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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This exploratory report documents preliminary information about how narratives are playing a role in helping decisionmakers broaden their definition of progress to center on well-being. Its purpose is to spark conversation and research on the role narratives play in shaping definitions of progress. 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.

This exploratory report 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 that will be of interest to 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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