks to the well-being content.
The team being assembled to constitute the think tank is today composed of 25 expert-citizens from different areas (mostly) of civil society: sociologists, public health experts, engineers, executives, architects, journalists, public officials, economists, philosophers, urban planners, public policy consultants, etc.
Contributions to Wikiprogress
The Spinoza factory aims to contribute to the Wikiprogress network the following ways: production or sharing of novel well-being research; presence of a growingly connected organization within France that could serve as a national platform on well-being measures and policies; increased visibility via French media coverage; section on our Web site about events linked to well-being; section on our Web site consolidating all research on well-being by topics, with conclusions and (at times) societal implications; organising a “Politics of Happiness” congress in 2012.
Current fields of study of the Spinoza Factory
- Correlation between relationship to time and happiness
- Link between TV and happiness
- Well-being and efficiency in the workplace
- Gender inequality and happiness
- Legitimacy of the politics of happiness
- Philanthropy as happiness-inducing activity
- Societal progress indicators beyond GDP
- Education as a leading path to happiness
Event: First International Colloquim on Happiness in France and Inspirational Bhutan
On September 9th and 10th, 2011 the French NGO “the International Observatory of Happiness” launched the first international event on happiness in France. The aim of this event was to be a time of thinking and sharing on societal progress and happiness. The event gathered speakers from different countries (Senegal, Bhutan, Canada, India, etc.) and disciplines (NGOs, statisticians from The French National Statistics Office, lawyers, sociologists, etc..) Full program.
The Ministry of Labor and Human Resources of Bhutan was an inspirational speaker.
In 1972, following its 4th king Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan chose happiness of the population as a goal for its public policies. It named it “Gross National Happiness” (GNH). GNH was chosen over GDP on the realisation that the distance is great between GDP and happiness since it must follow the causal chain of GDP leading to Per Capita Income to Standard of Living to Quality of Life to Happiness. That chain shows imperfect causality from one link to the next: Bhutan chose to then directly aim for GNH.
What is little known about Bhutan is the diligence of its institutions to fully and technically implement that GNH vision into actionable public policy actions. The policy architecture follows a full-blown pyramid originating in the constitution of July 18th, 2008. Its preamble says: “We the people of Bhutan solemnly pledging ourselves to strengthen the sovereignty of Bhutan, to secure the blessings of liberty, to ensure justice and tranquility and to enhance the unity, happiness and well-being of the people for all time.” Then, article 9 (2) follows: “The state shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”
Flowing down from the Constitution, the GNH is then broken down into the 4 following pillars:
1. Equitable and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development
2. Cultural Preservation and Promotion
3. Good Governance
4. Environmental Conservation.
Those 4 pillars are then outlined through 9 domains:
1. Standard of Living
3. Psychological Well-Being
5. Time Use
6. Cultural Diversity and Resilience
7. Good Governance
8. Community Vitality
9. Ecological Diversity and Resilience
Lastly, those 9 domains are broken down into 72 indicators designed to objectively measure the progress made in the 9 specific domains.
Finally, to ensure that GNH is taken into account at each step of the policy making, an overall process has been designed: from those 72 indicators, a tool is designed to screen the policies in the making, as well as the actual implemented projects to deploy those policies. In the end, evaluative tools assess the actual impact on the GNH and allow to adjust the pillars, domains or indicators.
The GNH program has allowed for Bhutan to make a list of 23 identified drivers of happiness.
Some try to look down upon Bhutan GNH policies based on its little known political regime. It is interesting to investigate and assess the democratic quality of its institutions. It is the king himself who decided in 2008 to drive the country towards a parliamentary monarchy. First democratic elections were made that year and 47 members of parliament elected by the people of Bhutan. Good governance being a pillar of their GNH program, they rank high on it: youngest democracy and achieved via a most peaceful transition; overall peace and stability (unique selling prposition for tourism-driven economic development0; gender neutrality in the country; clean law enforcement system; transparent nation (most transparent Asian country based on Transparency International Corruption Index in 2010); and lastly, media freedom (considered the "fourth estate").
To summarise, Bhutan is proving its inspirational ability through a decent and further improving democratic process, an inspired GNH goal, a full policy-making architecture and technical process and a list of novel identified drivers of happiness.