Should countries make happiness a priority?


Should we put more emphasis on being happy? (Photo: Rachel Kramer, Flickr/Creative Commons)

As we reported at the end of last year (“Happy Happy New Year!”), the idea that nations should pay attention not just to Gross National Product (GNP) but also to Gross National Happiness (GNH) has been spreading slowly since it was introduced by the former King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970s.

This week, GNH will get more attention at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  During this conference, leaders from around the world will gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to explore how nations can combat poverty while ensuring environmental protection. While the agenda includes an array of topics such as job creation, food security, and sustainable cities, attendees will also try to answer this question:  Are economic measures of growth enough to determine a nation’s well being?

For Bhutan, a landlocked country in South Asia, the answer is still no.  At the conference, Bhutan will present a paper based on the work of its Center for Bhutan Studies, which measures the nation’s GNH. The center examines nine domains of happiness – including health, education, time use, and good governance – and uses the results to craft recommendations for policy makers, NGOs, and businesses. Though it started as an informal alternative to the Gross National Product (GNP), today more civic leaders around the world are wondering if the GNH provides more holistic picture of a community’s wellbeing.

Starting in our communities

Sustainable Seattle used the concept in my hometown to develop a local happiness index through The Happiness Initiative. The project has two components: a set of objective statistics used to create a profile of the region’s progress toward sustainability, and a personal survey that anyone can take. The results of the first survey completed in 2011 (summary shown in a graph on page 10 of The Happiness Report Card [PDF]), reveal that my neighbors feel a strong sense of trust and community support, yet struggle with time balance.  The Happiness Initiative also developed a set a of recommendations for policy makers and community members to tackle the challenges presented in the survey.

The Happiness Initiative is branching out beyond Seattle and attempting to measure the country’s happiness. Their first national survey conducted in March 2012, for example, indicated Americans are more satisfied with the state of the environment, education, arts, and culture than with government and time balance.  The Happiness Initiative is collecting more national data now; you can contribute to the next report yourself here.

What do you think? Should we expand the ways communities — and nations — measure progress and success?

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Is "social media" on your resume?


Image via Gavin Llewellyn, (Flickr/Creative Commons).

12.12.2011: The bullets in this post have been updated to include the percentages of social media jobs (out of all jobs posted on Idealist) each year.

Fellow Idealist Jeremy and I recently ran a little test to see how frequently “social media” appears in job postings on our site. Here’s how many listings have included the phrase over the last several years:

  • 2007: 25 jobs, o.01 percent.
  • 2008: 125 jobs, 0.27 percent.
  • 2009: 507 jobs, 1.67 percent.
  • 2010: 2,115 jobs, 4.98 percent.
  • And in 2011 so far, 3,467 jobs, or 7.7 percent of all jobs posted this year.

Curious what the very first jobs to include “social media” were? Reaching all the way back to November 2006, we found four jobs from three trailblazing organizations: a Content Producer at WGBH Educational Foundation; a Social Network Designer-Manager at Games for Change; and two web developer jobs at Feminist Majority Foundation.

When I was hired in 2006, there are at least a few people on staff who were creating social media, but I don’t think they would have called it that. For example, our editor Eric checked all of the copy on our site, but he also served as a curator of news about the nonprofit sector and posted articles from around the world every day. He was blogging before we had a blog. Now social media weaves naturally into the jobs of many folks here, whether they’re writing emails for multi-channel campaigns, blogging here, or using social networking sites to learn about and grow our community.

Questions for you, dear readers:

  • What has this evolution looked like at your organization? Is your organization so new that the majority of your work takes place through social media, or have you spent a lot of time convincing people of the value of this type of engagement?
  • Are blogs, social networking sites, and other social media included in your job description? How much of your work time do they consume?
  • If you’re a hiring manager posting one of those 3,400+ jobs, what matters to you with regard to filling those roles? How do the best candidates showcase their experience in this area?

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Four ways to make your job postings pop

I recently saw this observation from Twitter user @paulinechu:


This reminded me of a post called There’s a high likelihood that your job postings suck, from the blog Ask a Manager. (Ask a Manager is a great read, whether you’re a seeking employment, looking desperately for a way out of a toxic work environment, or just pondering age-old questions like what to do when your teammates over-share in their out of office reply messages.)

Alison Green counsels employers to “talk like a normal person and think like the candidate you’re looking for.” Steer clear of jargon, she writes, and think of your posting as a marketing document. Why will this job be exciting for the right candidate?

I figured our Community Support team—the friendly folks who answer your questions when you call or email us—might have some advice, too. Here are Jeremy’s tips for posting your jobs on Idealist.

  • List a salary range, even if you think the salary might be low. This is one of the biggest complaints we get from our community of job seekers. Candidates are much more likely to apply for your position if they know roughly how much it might pay and don’t forget to include information about the benefits your organization provides its staff.
  • Be clear about required experience. Ours jobs go out in email alerts in the format of Job Title / Organization Name. If you need an experienced Director of Development, you could put directly in the title “Director of Development – 10 Years Experience.”
  • Take advantage of the space that we provide. Fill it up with keywords and all the other information that you can to make your listing more searchable.
  • Promote beyond Idealist. Don’t forget that once you’ve posted, you should share the listing with your networks through newsletters and on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Your biggest fans can often become your best employees.

Here’s hoping you can stretch that $60 investment a little further.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Book review: The Networked Nonprofit

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at

With the advent of social media, we are all living through a tremendous technological revolution. Have we all been so busy using the new tools—or learning to use them—that we haven’t stopped to think how they are changing the way we work?

Alison Fine and Beth Kanter’s book The Networked Nonprofit offers insights into the way socially-networked organizations look and work differently – and better.


From Beth Kanter's Flickr page

The book is about social networking but it’s not an instructional book about how your organization can use a specific social media tool more effectively. On the one hand, it’s a philosophical treatise on the changing nature of nonprofit being — peppered with true, vivid stories that make a person proud to be a member of the nonprofit family.

On the other hand, the book is a friendly travel guide for traditional organizations and experienced professional communicators and managers who cut their teeth in an age that pre-dated Twitter and Facebook. A travel guide that says—in the nicest way possible—that organizations must change in order to survive in our socially networked age.

Their main points are that networked nonprofits are decentralized and draw strength from diverse and widespread support (rather than a small, pinpointed centralized leader); that networked nonprofits are less needlessly complex and sleeker in their transparent and simple functionality; and that networked nonprofits listen to the public conversation regarding their issues, themselves, their community.

The book goes out of its way to be accessible to all generations of readers.

  • It offers a glossary in back — and bolds the first time a new glossary word appears in the text.
  • It offers clear and specific tips for becoming a more networked nonprofit and what to do as a networked nonprofit.
  • It busts the most common myths about engaging in social networking online.
  • It illustrates new points with stories from the sector.
  • Each chapter concludes with a fabulous, succinct summary of the main points and reflection questions.

Just as I’m rounding the learning curve on social media tools, Fine and Kanter’s book has given me a new approach to social networking well worth embracing. I loved reading the book so much that I am refusing to send it back to my colleague in New York who sent it to me. I told her she’d have to get her own copy for the New York office. (I’m in Portland.)

My only concern about this book? It’s that the people at nonprofits who need it the most will be the most resistant to reading it.

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Our Bookbags Overfloweth: Zilch, Share This!, and The Networked Nonprofit

Now that it’s summer, have you found yourself with more time for pleasure reading? Want to throw some guides to organizational effectiveness and digital organizing into your beach bag amid the crime series and romance novels? Consider one of these three books by some sharp and talented pals-of-Idealist:

By Flickr user Wonderlane (Creative Commons)

Need more inspiration? See our recent reviews of Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose!; Marilyn Johnson’s This Book is Overdue!; Shirley Sagawa’s The American Way to Change; and more — and stay tuned for a review of Sarah Durham’s Brandraising next week.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Add Facebook Friends for a Cause…Or a Living

By Flickr user LarimdaME (Creative Commons)

If you’re like a lot of young internet users these days, you may think you spend a little too much time on Facebook, MySpace, or other social networking sites. But there’s a way you can continue your habit…without feeling like a total waste of space.

Believe it or not, all those hours spent on Facebook and MySpace mean that you have acquired valuable skills: so valuable that many nonprofit organizations are actively recruiting volunteers, interns, and even full-time employees to handle social networking tasks. Maintaining a presence on social networking sites is an important part of many nonprofit organizations’ outreach and fundraising strategies these days. But most staff members are too busy to deal with all the new friend requests, comments, groups, and applications; not to mention figuring out how to use these sites in the first place. That’s why consultant DIOSA Communications strongly recommends that its nonprofit clients hand off the responsibilities to volunteers or interns who already have the experience managing their own online presence.

Nonprofits are posting volunteer requests like “Internet Geek to Use MySpace and Facebook,” internships with descriptions like “Social Media Marketing,” and job titles such as “Online Outreach Assistant.” Just search for keyword “facebook” on Idealist, and you’ll find dozens of jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities!

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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