Welcome to the September Edition of the Best Practice Monthly Feature. In this edition, we present proven examples for designing happiness in the urban context using a people centered approach to achieve inclusivity and leave no one behind. By improving the quality of living, we ensure the provision of a happy life to all citizens.

This Best Practice was presented by the Governor of West Java, Mr. Ridwan Kamil during the first UN-Habitat Assembly, held on 27 - 31 May 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The Assembly provided an opportunity for Member States to support UN-Habitat as an enabling institution to increase their capacity including all other stakeholders in implementing the New Urban Agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. A Ministerial Declaration was adopted by consensus that "recognizes and fully supports the role and expertise of UN-Habitat as a focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements and as a centre for excellence and innovation."

According to Aristotle, an ancient greek philosopher, happiness is not just about the getting of pleasure, but involves being an active member of society. He says, "The most important psychological effect of the city is the way in which it moderates our relationships with other people". More densely populated cities, which encourage people to travel on foot or by public transport, and offer mixtures of uses and housing types, create more opportunities for interaction, from the intimate to the casual.

Therefore, decision-makers around the world need to consider how to plan forward. For the case of Indonesia, the governor of West Java, Mr. Ridwan Kamil, is passionate about integrating happiness in the policy process through different ways illustrated below.


In order to turn happiness into policy, the province of West Java collected data, and conducted surveys to listen to the citizens and gauge their attitude. This led to the development of a happiness index to measure quality of life. The two main important variables include;

  • Family Harmony
  • Social Interactions
  1. How can a city government improve family harmony in the urban context?
  2. How can a city government expand social interaction?
  3. How could the government build trust using technology?

One of the main solutions made in West Java was in fixing communication between the government and the citizens. The government established mobile applications which enabled citizens to express themselves online and also evaluate the governments performance. The Jabar Quick Response initiative enables quick city response to queries within 24 hours.

Building better roads is important for any city, however, the government should not be limited to physical infrastructure. Based on Bandung's citizen happiness index, it was proven that building social infrastructure would have a larger impact on people's happiness as compared to physical infrastructure.

Together with the community and other stakeholders (academia, business, community, government, media), the city government of West Java developed the Pentahelix Approach. This is a program that aims to improve family harmonies and social interactions. While physical infrastructure creates opportunities for people to travel, social infrastructure creates opportunities for people to meet and interact. For the Pentahelix approach, the responsibility of change does not only lie on the government but on all citizens.

Streets can be used as a public space to celebrate culture and life. In West Java, the government redesigned the streets to spaces for celebrating culture, festivals and events in collaboration with the businesses and other stakeholders.

By transforming the space under the highway into a movie park, the government successfully converted negative spaces into positive spaces. The citizens of West Java, both rich and poor, can conveniently watch movies for free without having to go to the cinema.


5 years ago, nobody could walk in the city. Many people would only hang out in the shopping malls. Citing Jane Jacobs, 'Street is the biggest public space' In West Java today, citizens sit to interact with each other, while students are able to finish their assignments because of the street benches and free wi-fi made available.

Elevated walkways enable citizens to interact with business retailers
Over 20 unused public spaces were redesigned using the people centered approach
Car shopping streets were converted to pedestrian streets
Pedestrian streets improved businesses and economic activities in the area
Slums and squatter houses converted to community public spaces to celebrate culture
Revitalization of riverside slums into liveable areas
Urban revitalization referral model in Indonesia
Promoting walking, use of bikes and other people-centered abilities and safety awareness
Using technology to provide services to citizens - Omaba technology for bringing food to families
Citizens bringing food to the lonely and elderly in the city
Mental health mobile counseling for urban-related issues
Psychologist counseling a citizen undergoing mental health, urban-related issues
Home Medicare Programme - A door to door service for accessing patients who cannot walk
Providing microfinance to the poor using Mesra Microcredit Financing


The People Centered Approach has seen an improvement of people's happiness by 27%. Following the Badung citizen happiness index, the people of West Java are considered one of the happiest in Indonesia with over 87% of the population now happy. It is evident that in order to increase the level of happiness in a city, we need to prioritize happiness by integrating it in policies and involving different stakeholders through the designing phase.

National governments should create specific spaces for consultation with the local governments and other stakeholders to promote engagement at the local level, national level and regional level to successfully implement the New Urban Agenda.


Shutterstock; UN-Habitat