Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0 – 2016 Summary Report


Between 2013 and 2016, 49 participating change-makers from 17 countries and 5 continents launched 25+ team and individual prototype initiatives in Wellbeing/Beyond GDP.


Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0 participants with Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis


Introduction to the Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0

The Global Wellbeing Lab is an action-learning platform, co-founded by the GIZ Global Leadership Academy (GLAC) [1] (Germany), the Presencing Institute (Cambridge, MA), and the Gross National Happiness Centre (Bhutan) to advance new ways of generating and measuring wellbeing at multiple levels in society.

Started in 2013 with a cohort of 24 participants, the 2015-2016 Lab (Lab 2.0) convened a second cohort of 25 change-makers from all three major sectors of society and seven geographic regions around the world[2]. The group embarked on an innovation journey that unfolded in four phases: a co-initiation meeting in Berlin, self-organized regional learning journeys in either South Africa, Sweden, Brazil, Costa Rica, USA or Vietnam, a deep dive immersion journey in Bhutan, and a concluding workshop in Costa Rica.

This report documents the emerging results of the Lab, as well as the overall structure of the Lab itself. We hope it will be a valuable resource for our partners, networks, and the many practitioners around the world who are developing similar labs in their own local contexts.

The Evolution of the Global Wellbeing Lab (GWL)

We launched the first Global Wellbeing Lab in early 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was one of three pilot dialogue processes that GLAC conducted with different partners between 2012-2014 to develop new ways of strengthening leadership and innovation capacities to address global issues.

The cooperation between the Presencing Institute, GNH Center Bhutan and the Global Leadership Academy from GIZ in itself is a new way of forming alliances across sectors and continents. The highly trustful relationship that developed over the years was key for our joint implementation and learning.

Global Wellbeing Lab founding partners selected a group of 24 innovators from eight countries who embarked on learning journeys in Brazil and Bhutan. A full report on the Lab 1.0 process, participants, and initial outcomes is available here. The same report also includes a description of how the lab was initially formed, which may be of interest to readers who are just learning about the Global Wellbeing Lab.

Photos from the first Global Wellbeing Lab


In the years since we first launched, we learned a few important lessons about Lab design and outcomes:

  1. The most significant impacts happened on a delay (after the lab formally ends).
  2. The most successful prototypes involved regional rather than global collaboration.
  3. The projects that succeeded and evolved were aligned with – rather than in addition to – participants’ core areas of responsibility back home.

A few examples that illustrate these three insights include the evolution of the GNH Centre in Bhutan, which began to flourish in 2015, conducting four international programs and three national programs[3]. The impulse for the WE-Africa Lab on Building Wellbeing Economies for Africa starting in November 2016 and reaching until 2017 was sparked in Lab 2.0. In North America, Michelle Long (Lab 1.0) convened the Global Wellbeing in Business Lab using a process inspired by our Lab, while Eileen Fisher (Lab 1.0) began pioneering a new approach to wellbeing within her retail clothing company and its supply chain.

With these lessons in mind, we felt a second lab, with a new cohort of participants and an evolved methodology based on what we learned from the first lab, could grow and strengthen the networks and broaden the impacts of early stage prototype projects. In early 2015, we launched Lab 2.0 and took a second cohort of participants through a yearlong innovation process during which each person took part in the following activities:

  1. February 2015 – Launch Workshop (Berlin, Germany)
  2. April 2015 – Regional Learning Journeys (cohorts went on a learning journey in their own region. Regions included Brazil, Costa Rica, South Africa, USA, Europe, Bhutan and Vietnam)
  3. May 2015 – Retreat Workshop for Prototyping Strategy (Bhutan)
  4. June 2015 March 2016 – Evolution of prototyping initiatives. Ideas are explored, refocused and implemented as multi-local activities.
  5. April 2016 – Concluding Workshop (San Jose, Costa Rica). Prototypes showcased and documented; next phase plans developed.

During Lab 1.0 we learned that strong regional clusters were more likely to make a decisive contribution to institutional/systemic impact in their home context. In Lab 2.0, therefore, we made a stronger effort during the selection process to form regional cohorts of participants. As we’ll explain throughout this report, this seems to have contributed to the success of many prototype initiatives in Lab 2.0.

In choosing the 25 participants for Lab 2.0, we looked for individuals with specific expertise while also maintaining a diverse overall group composition – especially geographic, industry, and cultural diversity. We looked for candidates within our existing networks (including the Lab 1.0 participants’ networks) who:

  • Had developed relevant expertise in the field of wellbeing and/or sustainability.
  • Held leadership roles in major innovation projects in their respective contexts.
  • Shared a passion for taking existing projects or new ones to the next level and were willing to explore different perspectives.
  • Had reflected on their own work and were willing to take an open-minded approach to learning more about themselves and others.
  • Would be able to make a decisive contribution to institutional and systemic change in their home context.

We paid particular attention to two key aspects of each person’s experience:

  1. Aspiration Gap: they wanted to do more than what they currently were able to (they experienced a gap – frustration or intention – between their current reality and their aspiration for the future).
  2. Possibility: they could make things happen (especially if they made the right connections, were in an environment that’s open to innovation, took time for reflection and were willing to bring inner transformation processes into the social processes).

Some of the organizations and countries represented in Lab 2.0 were the Sao Paulo City Council (Brazil), Google (Ireland), Kaiser Permanente (USA), and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust (South Africa). A full list of participants and their organizations can be found in the appendix.

Here are some of the participants talking about why they joined the Lab:

Alfred Tolle, (formerly) Google:

Lorenzo Fioramonti, University of Pretoria:


Leadership and Innovation Labs

The Global Wellbeing Lab utilized a dedicated social laboratory approach. In social change work today, there is a growing recognition that just as we have scientific and technical labs to address our scientific and technical challenges, we need social labs to address our socio-economic and political challenges.

Core to the social lab approach is the recognition of the increasingly complex, dynamic and inter-related nature of today’s socio-economic and political challenges for which no stakeholder alone is capable of developing appropriate responses. We can no longer rely on a small group of experts to develop solutions for entire social systems. The Global Wellbeing Lab applied a Leadership and Innovation Lab practice that was developed by the Global Leadership Academy together with key cooperation partners such as the Presencing Institute and the GNH Centre. This practice is deeply rooted in a dialogical understanding of systemic change and combines (inner) leadership work with innovation practices.

Three key characteristics underpin the nature of social labs in our view[4]:

  1. Social Labs are social – they bring key change agents with diverse perspectives from different stakeholder groups into a conversation around a shared challenge.
  2. Social Labs are experimental – they are tackling challenges for which solutions do not yet exist. In an iterative approach, Lab participants bring their own respective knowledge into the lab space to jointly learn from each other and develop possible solutions for the chosen challenge(s).
  3. Social Labs are action-oriented – they are geared to enable change. The objective is to go beyond a change of perspectives and the development of ideas, to actively implementing possible solutions to the chosen challenge.

From our experience of this Global Wellbeing Lab 2.0, and many other leadership labs facilitated by GLAC, we believe that bringing together people from diverse perspectives and creating an open atmosphere for deep listening and generative dialogue is the precondition for transformational change in complex situations.

Theory U

The Lab was designed on the principles of Theory U – an innovation process that individuals and groups can use to suspend habitual ways of paying attention, access deeper sources of knowing, and explore the future they want to create through rapid-cycle prototyping. Developed by Lab co-facilitator Otto Scharmer along with colleagues at MIT, Theory U has been field-tested in multi-stakeholder innovation processes around the world over the past two decades.

One way the U process differs from other innovation processes is in its emphasis on co-sensing. Co-sensing helps us connect with and tune in to the contexts that matter; moving into a state of seeing in which the boundary between observer and observed begins to collapse and in which the system begins to see itself.

One of the key U-based methods we use in the Lab is learning journeys (sometimes called sensing journeys). A learning journey is a deep-dive immersion into places that have the potential to teach us about the emerging future. To prepare for learning journeys, participants are coached to not only look for innovative solutions, but also pay particular attention to the way they are paying attention: to look for information that disconfirms their own expectations and to interact with the key innovators and stakeholders in that community with an open mind and open heart. We will describe the specific learning journeys in more detail below.

Berlin – February 2015


In February 2015, we hosted a three-day event that served to bring Lab 1.0 to a close, and to launch Lab 2.0. The first day was a closing event for Lab 1.0 participants only, to reflect together on how their personal and organizational journeys had evolved since they first met two years earlier in Brazil.

What stood out from these conversations was the depth and importance of the relationships that had formed between participants. Many spoke about the resistance they had faced in bringing a new economic paradigm into the world, and the importance of the deep, trusting, supportive relationships they developed with other Lab participants as a key condition that helped them achieve impact in spite of such resistance.

Here are some of the Lab 1.0 in their own words:


On the second day, Lab 2.0 participants arrived – and a number of Lab 1.0 participants stayed on to meet them. The deep conversation that had taken place on day 1 was something Lab 2.0 participants could feel upon arrival. Many expressed a sense of ease, familiarity, and trust with others whom they had never previously met.

The kickoff workshop for Lab 2.0 served a variety of purposes. One was to map our collective resources and networks, in order to make visible to everyone what we have access to through the people, their expertise, and networks assembled in the room. A second was to build relationships amongst participants: to connect and share deeper into each other’s life stories and sense of purpose.

Here are some participant reflections after the Berlin workshop:

David Bullon (Costa Rica):

Louise van Rhyn (South Africa):

Tashi Wangchuk (Bhutan):

A third purpose was that each regional cluster was given the task of choosing a location for a regional learning journey. Therefore, a significant part of our time together on the second day was devoted to discussing what a learning journey is, why we do it, then splitting into small groups to discuss: What kind of learning journey am I interested in? What could be possibilities for a learning journey in my regional cluster? The plans that emerged evolved over the following weeks, and took shape as the regional learning journeys outlined below.

Regional Sensing Journeys – March to April 2015


In March and April 2015, Lab participants went on self-organized learning journeys in one of the six regions: South Africa, Costa Rica, Brazil, USA, Vietnam, and Europe. Each group decided what aspect of wellbeing they wanted to explore, and identified hotspots of innovation in their own region they could visit to connect with key innovators, see and feel these people’s realities, and experience emerging solutions that could improve wellbeing for all stakeholders in a given context. Here are a few examples of what the groups experienced during their learning journeys:

The North America cohort chose to explore two key issues shaping the future of the United States: income inequality and the various racial and structural issues. The Bronx became an obvious choice. Read more about the Bronx learning journey here.

The South African group’s visit was designed to uncover evidence of Ubuntu, a Nguni word conveying a worldview that recognizes the essential interconnected humanity that underlies all we are and do. Read more about the South Africa learning journey here.

Vietnamese and Bhutanese participants took a learning journey into hot spots of innovation in Vietnam, including rooftop gardens, the workshop of a social entrepreneur who makes bamboo bicycles, an intentional community that includes children with disabilities, and more. Read about the Vietnam learning journey here.

European participants visited Malmö, Sweden’s third city, just across the Øresund from Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, where they met a variety of people and organizations working for social change in the city. Read more about the European learning journey here.

The Costa Rican sensing journey began with an informal conversation with the President of Costa Rica, and continued the following day to include various encounters with inspiring local innovators – from Christian Marin, a molecular biologist working on the molecule that causes cancer, to Juan Carlos Martí and Casa Tropika, an international award-winning 100% solar-tech house. The sensing journey included Marcelo Cardoso, one of the Lab 1.0 participants from Brazil, thereby strengthening the ties between the two labs. The group explored technological advancement in service of Costa Rica’s development, sandwiching a top down – bottom up approach.

In Brazil, all three Lab 2.0 participants plus two Lab 1.0 participants and a few others who wished to support the Lab locally, travelled by bus to the sprawling favela of Campo Limpo/Capāo Redondo, Sao Paulo. They visited the founding-president (Neide Abatti) and staff of Banco Uniāo Sampaio, a women’s union and community bank with its own local currency, and talked with some of the shopkeepers who trade, very successfully, with this currency. Then we went on to Capāo Cidadāo, a multi-faceted community-based development project founded by a local resident, Paulo Magrāo, that includes a ballet school, a kitchen/restaurant/catering service run by local women that focuses on Brazilian traditional food, and an eco-garden. All the visits were examples of wellbeing driven from the grassroots – where the community has tapped into its own creativity, agency and innovative resources in order to serve the wellbeing and human dignity of all. See photos from the Brazil learning journey here.

Here is Lab participant Dang Giang talking about the importance of learning (sensing) journeys:

Bhutan – May 2015


We met again as a whole group in Bhutan in early May 2015 for a week-long learning journey together, exploring Gross National Happiness (GNH) as one local adaption of a new development paradigm and collaboratively evolving various prototype initiatives.

On the arrival day, we sat together in a circle, overlooking green hillsides and snowy mountaintops, for a check-in conversation to share what had happened for each of us personally since Berlin. The following morning, each regional learning journey group shared where they went, whom they met, and what insights and ideas emerged. After lunch, we visited the Kichu temple – just down the road from our hotel – to understand the role of spirituality and culture in Bhutan’s approach to Gross National Happiness. The temple visit was short, however, as we had an important guest arriving for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.


In the late afternoon, we welcomed the Honorable Jigme Y. Thinley, former Prime Minister of Bhutan, who shared an overview of GNH and gave his insights into the current moment of transformation globally. After dinner, we gathered for a fireside chat between the Prime Minister and Otto, where topics ranged from the potential for implementing new development paradigms globally to the challenges of doing so in Bhutan.

The following day, we took a bus into the capital city of Thimphu. An inspiring panel discussion in the morning concluded abruptly when the hotel, in whose basement we were meeting, started to shake. Most of us quickly rushed out of the building, the memory of a powerful recent earthquake in nearby Nepal fresh in our minds. Not everyone, however, saw reason to evacuate. Lab co-facilitator Julia Kim, who was hosting the final panel, later recounted how one of the Bhutanese monks on her panel stayed right in his seat as the room shook, and with a grin, proclaimed the tremor “very auspicious!”

Regrouping in the afternoon, we split into smaller teams to visit various organizations in the city and explore the challenges and opportunities of applying GNH at the local level. The places participants visited ranged from a local school, the office of an elected official who is not a strong proponent of GNH, a local recycling facility started by Lab 1.0 participant Karma Yonten, and a local hospital that works with traditional medicine. We returned to the hotel in the evening, and concluded the day with a sense-making circle to share what insights we gained from these experiences.


The following day was designed for personal reflection – an opportunity to explore what was emerging for each person individually, to connect or reconnect with our deeper sources of inspiration and purpose. Bhutan is a unique and remarkable land for such exploration, and the location we chose for solo time is one of the most inspiring one can find: Tiger’s Nest, a monastery built into the side of a mountain, surrounded by green hills.

“I’ve been completely surprised by what happened as a result of Bhutan in a way that I still don’t have the language or words to understand. Surprised by what happens when you participate in a process bigger than yourself and how you lead differently. I’m personally as a individual, as a practitioner, very different than I was before we started this journey” – Louise van Rhyn

Read more about the Bhutan learning journey here.

The final two days were devoted to crystallizing intention into action, early stage prototyping, and establishing next steps. At the conclusion of the Bhutan journey, seeds had been planted for the following seven prototype projects:

  1. Bambootan: Bike to Happiness (Cross-regional)– bringing together bamboo bikes made in Vietnam, equipping them with electric motors made in Bhutan, and prototyping them in Thimphu.
  2. A Flourishing South Africa– reawakening Ubuntu, revitalizing Vision 2030, and a wellbeing lab for South Africa.
  3. Deepening Wellbeing at Eileen Fisher Inc(North America) – creating a new paradigm of wellbeing at Eileen Fisher Inc, with GNH as a reference point; to be achieved through individual, organizational, and societal transformation.
  4. Towards an Ecosystem of Civic Learning(Europe) – contributing to a ”Civic Learning Ecosystem”, based on broader social and environmental values, such as those included in the GNH concept.
  5. Global Wellbeing Lab Network(Cross-regional) – developing, organizing, coordinating and communicating the work of the Global Wellbeing Lab network.
  6. WE 7 (Wellbeing Economies)(Cross-regional) – an alliance of the world’s leading wellbeing economies.
  7. Pura Vida 2.0(Costa Rica) – revitalize the deeper underlying values of the country’s well-known saying, Pura Vida (“pure life”)

Some prototypes continued to evolve, as you will read below, while others spun off into new forms.

Costa Rica – April 2016


In April 2016, Lab 2.0 participants met in Costa Rica for a closing session during which we not only explored emerging prototype initiatives, but also experimented with ways the Lab could inform and inspire others through public events and workshops.

The Costa Rican lab participants organized a pre-immersion program to explore the opportunities, challenges, successes and contradictions of creating wellbeing in the capital city of San Jose. On a Saturday morning, we visited a popular outdoor market with local food vendors, farmers, and artisans. Just behind the market, our hosts showed us a small river that was polluted – one of many such examples in the city. Restoring and revitalizing city waterways is a major ongoing challenge in San Jose.

The pre-immersion journey also included a visit to a community center in one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the city, where a group of volunteers had started a vibrant place for local kids to come and learn music, journalism, martial arts and much more. The center attracts volunteers from prominent organizations around the city, and is an inspiring example of how entrepreneurship, passion, and the arts can combine to create change in difficult circumstances. The pre-immersion group also ventured out of the city to see some of Costa Rica’s renowned forests and meet some of the farmers and activists who work to preserve and maintain them.

While it had been presented as optional, the pre-immersion journey turned out to be a powerful experience for those who attended and in the future, we would recommend building this into the beginning of the full program.


When the full Lab group arrived in Costa Rica, we started with a check-in conversation around the questions: What’s been emerging in this field of wellbeing since we met in Bhutan? What is giving you hope? Concern? There was a common feeling that the world was “at a crossroads”, “a very contrasted picture”, and experiencing a time of “transition”. This opening was followed by sharing from prototyping groups and everybody individually about the work that had been done since Bhutan.

On the first afternoon, we had the honor of meeting Costa Rican President Solis for a conversation at his office about wellbeing in Costa Rica, and to learn more about his and the country’s philosophy and policy approach to improving it.

The following day, we held a marketplace where participants had the opportunity to share emerging ideas from their own work context around wellbeing and to explore continued collaborations with others in the group in the months ahead. Building on this and the reflections of the day before, looked at the emerging landscape of projects, impacts and areas of influence the group had generated collectively. The key highlights shared during this time are listed in the following section.

Our time in Costa Rica concluded with a two-day public workshop, co-hosted by Costa Rican Lab participants and local changemakers, for a group of 120+ social entrepreneurs, business, and government leaders from San Jose around the topic of Collective Leadership for the Future of Costa Rica. As part of the workshop, we took the entire group on a mini-learning journey into the city center, where they were invited to meet and get to know someone in the city who might be very different from themselves. For many, it was an eye-opening experience. A number of participants said they typically avoid spending time in the city, so to see it from other people’s perspectives and imagine what it could become (rather than seeing only what they feel is wrong with it) left many with a strong desire to become re-engaged in actively shaping the future of San Jose and Costa Rica.

Here is a short film that shows some highlights from the public workshop.

For the Lab, this public workshop suggested an interesting possible direction for the future: using the knowledge and experience of the global participants as a resource and inspiration for local change makers – a direction we may explore as we consider how the Global Wellbeing Lab could continue to evolve in the years ahead.

Summary of Impacts and Outcomes

There are at least five categories of outcomes that emerged from the Lab:

  1. New organizational initiatives
  2. Spinoffs from the process of prototyping new initiatives
  3. Replicating elements of the Lab locally
  4. New directions personally or organizationally
  5. Influence in one’s extended networks

1. Initiatives

Efforts that emerged from the initial “prototyping” stage of the U process


  • Eileen Fisher Inc., a leading innovator in women’s clothing, was inspired by the Lab participation of the founder Eileen Fisher and five colleagues to aim for 100% sustainability by 2020 and, in the longer term, to transform the entire fashion industry (one of the planet’s highest-polluting industries). The company is now a triple bottom line company, setting not just financial targets, but environmental and internal/external social targets as well. They are currently in the process of strategic planning work related to these and in January 2016 received their B-Corp certification.
  • In Kaiser Permanente (2015 = $64B), the leading US integrated health system, Tyler Norris was inspired by the lab to deepen the organizations’ ‘anchor institution’ strategy for increasing its social value by more fully leveraging its operational assets to impact the economic, social and environmental drivers of health and equitable prosperity. Read more here.

South Africa:

  • Lorenzo Fioramonti, Mary-Jane Morifi, and Louise van Rhyn have helped re-ignite interest and action around Vision 2030, and citizen dialogues around the South Africa we want to live in. Vision 2030 has acted as a unifying force for different social change groups working together which is making it easier to collaborate across boundaries. At least 1,200 people have been impacted by this commitment to Vision 2030. Lab participant Louise van Rhyn and colleagues have run a series ofBusiness in Education forums linking their work to Vision 2030 as well the SDGs – efforts they say would not have happened without the Lab.
  • WE Africa Lab on Building Wellbeing Economies in Africa is launching in November Jointly convened by Lab-participant Lorenzo Fioramonti (Institute for Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria), African Center for a Green Economy and GLAC, this new Lab will bring together 27 participants from 6 African countries over the course of one year to explore alternative development paradigms for Africa.


  • Inspired by the Lab, a participant from Sweden changed positions and is now heading a refugee camp, supporting 200+ refugees and 50-60 volunteers. In his work, he is initiating new ways to more quickly integrate refugees in the community.

Latin America

  • Launch of 360 Innovation in Costa Rica, reached 500 people in kickoff, turned attention to positive stories of change, influenced the ministry.


  • Wellbeing Economies 7 (WE7): a group of participants continues to work towards an international coalition of countries and organizations advocating for a new development paradigm.

2. Spinoffs

Initiatives that “spun off” in a different direction from a lab participant’s original prototyping work.


  • Renting a minivan from a hotel with the goal of starting a conversation around public transit, Giang’s organization prototyped a city bus system. After a prototype in the Lab that didn’t actually work out (electric bamboo bikes), she nonetheless felt “empowered to change the transportation system”.
  • The original prototype idea after Bhutan, which was to build bamboo bikes in Vietnam and equip them with electric motors in Bhutan (called Bambootan) didn’t work, but the Vietnamese craftsman who makes the bamboo bikes is himself flourishing. He’s now not only making bamboo bikes, but electric bamboo cars!

“Our prototype as a group didn’t materialize but the spirit of innovation is still going in the community without our participation.” – Dang Giang

3. Replicating Lab Elements Locally

Initiatives in which Lab participants used the methods or practices they learned through the lab to facilitate change in their own local context.


  • In 2015, the launch of the GNH in Business Lab in Oakland, California – created by Lab 1.0 participant Michelle Long, replicating the Lab process locally (both an initiative and an example of local replication).


  • Ricardo Young is currently running for Mayor of Sao Paulo, and is integrating the Lab’s approach to dialogue as a movement building strategy in his campaign. The process for doing this emerged from a small-group conversation during the Costa Rica gathering.


  • Launch of the wellbeing economies initiative at the urban level in Sweden, attributed directly to the inspiration that came from visiting Bhutan to experience Gross National Happiness.


  • Launch of the Wellbeing Economies in Africa Lab in November 2016 in Cape Town, a cooperation of Lab participant Lorenzo Fioramonti and the Global Leadership Academy with the African Center for a Green Economy and the Wellbeing Economies in Africa Network.

4. New Directions

Initiatives that emerged from the prototyping phase, which were different from the participants’ originally stated or intended prototype.


  • Inspired by the Lab to better understand the real needs in her organization, Giang’s non-profit stopped looking for grant funding and instead began spending a portion of their time daily working as organic farmers, to produce their own livelihood.
  • Launched a Youth Leadership initiative

5. Influence in extended networks


  • Kaiser Permanente, a healthcare network that includes 11 million members, 28 labor unions, 30 healthcare orgs, is sharing and learning from the Lab process and participants with other leading health care organizations in the US

“How do we as an anchor institution use our $16B in annual procurement to drive change? Our procurement folks started with the premise of saying we can save a few percent by buying more via national contracts, but now they’re lighting up around the possibility of localizing our spend, and help spin the economic flywheel of green jobs and equitable wealth creation in the communities where we provide care services.” – Tyler Norris

  • Collaboration between BALLE and Kaiser Permanente on the “Social Determinants of Health” white paper.
  • Lab 2.0 participant Nipun Mehta was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he has shared insights from the Lab.
  • Influence of Nipun and the ServiceSpace approach to the Gift Economy. For example, a Karma Kitchen was established in Vietnam.


  • Ha Vinh Tho and Julia Kim together with the GNH Centre Bhutan, are helping one of the leading business conglomerates in Thailand to bring GNH values, principles and measures into the business, and to launch a new GNH Centre in Thailand. There will be ongoing sharing of experience with the Eileen Fisher team.
  • International GNH Centres are also being started in a range of countries around the world. They will be affiliated with the GNH Centre Bhutan, and many are already connected to the extended networks of the Labs
  • A GNH Training of Trainers Program is being launched as a collaboration between the GNH Centre Bhutan and Schumacher College, UK and will include many of the methods and approaches of the Global Wellbeing Labs


  • Working with the Copenhagen municipality to re-use many of the 12,000 bikes they collect from the streets every year.

Latin America

  • Working with 200 families in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to develop sustainable low-income housing. This began as a prototype by the Brazilian lab participants, and while they haven’t all continued to be directly involved, others in their networks have.

Next Steps

As of this writing, the Lab co-founders are exploring various possible ways the Lab could grow and evolve in the years ahead. If it is to continue, one aspiration is to reduce the high costs and travel requirements of the current structure by continuing the shift toward a more regionalized structure. We are also exploring ways of leveraging digital technology – especially online-to-offline platforms like the MITx u.lab MOOC – for delivering content that organized groups can study and methods they can practice locally. At the same time, as our experience above suggests, there is something seemingly irreplaceable about visiting a place like Bhutan. So we are continuing to explore options and stay open to what’s needed in the wider field of wellbeing now.

Appendix I

Impact Example – Eileen Fisher

 In 2013, Eileen Fisher, founder and chairwoman of Eileen Fisher Inc., a women’s clothing brand in the United States, participated in Lab 1.0. “Before the trip,” Eileen said, “I knew I wanted to change something within my company. I just wasn’t exactly sure what or how. The experience in Bhutan made me think about the true sources of individual creativity and its role in business, as well as about the role of business in society.”

Eileen teamed up with another participant from the Lab, Marcelo Cardoso, then a Senior Vice President in Natura, a Brazil-based leader in corporate sustainability, who helped her and the company to embark on a new journey of transformation, one that focuses on using personal transformation as a gateway to institutional and systems transformation.

At the beginning of their journey they focused on individual transformation and on exploring different approaches to transformation and change. For example, at Eileen Fisher, each team meeting starts with a moment of silence in order to focus on what’s essential. Later in the journey they involved many stakeholders to re-imagine the purpose and vision of the company, linking it essentially to the wellbeing of its members and the whole. From there they started to reframe the company’s strategy and structure by making the wellbeing of the entire eco-system more central to the business practices.

Lab 2.0 participants Kevin Cooke and Regina Reyes continued the work Eileen started in Lab 1.0. With their leadership, the company is now developing a decision-making tool that will help stakeholders inside the company begin to think holistically about profit, planet & people in their day to day. According to Regina, “internal wellbeing has been a major focus for us, inspired by GNH and our lab work.  This was the prototype that Kevin & I developed. We are committed to measuring and improving our internal community’s overall wellbeing. This internal wellbeing metric will fold into our company’s balanced score-card.”

The company is becoming a Certified B Corporation, thereby committing to a Triple Bottom Line philosophy within which, employee wellbeing became one of four Key Performance Indicators, along with eco-materials, supply chain fair wages and overall revenues/profitability. This model affirmed the company’s bold environmental and social goals for the year 2020 and beyond whereby Eileen committed to engaging with suppliers, brands and other stakeholders within the fashion industry for industry-wide transformation.

Appendix II

Lab 2.0 Participants and Team


Adrián García
Co-founder and Partner, Carao Ventures

Alfred Tolle
Consultant, (formerly) Google Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA)

Allison M. Pajotte
Executive Director, Lifesupport Caribbean

Alexander Frederiksen
Co-founder, Cykelven and Donkey Republic

Dang Huong Giang
Founder, Action for the City

Daniel Izzo
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Vox Capital

David Bullón
Director of Innovation, Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications

Dorji Thinley
Director of Research and External Relations, Royal University of Bhutan (RUB)

Fredrik Björk
Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Malmö University

Glenn Bravo
Advisor to the President

Gregor Henderson
Director of Wellbeing and Public Mental Health, Public Health England

Hang Mai
Founder and CEO, Xanh

James D. Gundell
Co-chief Operating Officer & Facilitating Leader, Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Kevin Cooke
Eileen Fisher Inc.

Lorenzo Fioramonti
Professor of Political Economy, University of Pretoria

Louise van Rhyn
CEO and Founder, Symphonia

Nipun Mehta
Founder, ServiceSpace

Mary-Jane Morifi
Global Capital Campaign Lead, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust

Pedro Paulo F. dos Santos Diniz
Founder and CEO, Fazenda de Toca

Phan To Trinh
Co-director, Peaceful Bamboo Family

Regina Reyes
Facilitating Leader of Wholesale Planning and Operations, Eileen Fisher, Inc.

Ricardo Young
São Paulo City Councilor

Robert Axelsson
Chairman of the Board, Sustainable Bergslagen

Tashi Wangchuk, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Thunder Motors Electric Vehicles

Tyler Norris
Vice President Total Health Partnerships, Kaiser Permanente


Otto Scharmer
Presencing Institute / MIT

HaVinh Tho
Program Director, GNH Centre

Julia Kim
GNH Centre

Marian Goodman
Presencing Institute

David Winter (formerly Graf)
Global Leadership Academy, GIZ

Adam Yukelson
Presencing Institute

[1] Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

[2] Three sectors: business, government, civil society. Seven geographic regions: South Africa, Brazil, Costa Rica, the U.S., Europe, Bhutan, and Vietnam


[4] Compare Zaid Hassan 2014: The Social Lab Revolution

Categories: Blog

1 Comment »

  1. hello, I am a current online u lab participant in Scotland. I would like to know more about how the Eileen Fisher organisation have developed, and use their internal wellbeing metric. Who could I contact for that? Many thanks Johanna


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