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 empower change-makers in creating wellbeing and communicating effectively so we can 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. Reviews of interdisciplinary wellbeing research teases out what’s essential for human flourishing, and ethnographic studies of intentional communities bring this literature to life. This research program serves as the foundation for GWI’s core principles and projects. ***Ethnographic research on hold due to Covid-19 considerations.

INTENT 365 – Citizen Action Campaign

INTENT 365 aims to expand citizen change-makers’ understanding of wellbeing and offer inspiration for action. INTENT is a framework that represents wellbeing as interdependent and multi-dimensional, covering a person’s mental/. 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 an intentional Buddhist community in Thailand, with a year’s worth of daily tips on how to adapt and practice those lessons in our everyday lives.

Campaign Café – Comms 4 Change Lab

GWI’s Campaign Café is a space to create and curate innovative solutions for affecting social change through communications. Thought pieces and design experiments draw on current interdisciplinary communication theory and practice, with particular focus on climate and public interest communication. Social change that leads to a Good Life for All is a long term process, but our communication efforts will lead the way.


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.  

Board of Directors

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 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 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.