Dubai Happiness Agenda: Engineering the Happiest City on Earth

  • Ali Al-AzzawiEmail author


The vision for Dubai is to become the ‘Happiest City on Earth’, as outlined by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. This vision is undoubtedly noble, with many technical, social, and psychological challenges. This chapter outlines the strategy and the mechanisms employed to realize this vision—along with the technological and psychological tools used to ensure success—describing some actions taken to overcome such challenges, and data showing progress toward this vision.



I would like to thank the Happiness Champions and many other colleagues in the Government of Dubai, who have helped in the continuing successes we have had within the Happiness Agenda, for their passionate support with their new ideas and unending energy. Special thanks go to my colleague and boss, H.E. Dr. Aisha bin Bishr, the Director General of SDO, for her unwavering support and leadership that developed the Happiness Agenda into what it is now, and her vitality and vision to continuously push us toward the (im)possible. Most importantly, I feel a deep sense of gratitude to HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, for the precious opportunity to contribute to the wonderful city of Dubai.


  1. Abdukadirov, S. (Ed.). (2016). Nudge Theory in Action: Behavioral Design in policy and Markets. Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Al-Azzawi, A. (2013). Experience with Technology: Dynamics of User Experience with Mobile Media Devices. Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  3. Al-Azzawi, R. (2012). Key Questions in Environmental Psychology: People and Place. University of Surrey: Guildford, UK.Google Scholar
  4. Al-Azzawi, A. (2014). User Experience in Arabia: The Business Case for User-Centred Design and Usability Engineering. In BCS International IT Conference.Google Scholar
  5. Anglim, J., & Grant, S. (2016). Predicting psychological and subjective well-being from personality: Incremental prediction from 30 facets over the Big 5. Journal of Happiness studies, 17(1), 59–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing positive psychology coaching: Assessment, activities and strategies for success. John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  7. Blyth, M.A., et al. (2003). Funology: From usability to enjoyment. Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  8. Basáñez, M. (2016). A world of three cultures: honor, achievement and joy. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cantril, H. (1965). The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers.Google Scholar
  10. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Halton, E. (1981). The meaning of things: Domestic symbols and the self. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  12. CRS/EU, Smart cities – Ranking of European medium-sized cities. (2007). Centre of Regional Science: Vienna UT.Google Scholar
  13. Chang, J. H., Huang, C. L., & Lin, Y. C. (2015). Mindfulness, basic psychological needs fulfillment, and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(5), 1149–1162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark, A. E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., & Ward, G. (2018). The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. De Neve, J.-E., Christakis, N. A., Fowler, J. H., & Frey, B. S. (2012). Genes, economics, and happiness. American Psychological Association, 5(4), 193–211. Scholar
  16. De Neve, J. E., Diener, E., Tay, L., & Xuereb, C. (2013). The Objective Benefits of Subjective Well-Being. In Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J., eds. World Happiness Report 2013. Social Science Research Network.Google Scholar
  17. Dickerson, A. E. (1993). The relationship between affect and cognition. Occupational therapy in mental health, 12(1), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diener, E., & Suh, E. M. (Eds.). (2000). Culture and subjective well-being. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Diener, E. (Ed.). (2009). Assessing well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener (Vol. 39). Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, E. (2009). Well-being for public policy. Series in Positive Psychology.Google Scholar
  21. Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of personality assessment, 49(1), 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1997). Social comparisons and subjective well-being. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ. pp. 329–357.Google Scholar
  23. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological bulletin, 95(3), 542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Easterlin, R.A., (1974). Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence, in Nations and Households in Economic Growth: Essays in Honor of Moses Abramovitz, P.A. David and M.W. Reder, Editors, Academic Press Inc.: New York.Google Scholar
  25. Frederick, S. and G. Loewenstein. (1999). Hedonic adaptation, in Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, D. Kahneman, E. Diener, and N. Schwartz, Editors., Russell Sage Foundation: New York. pp. 302–329.Google Scholar
  26. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American psychologist, 60(7), 678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fors, F., & Kulin, J. (2016). Bringing affect back in: Measuring and comparing subjective well-being across countries. Social Indicators Research, 127(1), 323–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Frisch, M. B. (2005). Quality of life therapy: Applying a life satisfaction approach to positive psychology and cognitive therapy. John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  29. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economy and institutions. The Economic Journal, 110(466), 918–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gehl, J. (2013). Cities for people. Island Press.Google Scholar
  31. Glaeser, E. (2011). Triumph of the city: How urban spaces make us human. Pan Macmillan.Google Scholar
  32. Gutiérrez, J. L. G., Jiménez, B. M., Hernández, E. G., & Pcn, C. (2005). Personality and subjective well-being: Big five correlates and demographic variables. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(7), 1561–1569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gibson, D. V., Kozmetsky, G., & Smilor, R. W. (Eds.). (1992). The technopolis phenomenon: Smart cities, fast systems, global networks. Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  34. Gibbons, F. X., & Buunk, B. P. (1999). Individual differences in social comparison: development of a scale of social comparison orientation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 76(1), 129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hamilton, K., Helliwell, J. F., & Woolcock, M. (2016). Social capital, trust and well-being in the evaluation of wealth (No. w22556). National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  36. Huta, V. (2014). Eudaimonia, in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, S.A. David, I. Boniwell, and A. Conley Ayres, Editors. Oxford University Press: Oxford. pp. 201–213.Google Scholar
  37. Helliwell, J., R. Layard, and J. Sachs. (2017). World Happiness Report 2017. Sustainable Development Solutions Network – United Nations.Google Scholar
  38. Huppert, F. A. (2009). Psychological well-being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 1(2), 137–164.Google Scholar
  39. ITU/UNECE. Smart Sustainable City (SSC). (2015) [cited 2017]; Available from:
  40. Jawad, A. Q., & Scott-Jackson, W. (2016). Redefining Well-Being in Nations and Organizations: A Process of Improvement. Springer.Google Scholar
  41. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (1999). Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology. Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  42. Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. CUP Archive.Google Scholar
  43. Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of environmental psychology, 15(3), 169–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Layard, R. (2011). Happiness: Lessons from a new science. Penguin UK.Google Scholar
  45. Layard, R., & Clark, D. M. (2014). Thrive: The power of evidence-based psychological therapies. Penguin UK.Google Scholar
  46. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005a). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?. Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005b). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of general psychology, 9(2), 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness: A practical approach to getting the life you want. Sphere.Google Scholar
  49. Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality.Google Scholar
  50. Miao, F. F., Koo, M., & Oishi, S. (2014). Subjective well-being. Teoksessa SA David, I. Boniwell & A. Conley Ayers (toim.) The Oxford handbook of happiness.Google Scholar
  51. Montgomery, C. (2013). Happy city: transforming our lives through urban design. Macmillan.Google Scholar
  52. Morris, M. B., Burns, G. N., Periard, D. A., & Shoda, E. A. (2015). Extraversion–Emotional Stability Circumplex Traits and Subjective Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(6), 1509–1523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Minkov, M. (2009). Predictors of differences in subjective well-being across 97 nations. Cross-Cultural Research, 43(2), 152–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McCann, S. J. H. (2011). Emotional health and the Big Five personality factors at the American state level. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12(4), 547–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1987). Validation of the five-factor model of personality across instruments and observers. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52(1), 81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Norman, D. A. (2003). Progress Report: Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.Google Scholar
  57. Nielsen, J., & Molich, R. (1990, March). Heuristic evaluation of user interfaces. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 249–256). ACM.Google Scholar
  58. OECD. (2013). Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being, OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  59. Oswald, A.J. and N. Powdthavee. (2008) Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges. Journal of Public Economics, 2008. 92(5–6): pp. 1061–1077.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of personality and social psychology, 69(4), 719.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rice, T. W., & Steele, B. J. (2004). Subjective well-being and culture across time and space. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35(6), 633–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Seligman, M.E.P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to change your mind and your life. NY: Vintage.Google Scholar
  63. Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing and How To Achieve Them. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.Google Scholar
  64. Starmans, C., Sheskin, M., & Bloom, P. (2017). Why people prefer unequal societies. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(82).
  65. Stickdorn, M., Schneider, J., Andrews, K., & Lawrence, A. (2011). This is service design thinking: Basics, tools, cases(Vol. 1). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  66. Schwartz, S. H. (2003a). A proposal for measuring value orientations across nations. Questionnaire Package of the European Social Survey, 259–290.Google Scholar
  67. Schwartz, S.H. (2003b). Basic human values: Their content and structure across countries, in Valores e trabalho [Values and work], A. Tamayo and J. Porto, Editors. Editora Universidade de Brasilia: Brasilia.Google Scholar
  68. Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J. K., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Variety is the spice of happiness: The hedonic adaptation prevention (HAP) model. Oxford handbook of happiness, 901–914.Google Scholar
  69. Tiger, L. (1992). The pursuit of pleasure. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  70. Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (1999). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven, CT Yales University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Van de Vijver, F. J., & Leung, K. (1997). Methods and data analysis for cross-cultural research (Vol. 1). Sage.Google Scholar
  72. Vittersø, J. (2003). Flow versus life satisfaction: A projective use of cartoons to illustrate the difference between the evaluation approach and the intrinsic motivation approach to subjective quality of life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 4(2), 141–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. White, J. B., Langer, E. J., Yariv, L., & Welch, J. C. (2006). Frequent social comparisons and destructive emotions and behaviors: The dark side of social comparisons. Journal of adult development, 13(1), 36–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Weiss, A., Bates, T. C., & Luciano, M. (2008). Happiness is a personal (ity) thing: The genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychological Science, 19(3), 205–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang, H., Sang, Z., Chen, C., Zhu, J., & Deng, W. (2018). Need for Meaning, Meaning Confusion, Meaning Anxiety, and Meaning Avoidance: Additional Dimensions of Meaning in Life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(1), 191–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smart Dubai OfficeDubaiUnited Arab Emirates

Personalised recommendations