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The Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being

Cooperative Extension’s Collective for Health Equity and Well-Being is a community of Extension personnel and their partners united by their shared commitment to advancing health equity and well-being. Members work together to support the implementation of Cooperative Extension’s National Framework for Health Equity and Well-Being (2021) to ensure that all people can be as healthy as they can be.

Building a Well-Being Economy: A Future Role for Cooperative Extension?


Over the past several months, I've been involved with a group examining the notion of well-being economies.  Seeking a deeper understanding of the concept, I came across a 2020 article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Anna Chrysopoulou that posed a compelling vision for what a well-being economy might look like.

"To solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges we face today, we need to rethink the status quo. Governments and other institutions around the world need to embrace new ways of thinking and actively engage in widespread systems innovation to make real progress toward a healthier, more prosperous world. Yet most continue to frame their work within traditional economic models, without recognizing the damage it is causing to society and the planet. This framing often manifests in downstream measures, such as treating respiratory diseases exacerbated by air pollution, rather than investing in public transportation; rebuilding after floods caused by climate change, rather than divesting from fossil fuel and investing in clean energy; or focusing on health interventions related to poor diet, rather than improving agricultural supply chains and encouraging consumer demand for healthy food. While efforts to mitigate the effects of larger problems are vitally important, they do not attend to their root causes and interconnectedness" (Chrysopoulou, 2020).

"A well-being economy recognizes that people need to restore a harmonious relationship between society and nature, enjoy a fair distribution of resources, and live in healthy and resilient communities, and these elements are beginning to emerge in the individual policies of several countries." (Chrysopoulou, 2020)

Does this describe the future work of Cooperative Extension?  Maybe it is what we have been about for years.  I'd greatly enjoy hearing your comments below.

You can access the article at:

Chrysopoulou, A. (2020). The Vision of a Well-Being Economy. Stanford Social Innovation Review.

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Comments (7)

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Thanks for sharing this article and posting this prompt Roger. I absolutely think Cooperative Extension has a unique and critical role to play in helping our communities transition to a well-being economy. Perhaps even an obligation!

In fact this is something I looked closely at over the course of my year-long Extension Foundation fellowship back in 2018. My particular focus was on how Land Grants, Extension, and libraries like my own at Cornell might help optimize local and regional food systems for health and shared prosperity. My "Solving For Pattern" eXtension blog series documenting that work is accessible at the Internet Archive.

Since that time I've been exploring various approaches for facilitating such a transition, most or all of which Extension could be involved with. That includes cultivating a "fourth sector ecosystem" which helps support and bring together for-benefit enterprises across the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

This is part of my broader interest in "emergent strategies" supporting self-determination and self-governance, what I see as central to a well-being economy.  It's also something the SSRI article mentions, including "advancing social well-being through governance structures that support peaceful coexistence and meet basic human needs."

To that end I've been working closely with the founders of a transdisciplinary science-based approach called Prosocial, which is based in part on the Nobel Prize winning work of Elinor Ostrom around commoning. We're currently developing curriculum and online tools for "learning journeys" which can be run from the local neighborhood to global level. I'd love to work with the Extension Foundation, APLU and any others on developing programming we can implement through Land Grants and Extension.

Cheers, Jeff Piestrak

@Deborah John is spot on. The real opportunity is for Extension to lead this conversation in all program areas. This will take genuine, inspired leadership on everyone’s part and a willingness to reduce our commitment to the program-driven expert model and engage with people and communities to be part of the solution. In many states, the performance evaluation model for Extension workers will need to shift to parameters that reflect engagement, trust-building, generative conversations, and robust solutions driven by active hope. Hope is one of the most powerful motivators. And, active hope means that we invite, engage, plan and proceed in ways that matter!!!

Hi Roger, thanks for sharing this article. I whole heartedly agree. I particularly liked this statement "A well-being economy recognizes that people need to restore a harmonious relationship between society and nature, enjoy a fair distribution of resources, and live in healthy and resilient communities, and these elements are beginning to emerge in the individual policies of several countries." I do think this is a vision that Extension is well positioned to assist with. We are rooted in community, are connected to the people at the individual, family, farm and often times agency level. The skills of bringing all those players together to discuss, name and frame issues and identify small steps toward different ways of being need to/could be cultivated and supported across programmatic lines.  This week (Thursday at 2pm EST) Bonne Braun, Mike Gaffney, Molly Immendorf, Sandra Thompson and I will be hosting a Dynamic Discussion that focuses on just this entitled: Exploring Connections Between Cooperative Extension and Community Resilience.  We hope you can join us.


Really enjoying the SSIR article and the idea of connecting this to extension work. Made me think of the "Health in All Policies: Working Across Sectors in Cooperative Extension to Promote Health for All" (Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, Volume 6, Number 2, 2018).

One key idea that stands out to me - the for this to take hold it will require extension to embrace the ideas from the ground up, and the top down. because extension has such deep roots in communities, the change really needs to occur as a personal an  organizational shift in extension itself.

Joseph Sepp Sprietsma

Historically, Extension has worked in silos employing downstream measures,  "focusing on health interventions related to poor diet" and "encouraging consumer demand for healthy food," along with upstream approaches to improving agricultural supply chains. Perhaps to mitigate the effects of larger problems it is time to break down the silos within our system, employ an Extension Health in All Policies and Programs, and attend to "root causes and interconnectedness" as an approach to social, environmental, and economic well-being.

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