Wellbeing Project

  • Prosocial values at play Gandhi's admonition to be the change one wishes to see in the world is a helpful entry point for young and old. Image Credit: The Global Journal

  • From inner work to outer action Inner work is a key component of the Wellbeing Project Image Credit: Shutterstock

Wellbeing Project

Aiming to nurture a more caring infrastructure for social entrepreneurship, the Wellbeing Project is identifying the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of wellbeing.

Social entrepreneurs work to address societal problems by offering a solution, changing a system, and persuading societies to move in healthier directions. These efforts draw on both tangible (funding, staffing) and intangible (empathy, fortitude, compassion) resources. Over time, their vocational dedication can lead to exhaustion, imbalance, burnout, a sense of isolation, and sometimes even danger.

Funding is a significant challenge…. I worry about money all the time, for both my family and my organization. It's exhausting. The other big challenge I find is that of being a mother and social entrepreneur. This isn't a 9-5 job, and I often travel for work. It is difficult to be all things to all people all the time. 

The work …[I do] requires a very personal, up front, and public confrontation with political leaders and systems …. I struggle with the challenge of safety and security as well as the reality that we are taught fear, and it takes away from us our sense of self-determination. The repercussions and consequences of doing work that is risky takes a toll both mentally and in terms of the liability it creates for others. 

A co-creation of Ashoka, the Esalen Institute, the Fetzer Institute, Impact Hub, the Skoll Foundation, and the Synergos Institute, the Wellbeing Project supports:

  • An 18-month inner development program designed to help seasoned social entrepreneurs in finding and nurturing a deeper sense of wellbeing within themselves and among a community of peers;
  • Longitudinal, developmental evaluation that explores the effect of inner work, and connections between inner work and the effectiveness and quality of social change;
  • An intentional learning partner community of social sector leaders and funders engaging the research to better understand the concept and benefits of wellbeing and identifying potential next steps at the sector level; and, 
  • Stories about the impact of inner work on their personal and professional lives collected from social entrepreneurs and broadly shared.

The Fetzer Institute is leading the project research component. Historically, Fetzer has been interested in learning how the inner life of mind and spirit supports individuals, informs their action in the world, and catalyzes broad-scale social transformation. 

The Institute supported early work in mindfulness-based stress reduction with Jon Kabat-Zinn and in emotional intelligence with Dan Goleman. Through partnerships with the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, and other prominent institutions, Fetzer’s research support has helped examine how stress, social support, compassionate and altruistic love, and religiousness and spirituality affect health and healing; how neuroscience can inform our understanding of and the development of positive human qualities such as love, forgiveness, and compassion. Its major funding for a longitudinal research study, The Shamatha Project, examined how intensive meditation training sharpens and sustains attention, enhances well-being, and leads to less judgmental, more empathic emotional responding to the suffering of others. 

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