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By: Isabel Nuesse

Founded on ideals of white superiority, rooted in colonial behavior, rich due to the exploitation and oppression of indigenous and black communities; this is the story of the US that has been avoided for the last 250 years. 

With the performative slogan, ‘United We Trust’, we endeavor to pursue unity without acknowledging the hurt of so many.

We are in need of deep repair and healing. And only through that repair, can we consider rebuilding to a Wellbeing Economy in the US.

In their episode, ‘Confrontation’, the hosts of the podcast, Invisibilia, explain that the first step is to air our grievances with each other, confronting the issues. We must allow people to speak their truths, without repercussions.

“There is a need for people to be in your face and hear the situation. We’ve got to be able to address it. But I think at the same time, there has to be a meaningful, and purposeful conversation behind it. If I’m just going to make you mad without doing the bonding and the education and growth, all I’ve done is make you mad.”

Invisibilia “Confrontation”, NPR

They emphasize that once the feelings are expressed, the repair can begin through meaningful conversation to support that bonding, education and growth. This starts with acknowledging what people are asking for. 

To build a Wellbeing Economy there must be belief that most humans want similar outcomes, that common ground can be found. 

A Wellbeing Economy is one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet by addressing five universal needs.

Katherine Trebeck speaks of this in a recent interview: “people around the world consider the same core issues important. Think fresh air, clean rivers, financial security, and strong relationships”

This idea is echoed in a quote from Theodore R. Johnson,

“Even amid all the division broadcast across traditional and social media, most of us want similar things from our society. We want to be treated equally. We want to be included and respected in our communities. We want our institutions and systems to be fair and just. And if the government derives its power from our consent, then we have the ability to make our country more unified if we are willing to focus on what we have in common so we can work through the areas where we differ.”

Theodore R. Johnson

If we can agree that we share common needs, we can begin to answer the how. How does a country, state, or town begin to deliver on those needs?

In a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation webinar, “Reimagined in America” Katherine Trebeck and Lisa Parson, a member of the Wellbeing Project in Santa Monica, California discuss a practical example of where in the US we are learning how to build a Wellbeing Economy. A part of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project is an open-source wellbeing survey, which provides a better understanding of who residents are, how they are doing, and their concerns. This provides inputs into a Wellbeing Index for the city.

Katherine explains why this is important,

“The conversations and the deliberative nature of that is important. To tell residents that their voices matter in this. Particularly for the most marginalized communities. These efforts take a long time, but if you just start, then things can happen.”

WEAll recently published a paper which sets out a path to rebuild to a Wellbeing Economy in the US. The paper stresses that the path to rebuild our economy is founded on the principles of economic freedom, security, resilience, justice and leadership – and that it can be done. The questions we must answer are; are willing to go there, to dig deep, to be vulnerable, to forgive, to repair, to heal and to ultimately change? 

The confrontations needed have just begun and we’re a long way away. But I have hope.

Building a Wellbeing Economy is a process which requires many steps. And as Lisa Parson, who is creating Santa Monica’s Wellbeing survey and Index, says: “You just have to start.”

By: Isabel Nuesse

well-be·​ing | \ ˈwel-ˈbē-iŋ  \

Definition of well-being : the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous : WELFARE

It’s a tumultuous time in the United States. With an ever-divisive political arena, our sensitivities have the wheel and it’s much easier to stick to our corners, and talk amongst ourselves.The outcome of the upcoming federal election could further exacerbate political polarity. If this trend continues, I expect few will applaud the result. 

Writing this piece, I’m a little scared. I do not want to over-simplify, offer a blanket solution, cause offense or seem uninformed. I know I’m not alone in this. These worries are everywhere. Due to our lack of trust for the ‘other’, we’re losing our ability, or more specifically, our desire to communicate honestly with each other. 

Conversations on topical news stories can often end with the warning of, ‘don’t make this political’, because it’s almost guaranteed that one side will lash out at the other. Or, we spew ‘facts’ back and forth. But are we sitting with the complexity of these issues, thinking from other perspectives or challenging our own thinking? 

I see both the left and the right disengaging entirely. ‘You’re threatening to take away my abortion right?’ ‘You’re threatening to take away my guns?’ It’s a yes/no, a this/that, either/or. When in reality, it’s almost all grey. But are we willing to believe in the grey? It’s much easier to stick to our corners and hold a hard line.

A transition toward an economy centered on wellbeing may only be possible if people are willing to and capable of having patient conversations with one another. 

It’s true that sometimes patient conversations cannot be had, due to deep rooted histories of oppression. In this instance, my suggestion does not apply. 

I do believe however, many people are capable of having these conversations. But they’re hard, uncomfortable and can be extremely emotional. If we don’t start to shift more of the conversation to be inquiry-based, with a focus on the core issues, do we run a risk of escalated unrest?  

I found some hope in seeing this video the other day, of two candidates running for Governor in Utah.

It is not perfect. But, it’s somewhat refreshing to see the two sides trying to move beyond the hyperpolarization of our current political state. 

In my own life I’ve tried to facilitate some of these conversations. 7 months ago, I moved back in with my parents in a small town in  Massachusetts. Twice a week, I walk with a friend of my Mom’s: a ‘fiscally conservative’ voter, who is curious enough to engage me in conversations on current events. From police violence, racial justice, supreme court nominees, climate change and Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar salary, we cover it all. 

We can agree that local community resilience is paramount, that wealth inequality is an issue, that police often act above the law, that women are the future and that nearly all political parties can act immorally. While these agreements are not revolutionary, they are telling. 

These topics are complex. I can see from her perspective and have been forced to ask myself questions that I would not have thought of before. It can be refreshing to chat with her, because she is so hopeful about the future that it can sometimes dampen my worry.

Most importantly, these conversations have solidified the fact that we do have similar visions for the future.

Meaning, we can likely find common ground to work together towards a country we’re both proud to live in. 


My vision for a Wellbeing Economy in the US starts with us. Compromise is not impossible. And having compassion is important. One way to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy is to start in the community to better understand our neighbors, and to be open to question our individual perspectives. We have to remind ourselves that the ‘other’ isn’t evil. We can co-create an economy that meets the needs of all people. And we don’t need to be filtering our conversation to do that.