Our recent research has yielded an innovative understanding of what well-being constitutes and how a normative and values-based approach to well-being can serve as a vision for communities. It can also form a basis for the development of governance policies and for the design for social institutions that are caring and committed to supporting people’s well-being. This is intended as a holistic, proactive and inspirational vision.

Our conception of well-being differs from other existing conceptions, such as desire-fulfilment, hedonic happiness, subjective reflection, objective list, and other such accounts. Our well-being framework differs from these in part because it distinguishes four essential features of human living which form dimensions along which our lives can go more or less well.

First, our lives are constituted by experiences, activities and processes. Second our lives are constituted by the quality of our awareness. Third by our connections and relationship inherent in those activities. Fourth, by self-awareness. Well-being involves a synergy of all is going well at the same time along these dimensions.

This account of well-being highlights the non-instrumental value of conscious beings, and the equal worth of all persons as enshrined in the UN Charter and reflected the yearning expressed in several of recently developed charters and declarations, such as the Beirut Declaration, and Montreal Charter. With such a conception and with this framework for evaluating well-being, it is possible to better characterise what counts as good governance and what constitutes social policies and social institutions designed to enhance well-being.

This focus can expand the concern of social policies from human rights towards including also a duty of care and values-based decision-making. This can potentially shift governance from the providing for the governed to a more engaged collaborative governance to pursue collective flourishing.

The next step is to explore: (1) alternatives to indicators; (2) the development of values-based indicators using our well-being framework and (3) how might our conception of well-being might guide the design of institutions so that they are well-being sensitive.

These research ideas require collaboration with other groups and researchers who are willing to join us in consolidating and applying this more holistic vision of well-being, and who have expertise in the design of policy and institutions.

To learn more about our conception of well-being, please refer to our book: Happiness, Flourishing and the Good Life: A Transformative Vision of Human Well-Being (in Print, Routledge).