Social equity, environmental sustainability and personal development are often considered separately, but a new Madison institute aims to help people, workplaces, nonprofits, cities and schools pursue the goals together.
The Institute for Collective Wellbeing, started last year by two Madison residents with backgrounds in education and social work, will hold an online kick-off event Thursday and Friday called a Collective Wellbeing Summit.
Sponsored in part by the Fitchburg-based biotech company Promega Corp. and Madison-based American Family Insurance, the online event will feature speakers from Promega’s wellness programs, the Madison-based Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and Madison’s deputy mayor, Linda Vakunta.
Speakers from Bhutan and Mexico will also participate, along with organizers of a wellbeing project started by the city of Santa Monica, California.
“If we center wellbeing in our organizations, communities and society at large, it really shifts how we see the purpose of our work,” said Stephan Gilchrist, a co-founder of the institute and former director of the Social Innovation and Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program at Edgewood College.
“That can bring all these pieces together in a way that no other concept or way of thinking can,” Gilchrist said.
Rebecca Paradiso de Sayu, the other co-founder, said collective wellbeing efforts can address racial, socioeconomic and gender inequity, among other struggles.
“There is something different that’s trying to emerge amongst the muck,” said Paradiso de Sayu, who runs the consulting practice ECE Partners and got a Ph.D. in social work from UW-Madison.
The institute, a nonprofit applying for 501©(3) status, is working for now within the Center for Community Stewardship in Madison.
Gilchrist and Paradiso de Sayu met through work by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Presencing Institute, which was formed in 2006 “to create an action research platform at the intersection of science, consciousness, and profound social and organizational change,” according to its website.
The two said collective wellbeing can include programs like those at Promega, which says it “embraces the principles of emotional and social intelligence,” or ESI, and holds an ESI bootcamp. The company’s “ESI architect” and its director of integrative practices will speak at this week’s event.
Community initiatives, such as Will Green’s Mentoring Positives program and other efforts in Madison’s Darbo-Worthington Neighborhood, are other examples of collective wellbeing, Gilchrist said.
The co-founders said they plan to apply for grants to expand their work, promote an online social impact magazine and offer a leadership certificate in collective wellbeing.