GDP as a a measure has led to economies that priorities growth above all else, at the expense of the wellbeing of humanity and the natural world.

This fascinating discussion looks at GDP and how the the concept of a wellbeing economy has moved from theory, into practice in its adoption by various governments around the world through the WEGo partnership.

A discussion on the Roundtable Show with;
Stewart Wallis (Wellbeing Economy Alliance),
Vicky Pryce (Centre for Economics and Business Research),
and Gylfi Magnusson (Former Economy Minister of Iceland).

This week the #BuildBackBetter campaign has launched in earnest in the UK, and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance is proud to support it alongside more than 70 other diverse organisations.

The campaign calls for “a new deal that prioritises people, invests in our NHS and creates a robust, shockproof economy that is capable of tackling the climate crisis.” This includes a petition to MPs, which UK citizens can use to contact their representatives asking them to support the Build Back Better vision.

All coalition partners support the following high level principles for any coronavirus recovery plan in the UK:

1. Secure the health and needs of everyone in the UK now and into the future – irrespective of employment or nationality – including for food, healthcare, income, job security, good housing, and access to clean and affordable energy and heat, public transport, clean air and green spaces.

2. Protect and invest in our public services. From the NHS to paid and unpaid social care, from schools and colleges to rescue services, early years care and local authorities. The services that we all rely on must be properly funded, protected from privatisation and available to everyone, regardless of their immigration status.
3. Rebuild society with a transformative Green New Deal. The recovery plan must decarbonise the economy in a way that tackles inequality and enhances the lives of ordinary people, workers and communities. It should create thousands of new, well-paid, secure, unionised jobs across the country.

4. Invest in people. Ensure that the policies and investments for recovery do not prop up the profits of the big banks and the executives of corporations fuelling
climate change and inequality. We need to restructure public and private finance so that it redistributes power into the hands of people, workers and communities, and supports sectors that nourish our society and safeguards our future.
5. Build solidarity and community across borders. Our recovery should leave no-one behind – especially as much of the world begin their fight against Covid-19. Anything we do now, and in the longer-term recovery, should aim to end global injustices, conflict, and environmental degradation; must guarantee human rights and free movement; and promote changes that end global power inequalities. We must share solutions, technology and transfer finance where it’s needed.

By Denisha Killoh, WEAll Scotland

This piece was originally published by The Herald on 9 June 2020

The barbaric murder of George Floyd has sparked a surge in global outrage at the violence and racism people of colour are forced to endure. What began as an aversion to an untimely death has rapidly spread to become a mass movement across country boundaries.

As the whole world navigates the repercussions of a pandemic together, the sense of community amongst local citizens has been invigorated. The extrajudicial killing of George Floyd has contextual significance as citizens everywhere are beginning to scrutinise their own establishments to demand a systemic revolution.

This fight against the injustice inflicted on black communities resonates deeply with me as a woman of colour in Glasgow. My family emigrated to Scotland as part of the ‘Windrush generation’. At first the diversity this generation of immigrants brought was celebrated as their talents were deployed to fill the shortages in the post-war labour market. People of colour played a crucial role in reviving the British economy and restoring harmony to society. Yet, the 2018 Windrush scandal unearthed rife systemic racism. The introduction of the UK government’s hostile environment policy led to an abundance of BAME British citizens being wrongly deported disregarding their lifelong contribution to society.

I spoke to family members living in Scotland and a friend who lives in England about their direct experiences of racism. Although there is a generation gap, they voiced harrowingly similar stories about the impact of racism on their aspirations and self-esteem.

My friend told me that for as long as she can remember, she’s felt inferior due to her race. She spoke of repeatedly suffering at the hands of strangers who hold negative views towards “people like her” stating, “my whole life people have said to me that as a black woman, I have to work twice as hard as my white friends just to show I have the same abilities”.

One of my family members spoke of a time where she had been made to feel unwelcome at work. A colleague said to her, “you come here to take our jobs and what’s worse is that you are black”. They discussed the constant struggle to be heard and respected because of the inherent assumption that they were “dumb and incapable” due to their skin colour.

The world faces an ultimatum; we can either #BuildBackBetter or go #BacktoWorse in the recovery from COVID-19. The pandemic and the symbolic case of George Floyd have revealed how entrenched our current systems are with inequality as they breed injustice and exist in conflict with the interests of BAME communities.

We have the opportunity to create wellbeing economies that prioritise long-term human health and ecological sustainability. It’s no coincidence that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining such momentum in the wake of the pandemic: it is a unique moment to ensure that those who have historically been marginalised can have a leading role in rebuilding our economy and wider society.

In repurposing our systems to have compassion at their core, we must proactively confront systemic racism by radically transforming institutional practice to be in service of black lives, not at war with them.

I’d like to thank my Grandma Carmina and my friend Marta for bravely sharing their invaluable experiences of systemic racism. The way in which they have maintained their determination and strength in spite of lifelong discrimination is my biggest inspiration.

We must #SayTheirNames and honour the legacy of those taken from us too soon and create a world that is radically different, truly valuing black life.

Ahmaud Arbery

Belly Mujinga

Breonna Taylor

Eric Garner

George Floyd

Mark Duggan

Michael Brown

Rashan Charles

Sandra Bland

Sarah Reed

Sheku Bayoh

Shukri Abdi

Stephen Lawrence

Tamir Rice

Trayvon Martin

 

Header image: Photo by Kelly Lacy from Pexels

WEAll Scotland has joined over 70 other Scottish organisations calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the government to commit to a “just and green recovery” after covid-19.

The #BuildBackBetterScot campaign, coordinated by Friends of the Earth Scotland, has written today to the First Minister setting out five principles for recovery and offering to support the process as Scotland moves forward.

The full text of the letter is below:

“Dear First Minister,

Scotland’s Just and Green Recovery from COVID-19

Representing a broad range of Scotland’s civil society, our organisations wish to meet with you to discuss our emerging vision of how Scotland can lead a radical response to the double crises of climate change and Coronavirus.

Across the world, communities, institutions and governments are engaged in an unprecedented global effort to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.

As Coronavirus and climate chaos tear apart people’s lives globally we are seeing pre- existing inequalities laid bare and exacerbated, as the poorest suffer worst.

Massive upheaval to people’s daily lives is our present reality and immediate future. Yet a simple return to business as usual is both unrealistic and undesirable.

As Scotland moves past a peak of infections our attention is turning to what comes next.

You have stated the need for a recovery that cuts climate emissions by “building a fairer, greener and more equal society”, an aim that we strongly agree with.

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare how inequality is lethal to human life, but it has also shone a light on acts of solidarity and cooperation and centred the vital role of public services, key workers and unpaid carers. Amidst a global threat to human rights and democracy, this crisis has also brought forward the possibility of an economic revival that ensures resilience to future crises, including the climate emergency.

The recovery from Coronavirus is a rare chance to markedly accelerate the repurposing of government away from the prioritisation of economic growth and towards goals of wellbeing and sustainability, ending inequality and environmental destruction. This is a time for system change.

These are the steps we believe must be followed to deliver a just and green recovery:

1. Provide essential public services for people, not profit. Expand public ownership of public services and boost investment, including in social care, strengthen the NHS and cradle-to-grave education, and create zero-carbon social and cooperative housing instead of buy-to-let.

The First Minister The Scottish Government St Andrew’s House Regent Road Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Friday 29th May 2020

  1. Protect marginalised people and those on low incomes by redistributing wealth. Provide adequate incomes for all instead of bailouts for shareholders, significantly raise taxes on the wealthy, ensure all public workers receive at least the real Living Wage and strengthen health, safety and workers’ rights, including access to flexible home working. Investigate and mitigate the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing on women, children and young people, disabled people, LGBTI people, people of colour, key workers, unpaid carers, private renters, and those on lower incomes.
  2. Provide new funds to transform our society and economy to meet Scotland’s Fair Share of climate emissions cuts and greatly enhance biodiversity. Create and protect jobs in sustainable travel, renewable heat, affordable local food and energy efficiency, with ambitious green employment opportunities for young people and support for retraining where whole industries are affected. Put measures in place to ensure all government programmes tackle inequality, public health and the just transition away from fossil fuels, excluding rogue employers, tax avoiders, major polluters and arms manufacturers from bailouts.
  3. Strengthen democracy and human rights during these crises. Withdraw new police powers, surveillance measures and restrictions on protest as soon as possible. Enable full scrutiny of planning and policy decisions. Create an independent Recovery Commission founded on participatory democracy to engage and empower communities, trade unions and civil society. Introduce fundamental human rights into Scots law so that safety nets are always in place for the most vulnerable.
  4. Offer solidarity across borders by proactively supporting an international Coronavirus and climate emergency response that challenges the scapegoating of migrants, centres on the worst affected, bolsters global public health, development and environmental bodies, and ensures equitable access to COVID-19 treatment. Use the UN climate talks in Glasgow to push for robust implementation of the Paris deal, platforming the voices of indigenous and frontline communities and advancing climate finance and global debt cancellation. Ensure coherence between all domestic policy and global sustainable development outcomes.

Decisions made in times of crisis have long-lasting consequences. After the 2008 financial crisis, inequality grew and climate emissions spiralled. We want to see this moment seized for the common good, not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Civil society has a central role to play in helping to shape Scotland’s future in this unprecedented time. We look forward to meeting with you to address how we can realise a truly just and green recovery.”

Members of the public can support the call by signing this petition.

Organisations can add their support via this form.

Reposted from CUSP website

WEAll member CUSP (Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity) recently hosted an event for British policy makers on how to build back better post-covid.

Setting out to engage MPs across the political spectrum, this online discussion was chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy (Channel 4), and expertly deliberated on the prospects for a socially and environmentally just economic recovery—which takes into account not only the need to prevent the worst of climate breakdown, but does so in a way that sustainably strengthens the wellbeing of people. Discussants were CUSP director Prof Tim Jackson, Prof Mariana Mazzucato (UCL), Sir Prof Michael Marmot (UCL) and Sir David King (former Government Chief Scientist).

The interactive panel was hosted by the APPGs on Climate Change, on Compassion in Politics and on Renewable & Sustainable Energy, and joined by Bim Afolami MP (Conservative) and Debbie Abrahams MP (Labour). Introductory remarks were provided by Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Watch the full discussion below or find it on YouTube here.

By Robert Costanza

First published by Solutions

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on human health in the short term. How do we slow the spread of the virus and contain the damage? It has also revealed the dependence of the global economy on long supply chains and high demand for services.  The likelihood of a global economic crisis caused by the virus is high.  Governments around the world are putting in place emergency stimulus packages aimed at preventing this, but we may be missing the real lessons the crisis has to teach.

The first is that human health and sustainable wellbeing should be the real goals of our increasingly interlinked and interdependent economic, social, and natural systems. The headlong pursuit of GDP growth at all costs has blinded many countries to the other factors that contribute to sustainable wellbeing and the hidden costs of GDP addiction.  Countries are investing massive amounts to keep GDP from falling in the short run, while ignoring the fact that GDP was never designed to measure societal wellbeing and is an increasingly poor guide to real progress. The vast majority of GDP growth is now going to the top 1% of the population and growing inequality is having severe negative effects on community wellbeing.  People who are just scraping by cannot afford health care and cannot afford to miss work, even when they are sick. This is a major issue during the current COVID-19 crisis.  It should be obvious that a more equitable distribution of income and wealth and a stronger social safety net would help control future pandemics and would also improve sustainable human wellbeing at all times.

The other major problem with our blind pursuit of GDP growth is that it ignores the damages to our ecological life support system that our current approach to growth causes.  Climate disruption is only the best known of these.  Natural ecosystems provide non-marketed benefits that support sustainable human wellbeing in a complex variety of ways, including flood and storm protection, water supply, recreation, carbon sequestration, and many others.  The value of these services globally has been estimated to total $US 125 trillion in 2011, significantly larger than global GDP at the time.  In addition, we are losing $US 20 trillion a year of ecosystem services due to changes in land use and mismanagement, including desertification, loss of wetlands and coral reefs, deforestation, flooding, and bushfires.

To address these problems, we need a fundamental shift in our economic paradigm and our approach to development.  We need an economy and society based achieving sustainable wellbeing with dignity and fairness for humans and the rest of nature. This is in stark contrast to current economies that are wedded to a very narrow vision of development – indiscriminate growth of GDP that is not shared and has severe negative side effects.

A wellbeing economy on the other hand is embedded in society and the rest of nature. It must be understood and managed as an integrated, interdependent system of social relations that pursues balance and prosperity, rather than the maximization of production and consumption. It is an economy that values both social and natural dimensions as fundamental components of national wealth and as critical factors in determining wellbeing.

Wellbeing is the outcome of a convergence of factors, including good human mental and physical health, equitable access to government and community institutions, racial and social justice, good social relationships and a flourishing natural environment. Only a holistic approach to prosperity can achieve and sustain wellbeing. A system of economic governance aimed at promoting wellbeing will therefore account for all the impacts (both positive and negative) of economic activity. This includes valuing goods and services derived from a healthy society (social capital) and a thriving biosphere (natural capital). Social and natural capital are part of the commons. They are not (and should not be) owned by anyone in particular, but instead belong to everyone and make significant contributions to sustainable wellbeing.

Transformative change often happens when a crisis opens the door. Can we use the COVID-19 crisis to confront the questions now being asked of the current system, which has caused ongoing economic, financial, social, and ecological problems?  To make this transformation we need to galvanize a critical mass and promote tested alternatives that can achieve our common goals. In order to achieve the transformation to the new economy and society we all want, we need to work together as a unified front. The new Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is designed to help facilitate that transformation.

WEAll is a global movement of individuals and organizations coalescing around the need to shift economies away from a narrow focus on marketed goods and services (i.e. GDP) to one more broadly focused on sustainable wellbeing. These include activists, NGOs, academics, governments, and entrepreneurs of various types from around the world. There are many espoused versions of these basic ideas using different approaches and languages, but sharing a common goal.  The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important step in articulating this common goal. The challenge is to acknowledge, harmonize, and amplify these many initiatives, while allowing a diversity of language to communicate with a variety of audiences.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis may have a silver lining if it opens the door for the long overdue transition to a world focused on the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature – the world we all want.

Robert Costanza is a WEAll Ambassador, and Chair of Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. He has authored or coauthored over 350 scientific papers, and reports on his work have appeared in Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, The Economist, The New York Times, Science, Nature, National Geographic, and National Public Radio.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] By Katherine Trebeck (WEAll) and Peter Kelly (The Poverty Alliance)

First published by Bella Caledonia

 

 

This year started with masks and it is likely to end with masks.

As Scottish people woke up on Hogmanay morning, Australians were going to bed to the latest news of the bushfires spreading across the east coast of the country, taking people’s homes, wildlife and acres and acres of native vegetation with them.

In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the rolling hills surrounding it meant smoke from nearby blazes settled in the city streets, endangering the lungs of locals. Many went out to buy masks and the ones of apparently high enough spec to filter out the carcinogenetic particles quickly sold out.

And now multiple governments are telling their citizens that wearing masks is part of the steps they need to take to control the transmission of covid-19, part of the so-called ‘new normal’ we’re all going to have to fall into step with.

And as lockdown measures are slowly, hesitantly wound back, attention is being turned to how economies can recover from one of the biggest kicks in the guts it is possible to imagine: workers and customers being told to stay home.

The stakes are high – people have lost jobs, businesses are no longer viable, and personal and government debts have stacked up. Emergency measures cannot continue indefinitely – in due course the direction is going to have to be set for the post-covid economy.

What covid-19 revealed was that the economy of pre-covid days was one that stood on the shoulders of an army of low paid workers eking out a livelihood in very precarious work. The early stages of lockdown revealed that what kept communities ticking over was the foundational economy, local supply chains, and the generosity and kindness of neighbours helping each other get by.

What will ensure Scotland builds back better? Certainly not reverting business as usual – in fact, that will be impossible, what is more likely is a more toxic economic model than the one of pre-covid days. So instead, what is necessary is a proactive, concerted effort to use all the levers the Scottish government has to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Scotland has already created of the mechanisms that can enable this – they’ve just been underutilised. Now is the time to breathe life into them, doubling down on the timid steps already being taken rather than ditching them with a misplaced deference to old way of doing things which didn’t require too much prodding to be revealed as inadequate.

Here are some examples:

  • Conditionality needs to be the name of the game in government support for businesses. Some businesses merit public funds because they are the sort of enterprises that can play a part in building a wellbeing economy. Some won’t and thus don’t. No business that is unable to demonstrate its relevance to the wellbeing economy agenda should be in line for public funds. But in making that real, fortunately the Scottish Government has a Business Pledge, sitting on the shelf quietly that could be bolstered and used as a lens through which to evaluate the requests for help. The work of Scottish Enterprise constitutes another nascent move that needs more oomph: nurturing more inclusive business models into existence and the 2019 shift in strategy to making ‘job-related grants contingent on fair work practices, including job security and payment of the real living wage’.
    *
  • But in contrast to businesses, all people merit public support when the chips are down. So reskilling is needed to help people reposition themselves in a profoundly changed economic landscape. But not just reskilling but providing a backstop so people don’t slip too far as they step into the new reality, via robust social protection. Making permanent the improved resources made available through the Scottish Welfare Fund would be positive, but significantly increasing Child Benefit using Scotland’s scope to top up reserved benefits would provide the cushion that many families have been lacking in recent weeks.
    *
  • Communities know what needs to be done: how their localities need to change and what sort of economy will be in service of that. So perhaps the best role of a post-covid state is to underwrite community-led solutions? Again, there are the glimmers of existing practice to build on – not least in the form of the Climate Challenge Fund. Ramping up such initiatives will ensure the activities that emerge as lockdown is lifted are those aligned with sustainability and community need.
    *
  • Jobs themselves need to be redesigned – to deliver decent pay (it beggars belief that two in five care workers did not earn the real Living Wage as the corona crisis set in) and to distribute the available paid work more fairly across people who want it. The Scottish Government can encourage this through support for those firms that embrace employing more people rather than working fewer staff harder. For example, business rates could be recalibrated, subsidies and procurement could be better aligned with certain business practices, and basic bread and butter encouragement of necessary practices all matter.
    *
  • Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has brought is no reason to put dealing with environmental breakdown on the backburner – in fact, it makes the need even more stark if the likes of Covid-32 and Covid-97 are to be kept at bay. Again, Scotland has the beginnings to build on: ambitious climate targets and the work of the Just Transition Commission to map a way to support communities while powering down those industries incompatible with a low carbon economy. The very existence of Zero Waste Scotland is something to celebrate – a post-covid economy needs to be a circular one. The just transition agenda needs to be at the heart of economic and social policy making as Scotland seeks ways to move into a new economic era without people being left on the wayside.
    *
  • Other mechanisms that offer the means to bring about the sort of changes needed, were they just to be drawn on with more vigour, include the Sustainable Procurement duty, the Community Empowerment Act, and the community wealth building efforts. Community wealth building in particular, when combined with the efforts to bolster the population of inclusive business models flagged above, constitutes an important way to ‘get the economy to do more of the heavy lifting’ – or predistribute – resources in a way that is fairer than current circumstances allow.
    *
  • The Citizens Assemblies – for example on Scotland’s future and on climate change – are examples of the sort of robust, deliberative mechanisms to distil and develop the views of people in Scotland. With the First Minister talking of having an ‘adult conversation’ about responding to covid-19, the test will be the extent to which they feed into policy decisions and become a core part of decision making strategy.

The goal of a wellbeing economy has been set in the National Performance Framework, the creation of WEGo, the First Minister’s TED talk, and the rhetoric about the February budget being a wellbeing budget (a dubious claim, but the sentiment counts for something).

If the NPF can be used more concertedly to guide the objectives of policy making and accountability of policy making, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

If the learnings from others can be harnessed via WEGo and if the bold statements in the First Minister’s TED talk create space for civil servants wanting to be part of the transformation necessary, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And if next year’s budget truly is a wellbeing budget – featuring long term goals, cross-departmental collaboration, with an outcome focus and attending to root causes of wellbeing deficits – then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And that brings us to the task force set up to guide the government on economic recovery post-covid. Others have raised an eyebrow at its composition and lack of unusual suspects (and, dare we point out, the lack of expertise on addressing poverty and ways to bolster Scotland’s renewable sector, let alone an economic system change expert). This is surely an own-goal – diversity will enable better ideas. But not wanting to judge it prematurely, its merit will depend on the extent to which it discards outdated recipes, recognises the dual goals of social justice and sustainability and that the best initiatives deliver on both fronts to deliver collective wellbeing for current and future generations.

Scotland has the talk and the templates for building a wellbeing economy. There are tentative moves in the direction of what is necessary. Now is not the time to turn away from them. Now is the time to breathe life into them, roll them out, scale them out and up in order to build back better.

Katherine photo credit: Martin Oetting

Peter photo credit: Maverick photo agency[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

On 7 May WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead Katherine Trebeck was part of The RSA’s webinar series.

Katherine had a lively discussion with Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland, about the urgency of prioritising wellbeing over economic growth in order to build back better to create wellbeing economies, during and after the covid emergency response.

Watch the event below or find it on The RSA’s YouTube channel here.

The impacts of COVID19 on the economy show that the way we do business today is economically unsustainable. Business owners and decision makers are in crucial need of alternatives to business-as-usual in order to create resilience for crises to come and to become part of the solution rather than the problem.

WEAll, Sistema BWorld Fair Trade Organisation and SenseTribe therefore invite business owners, decision makers and other stakeholders to commit to seeking out ways to contribute to an economy that is not only economically viable but also socially and environmentally resilient:

  • Business resilience: We commit to give as much importance to resilience as to efficiency in our business model and value proposition. We commit to building resilient business structures, allowing us to respond to a changing environment and to build capacity to deal with crises effectively.
  • Human wellbeing: We commit to building balanced stakeholder relationships, so there is trust and commitment to one another. An important basis for building capacity for effective collaboration in moments of crisis.
  • Environmental wellbeing: We commit to re-evaluating how our business can make a positive contribution to our current  environmental crisis, making our business part of the environmental solution, not the problem.

Download the full Pledge

 

Sign the Pledge Now

Business owners and decision makers can also find out more and get involved in the Build Business Back Better community through events on 26 May and 25 June. The sessions will delve into the rich resources available in the Business of Wellbeing Guide and will highlight which options can help you navigate the alternatives and will give you inspiration on how to build businesses back better.

Join us on 26 May (6.30pm UK time)

The covid-19 pandemic has made the inequalities and absurdities of our current economic systems clearer than ever. Economic policies are oriented towards emergency response and meeting basic needs, and there is no longer an economic status quo available to us.

This provides an opportunity to advance the vision of a wellbeing economy, with even more urgency than before the crisis. It has never been more crucial that we focus our systems on delivering wellbeing for all.

Ten Principles to Build Back Better

The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.

In a new WEAll briefing paper published today, we outline a set of ten principles for “building back better” toward a wellbeing economy. “Wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery”, by Milena Buchs et al, showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy, along with examples of actions that are moving us away from this vision.

 

1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just

Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.

2. Protecting environmental standards

Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.

3. Green infrastructure and provisioning

Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.

4. Universal basic services

Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.

5. Guaranteed livelihoods

Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.

6. Fair distribution

Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.

7. Better democracy

Ensure effective, transparent and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.

8. Wellbeing economics organisations

Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.

9. Cooperation

Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).

10. Public control of money

Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.

What does building back better look like in practice?

There are already great examples around the world of governments starting to employ these principles.

The city of Amsterdam has sped up the adoption of a doughnut economics framework in response to COVID-19 to guide decision making.

New Zealand, Iceland and Scotland are already implementing wellbeing economics principles, through the formation of the Wellbeing Economy Government group, and wellbeing budgets and decision-making frameworks. These countries have also achieved better outcomes in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, other decision makers are opting for business-as-usual, what the WEAll Briefing paper calls a “back to worse” approach. Notably, several governments, including in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Denmark have bailed out airlines, without environmental conditions in response to COVID-19.

Download and read the paper for more examples under each of the ten principles of Build Back Better and Back To Worse approaches.

“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort is needed to truly value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all.

New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavour. We’ve suggested the ten principles above for responding to COVID-19 – and we recognise that this is a unique moment of change. So, we invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together. Comment below with further suggestions of principles and examples for what this means where you are.

By Aima Ahmed

People are the economy, so let’s put them at its heart

Increasing the wellbeing of people is a more worthwhile goal to pursue than economic growth. To truly move towards a wellbeing economy, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about people and the economy.

We live in a fast-paced, interconnected and sophisticated era with information available in real time at our fingertips, access to markets unbounded by geography and technology that has exponentially improved our lives.

This is the peak of civilisation and the productivity puzzle is indicative of that- we just don’t know what more to do to increase economic growth, so in a way, this is a success.

And yet the virus has brought everything to a halt and frenzy. Something that isn’t even visible to the eye has forced us to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.

It looks like the universe is trying to humble us and make us question our illusion of strength and blind reliance on current capitalist systems that increase inequality at unprecedented rates. Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the national and global socioeconomic inequalities that have exacerbated the way that people are able to cope with the consequences of the virus.

Why worry about the economy when people are dying?

Amidst this health crisis, people are worried about the economy and what its downturn means for them- it’s not an unfounded fear as interest rates are lower than they’ve been for a while (fiscal stimulus that predicts less public spending which is what happens during a recession), small businesses are at the brink of collapse (or have already) and a staggering number of people have applied for welfare in the UK compounded by the perils of being an indebted nation borrowing to consume.

So, fears of economic prospects aren’t much different in principal from fears of the pandemic effecting the health and wellbeing of people.

This is the case particularly for the socio-economically marginalised such as people belonging to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, women and those that live in poverty as these are the people that are already disadvantaged by health, housing and labour market inequalities. Striking evidence of the disproportionate impact on BAME communities has called for the government in the UK to launch a review to investigate, which is welcome but it’s a shame that these inequalities have gotten to this point in the first place.

In developing countries, there is fear that hunger fuelled by poverty will cause further deaths as a result of social distancing and lockdown for example in Pakistan where the Prime Minister has called for support from global leaders to create a fiscal response.

This pandemic has brought the dark side of free markets to the forefront.

Now that the economy wheel has nearly stopped turning, we can see who actually keeps it moving- it’s the underpaid and undervalued ‘key workers’ that hold up society, not the workers in the finance sector that make up a greater proportion of GDP than the value they give to society.

This is the problem that emerges when we lose sight of what is important — in this case we’ve become obsessed with economic growth when we should be more focused on creating an economy that increases wellbeing.  After all, economic growth should only be seen as a means to achieve wellbeing. There has been an improvement in measuring wellbeing, but GDP is still the dominant measure of success, which can be misleading.

This misguided obsession has got us thinking of the economy as separate from people.

Now that austerity has been shamed and we know that Thatcherism was driven more by ideology than good economics, it’s time to shift the narrative from economic growth to an economy centred around the wellbeing of people as argued by Nobel prize winning economists Banerjee and Duflo in their book Good Economics for Hard Times.

We should aim for a wellbeing economy, no matter how messy and uncomfortable, as supported by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. The Alliance defines it as an economy where ‘humanity should determine economics, not the other way around’ and calls for the economy to deliver ‘an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generation and other species.’

Economic growth may have been a good short-term goal post war in terms of rebuilding damaged economies, but times are different now and goals should evolve and follow Iceland, Scotland and New Zealand in creating a wellbeing economy.

The economy is the people.

It is the doctors and nurses on the frontline, it is the delivery drivers that distribute resources to where they are needed (more tangible than the invisible hand), it is the teachers that educate the next generation and it is the carers that provide childcare and elderly care.

But thanking these people is not enough, we need to do right by people by paying people for their work in proportion to the value that they add in society and in doing so, acknowledging how much good they do for our wellbeing.

The economy is also the people who are not key workers and are sitting at home unable to work given the lockdown, likely causing an inevitable contraction in GDP to stop the spread of the virus – so, we can see clearly than ever before that the economy is the people and that population health cannot and should not be separated from that.

The economy is also global.

Global inequalities mean that developing countries are more likely to suffer the consequences of this pandemic, even though the epicentre of the outbreak is the developed world. According to Oxfam, ‘More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid19 pandemic’.

This pandemic has revealed that we are interdependent as countries and institutions have come together to help each other mitigate the effects of this pandemic, which started in just one corner of the world.

The Home Office extending visas for medical staff  is an example that we as a human race are dependent on one another and that when one faction of society suffers, we all suffer.

Given the interconnection and interdependency, it is in the interest of the wellbeing of nations to work together to solve problems and this should not be forgotten when it is time to deal with the aftermath of this pandemic.

Now really isn’t the time for nationalistic responses to this global economic downturn, especially in terms of the support that poorer nations receive — global solidarity is needed to solve global problems. 

So, let this be a time of thinking and rethinking, learning and unlearning, designing and redesigning a society using economics that puts people at its heart.

An increased government role isn’t a bad thing, in fact it may be government failure to leave market forces to self-regulate through capitalism.

Current economic models facilitate inequality in ways that aren’t questioned enough in the mainstream. Government policy can build back better and nudge things in a better direction, one that includes people and questions the distribution of wealth and power through market forces, no matter how normalised they’ve become.

Build back better by calling greed what it is.

Financial services have been evolving over the decades and centuries with a profit maximising objective. A study shows, for example, that having a mortgage wasn’t always aspirational — it was seen as hanging a millstone around your neck with the debt being seen as a burden, regardless of the lifestyle that it facilitated.

The finance sector has facilitated private debt to sustain consumption even more today for example with car leasing and pay-day loans with interest rates that only feed the accumulation model of wealth generation.

Sure, this is a consumerism problem too. But making financial services more responsible through government intervention and rethinking the role of interest in the economy is a start to protecting people from the glorification of debt.

Build back better by adopting human centric business models.

Big businesses are talking more about social responsibility but according to Mariana Mazzucato, little seems to be changing in reality where only few companies put social responsibility at the core of the way they function.

Tick box exercises are not enough. Fundamental changes are needed in business models that aren’t afraid of an anti-accumulation of capital philosophy of business and an increased involvement of workers at every level.

Greater government control may actually be the answer, after all, corporate greed can’t be curtailed by mere good will.

Build back better by creating better narratives.

Underlining the failings of capitalism are the surrounding narratives that keep leaving people behind. For example, it is a government failure that people keep falling through the cracks of welfare so we should stop blaming people for being stuck in the poverty trap designed by giving too much power to market forces and arguably the welfare system itself.

A move towards a wellbeing economy should involve exploring a Universal Basic Income as is being done in Scotland. A study by the RSA shows that people receiving welfare are likely to benefit from a Basic Income by enabling them to have more power over their lives and to build a better and more self-reliant future for themselves.

Build back better globally, with compassion, responsibility and humility.

In the spirit of creating a wellbeing economy that puts people at its heart, there is hope that the fear, desperation and anxiety caused by this pandemic will make people understand what it’s like to live with economic insecurity, lack of opportunities and a constant feeling of uncertainty.

It is paramount to build back better through policy and narratives that are more compassionate towards refugees and economic migrants by acknowledging that people do not leave what they know for uncertainty without sufficient cause, desperation and hope of a better future in terms of wellbeing and finances.

If compassion is not enough to build back better globally then I hope that the studies that show that history matters in that countries are still suffering economic and political consequences of post-colonialism make a case for exercising humility in the global policy sphere along with the failing of the IMF.

So, let’s build back better by mitigating the socio-economic consequences of history in the face of colonial amnesia.

Capitalism can do better.

What does it really mean to reach the peak of civilisation when haven’t paid enough attention to how such progress for the few has left so many behind? And what are we building the economy for if it’s not for the people that actually make up the economy in the first place?

This pandemic is a chance for us to revaluate capitalism and rebuild a more inclusive world where we channel energy towards collaboration, socialism and understanding.

Let’s build back better.