Project History of the Happiness Alliance home of The Happiness Initiative and Gross National Happiness Index
The Happiness Initiative
& Seattle Area Happiness Initiative
You may find our organization called Happiness Alliance,
Happiness Initiative, Seattle Area Happiness Initiative, Happy
Counts (our URL address) and or other names people make
This document explains the reason for the confusion.
We are willing to live with this kind of brand blurring as we
feel it most important that we provide tools and resources
to areas so they can conduct their Happiness Initiatives and
use the GNH index.
We do ask people to refer to us as Happiness Alliance.
2010: project began as
Sustainable Seattle’s fifth
iteration of regional
2011 (early): issued the
Seattle Area Happiness
Report to the Seattle City
Gross National Happiness indicator
borrowed from Victoria Happiness Index
Project by permission of Pennock.
2013: Name change to
Happiness Alliance to
support other areas and
reduce confusion as so
many communities calling
their projects “Happiness
2011 (late): Happiness
Initiative as a project within
Sustainable Seattle began
working with communities
in the US and abroad.
2012: IRS recognizes
Happiness Initiative as a
502(c)3 not-for-profit entity
Gross National Happiness Indicator developed by Happiness Alliance and San Francisco
State University, based on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy. See the “For
Researchers” page at www.happycounts.org for full methodology.
Happiness Alliance’s projects include the Happiness Initiative and the Gross
National Happiness Index survey. The survey was inspired by Bhutan’s work to
measure Gross National Happiness (GNH) and a global movement to superseded
merely economic metrics (such as wealth, profit and gross domestic product) with
well-being, happiness and sustainability metrics.
The Happiness Initiative (HI) began as Sustainable Seattle’s (S2) fifth set of
regional sustainability indicators. The project was a departure from S2’s 20-year
history of objective sustainability indicators. S2 was the first organization to
develop local indicators of well-being as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product
(GDP), and is widely acknowledged as the first “community sustainability
organization” in the United States (Holden 2004). In 1996, the United Nations
Centre for Human Settlements awarded S2 the “Excellence in Indicators
Best Performance” Award.
In 2011, it became apparent the Happiness Initiative was a national organization,
and so it was spun off as its own entity. The Happiness Initiative gained 501(c)3
status in March of 2012.
The Happiness Initiative began by offering a subjective indicator of well-being
anyone could use, called the Gross National Happiness Index. The Gross National
Happiness Index is a survey that allows an individual to gain their own assessment
of their wellbeing and insight into their own happiness. It can also be used by a
group or region to discover out where the community perceives itself to
be hurting or thriving.
The survey was first offered online in January of 2011, and has been available
since then. The first version of the survey was a replication of the survey used by
the Greater Victoria Happiness project with permission granted by M. Pennock.
Mid-2011, permission was revoked and the Happiness Initiative hired the San
Francisco State University to develop a survey based on Bhutan’s Gross National
Happiness model and philosophy.
Late in 2011, the survey was re-issued and offered online for anyone to take and
any group to use.
Between January and June of 2011, data was gathered from survey takers in the
Seattle Area, nationally and internationally. The Seattle Area Happiness Report
was issued mid-2011 to the Seattle City Council and Seattle-Area community. It
provided an analysis based on approximately 2,500 survey takers and
comparisons to the larger sample of approximately 7,000 survey takes. The
report was used that year by the Seattle City Council to inform budgeting
In 2012, the Happiness Initiatives worked with immigrant and refugee
communities* in Seattle. The data gathered told us there is great social inequity in
than expected in the Seattle Area The immigrant and refugee communities that
used the Gross National Happiness index were provided help in analyzing the
well-being of their populations and a small amount of funding to take action
based on the results.
These are early examples of how happiness data helped policy makers and the
community establish a baseline, use data for decision making and venture on the
path for a better future for all.
In 2013, the directors of the board decided to change our name to the
Happiness Alliance and keep the Happiness Initiative as a program offering
tools, resources and inspiration for cities, campuses, communities.
We changed our name because so many areas were calling their projects
“Happiness Initiative” and using the Happiness Initiative logo. We wanted to
support that. We also wanted to clear up confusion between areas using our
tools and resources (including the Gross National Happiness Index) and our
organization offering those tools and resources.
The work of the Happiness Alliance (and our projects, the Happiness Initiative
and Gross National Happiness Index survey) is rooted in collaboration. The
tools are online and free.
Areas all over the US and abroad are conducting their own happiness
initiatives. Each project has its own history.
You can see some examples of areas using the Gross
National Happiness Index and our other tools and
resources on the “Happy Cities, Campuses and
Communities” page at www.happycounts.org
or here, on the OECD wiki progress site:
"Never doubt that a small group of
thoughtful, committed citizens can
change the world; indeed, it's the
only thing that ever has." -
The Happiness Alliance is and
always has been a volunteer-run
grassroots not-for-profit project.
Your happiness counts.
Use the Gross National Happiness
Index in your community.
Join the Happiness Revolution
Tools, Resources and Knowledge,Tools, Resources and Knowledge,
including the Gross National Happinessincluding the Gross National Happiness
Index, for a new economic paradigm andIndex, for a new economic paradigm and
your happiness.your happiness.