First, let’s create some clarity on what I mean with ‘innovation for wellbeing’, so we can focus our discussion. And let’s do that step-by-step.
Let’s start with the word ‘innovation’. I propose to use this word to refer to the development of new social practices, enabled by the creation of a new product, service, process or way of doing things. This focus on new social practices implies a focus on the impact of the innovation, rather than on the product or service. Moreover, this definition includes both technological innovation and social innovation, and focuses on practical applications and consequences. Furthermore, it is worth noting that, for me, a large part of the field of ‘design’ (e.g., human-centred design, product, service or interaction design) and ‘design thinking’ are included in this definition of innovation.
And how do I use the word ‘wellbeing’? I use it to refer to people’s overall wellbeing, to their flourishing as human beings. This conceptualization is rooted in the idea of ‘the good life’ (or eudaimonia), developed by Aristotle, and goes beyond the experiences of positive emotions. ‘The good life’ will include positive emotions, but also difficult emotional states, e.g., when striving to achieve something that is meaningful to them, like raising a child. Moreover, ‘the good life’ will differ greatly between people. Therefore, if we aim to promote people’s wellbeing, it is necessary to create enabling and empowering conditions for people, so they can freely choose to live their own versions of ‘the good life’.
Now, let’s bring these words together.
With ‘innovation for wellbeing’, I want to refer to the organizing of technological and social innovation, which lead to new social practices, which create enabling and empowering conditions for people to freely choose their own unique ways to flourish as human beings.
Two examples. A project that aims to develop a smartphone app to help people with a chronic disease to monitor and improve their life style and to stay healthy as much as possible. Or a project that aims to facilitate collaboration between a group of citizens and local government officials so they can jointly explore problems in the city’s living conditions and develop social interventions to improve these. Please note that in the first example the people who develop the app are different from the people who will use the app, whereas in the second example the people who develop the innovation will also collaborate in the practical application of this innovation.
What do you think? Is my understanding of ‘innovation for wellbeing’ clear? Any questions?