WEAll’s Theory of Change
WEAll aims to build a world where everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety, and happiness. Where all people feel secure in their basic comforts and can use their creative energies to support the flourishing of all life on this plant. Where we thrive in a restored, safe, and vibrant natural environment because we have learned to give back as much as we are given. A world where we have a voice over our collective destiny and find belonging, meaning and purpose through genuine connection to the people and planet that sustain us.
WEAll believes that such a world is not only possible but already underway. Some governments, societies and collectives have already shifted paradigms, recognizing that they have confused means and ends for too long, and that it is our level of wellbeing, not our level of wealth, that should be the ultimate metric for societal success.
Our current prevailing economic system has four interlinked and systemic flaws. It is unsustainable, unfair, unstable and creates unhappiness (with far too many people left behind and not feeling valued or valuable). Furthermore, it is a system in which neither the ‘brake’ nor the ‘accelerator’ works anymore. Aiming for faster growth of GDP within the current system (even if possible) to create the good livelihoods needed worldwide and to level up within and between societies will lead to worsening biodiversity loss and accelerating climate change, while aiming for zero or negative growth within the current system will further worsen inequality, poverty, and social unrest. Also, the social conditions do not currently exist in most democracies to permit politicians to make the urgent changes needed to halt or reverse climate change and biodiversity loss. We need to transform our economic system to a Wellbeing Economy, according to the 5 WEAll Needs, and Tests framework presented above (Figure 2).
A Wellbeing Economy directly addresses the underlying problems of the existing system. It is focused on meeting fundamental needs and, by getting things right the first time, avoids the huge expenditures we are currently incurring trying and failing to fix the massive environmental and social harms our current system is causing. It is still a mixed-economy system (with strong state, private and third sector actors), but one operating to a very different set of goals, values, and incentives. Furthermore, not only are different policies needed, but policymaking needs to be done differently, with high citizen involvement during the entire public policy cycle–from agenda setting to decision-making, to monitoring and evaluation.
There is no one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions, and activities that get us there will look different, both across countries and between different communities within countries. There are other names for economic systems which espouse different versions of the Wellbeing Economy’s needs, such as a doughnut economy and regenerative economy. They may use different approaches and different languages, but all share a common goal and are, often, already key members and allies of WEAll. Moreover, the high-level goals of a Wellbeing Economy are the same across these models: wellbeing for all, on a healthy planet.
However, it is not enough to describe the WHAT of a Wellbeing Economy, the critical question is HOW? ‘How to make it happen’ is the key issue. Examination of successful system changes shows that, in addition to good research, great communications, effective campaigning, lobbying, and pioneering practical exemplars, four other strategies are critical:
- Leverage major crises
- Create new power bases
- Promote new compelling and positive narratives
- Support these with a coherent and accessible knowledge and evidence base
These strategies underpinned the two major economic shifts in the 20th century to Keynesianism and then to neoliberalism. They are the foundation of WEAll’s strategy and why we have deliberately structured our activities around power bases, knowledge, and narratives. Solid power bases are the central element and the backbone of economic system change, while narratives and knowledge are the nutrients that feed the ecosystem with strategic vision, tools and understanding, and persuasive capacity to affect large-scale change.
We are aware that the work of advocating for and creating a Wellbeing Economy is already underway in several places around the world and at different layers of the system, and our primary role is to catalyse this movement, creating impact larger than the sum of its parts. WEAll supports new and existing power bases by offering resources, spaces, and connections to potentialize their work; clarifying the concept of a Wellbeing Economy; expanding public understanding of what the economy is and can be, as well as their role in systems change; illustrating the flaws with contemporary economic thinking; and providing a range of evidence and stories of possible actions that can successfully lead us toward a Wellbeing Economy.
The time to act is now! Humanity’s future is greatly threatened by the interconnection and scale of recent crises. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, global exponential inequality rise, technological revolution, continuous wars and armed conflicts, growing refugee migration and internally displaced people, the threat of environmental collapse, and the rise of authoritarianism, the predominant sentiment is widespread frustration and revolt with the status quo. A recent Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 30,000 people in 34 countries showed that over 80% of them believed that their economic and political systems were not working for them anymore. People are longing for real change, giving the Wellbeing Economy Alliance an opportunity to step in and provide lasting solutions to our seemingly wicked problems.
Our initial focus had been to support economic paradigm shifts in high-income countries that are the chief architects of our current economic system and who hold a large share of the responsibility for the multiple crises we face. However, we are now shifting to work worldwide and believe that many lower-income countries are well placed to pilot innovation and provide the inspiration, lessons and hope that are so sorely needed.