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 global citizens live well on a small planet. 

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 possibilities for sustainable and satisfying communal living.

LOCAL Food - Public Ed

“Local food” typically refers to food grown within 200 miles of the consumer, but GWI’s LOCAL Food project aims to do more for global wellbeing by linking to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  In our approach, LOCAL stands for food that is Life-giving (Goal 2: Zero Hunger), Open (Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities), Circular (Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production), Adaptive (Goal 13: Climate Action), and Lush (Goal 15: Life on Land).  Join us in growing LOCAL food systems and enjoying the fruits of our labor!

Cultiv8 - Personal Practice

How can we all Iive well together on this one small planet? A vital first step is cultivating a personal practice that includes these 8 core actions: Commit (to this practice), Care (for ourselves and others), Conserve (resources – especially fossil fuels), Contemplate (obstacles and opportunities), Create (tangible symbols),  Communicate (clearly, with compassion and conviction), Contribute (time, talents, and treasures), and Collaborate (combining efforts for lasting change). Our actions may be small, but they are mighty, making a Good Life for All truly possible.


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.

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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