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Member Highlight: Leire Iriarte 

1. First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. 

I am the founder and director of El Buen Vivir, a Spanish social consultancy promoting happiness.  I am a master degree in Forestry Engineering and Environmental Sciences and got a PhD in Science from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. After finishing the doctorate, I worked as a project manager with “Energía sin Fronteras” (EsF-Energy without Borders), an NGO working on promoting energy and water access in Africa and Latin America. This was a fantastic time where I learnt a lot about development, basic needs and project management. Later, I worked with EsF as a technical assistant for four years in the project “Lights to Learn,” an initiative from the Organization of Iberoamerican States for Education, Culture and Science until 2016.

In parallel to the activity in the development arena, I continued to do research in the sustainability domain, contributing to the work of IINAS (International Institute for Sustainability Analysis and Strategy) intermittently since 2012. My research activities originally focused on various aspects of bioenergy sustainability, including, among others, policies, market trends and certification schemes. Slowly, the focus of my research broadened to more generic sustainability issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the bioeconomy, areas that capture more of my attention currently.

I founded El Buen Vivir after observing and then concluding that the big challenges of this century depend on people and not on technology. I made the decision to create the consultancy after publishing the book “Transitando la Matrix. Construyendo el cambio que queremos ver en el mundo” (Transiting the Matrix. Building the change we want to see in the world). In short, the thesis argues that a real change for sustainability might come from an inner personal change in line with the old saying “problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them”.

To date, we have developed pilot studies exploring happiness levels at community level, explored the relations between the SDGs and the happiness metrics, published a peer-reviewed paper entitled “Bridging the gap between the SDGs and happiness metrics” and have conducted several studies and trainings, with much of the work undertaken for organizations based in Navarra even though our vocation is international.

Currently I am writing a book aimed at explaining the international happiness movement as well as identifying and describing the best practices amongst the variety of activities and policies implemented around the world. The book aspires to help policy makers, public servants and active social society to become informed and to have the tools to integrate the happiness lens in policy making and social development.

2.  What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

I feel that the complexity and multidimensionality of this field captures and reflects real life. Quality-of-life studies are key to better understanding and addressing sustainability challenges. I have experienced how standard policymaking seeks to address many sustainability challenges from a very technical point of view but without considering the persons behind the discussions. Bringing quality-of-life into the discussion opens the door to consider broader perspectives for sustainability and perhaps it is a key for positive results and impacts.

3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future Quality-of-life researchers?

In my view, findings of the quality-of-life research should be transferred to policy makers as well as to social activists. Applied research on the quality-of-life and reflections about how to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic might be of interest for policy making and civil society.   

4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of Quality-of-life studies?

I heard of ISQOLS from Laura Musikanski, the Executive Director of Happiness Alliance, who coordinated with the ISQOLS secretariat to present in a ISQOLS webinar our joint peer-reviewed article about SDGs and Happiness Metrics. After that, Jill Johnson put me in contact with Jorge Guardiola who was part of the local host team of the 17th Conference of ISQOLS in Granada. Jorge kindly asked El Buen Vivir to prepare some sustainability guidelines for the congress. It was a pleasure for us to share our vision and proposals, and were glad to see that some of them were considered during the congress. I personally attended the conference and presented the latest results of the SDGs-Happiness Metrics research.

I had the opportunity to meet several ISQOLS colleagues in Granada whom I keep in touch with them in addition to exploring ways of collaboration with some of them.  

5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

I would like to explore how ISQOLS might bring its knowledge to society in general and policy making in particular in order to enhance the final impact its research is aiming to achieve.

I am open to discuss ideas, share reflections and explore collaborations. My contact details are:

Leire Iriarte

+34 619.836.414

C/ Larrabide, 21 bajo, 31005, Pamplona, Navarra (Spain)

Linkedin ID: Leire Iriarte

The International Society for
Quality-of-Life Studies

P.O. Box 118
Gilbert, Arizona, 85299, USA


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