About GWI


GWI envisions a world in which all people – present and future – have the opportunity to thrive. That means having the means to satisfy basic needs for physical and mental health; to pursue engaging and meaningful work, relationships, and leisure activities; and to do so in communities and environments that nurture and sustain us. All told, when we thrive, we have the ability to create a life of value – a Good Life, however we define it.

GWI’s mission is to help individuals develop their capacity to foster a Good Life for All. 

Our 4 core values, like points on a compass, keep us headed in the right direction:

CONNECTIONS –  with each other and nature 

CURIOSITY + CREATIVITY –  in our approach to life

CARE for ourselves, other people, and the planet

GWI is a 501c(3) public benefit corporation registered in California. 


Good Life for All - Research

We all want a Good Life, but how to achieve it remains elusive for many. Interdisciplinary wellbeing research has begun to tease out what’s essential for human flourishing, and ethnographies of intentional Buddhist communities in Thailand bring this literature to life: A study of the Santi Asoke movement provided insights for INTENT (a framework for six ways of being that foster wellbeing) and current research at a Thai ecovillage shines light on how we can all live well together on this one small planet.

LOCAL Food - Public Ed

“Local food” typically refers to food grown within 200 miles of the consumer, but in this case, LOCAL stands for food that is low-impact, organic, circular, accessible, and luscious! By partnering with the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County, GWI bolsters the public’s science-based know-how for cultivating LOCAL food systems right in our own backyards. Join us in tending home, community, and school gardens and enjoying the fruits of our labor!


Founder + Executive Director

Dr. Juliana Essen is a public anthropologist whose work advances the most promising solutions to global wellbeing.  As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand, Juliana worked with farmers to promote sustainable agriculture and with women to create community-based micro enterprises. As an academic, Juliana conducted ethnographic research in an intentional Buddhist community in Thailand, mentored global citizens at Soka University in Southern California, and published on ethical development and economics. In 2015, Juliana launched Global Wellbeing Institute to turn ideas into impact.  She lives, works, and plays in Laguna Beach, California with her husband, daughter, and big black Lab.

Board Director - Chair

Karen Clarke is an educator dedicated to inspiriting and empowering students as change agents in education, conservation, and social justice. She cultivates empathy and global perspectives by guiding youth in participatory inquiry and action within and beyond school walls. Karen also coaches U.S. and international education and conservation leaders in transformative practices that support inclusive, collaborative, and data-informed planning. Ocean swims are Karen’s favorite way to greet the day, but she is adapting to a four-season lifestyle by rediscovering hiking with her grandsons in Ohio.

Board Director - Treasurer

 Shelly Bennecke is the Managing Partner at Laguna Ventures LLC (LVL), an incubator and management consulting firm headquartered in California. LVL’s primary portfolio is focused on entrepreneurs in the Health, Entertainment, Environment, Transportation and Technology sectors. To serve her community, Shelly acts as Chairman and member of The City of Laguna Beach Environmental Sustainability and Emergency Disaster Committees, respectively. As President of the Board for non-profit ImaginationNow, she aids the vision of bringing imagination back into schools across the globe. Shelly is also Advisor to University of Oxford incubator, Oxford Foundry, and she was part of Harvard Business School’s inaugural Strategy and Execution HBX Live program.

Board Director - Secretary

Devon Azzam is an educator who works with public schools to develop green schoolyards and outdoor education programs. After working within classroom walls as an elementary teacher for eight years, Devon sought out the school garden as an educational refuge for herself and her students. She has worked in the capacity of school garden program developer and teacher, as well as outdoor education consultant. Devon currently works as Assistant Director of Outreach for the Gevirtz School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she supports collaborations between schools, non-profit organizations and researchers at the university with the goal of providing equitable environmental education to all children.


GWI does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, age, or other protected class.

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