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Equitable Development: Starts Within Individuals and Emphasizes Well-Being


When you think about how societies have grown and developed in the past, can you identify efforts where, “good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation,” were prioritized? Unfortunately, most stories of development tell tales of exciting economic growth and ignore the inequity that serves as the foundation for their success.

However, some countries are shifting from economic-focused standards of development to factors centered around well-being. The country of Bhutan coined the idea of well-being economies by creating “Gross National Happiness (GNH),” an alternative metric to GDP that is guided by holistic and regenerative goals for people and the environment. Learn more about GNH and how it is measured here.

I first learned about GNH through Leadership for Well-Being and Equity Deep Dive, a program led by thePresencing Institute (now known as u-school) and the Gross National Happiness Centre of Bhutan. I found my Extension peers and self among a cohort of equity advocates from across countries, disciplines, and fields. Learning the power of shifting one’s consciousness, we practiced deep listening, and we realized that societal transformation starts from within oneself. Simultaneously, we are all living unique, complex, and nuanced lives. Pain and grief are inevitable in this life, but suffering does not have to control our communities. GNH introduced me to the value of collective healing, and there is so much that we can do to heal our communities to work towards a more equitable future for all.

Learn more about well-being economies, equity, equitable development, and systems change under the Resources tab in Foundational Readings on

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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