Definitions


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.

definitions2
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?

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3 thoughts on “Definitions

  1. Nice post and I like your definitions! I do wonder if you think that the people who develop innovations need some kind of expertise or not, and if the process of innovation for well-being is always an “organized activity”?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting question 🙂

      Let’s have a look at Ezio Manzini”s latest book: “Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation” (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/design-when-everybody-designs). He discusses “diffuse design” in which people organize initiatives to change their own situations for the better. And “expert design” in which people with design skills/education can support such initiatives.

      Yes, I think that something like “design capability” is needed in people who are involved in (formal or informal; expert or diffuse) design activities (Nichols and Dong, 2012, Re-conceptualizing Design Through the Capability Approach). In addition, I’d like to mention Nelson and Stolterman’s “The design way”, in which they argue that design has been around since the dawn of man and that is simply the human capability to improve/change their environment and to develop tools to do that.

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  2. Marc, I like your idealism. We share it. That’s probably why I like it.;)
    It seems the way you define wellbeing is the very positive soll situation, because you use the word flourishing.
    That’s not a common definition of wellbeing. Why do you choose to come with a new definition, it might make it harder to use already available literature and data that can help you reaching your goal? So what do you expect/ hope this new definition will bring us extra? Is that worth it, considering what your goal is?
    When do people flourish (short term,long term, how do you know?)? When they consider themselves flourishing or when others measure it? Some of the greatest minds of time who have helped humanity progress were very depressed people…

    Innovations can also lead to widespread effects of despair or depression. We don’t know what the longer term will bring us with a certain innovation. Is this website also meant to share bad practices? Or do you want to focus on best practices?

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