What is the purpose of government?
There are countless partial answers. To keep people safe. To support business. To fill in potholes. But what’s the overarching purpose?
That’s what Santa Monica, a community of around 100,000 people just west of Los Angeles, asked itself in 2014. The answer they came to was deceptively simple: to improve the wellbeing of their residents.
It’s feel-good and hard to disagree with—but also vague. In the past, many people have paid lip service to the idea of wellbeing and left it there. But Santa Monica went a step further and put it at the heart of city hall.
Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project set out to define wellbeing, to measure it, and to use the results to overhaul government’s structure and decision-making. They won a $1 million grant from the inaugural Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge to make it a reality.
“It sounds kind of basic – isn’t this what government …