What is wellbeing and how can it apply to your workplace or community?

Are you a systems thinker? Are you sick of silos? Are you looking for a way to measure and to improve social progress in your community or even your organization? Then the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) may be a framework for you.


Based at the University of Waterloo, the CIW has been recognized globally as a leader in measuring quality of life.

Find out more in this article I co-wrote with CIW Director, Bryan Smale, for Public Sector Digest.


As always, your feedback is warmly welcomed.



Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

4 thoughts on “What is wellbeing and how can it apply to your workplace or community?

  1. Dominique, this is a difficult question to answer, because the concept of well-being may differ in different individuals. A group meeting to determine goals based on a relative concept is even more difficult. The term is critical so that a precise definition is possible. Without that requirement, you really can’t move forward. So much of human life is muddled by confusing terms and the existence of contradictions. I would argue that the most efficient human network or system is one in which a clearly defined term generates clearly defined goals without contradictions.

  2. Hi Robert,
    Thanks for weighing in. In fact, the CIW conducted extensive consultations with Canadians to define what matters most to them. With that feedback and insights from quality of life research, they developed a conceptual definition and identified indicators that would serve that definition. When they work in a community, they can modify some of the survey questions to capture local variations.

    In a group, you could do the same and I suspect they would be pretty similar: environment, health, sense of belonging, education or professional development, democracy might be 2-way communications and distributive justice, living standards might be reflected in salary, benefits, etc.

    The real benefit is the conversation. It’s about starting to say: what do we mean by wellbeing? How could we track that? Are we making progress? Again, I suspect employee wellbeing (and good employee engagement surveys might capture a lot of these metrics) lags behind corporate profits. It’s moving from a cog in an organization or an economy – measured just by your costs and output – to looking at the whole system. You raise a pretty exciting path for future consideration.

    Thanks again!

  3. Thank you for your response, Dominique! As you point out, survey questions are modified to encompass local variations. So, relative location, tradition and other factors enter into the quality of life research… In your second paragraph, “sense of belonging” stands out. This is a complex factor that deserves further research. We can apply the universal that all interactive human behavior is encompassed in the dynamics between inclusive and exclusive relationships. However, unlike the study of physics, we are just beginning to comprehend the many implications of that universal… The key is in the definition: What do we mean by well-being? This is the essence of mathematical reasoning. Once we have a viable definition, consequences and further topics for investigation arrises. Alas, too often we accept statements without investigating the consequences. Let me give you one example in the American legal system. When someone is sworn into the court, that person is asked to affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It is the whole truth that poses the problem. How can I swear to tell the whole truth when I may not know it and may never know it. How many people have perjured themselves over this troublesome phrase. I would suggest replacing “the whole truth” by “as much of the truth as I know at this time”. That would be honest and accurate!

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