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Serial Discussion on Wellbeing Instrument and Concept Development

Today’s development agenda is built on the assumption that the economy is the main indicator of wellbeing. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is still widely used to measure growth and show economic status/level. This has led to the currently popular approach taken by the Indonesian government is an open economy/liberalization in the natural resource sector, where investment is the main driver. This is the key idea behind the discussion and ratification of the Omnibus Job Creation Law and several problematic bills in the past year.

While this approach can create many formal jobs, it also poses a major threat to rural communities because their livelihoods are in the agricultural sector and other traditional occupations that rely heavily on natural resources and land. In fact, the global economic crisis in 2008 has shown that it is the community-based economy that has stabilized the national economy. When the economic crisis occurred in that year, the agricultural sector was one of the sectors that was relied on for job creation. [1]

The same approach tends to ignore the ongoing climate crisis caused by natural exploitation. In fact, current laws and regulations override the aspect of environmental protection to ensure the investment opportunities is wide open. Therefore, injustice in various dimensions is certain to worsen in the future.

RMI together with the Tenure Coalition [2] conducted a series of focused discussions on the Development of Wellbeing Concepts and Instruments. This activity aims to design, experiment and promote ways of understanding wellbeing in a comprehensive way and emphasize all the different aspects that are interdependent; including in this initial phase is to represent and define wellbeing itself in Indonesian with various indicators.

This discussion has been conducted twice. The first discussion was attended by 19 people, on Tuesday, November 3 and the second discussion, followed by 20 people, on Wednesday, November 11, 2020. This focused discussion activity was moderated by Wahyubinatara Fernandez (RMI), and with two expert speakers, namely Faisal Basri and Melani Abdulkadir Sunito, and one wellbeing development researcher, Ruth I. Rahayu.

The second discussion aimed to gather inputs from all discussion participants, both the inputs from data, and inputs from actual experience and contextual conditions in society. In addition, the purpose of the discussion was to agree on four initial locations for data collection related to wellbeing measurements at the community level, in which the measuring instrument is currently being developed. These four locations are expected to represent the various communities in Indonesia. 

Results of the First Discussion

The second discussion was opened with the presentation of the results of the first discussion by Ruth I. Rahayu. In the presentation, Ruth explained the results of the first discussion which was about the definition of wellbeingWellbeing is welfare, but it is not only measured from an economic perspective, but also physical, psychological, social, spiritual, bodily (sexuality), prosperity (economic adequacy), safety and happiness (happy and comfortable life). Wellbeing can also be interpreted as human and natural conditions that can live well, comfortably, and content.

After that, the first discussion was continued with the wellbeing dimensionRuth explained that Melani Abdulkadir S. offers six dimensions of wellbeing, Physical and Mental Health; Economy and Resources (including access to work or sources of income); Social and Community Development (including how people obtain social services and facilities to support their lives); Participation, Democracy and Good Government (not only during elections but also to fix government at the local level); Values, Culture, Purpose (including how society expresses and preserves its values ​​and products); and Environment and Sustainability (how people care for the environment to support their own survival).

Expert Speakers’ Responses

Regarding the definition of wellbeing, Melani said that according to Wiseman and Brasher, in 2008, community wellbeing is a combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential to them to develop and realize its potential.  

Melani also reminded that there are many definitions, institutions, and studies on wellbeing, where this wellbeing measurement can be used at the country, community, or individual level. Melani suggested that we should measure wellbeing at the community level, because from the community level we could see the relationship between the community and the country, and the relationship between the community and the individuals in it. Apart from that, the community can also relate to other communities.

The discussion was followed by a response from Faisal Basri. First, Faisal suggested to create an index on wellbeing measurement, which includes the weighting methodology, important things that are included in the index calculation, and so on.

Second, regarding the location for data collection, Faisal suggested collecting data in communities that have conflicts with mining, plantations (especially oil palm), tourism development, urban areas (other than Jakarta), and communities that do not have conflicts.

Third, he also reminded to pay attention to the available data and indicators, such as the data from Socio-Economic Survey which is owned by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). This is because the survey data shows the concern or uncertainty felt by the community. According to him, when the community feels anxious, the wellbeing conditions has not been achieved.

Participants Discussion

The discussion that took place in the last session was very interesting, there were more and more things to consider in determining the location for wellbeing measurements. Representatives of civil society organizations also shared their opinions. For example, Arifin Saleh from the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) who suggested that there should be a comparison of sample areas, between areas where the country is doing its actual jobs and the region where the country only functions administratively.  

Wahyubinatara Fernandez (RMI) as moderator also reminded that the presence of the country in a region needs to be considered, because that there are countries that are present to destroy the region in the name of “development”, and the countries that are present to actually build its society.

In addition, Even Sembiring (WALHI) also responded to the determination of the area for collecting data of wellbeing measurement at the community level. According to him, if the purpose of the research is to generate new discourses or counter narratives, one must look at communities that are able to withstand the threat of conflict and can prevent corporate activities. In addition, it is also necessary to have an area where the people can prove that their ecological economy has succeeded in bringing them to a better environment, which can save their land, water and species, and that they consider important.

All participants hoped that the determination of the initial location or area for data collection related to wellbeing measurements at the community level could represent agricultural, coastal and urban areas. Whether those who experience conflict or not, this will be discussed further and deepened by the research team.

This discussion can be a big step for the use of wellbeing measuring instruments. Where the measurement can portray the condition of society in a more just and civilized manner, based on democratic principles, and aims at social justice for all its people.


Author: Siti Marfu’ah

Translated by: Alfina

[1] Bappenas, 2009, hal I-8. Ringkasan Eksekutif Buku Pegangan Tahun 2009 Penyelenggaraan Pemerintahan Pembangunan Daerah. Penguatan Ekonomi Daerah: Langkah Menghadapi Krisis Keuangan Global.

[2] Anggota Koalisi Tenure yang hadir dalam diskusi : Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN) ; Badan Registrasi Wilayah Adat (BRWA) ; HuMa-Perkumpulan untuk Pembaharuan Hukum Berbasis Masyarakat dan Ekologis ; Koalisi Rakyat Untuk Keadilan Perikanan (KIARA)Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA) ; RMI-Indonesian Institute for Forest and Environment ; Rights and Resources Initiatives (RRI) ; Sajogyo Institute ; Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) ; dan Working Group for ICCAs in Indonesia (WGII)

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