What If Progress Meant Well-Being for All?

U.S. Innovators Use Global Insights to Shift the Narrative and Surface Opportunities Ahead

Published in: Metropolitan Group website (2021)

Posted on RAND.org on September 01, 2021

by Anita Chandra, Fernanda Salazar Mejía, Jennifer Messenger

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Narratives, collections of stories and experiences gathered over time, shape the way we make sense of the world and strongly influence our mindsets and actions. One of the most persistent narratives in the United States and other countries is that progress is defined solely by economic growth, a narrow view that can drive short-sighted decisions. Those decisions can exacerbate inequities and when other dimensions of human and community welfare are missed, accelerate threats to human and environmental health.

What if, instead, our narrative were that well-being—physical, emotional, social, financial, planetary, with a strong core in racial justice—was the ultimate goal and the definition of progress? Our shared idea of "the way things are" would fundamentally change, transforming people's mindsets and leading to actions, policies and funding that prioritize flourishing, equity and connection.

As other countries start to broaden their definition of progress to center on well-being, we set out to learn how narratives have played a role. This guide documents information about global narratives and progress with six innovators in the United States. The connectors applied the global insights in their own work, leading to a provocative set of ideas and opportunities that can inspire and inform the work of change makers, city leaders, impact investors, economists, storytellers and others interested in resetting the narrative about what matters most. This exploration is of use for anyone interested in telling a new story about progress, equity and well-being: nonprofits and movements, governments, funders and impact investors, researchers, economists, storytellers and more.

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