Across the world, a pattern of introverted thinking is emerging by large and small democracies. Social cohesion is diminishing, and more autocratic decision-making is replacing representative democratic decision and policy making.  So, who, now, will champion the preservation of democracy?  What are the disruptive forces that threaten all forms of democratic societies?

Over the past decade, there have been warning signs of the disruptive forces that must be planned for, and mitigated, if democracy is to be preserved:   Tribalism, outdated economic policies and institutions, external economic and environmental threats, Globalization, Regionalization.

As “tribalism” replaces collaboration, it threatens social cohesion by creating an intrenched “us and them” mindset.  It pits different groups within a society against each other so that the stakeholders lose the strength to influence government. It challenges agreed upon principles of society: citizenship, religious preferences, ethic diversity.  It challenges who has the right to define the nation’s identity.  Tribalism pushes leaders toward autocratic rule that results in a few deciding for the many, without the input of those they “supposedly” represent.

A second flaw in the introverted thinking of nations is the lack of attention to resilient and sustainable economic policy development.  The more isolated a nation becomes, the more out of step its economic policy and economic competitiveness become.  Outdated economic policies erode institutions. Inward thinking economic policies erode institutional strength. Some would say it is the strength of a country’s institutions that keeps the economy strong.   Introverted thinking weakens the private sector’s ability to be agile and responsive to external economic and environmental threats, Globalization, Regionalization.   For example, the rapids of change in Europe and the Caribbean as a result of Brexit, will require an outward thinking government stance of those effected by Brexit rather than the inward thinking stance that brought about Brexit in the first place.  The interconnectedness of the world must be foundational to the preservation of democratic practices.

As a response to these shifts and the desire to preserve democracy, many governments around the world are placing increasing priority on wellbeing – alongside GDP – as a measure of a countries’ success.  There is a growing focus on how such measurement can actually be achieved. What is well-being of a country?  How does it get measured?

We know that what we measure is what we change. New Zealand is the latest to join the likes of Scotland and Ireland in zeroing in on “wellbeing”, with its national wellbeing budget announced last May by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.  For most countries attempting to assess their city or national progress through a wellbeing lens, the indicators they must rely on are based more around deficits and vulnerabilities than they are around strengths. Most metrics look at what is “going wrong”, while research increasingly shows that evaluating what is “going right” is often what is needed to shift the dial on wellbeing outcomes.   It requires a shift of mindset.

It is the community and its collective mindset that preserves the democracy.  It is the community, the citizens-at-large and the business community, that influences the preservation of the democratic structures that build social cohesion and mitigates the negative effects of tribalism that threaten democracies.

What is the collective mindset of the people about the country’s wellbeing?

“Social Prosperity” is a wellbeing approach that measures quality of life at the local level. It refers to the strengths, assets and values of its “neighborhood”, whether that neighborhood be a small island nation or a city in a larger nation, or the larger nation itself.  It can be measured with metrics that indicates whether or not a neighborhood is thriving.  The metrics focuses on what’s “going right”. 

Social Prosperity or Wellbeing can be measured in three ways:  economic prosperity, physical prosperity, community prosperity. 

  • Economic prosperity: How diverse and resilient is the local economy? How well does “the neighborhood” support opportunities for meaningful work, local jobs, active main streets and town centers. 
  • Physical prosperity: In daily life, do locals have access to quality open spaces, and do they engage with them? Is there evidence of active lifestyles and are people emotionally connected to the place? 
  • Community prosperity: How well do events, programs, services and activities enable locals to connect and support cultural life.

All of these indicators when measured and, then through collaboration, improved, lead to economic and social prosperity that have been created and sustained through data-drive social cohesion.  These neighborhoods then expect and influence inclusive, “outward thinking” democratic behavior.

So, it is the citizens that preserve democracy.  Do you agree?

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