About GWI


GWI envisions a world in which all people – present and future – have the opportunity to thrive. That means being able 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 all live well on this small 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. This research allows us to imagine what a better future – one in which all life thrives – might look like.

LOCAL Food – Public Policy

“Local food” typically refers to food grown within 200 miles, but the LOCAL Food project does more for global wellbeing by linking to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  In this 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). This year, look for a policy paper to be presented at COP26, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, and a more in-depth Guide to inspire public commitment to LOCAL food systems.

Regener8 – Public Education

Regenerative agriculture and land management is quickly becoming a key response to climate change – one that not only mitigates effects, but produces wellbeing for people and the planet. The Regener8 project advocates 8 simple practices for food growers and landscapers alike: plant more, diversify, build soil, compost, reduce petrochemicals, go native, attract beneficial bugs, and water right.  By committing to Regener8, we accelerate process toward 8 sustainable development targets: ecological resiliency, climate change mitigation, food security, human health, sustainable livelihoods, clean air and water, community wellbeing, and economic transition. GWI partners with the University of California Master Gardeners Program to deliver public education on Regener8 principles and practices.

INTENT 365 – Personal Growth

Intentional living calls for daily commitment, which is exactly what the INTENT 365 Project aims to support. INTENT is a framework for creating personal, public, and planetary wellbeing, and it stands for being In-Shape, Networked, Thrifty, Engaged, Nature-Loving, and Time-Savvy. Targeting a new wellbeing goal each month, INTENT 365 expands on lessons learned at Srisa Asoke, an intentional Buddhist community in Thailand, with a year’s worth of tips on how to adapt and practice those lessons in our everyday lives. Join us in this social experiment #GoodLife4All.

Campaign Café – Design Lab

GWI’s Campaign Café is a space to create, curate, and communicate innovative ideas for change-making campaigns. Design experiments draw on current interdisciplinary communication theory and practice, with particular focus on environmental, climate, and public interest communication.


Juliana Essen: 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.  

Karen Clarke: 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.

Shelly Bennecke: Board Director + Treasurer

 Shelly Bennecke is the Managing Partner at Laguna Ventures LLC (LVL), an incubator and management consulting firm headquartered in California. 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.

Devon Azzam: Board Director + Secretary

Devon Azzam is an educator who works with public schools to develop green schoolyards and outdoor education programs. 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.