Last week, Yannick Beaudoin spoke on Metro Morning in Toronto. He discusses the wellbeing economy and how we can #BuildBackBetter in the time of COVID19. Have a listen to his segment below.

 

Yannick is the General Director in Ontario and Northern Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation.

You can follow him on Twitter here: @ycbeau

Originally published by Open Democracy 

Written by: Amanda Janoo and Gemma Bone Dodds

_________

As world leaders scramble to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save millions of lives, we are increasingly hearing concerns regarding how social distancing and lockdown measures will impact the economy.

Governments and economic commentators fear a “stock market crash” and a “recession worse than 2009”, and are developing economic stimulus plans accordingly. But using GDP and stock market values as a barometer of economic health is misguided. The existing policy landscape is constrained by economic ideas and tools built for another time.

In this moment, our economic policies must be oriented towards meeting basic needs, promoting essential activities and facilitating a ‘Great Pause’ while we figure out to overcome this global pandemic. There is no longer an economic status quo available to us. What does this mean in practice?

1. The stock market is not a reflection of our economic reality

Stock market values are often used as a measure of economic vitality because they are meant to anticipate future monetary values. The problem of course is that no one knows what the future will look like. Therefore, now more than ever, the stock market has only the narrowest ability to reflect the real world and is therefore not a good guide for us in these times. If policy makers want to avoid a financial collapse, they should seriously consider shutting down the stock market for a period to limit run-away, anxiety-ridden trading. Or at least ensure that any Quantitative Easing or liquidity injections are based on a quid pro quo that cancels debts for businesses and citizens.

2. We will enter a recession – and that’s okay

When you hear policy markers fearing a recession, this means they are fearing that GDP will fall for at least two consecutive quarters. As the economist Frances Coppola has argued, “recession is the wrong word, because it implies this is bad. Better to call it ‘protective contraction’. We need a huge drop in GDP”.

If we learn one thing in all of this, it is that we are the economy. As we take a moment to stand still, the economy equally becomes more still. Our tendency to move, gather and work together are fundamental drivers of the economy. As millions stay at home to protect themselves and others, the economy will contract. Doing anything other than reducing economic activity right now would be putting our collective wellbeing in danger. GDP will drop during this time, and that’s okay.

And remember: just because the economy is not growing does not mean that we cannot ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met. Now more than ever we need to recognise that the economy is the system by which we provide for one another. A system that can and should provide for what our families and societies need most.

3. Economic policies for a ‘Great Pause’

During this period of crisis, we must abandon the old metrics of economic progress and listen to what people need. Economic policy responses must be swift and strategic and focus on meeting everyone’s basic needs and safeguarding essential parts of the economy. Combined, policies must enable a ‘Great Pause’: allowing us to bunker down, buy time, and keep ourselves and others safe while we focus on ensuring equitable access to health, food, housing, income, while enabling businesses (especially SMEs) to pause their operations until we have a handle on COVID-19.

Make no mistake, such policies will require significant public expenditures and we must implement strategies now to ensure that the economic costs are paid by those who are able to afford it. We cannot repeat the mistakes made following the 2009 economic recession and allow for governments to balance budgets through toxic austerity measures.

This is a unique moment for global solidarity, as only a globally coordinated response can combat this pandemic. Now is the time to go into offshore bank accounts, to close tax loopholes and to generate a global relief fund so that we do not allow this crisis to further consolidate wealth into the hands of the few. As we work to protect those closest to home, we must not forget that no country alone can combat a pandemic. We are all in this together.

4. Building back better

As we secure lives and livelihoods, we can take the opportunity of this ‘Great Pause’ to learn and reflect on what is truly important to us. And instead of rebuilding a broken system, we must consider the policies required to build back better so that our economy delivers social and ecological wellbeing.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the complete disruption of the economic status quo. We have known for some time that the 21st century obsession with growth creates extreme inequality and environmental degradation, but we haven’t yet found a way to create a path to something different.

This is a time to ask important questions – what is important to us when our very lives are under threat? What have we found that actually, we can live without? Where have we found meaning, and connection? What do we realise we have taken for granted and what can live without? What do we need our economy to deliver so that we can all live meaningful and fulfilling lives?

We have already seen how many of the workers who have been kept in poverty wages and economic precarity are actually the most critical for our collective wellbeing. Healthcare workers, farmers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers and caregivers have become the heroes of our day. Meanwhile, this moment of pause has brought increasing clarity to the things we value most, we now see how valuable (in every sense of the world) food, health, income security, education, mobility, access to nature, social connection and public services are to us.

This Great Pause gives us the time to consider how we can build an economy on these foundations. We must not return to business as usual, looking to financial markets and GDP growth figures for guidance. Economic policies must be oriented towards protecting and promoting the economic activities that are essential for social and environmental wellbeing. We have an opportunity to build back better.

The shape of the new economy is not a distant, dry set of policies. It is something we are living in and exploring right now. Let’s be present, move forward with compassion and explore the shape of things to come.

We invite interested people to engage in the conversation at WellbeingEconomy.org.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir

March 25, 2020

This week a friend and colleague sent this written dialogue to me: 

World: “There´s no way we can shut everything down in order to lower emissions, slow climate change and protect the environment.“

Mother Nature: “Here´s a virus. Practice.“

 

For decades, nations have taken up and practiced a globalised, neoliberal, market-driven economic system with focus on exponential economic growth through natural resource extraction, production with energy use and consumption.

Global natural systems are similarly in exponential decline and the climate is warming exponentially. Despite the 2015 UN Climate Agreement, global emissions were still rising exponentially in 2019.  Few people appear to have listened to physics professor Al Bartlett who often stated that „the biggest imperfection of mankind is that it does not understand the consequences of exponential growth.“  Interestingly, the late economist Kenneth Bolding stated: “anyone who thinks that endless growth in a limited world is possible, is either a madman or an economist.“  For the past decade I have asked university student groups and the public whether they can tell me the doubling time if they know the percent rate of increase, and in my memory only one engineering student knew the answer.

Enter the Covid-19 virus. A global pandemic is declared and in only a few weeks the world has ground to a halt, literally.  Varied civil protection measures for emergency management have been taken across the world, including closing borders.  Testing, isolating, quarantining, treating is the message from WHO. Some nations stepped in with social restrictions early, others later.  It appears that the aim of “flattening the curve“ of peak diagnosis per day so that the health care system will not be overwhelmed, appears to be working in some countries.

Meanwhile, in parallel, the economy has slowed down dramatically across the world.  World GDP growth is unlikely for 2020 and at the same time total levels of pollution and emissions are likely to decrease.

Like all of us, I am deeply saddened by the world health pandemic and feel for those who have already and will lose their loved ones. Since the beginning of this crisis I have, however, observed several positive outcomes for science, the environment and the economy – which we can all benefit from in the future:

  1. More and more people now understand the terms „exponential growth“ and „doubling times“. National government representatives report daily increase in diagnosed Covid-19 cases and how many days it will take the cases to double.  This understanding can in due time be used by address issues relating to both the environment and the economy.
  2. The importance of trust in scientific knowledge has increased. Even populist politicians are now listening to scientists. Dismissal of scientific evidence is thus out, science is in. Even my 8 year old nephew has come up with a Covid-19 virus treatment proposal, which he discussed with my son today who is a medical doctor and research scientist. It is likely that many children will aim to be scientists in the future, filling the current and imminent gaps of lack of scientists and engineers.
  3. Wellbeing of people is the top priority of many government and industry responses. Hi-tech firms from race-car producers to vacuum cleaner manufacturers are being asked to step in to develop and produce in record time ventilators for the overwhelmed health care authorities. Governments are also stepping in to ask companies to produce soaps and other sanitary products and pharmaceutical companies are working with government scientists to develop corona virus vaccines.
  4. Since I am in Iceland I would like to outline the government of Iceland‘s economic rescue package which was introduced last weekend. Before I do that I would like to emphasise that my government is a partner in WEGo (Wellbeing Economies Governments) in partnership with Scotland and New Zealand – all three nations lead by women.

The Icelandic stimulus package is in 10 parts and is a total of 230 billion Icelandic krona, 7.8% of national income. The focus is on Prevention – three actions to prevent job losses and business bankruptcies; Protection – three actions to support individuals and and families due to difficult circumstances; Economic push back – four actions to increase economic activity, goods exchange and investment.  These are further outlined below – and where appropriate are linked with the newly established wellbeing indicators (WBI) that are being implemented in Iceland. These are 39 indicators, 17 related to society, 7 related to the environment and 15 related to the economy.

Prevention:

1) Part time pathway – unemployment benefits for those who have reduced employment percentage.  This supports economic WBIs on employment rates, unemployment and low income rates

2) Bridging loans to businesses – support for businesses that have operational difficulties to take extra loans as well as reduction in banking taxes. This can be related to economic WBI on debt of business

3) Deadline for business tax payments delayed – delay in tax due date, as well as insurance due date, and delay in due date for prepayment of business income tax. This relates to economic WBI on government debt.

Protection:

4) Salary during quarantine – employers are compensated for the salaries of people who are in quarantine and cannot work remotely from home. This relates to economic WBIs on buying power and individual debt

5) Increase in child support payments – single extra child support payments to families of every child under 18 because of changed circumstances. This relates to economic WBI on lack of social of economic quality

6) Withdrawal of private pension savings – allowance to withdraw private pension savings for unrestricted use. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

Economic push back:

7) Strengthening tourism – internal injection for tourism (electronic vouchers for every citizen to travel in Iceland), abolition of overnight hotel taxes, and international promotion of Iceland as a tourism destination as soon as the crisis is over. This relates to national income which is one of the economic WBIs.

8) Extension of „everyone works“, refund of value added tax for home improvement and that of NGO facilities. This relates to the WBI of percentage in employment and unemployment.

9) Easier import/export – cancellation of import tax and delay in deadlines for paying customs fees. This relates to economic WBI of purchasing power.

10) Investment efforts – increase jobs in building and maintaining infrastructure, support business innovation, and accelerating planned investment for the future. This relates to economic WBI of percent employed and unemployment.

This quick analysis of the economic stimulus package of the Icelandic government can be directly related to 8 out of 15 economic WBIs.  None of the social or environmental WBIs can be directly related to the package. For the environment WBI a focus on accelerating land reclamation and tree planting and increasing nature protection would both create jobs and improve wellbeing for people and nature.  A focus on supporting remote education and would affect social WBI pertaining to education level and continuing education.

The Icelandic government has already started to think about the long term even as it deals with this short term crisis, thanks to its wellbeing indicator framework: but there‘s much more work ahead. It is my hope that many of the lessons we learn during this Covid-19 pandemic will bring us closer together and that we can use lessons learned to both protect the environment and build economies with focus on wellbeing for people and nature.

Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir is Professor of Sustainability Science, Faculty of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. She is also a WEAll Ambassador and a member of the WEAll Global Council.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

First published on Bella Caledonia

By Katherine Trebeck

History is being made by the hour. The current crisis is era-defining to that extent that we are soon likely to talk in terms of “pre-covid” and “post-covid”. The decisions being made now by those in power will ripple through the years and determine what kind of society we go on to live in.

The spread of covid-19 shines a light on our economy – its inequalities, power structures and absurdities. The opportunity is to address some of the cleavages between parts of our society by building a wellbeing economy instead of reverting to the same old structures: building back better rather than returning to business as usual.

Covid-19 means that the reality is setting in that ours is an economic system which depends on an army of low paid workers. These are the workers Guy Standing described as the ‘precariat’: without decent security in their work, let alone sufficient pay. Those on zero hour contracts in the gig economy or eking out a living as self-employed, but with little command over the rates or regularity of that work. These are the front-line staff of our hyper-flexible economy where humans are treated as just-in-time inventory just as much as oat milk for the salariat’s flat whites is. The precariat are already the first losing their hours and their jobs as business dwindles – as bars close, as people delay haircuts and as events are cancelled. Without savings, they will be amongst the hardest hit and thus compelled to go into work if the work is there – a form of economic conscription if there ever was one.

It is the precariat who drive the delivery vans keeping the salariat stocked with avocados and hand wipes, who keep the Amazon-orders flowing in, and the Uber-Eats sushi on the table. It is the precariat tending to the frail in nursing homes or stocking the shelves in supermarkets so the rest of society can fill up on necessities while self-isolating.

In contrast, many of the ‘salariat’ (or the ‘proficians’ in Standing’s lexicon) have the relative luxury of moving their work from pot-plant filled offices to online conference calls at home. Lonely? Perhaps, but without the risk of bailiffs chasing unpaid bills so long as salaries are still paid.

Covid-19 is putting into sharp relief the contrast between those with sufficient resources and ‘human capital’ to command a toe-hold in the economy and those who are simply knocked about by taps on an app and the ‘Free Next Day Delivery’ obsession.

Precarious work shouldn’t exist – work should be a route to economic security and sense of purpose. Workers shouldn’t be compelled by economic necessity to work when sick and possibly contagious. Government should do all it can to ensure workers don’t face the choice between spreading covid-19 and being kicked out of their house because they can’t pay the monthly rent or mortgage.

There is a serious risk that, with eyes firmly fixed on a return to ‘business as usual’ beyond the current situation, the first queuing up for bailouts are the very entities which should be powered down in the face of the climate emergency. Meanwhile, those that most need it are left to make do with the already frayed social safety net that masquerades as social protection in the UK these days. Around the world governments are recognising the needs of vulnerable workers – not just the vulnerable elderly. For example, Ireland is paying 203 euros a week to those who lose their job or income or who are self-employed and losing contracts for the next six weeks. The Swedish government is also paying sick pay, rather than putting it at the feet of employers and increasing the amount of cover it provides to short-time workers. Even in Australia – one of the toughest welfare regimes in the OECD – the government is paying $AUD750 tax free to those on benefits and to all pensioners.

Yet these are the sort of measures that are short term amelioration – they help take the edge off an economy that doesn’t do enough to support everyone.

They are also a sign of how far away the current scenario is from a wellbeing economy – one purposed for and hence designed in a way to deliver good lives for people first time around.

Fortunately, just as covid-19 is showing us the stark divides in our economy – between those who can readily work from their kitchen tables and those forced to deliver to them – it also is showing us the outline of a better economy – a wellbeing economy.

The economic activities most needed at times like these are not the glittering cocktail bars and massive concert venues. They are the unglamorous but necessary pillars of the foundational economy – the schools, supermarkets and hospitals that can’t threaten to up and run at the lightest change in the tax system, entities which require considerable labour input and hence offer local jobs. The places prioritising those who need them most, profit or no profit (the supermarket Morrisons’ recent effort being a good example).

Local supply chains are coming into their own as global ones are disrupted by border closures and plane groundings.

And, perhaps most beautifully, covid-19 is showing the importance of community ties and informal support – none of which will do much to boost the usual measures of economic ‘success’ in the form of Gross Domestic Product, but which undeniably will be vital in helping individuals and families survive.

Local supply chains, the foundational economy, and community support in the care economy are three of the pillars we’ll all need to get through it. They are also three pieces of the jigsaw of a wellbeing economy weall need beyond covid-19.

Communities and individuals are stepping up to the challenges presented by covid-19, recognising that we all need each other and prioritising togetherness even as we are forced to be physically apart. As the inequalities in our economic system are laid bare by this crisis, rather than returning to business as usual, countries such as the UK would be well-served to instead build back better by creating a wellbeing economy.

 

By Michael Weatherhead

I cannot remember the last time I saw a Ken Loach film. His latest offering is a timely reminder of the power of this film maker. The story makes you want to grab hold of the family it features and hug them close…and it also makes you angry as hell.

Fairness and dignity – two of a wellbeing economy’s key five needs – have been important to me all my life.  I remember learning about them early when I learned about fair trade – selling dried apricots on my Dad’s traidcraft stall at church. But you don’t need to apply Christian guilt to selling apricots to know these needs are important. They are part of our DNA and all children intrinsically understand the concept of fairness.

Ken Loach’s ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is sword-like in its depiction of the precariousness and unfairness of the world of zero hours contracts. The film’s protagonists – a family, with mum a care worker on agency piece work and dad an enforced self-employed ‘warrior of the road’ delivering parcels with only enough time to piss in a bottle in the back of his van between deliveries.

It is impossible not to feel empathy when viewing a family lacking any form of economic security. A degree of certainty and security is something we all need but less and less of us get from our work. New analysis by the TUC shows that at least 3.7 million workers in the UK, around one in nine of the workforce, are in insecure work. In every region of England and in Wales and Scotland, insecure workers make up at least 10 per cent of the workforce’ (see more stats from the TUC here).

What went wrong with the economic system meaning that the majority of users of foodbanks are ‘employed’? What went wrong when the hours you have to work mean you cannot spend any time with your family? What went wrong that so many have so little control over their economic lives?

The film perfectly encapsulates the systemic effects and the false economy of a business model that extracts profits to shareholders at the expense of the workers of a firm. Of course, the invention of zero hours contracts is a rational and logical next step for businesses on the treadmill of continuous cost cutting/profit maximising. And it is a winner as it ‘offshores’ all the negative social effects of that model to the state.

An immediate reaction to the realities laid bare by this film must be an elimination of employment approaches such as zero-hour contracts. A second would be an increase in the minimum wage. However, these will not address the systemic effects of a system that looks to extract profits from areas of life that were once key sources of wellbeing – an affordable roof over one’s head, a job that gives meaning and purpose and provides for your family.

In the world of work, nothing short of a mass expansion of business models that have wellbeing at their heart will eradicate this virus of in-work poverty.

Find out more about Sorry We Missed You here, with details of how you can see the film and opportunities to get involved with campaigns for change.

Image from Sorry We Missed You Facebook page

By Liz Zeidler, Founding Director of Centre for Thriving Places

It’s safe to say that leading economists, environmentalists and political leaders rarely agree. But from the OECD Director General Angel Gurria, to Jeffrey Sachs and George Monbiot and many more, there are a growing number of powerful voices saying that some form of wellbeing economics is vital for a better future.

Few in the WEAll membership would disagree with this view of course, and thankfully it is increasingly not just an academic or theoretical discussion. Real progress is being made at a national level in pioneering countries around the world. From New Zealand to Scotland, Iceland to Wales, small nation states are starting to shift the compass from growth-at-any-cost to a new model of prosperity centred on wellbeing.

But there is a challenge at the heart of this progress, in that the unifying factor in these countries is size.  Smaller nations are innovating, taking some political risk and showing courageous leadership in this space in a way that larger are not. For those of us living and working outside of these pockets of progress, do we need simply to wait and hope?

Centre for Thriving Places (and under its previous name Happy City) has been tackling this challenge for over 10 years. It was clear even back in 2010 that it was never going to be easy to get national or global agreement to shift to a wellbeing economy approach. The transition needs cross-party, cross-sector, cross departmental and cross-generational collaboration.   New ways of thinking and doing, and new measures of progress are needed to build a credible base on which to deliver change. These are currently hard to come by in major national government environments.

Momentum can and must be built by pioneering people and places, at a local level and a national scale. The Thriving Places Index is designed to make this practical and achievable and it is being used by a growing number of Local Authorities, funders, community programmes and far-sighted businesses across the UK.

The approach needs to be as relevant to the mayor of a major city as they are to a junior community development worker on the frontline of tackling complex social and environmental challenges, so the TPI at its most fundamental level asks three powerful and unifying questions:

  • Are we creating the right local conditions for people to thrive?
  • Are we doing this equitably so everyone has the chance to thrive?
  • Are we doing this sustainably so future generations can also thrive?

Published annually for all Local Authority areas in England and Wales, the TPI is an asset based framework, drawing in a broad range of data from different recognised sources. It paints a meaningful picture of what supports the wellbeing of communities, and what can be done locally to improve it.

In every corner of the UK there are clear strengths and challenges when you look through a sustainable wellbeing lens. By providing comprehensive, but clear and comparable data for all local authority areas, the TPI allows learning to be shared, and a collaborative approach to systemic issues to be fostered.  It is a rigorous and accessible way to support local decision makers across sectors to assess and prioritise policy and practice, based on the impact it has on the wellbeing and sustainability of people and communities.

Whilst a national focus on wellbeing set by central or devolved government  is something to be celebrated, it’s not a prerequisite for beginning to make the change that we want to see.   Let’s not sit by and watch as levels of inequality spiral and the climate emergency deepens, waiting for the national political and legislative environment to support a new way of governing. Pioneering leaders from all sectors need to show the courage to innovate a new approach where they are now – one focused on growing our capacity to thrive, now and for generations to come.

 

About the Thriving Places Index: The 2020 results for Local Authorities in England and Wales are now live at www.thrivingplacesindex.org – head there to explore the data and find out more ways to get involved – wherever you are.  

The Thriving Places Index is delivered by the Centre for Thriving Places and supported by Triodos Bank.

About the author: Liz is an internationally recognised leader in sustainable wellbeing with over 20 years of experience in connecting, challenging and supporting change-makers. She has been a key part of the development of all Centre for Thriving Place’s wellbeing measurement tools and approaches. She is a globally in-demand speaker and advisor on community wellbeing and place-based approaches to measuring, understanding and improving wellbeing in all sectors.

Photography by Gareth Iwan Jones www.garethiwanjones.com

By Isabel Nuesse and Robert Wanalo

What are we going to do when weather patterns change and communities that depended on their consistency, suddenly have to re-imagine how they’ll receive their incomes? Planning for resilience in the face of climate change will soon become mandatory for communities. Makerspaces offer a solution that enables the community to develop resources and knowledge distinct to their communities changing climate. Thinking of these long-term strategies to are key to ensuring the sustainability of makerspace development. Two of the five principles for developing makerspaces actualize this thinking:“Include Environmental Ecosystem Services” and “Build for Continuity”.

  1. Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.

Our natural environment is the broader ecosystem within which our social and economic system is nested. An economy that has proved through the outcomes it creates, to be working against rather than with nature, and climate change is one of the many forces that threaten our very existence today.  The Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion movements are continuing to gain traction globally, as citizens realize that systems change is fundamental for climate action. As citizens become more aware of the complex ecological challenges we face today, how can we be empowered to take practical actions towards climate justice? Our group discussed this extensively. There was a general consensus that the makerspace movement should increasingly leverage their innovative capacity to support climate action in communities across the world. 

A great movement that has formed around this objective is the FabCity Global Initiative that was co-founded by Tomas Diez of Fablab Barcelona. The audacious goal behind the FabCity Challenge is to enable this shift away from the industrial paradigm of Product-in Trash-out, by enabling the return of manufacturing to cities such that by 2054, the cities that sign up for the Pledge, with be able to produce everything they consume, thus drastically reducing their carbon footprint. The potential of GIG as a global movement of techies and innovators to be able to contribute to addressing climate change was the impetus behind the Sustainable Making Track. 

One case study from within the GIG network that demonstrates Principle 3 is the work of Sri Lanka based DreamSpace Academy through their Underwater Glider project which aims to enable local communities to better understand their surrounding Indian Ocean ecosystem. 

After the Tsunami hit back in 2004, the oceans ecosystem was significantly disrupted, and the local community started seeing changes that were not normal. One such observation was a large number of eels that had emerged from the backwaters, which locals presumed to be snakes, as such species were not commonly visible above water. Aravinth Panch, and his team at DreamSpace took this as an opportunity to carry out research that aims to increase local awareness on their surrounding habitat. 

For this, they needed to have an underwater glider which, if purchased from Europe would cost over 200,000 Euros which was of course too expensive. As a Community Innovation Center and local makerspace the team decided to use open source technology to build their own Underwater Glider, which will enable  them to carry out their own scientific research and assessment on their local ecosystem through which they would be able to increase their awareness and strengthen their capacity to develop solutions for some of the issues that have risen since the Tsunami. 

It’s impossible to place a value on nature, in many ways it provides for our essential everyday needs. But recognizing that the services we receive are not free, and that we have a responsibility to ethically deal with our planet, because a thriving ecosystem means that our social and economic systems would equally be able to flourish.

2. Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency. 

In the age of the internet, where social networking and access to knowledge has been significantly augmented, the makerspace movement is developing a compelling case for ‘glocality’, that is a globally connected community that is locally proactive towards achieving common objectives. Inevitably it must have been this worldview that necessitated the existence of SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals,” whereby, even in development, we must depart from centralized systems towards those that are more decentralized and geographically distributed to ensure that agency is created at a local level.

Critical to the ability of any initiative, project or enterprise to be in operation for the long term, is its ability to to build social capacity to be able to carry out the necessary tasks for the project, and the economic models that ensure its costs can always be met. Particularly with regards to the latter aspect of financial sustainability, there was a shared aspiration in our track for makerspaces, like social enterprises, to be able to generate enough revenue to cover their operations.

With this Global-to-local approach,  Sustainable Making has the potential to transform the social, economic and ecological fabric of communities across the world. Developing local capacity and encouraging local innovation creates opportunities for new business models that create jobs and build more resilient local economies. Thinking in this way does not fight against the inevitably globalized world, but rather redesigns it to be more inclusive and equitable.

The Access to Skills and Knowledge Technology Emergency Case (ASKotec) is an open source tool co-created by the R0g Agency and Open Source Ecology Germany e.V. The tool provides over 1000 pieces needed to facilitate training in rural areas on the fundamentals of open tech and open source hardware innovation, education and repairing. The transformational technology establishes a base by which the community can expand upon the training to innovate locally.

At the Rhino Refugee camp in Uganda for example, where Platform Africa, one of the 6 hubs in the ASKLab East African network, is using the ASKotec kit to hold Open Tech workshops and training for displaced refugees living within the camp. Richard, an ASKotec trainer, says that these sessions enable the participants to be engaged in something interesting and productive, considering their current reality. An outcome of these sessions is that refugees in the camp learned how to repair chargers, phones and radios and in the case of the ATAKA hub in Juba, participants have been able to establish microenterprises with these skills. To learn more, watch this YouTube video here

Alongside the r0g Agency, Field Ready is another organization doing great work in the humanitarian space. They are an NGO that operates a network of makerspaces that empower and support local innovators in complex humanitarian situations triggered either by conflict or natural disasters to make the things that are needed where they are. They are a team of experts that leverage their expertise digital manufacturing with CNC, laser-cutting, & 3D printing to support local production of  products like lifting airbags for rescue workers, hydroponic systems for food production, as well as components for the repair of solar systems and healthcare equipment. Field Ready has established makerspaces in Iraq, Northern Syria, Jordan, Fiji, and Nepal, to name a few. By up-skilling locals, designing and implementing solutions with them, Field Ready ensures that local production continues in these communities long after the crises they face have subsided.

 

At the DOTS conference in December 2019, we joined a working group whose aim was to find out how makerspaces are could amplify the level of impact they are already creating in the communities in which they exist across the world. We articulated these findings in 5 Principles of Sustainability, which are as follows:

 

  • Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  
  • Integrate Local Knowledge:  Design with the community, leveraging on local knowledge and experience, as well as the local resources & assets available.
  • Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.
  • Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency.
  • Share How You Make: Develop a set of guidelines that provide a framework for openly documenting everything about the making of the project. 

 

 

These principles provide a framework for makerspaces around the globe to consider in their development, operations, and  strategy. Not only do these spaces provide opportunity for communities to revitalize their local economies, but it inherently builds an economy that enables communities to be self-reliant. 

Over the next few weeks, WEAll will be publishing a blog series that showcase different case studies from groups that are a part of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), and The r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

By Isabel Nuesse and Robert Wanalo

Makerspaces have the potential to transform local communities by solving local challenges using global resources. But how are these makerspaces created in a way that ensures lasting sustainability? How do they integrate local knowledge, preserve the environment and build the capacity of the community? These are integral pieces in thinking about “Sustainable Making” and how to influence a global movement of thinkers, doers and creatives to consider these questions before they develop their local maker spaces. 

In December 2019, a group of global makers convened at the DOTS conference to discuss what Sustainability as a principle means for the makerspace movement, and what ‘Sustainable Making’ as a field of practice would be. Being true to the saying that “Systemic problems require systemic solutions,” we sought to present Sustainable making as a set of connected concepts rather a single ‘big idea’. Below, you will find the outline of the first of five principles.

  1. Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  

The ideology behind the open source knowledge and distributed manufacturing movement is fundamentally disruptive and revolutionary. It seeks to establish a globally distributed knowledge and design commons that supports localized production of value in communities across the world. This means that the makerspace movement is on a mission to democratize the global manufacturing industry by increasing access to knowledge, skills, and tools that enable those who had largely been left out to engage in production and commerce. Democratization in this case goes hand in hand with Localization, in that  production of goods is being supported to occur in proximity to the communities and places where they are most needed. This would result in shorter supply chains, and production that is more context specific, and highly responsive to local challenges.  This is the precise intention behind Principle 1; that making should be informed by the local context in question and thus seek to address the challenges at hand.  

Case study: Inclusivity Innovation in the Health Sector. 

Broadly speaking, access to quality and affordable healthcare is a global phenomenon, and the challenge varies from place to place. When we factor in the physical limitations of persons with special needs and the products available, it may either be too expensive or may not entirely meet their needs. Careables, is a global platform run by an interdisciplinary team which creates, shares and supports the production of  open solutions that aim to improve the quality of life for people with unmet needs or facing physical limitations. They do this by facilitating collaboration between local communities of citizens with disabilities, healthcare professionals and makers/designers to co-design and develop open-source interventions and solutions that meet the needs of persons with disabilities. Whether it is the use of 3D printing to produce specialized orthopedic braces for children with neurological challenges in Milan, Italy, or convening and hosting healthcare hackathons with diverse stakeholders in various cities like Kumasi, Ghana, or creating open access to their designs, handbooks, reports and “how-to” guides on their website, Careables is an  example of makers using digital technologies to create real social impact.

2. Integrate Local Knowledge: Build from within the community by working with local practices, materials and traditional resources.

During a conversation with Jon Stever, co-founder of Innovation for Policy Foundation, discussing his and his teams work on policy reform in various countries across Africa, we talked particularly about what it means to design ‘with’ and not ‘for’, how to engage communities with humility and respect, and the various processes available out there to facilitate this. At some point, a quote came up which succinctly captures what inclusivity represents; “If you do something FOR me, but WITHOUT me;  you do it AGAINST me.” Participation is empowerment, and empowered participation is democracy. Integrating the culture, local knowledge, lived experience and perspective of the communities we work in and with is essential for social innovation. 

The Innovation for Policy Foundation is a pan-African organization whose work involves developing and deploying methodologies and technologies that support more effective policy reform through discourse and public participation. Their platform pursues the crowd sourcing of input from local communities of “policy users” (those most affected by a particular public policy). Being able to contribute to the formulation of policies that you are passionate about through your smartphone or the comfort of your home is a great departure from when national and local governments would host events in different cities and towns; an expensive and tedious affair. The i4Policy team have supported participatory policy reform processes in 11 countries and trained government and ecosystem leaders in more than 20 countries in Africa to great effect. Most recently, their work led the co-creation of the Senegal Startup Act in December 2019.  

i4Policy is redefining what civic engagement means in the continent. They are currently hosting a public consultation of the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto using their open source policy consultation software. Shape your policies now: https://i4policy.org/manifesto.

 

At the DOTS conference in December 2019, we joined a working group whose aim was to find out how makerspaces are could amplify the level of impact they are already creating in the communities in which they exist across the world. We articulated these findings in 5 Principles of Sustainability, which are as follows:

 

  • Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  
  • Integrate Local Knowledge:  Design with the community, leveraging on local knowledge and experience, as well as the local resources & assets available.
  • Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.
  • Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency.
  • Share How You Make: Develop a set of guidelines that provide a framework for openly documenting everything about the making of the project. 

 

These principles provide a framework for makerspaces around the globe to consider in their development, operations, and  strategy. Not only do these spaces provide opportunity for communities to revitalize their local economies, but it inherently builds an economy that enables communities to be self-reliant. 

Over the next few weeks, WEAll will be publishing a blog series that showcase different case studies from groups that are a part of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), and The r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

Rafael Galaz, a chilean lawyer has been working on an investigation about how to spread the word of Ecological Economics, created a comic based on an interview that our very own Ambassador, Robert Costanza, gave 8 years ago in the “Yale Insights” Magazine. You can find the beautifully crafted comic attached below.

Comic Que es la Eco Eco public baja

 

It used to be the case that focusing government efforts to growing the Gross Domestic Product made perfect sense. Post-WWII Finland was a poor and agricultural country devastated by the war where the oldest people still remembered the great famine of 1866-68 when over 100,000 people – over 5 % of the whole population – died of hunger. Against this background, the rapid economic growth that has made Finland one of the richest countries has been a remarkable success story: Not only are Finnish people materially well off and protected from famine but also – according to World Happiness Report – the happiest people in the world in both 2018 and 2019.

However, two key concerns force governments to refocus their aim away from increasing GDP and into measuring and improving human well-being more directly.

First, for wealthy Western countries, GDP growth no longer produces well-being. In low income countries economic growth often helps to lift people out of poverty, thus contributing to well-being. Money that buys food on the table buys happiness for the family. However, there is a threshold beyond which the needs that money can satisfy are satisfied. And thus money no longer produces happiness – not for countries and not for citizens. As for citizens, a recent study published in Nature Human Behavior utilizing data from 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries demonstrated that beyond annual incomes of $95,000 money no longer contributes to life satisfaction and for experiencing positive emotions, the satiation occurs already at $60,000. As for countries, the wealthy Western countries have passed decades ago the satiation point beyond which pushing for economic growth produces only marginal gains in well-being. If even that.

In the last ten years, the US economy has continued its growth. At the same time citizen happiness and even the average life expectancy of citizens is declining. Since 1999 suicide rate has increased by a third, while drug overdose deaths have quadrupled. The economy is getting better, the citizens are doing worse. Unfortunately, the politicians focusing on the former are blind to the latter, which provides one key explanation for the populist backlash against the establishment that we have seen in recent elections in US, UK, and many other countries.

Second, it is no longer possible to deny the devastating impact of economic growth on our planet. Intergovernmental Panel in Climate Change has made it clear that keeping the global warming below 1.5 C requires rapid globally coordinated action to mitigate the worst-case scenarios. There is currently much talk about whether it is possible to decouple economic growth from environmental impact by taxing emissions, switching to cleaner energy sources, and various technological solutions. Many experts are skeptical about the possibility of achieving decoupling fast enough to allow for ‘green growth’ while still stopping the global warming.

But the true question is not whether it is possible to decouple economic growth and environmental impact. The true question is why we should care about economic growth if it has decoupled from human well-being. Decoupling human well-being from environmental impact is what really matters. Economic growth used to be the means to growth in well-being. Now that it no longer works, we should stop fetishizing the means, and concentrate on the target.

True enough, some economic growth produces well-being. However, other economic growth – like medications for the burned out, petrol consumed while stuck in traffic, or treating lung cancers caused by polluted air – are symptoms of ill-being. Accordingly, we need to distinguish between economic growth that produces well-being and economic growth that produces ill-being. Getting rid of the latter is good from both human and environmental point of view.

To get there, we need reliable and timely measures of human well-being.

A few decades ago citizen happiness was an impossible policy goal for two reasons: 1) There was not enough reliable annual data that could be used to track how happiness of the citizen is developing within a country. 2) Given the lack of data and subsequent lack of research, there were not many evidence-based policy recommendations that politicians interested in improving citizen happiness could apply.

Fortunately, this is no longer the case. Commissioned by French president Nicolas Sarkozy two Nobel-winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen wrote in 2009 a report on broader measures of well-being that initiated a new era. UK Office for National Health started to track citizen well-being extensively in 2010, OECD has tracked the well-being of its member countries since 2011 through its Better Life Index, and World Happiness Report has tracked citizen happiness around the world annually since 2012, with various national efforts to make happiness the key policy goal underway in countries ranging from New Zealand and Scotland to United Arab Emirates.

This has led to an explosion of research on how various institutions and policies affect citizen well-being, demonstrating, for example, the importance of social trust, rule of law and low corruption, and the extensiveness of welfare benefits and labor market regulation for citizen happiness.

Finally, we have the tools and measures in place that make it possible to realize the true aim of every democratic government, as articulated already by Thomas Jefferson in 1809: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the only legitimate object of government.”

So, if we want to still save the planet and if we believe that the true object of governments ought to be improving the well-being of citizens in a sustainable way, then now is the time for paradigm shift: Instead of tracking GDP growth as the prime measure of government success, we need to track citizen well-being more directly.

Achieving this paradigm shift requires action from us all: Media should use as much space to report well-being metrics as they now use to report economic metrics and hold politicians accountable for shifts in people’s life satisfaction. Political decision-making should become two-dimensional: Assessing both the economic and well-being impact of policy proposals ought to be a routine part of all policy-making (see figure above). And we, as citizens, should be mindful in our voting decisions and push for our representatives to take the issue of citizen happiness seriously.

Time is running out. Blind economic growth for the sake of economic growth is pushing us beyond planetary boundaries – often without contributing to our well-being. It is time for well-being economics and well-being politics that ensures that economy serves people and their happiness, not the other way around.

Photo by Singkham for Pexels

“Wellbeing Starts with We”

A California City Creates Community at its Inaugural Wellbeing Summit

By Juliana Essen

 

On November 16, 2019, the small coastal city of Santa Monica, California held its inaugural Wellbeing Summit – a free and interactive community event that brought together nearly 900 residents, city leaders, local organizations, and members of the global wellbeing movement.

The Summit was designed to engage a broad cross-section of stakeholders to both understand and implement the findings from Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index – the first in the US, which was made possible by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Julie Rusk, Santa Monica’s Chief Wellbeing Officer, summed up the day this way: “This is an opportunity for everyone to come together to connect, to learn from each other, and to share their best ideas for how we really become the sustainable city of wellbeing for all.”

I had the pleasure of attending Santa Monica’s summit as an invited presenter (representing the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – WEAll) and a participant. A month later, I find my-anthropologist-self reflecting: what lessons might be gleaned for those of us seeking to advance a Good Life for All? As a key event in the wellbeing movement landscape, what core message can Santa Monica’s Summit impart?

A flash of insight came in the form of a T-shirt – the ones silk-screened on demand at the Summit itself, with the slogan “Wellbeing starts with We.” Above all else, this event underscored the necessity of shifting wellbeing work from me to we, and it highlighted several characteristics vital to making a thriving community. Here are 6 of them, and just for fun, they all start with “C”:

1.     Celebrate the positive

2.     Connect with people

3.     Consider new ideas

4.     Co-create solution

5.     Care for others

6.     Commit to move forward together

For explanations and examples of how these community-making characteristics played out at Santa Monica’s inaugural Wellbeing Summit, read on.

  1. Celebrate the positive

Santa Monica’s Summit builds on 4 years of work to measure residents’ wellbeing through the city’s Wellbeing Index. The index tracks indicators of progress in 6 areas: community, place and planet, learning, health, economic opportunity, and overall outlook, using data from resident surveys, social media, and various other sources available to the city. In short, this data is used to understand how residents are doing so that the city can invest in areas that will have the greatest impact. So first and foremost, the summit was a celebration of progress made to date.

The positive approach can be surprisingly controversial. An older Caucasian gentleman who came to protest at the entrance held a cardboard sign hand printed in red marker that read, “Wellbeing? What about Being Real?” A valid question, to be sure. His opinion (shared by others) was that the city should focus on “real” problems like homelessness and crime.

City Manager Rick Cole offered this response in his post-Summit reflection: “Pursuing a positive approach to our problems is not a naïve denial of them. All the challenging issues of our time were addressed on Saturday – but in a spirit of “what can we do to make things better?”

 

  1. Connect with people

One of the main goals of the Wellbeing Summit was clearly to bring the community together in a fun and festive atmosphere. From the up-beat kick-off by the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra’s Mariachi Band to the closing circle dance with Bhutanese dancers, summit goers were treated to countless opportunities to interact in the California sunshine.

We lingered over creative stations like the “What’s Wellbeing” wall, where participants could write in their ideas for heath or economic opportunity; the “Family Photo” studio, where passers-by posed with strangers for family-style portraits (and became acquainted in the process); and the Santa Monica Tourism board’s “Staycation” location, where kids played ball on Astroturf and adults lounged in pastel Adirondack chairs and dug their toes in sandboxes.

Perhaps it’s a “California thing” but we also chatted with each other as we waited in line. There were lines to sample free food from local vendors – like acai bowls, jackfruit sliders, street corn, and aguas frescas – and a significant wait to get a silk-screened T-shirt printed to order. In fact, my favorite memory from the day was dancing to Prince in the T-shirt line with an elderly African American woman I had just met. With the right conditions, that intercultural and intergenerational connection we try so hard to fabricate just happens naturally.

The summit planners indeed succeeded in this goal: early event surveying showed that 40 percent of participants met 5 or more people for the first time. As for the value, the head of Familias Latinas Unidas! (purveyor of aguas frescas) summed it up best as he twirled a volunteer during clean up: “It’s about ‘to connect’ because once we connect, we get along better.”

  1. Consider new ideas

Running concurrently with the outdoor festival were dozens of panel discussions and workshops that aimed to build participants’ understanding of the factors that affect wellbeing for people and the planet. The variety of session topics meant that was something for everyone – for different learning styles, knowledge about wellbeing, and interests.

The first panel of the day laid it out in a somewhat wonky but still accessible way: “Wellbeing: What it Is, What it Isn’t & Why it Matters,” with Anita Chandra (RAND), Carol Graham (Brookings Institution), and Neal Halfon (UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities).

I also moderated a panel that leaned toward serious: “Global Wellbeing from the United Kingdom to Bhutan to Latin America,” with Dr. Alejandro Adler (Earth Institute, Columbia University), Benilda Batzin (Health Citizenry Tutor, Guatemala) and Kinga Tshering (Institute of Happiness, Bhutan).

But there were also sessions that engaged local activists, like “Building Resilience in Communities of Color: Lessons from Virginia Avenue Park’s Parent Groups,” led by Santa Monica resident Irma Carranza, and an edgy workshop titled, “Creative Resistance through Printmaking,” in which participants learned about the role printmaking has had in California supporting movements such as the United Farm Workers while creating their own custom-stenciled posters.

The quality of these diverse sessions raised the wellbeing quotient of the summit beyond positive emotion and social interaction to incorporate learning, one of the dimensions of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Index itself. As one Santa Monica resident remarked, the Summit was a “great way for the community to come out and … learn about things that we don’t normally learn about in our own insular world.”

  1. Co-create solutions

Rather than simply imparting knowledge, many sessions at the Summit aimed to inspire more collaborative, solution-oriented learning. In the “Mobility Matters” workshop, participants considered how reimagining the way we use our streets can impact wellbeing, looked at models from Los Angeles County, and worked elbow-to-elbow to design kid-friendly streets for their own neighborhoods. And in “Wellbeing Imaginarium,” summit-goers participated in an interactive visioning experience to create their own city of wellbeing.

At the summit, the City of Santa Monica also demonstrated its tangible support for resident-led co-created solutions in the form of Wellbeing Microgrants, a new approach to empower residents to make positive change. Each year, the city plans to distribute several grants up to $500 for small-scale, local actions to improve community wellbeing, with annual themes varying according to the Wellbeing Index findings.

To see the microgrant program in action, Summit-goers could visit a booth in the outdoor marketplace to meet past grant recipients, see displays of their work, talk to them about their experience, and even buy goods produced with the grant, like traditional Oaxacan shawls. Also on hand were applications for the next grant cycle and city staff to help explain the process.

Residents also had an opportunity to start co-creating their own projects at a design charrette I led. A design charrette is a fast-moving, interactive, creative process in which participants write quick ideas on Post It Notes (in this case representing improvements they’d like to see in their communities within the framework of the six dimensions of wellbeing), organize those ideas into categories, and then form small groups to discuss and decide. Besides a better understanding of wellbeing and knowledge/skills for project design, at least a few participants left with plans shaping up to apply for a microgrant together.

  1. Care for others

Perhaps the most vital characteristic for a thriving community is care for others. Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis made this assertion quite clearly in her blog post reflecting on the Summit:

Finally, we will know that we are a sustainable city of wellbeing when, in considering local policies, we stop asking what’s in it for me and start asking what’s in it for everyone.  This community spirit needs to permeate all our decisions, even those that involve asphalt and lane markers. Only when people in the community feel responsible for the wellbeing of others in the community—people they know and people they don’t know, can we truly reach our goal of being a sustainable city of wellbeing.

Unfortunately, care for others doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we just see the problems in our community rather than the people who are struggling. “Homelessness” is one such issue in Santa Monica (as well as my own coastal town to the south), in which discourse is typically framed in terms of public detriments such as visual blight and crime, not human suffering. The Summit’s solution? An interactive station with virtual reality headsets that allowed users to literally walk in another person’s shoes in a journey from homeless to housed. The station underscored the reality that it’s much easier to care for others when we can imagine their experiences as our own. Leave it to “Silicon Beach” to use technological innovation to do just that.

  1. Commit to move forward together

Overall, Santa Monica’s Summit represents the government’s commitment to placing the people and the planet at the forefront of their decision-making. City Mayor Gleam Davis sees this as her charge: “One of the sacred duties of all governments – federal, state, regional, and local – is to improve the wellbeing of their constituents.”

Anuj Gupta, Santa Monica’s Deputy City Manager explains, “We in the city government, we’re not really succeeding at our jobs unless our people are thriving and that’s really what this [summit] is all about: making sure our community is healthy, connected, engaged.”

At the same time, the Summit made it clear that wellbeing is a collective endeavor. In the final session of the day, a community conversation on “What’s Next for Wellbeing” with Mayor Gleam Davis and City Manager Rick Cole, the mayor shared this sentiment:

We truly are a Sustainable City of Wellbeing, but this is not something that the city government can bestow on you or can do alone. If we are truly going to live up to that title, then each and every one of us needs to invest in this community. I know we heard today that there are things we need to work on. But let’s do the hard and satisfying work of working on them together….

Santa Monica City Councilmember Ana Maria Jara offered a more inspiring reflection as the day came to an end:

This is only the beginning. A summit seems to me like it’s more of a closing. It is not. We’ve just started to climb. So let us continue together so we can all learn, so that we can all … act upon doing better for everyone.

For me, Councilmember Jara is speaking not only to residents in Santa Monica, but to all of us engaged in the global wellbeing movement.

To get a better feel for Santa Monica’s inaugural Wellbeing Summit, watch this recap and hear the individuals quoted above speak in their own voice:

And to learn more about Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project, visit the Office of Civic Wellbeing website: https://wellbeing.smgov.net

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Dirth, a member of the WEAll Research Fellow’s Network, has recently released two extensive reports offering solutions for both governments and business alike to support the Friday’s for Future movement.

The timing seems ever important as we’re watching an entire continent light up in flames. The question is, how can we support and amplify the initiatives of youth that are pushing for change in a loud and radical way? Both of Elizabeth’s tool-kits provide the answers that many governments and businesses are looking for.

Click the links below to learn more about how to participate in the global push for climate action.

The Futuring Tool: A Toolkit for Responding to the Demands of the Fridays for Future Movement (for Governments): https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/output/publications/2019/futuring-tool-toolkit-responding-demands-fridays-future-movement

The Futuring Tool: A Toolkit for Responding to the Demands of the Fridays for Future Movement. 2nd Edition (for NGOs and businesses): https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/output/publications/2019/futuring-tool-toolkit-responding-demands-fridays-future-movement-2nd

 

 

By Isabel Nuesse: WEAll Engagement and Content Lead 

Open technology builds a strong case for the practicality of building a wellbeing economy. While in Nakuru, Kenya at the Digital Open Technology Summit (DOTS) conference, I saw the potential transformation that open source technology can have on local communities. Hosted by Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) and the R0g agency for Open Culture and Transformation, the gathering showcased numerous examples of localized economic development addressing specific community needs all across the global south.

A majority of my time was spent learning. Learning about the innumerable opportunities that open-source technology can provide to communities and learning about the potential disruption that this space has, as well.

There were innovations at DOTS from open-sourced orthopedic braces, to underwater gliders to microscopes. All intended to be made by local makers, to solve local problems. The hyper-localization of these projects gave me hope that a “glocalized” future is possible. Meaning, a future that using the benefits of globalization to strengthen local communities. Open-source technology has found a balance between these often-conflicting futures. I was curious to look deeper at how WEAll intersects with this work.

It was obvious that a core principal of Open-Tech mirrors that of WEAll; to value collaboration over competition. In many ways this space challenges the system by doing exactly what Buckmaster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality; you change things by making a better model that makes the existing models obsolete.” In the same way that WEAll is working to build a new economic system, the model that open-tech uses introduces an entirely new way of sharing information and manufacturing products.

This actualizes in the introduction of an open-source MRI machine that is being developed. The innovation would hugely benefit local communities that would otherwise, not have access to such technologies, and it necessitates transparency from large companies to disclose the true cost of a product. This is systems change.

Leaving the conference, I became curious about how WEAll can continue to interact with the open-source technology space. It addresses a complex issue of keeping communities resilient against an ever-globalized world. The weaving of these two movements seems obvious to me. So, what’s next?

If you’re interested in learning more and following some of the organizations that attended check out their twitter pages here:

  • GIG, Germany: @WeareGIG
  • R0G Agency, Germany: @intertwilight
  • Ask Lab, Kenya: @ASKlab_Kenya
  • Ataka Hub, South Sudan: @AtakaHub
  • Mboa Lab, Cameroon: @labmboa
    VilSqure, Nigeria: @Vilsquare
  • Kumasi Hive, Ghana: @KumasiHive
  • Open BioEconomy Lab, UK: @OpenBioEconomy
  • Go Girls ICT Lab, Juba South Sudan: @gogirlsictjuba

 

REPOST FROM CHRISTIAN AID:

By: Úna Bartley

Back in the late eighties, Christmas for me, meant extra shifts at WH Smith’s record department. More shifts meant more cash, and more cash meant more purchases from Ms. Selfridge for my ever expanding wardrobe with its fifty shades of black. With my shaky grasp on economics, the festive period seemed a win-win for all concerned: more work equalled more goods purchased. More purchased goods equalled more work. And more work equalled more goods to be purchased. What wasn’t to like?

Fast forward thirty years and this is the world that so many are living in and on which our economies depend. A world dominated by work (be it low-paid, well-paid or unpaid) and consumption.

This relentless treadmill of working to consume is underpinned by an economic system that prioritises the pursuit of profit and economic growth over the wellbeing of our communities and planet. It is a system that has given rise to stark inequalities and is devastating our environment. It has also subtly shaped our thinking so that with all that work and shopping, we often lose sight of what really matters to us: our family, friends and health. As well as what is essential for our survival: a sustainable and viable planet.

Yet it’s hard not to feel that change is in the air. Witness the recent series of political shocks, the volatile atmosphere across the globe and the sudden rise in protests against climate change.

While some are simply venting their frustration at a system that they feel has left them behind or is trashing our planet, others are quietly channelling their energy into establishing positive alternatives to our current economic model, from community energy projects to innovative business initiatives to ethical finance projects.

While some are simply venting their frustration at a system that they feel has left them behind or is trashing our planet, others are quietly channelling their energy into establishing positive alternatives to our current economic model

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland was established as part of a global movement which works to build on this momentum and to promote a wellbeing economy. Building such a radically different economy – one that delivers social justice and environmental health – will require participation from both ‘insiders’ & ‘outsiders’ across all sectors. Our role is to support, connect and amplify those who are already pioneering alternative practices and demanding radical change of our institutions, as well as to create platforms for a different narrative, including safe spaces for business leaders and politicians to explore a different economic model.

From the outset, WEAll Scotland has been overwhelmed by individuals and organisations in Scotland wanting to be part of the movement to build a wellbeing economy. To capitalise on that energy and potential, we are setting up a series of sector-specific clusters, including a ‘Faith Cluster’. Each cluster will work with participants to identify the leverage points and opportunities for change within their own communities, led by the question, ‘what can we do together that we can’t do apart?’.

The ‘Faith Cluster’ will build on the strong engagement we have had to date with the Church of Scotland and others. It offers particular promise given the track record of churches and other faith groups in leading some of the most successful social movements of our time, through mobilising engaged communities and by asking people to reflect on their values and our social norms.

The festive period is a good time for reflection, and if like me, you now think there has to be more to life – and Christmas – than work and shopping, we’d love to hear from you. You can stay engaged with the work of WEAll Scotland through our website, our Twitter account or by signing up for our regular bulletin at Scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org

By Sam Butler-Sloss, Co-Lead of WEAll Youth Scotland and Organiser at Economists for Future

I got involved in the Wellbeing Economy Alliance because the case for repurposing and redesigning the economy to deliver wellbeing for people and planet is overwhelming. Yet, as a student of economics, it is unclear to me to what extent the economics profession agrees with this. 

In my experience, most economists want to enhance the wellbeing of humanity through analytical contributions. Yet, in the past several decades, dominant economic theory and practice has made a number of consequential errors that have compromised the discipline’s ability to fulfil this goal. Chief among them is the de-prioritisation of the single greatest threat to the wellbeing of humanity in the 21st century – the climate and ecological crisis. 

 Across teaching, research and public and policy engagement, economists have failed to adequately engage in this issue. The most cited journal in economics has never published an article on climate change. The teaching of economics remains abstracted from ecological foundations. And even as other academic disciplines have become increasingly vocal on this issue, economists have remained too silent. 

Worse too, when economists do engage, they often distort the problem. To name a few examples, their models tend to leave out tipping points, catastrophic risks and treat all threats as ‘marginal’. As a result, many economists’ contributions have been used as evidence to scale back, rather than scale up, climate ambition. 

The economics profession’s insufficient response to the climate crisis puzzles me – it appears they are not even living up to their own standards.  

Firstly, over the last several decades, economists have tried to convince the world that they are ‘scientific’. But, if they pride themselves on being scientific, then they must take the most important science of our day seriously.

Secondly, if the purpose of economics is to further human prosperity, then in an era of environmental breakdown, the exclusion of the natural world is only undermining that very goal.

 Thirdly, the priorities of economists are often governed by cost-benefit analysis, but there is no scenario that is more expensive than unabated climate change. Even when using this dangerously narrow framework, the economic imperative for urgent action is clear. With the inclusion of harder-to-quantify aspects, such as distributional justice, this imperative for action is only amplified.  

You might ask, why focus on economists? Is the inaction not the fault of politicians? Is it not a lack of political will? Sure, political willpower is in serious shortfall. As COP comes to an end, all eyes are on the world leaders. Rightly so. They must show leadership: they must take decisive and ambitious action or step aside for those that will. But pressure groups must also dig one layer deeper and ask how policy-makers make their decisions. For better or worse, economics has a central role in this process. If we are going to radically ramp up the ambition of climate policy, we must change how it is designed. We must change economics. 

That is what motivated us, a group of students from across the world, to found Economists for Future. To arrest the climate crisis, economics must move from getting it wrong to making it right. 

At Economists for Future, we are critical optimists. We have a deep belief in the power of good economics to make the world a better and more humane place. But we believe that we are currently not living up to our responsibility to help create and communicate a policy framework that accelerates the transformation to a more sustainable, prosperous and fairer world. 

At this stage, failure to step up to this responsibility and to seize this opportunity is to let down the world. If economists cannot engage in this economic transformation the science requires—then who? If we do not raise our game now—then when? The likelihood is it will be too late. In which case, history has every right to judge us harshly. 

In our one-page open letter we lay out the case for economists to raise their game. 

We are encouraging everyone to sign and share it. 

 

What?

  • In October 2018, Top up Taps – public drinking fountains – are rolled out across Scotland
  • 10 taps are set up: Fort William, Oban, Milngavie, Buchanan Street in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Dumfries and Edinburgh.
  • In less than one year, Scottish residents drank the equivalent of 90,000 330ml plastic bottles from the Taps.
  • In August 2019, what started out as a pilot project is greenlighted for expansion to push the total number of Top Up Taps to 70.

 

Why?

  • Scotland is buckling under excessive plastic waste, including plastic bottles, costing £11 million per year.
  • This despite the fact that almost 2/3 of residents in Scotland prefer tap water.
  • There are also health concerns: sugary drinks are fierce competitors to the good old H2o.
  • Public water fountains are nothing new: they predate running water in homes. But they have fallen into disuse.
  • Various cities are bringing them back with vigour. Amsterdam, to name but one, launched its plan in 2015, with plans in 2018 to introduce 300 additional spots.

 

How?

  • The policy choice and design is part of the Scottish Government’s programme of 2018-2019, which includes investment of around £600 million into water infrastructure
  • The infrastructure is implemented by Scottish Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Vaccaro, Triodos Bank

If people feel they cannot be seen by anyone else it brings out the worst in them. If they feel part of a community, this brings out the best in them.”
James Vaccaro, Special Advisor at Triodos Bank

In business, the value of stakeholder engagement is often not fully appreciated. The results of such engagement usually only become visible in the mid to long term. When we consider social and environmental impact as part of business, we need the long-term support of our stakeholders. 

Recognizing the role we play in the wider system and in our industry can make what we do much more powerful. There are three levels in which we see community play an essential role in supporting business in the wellbeing economy: 

Genuine and balanced supplier relationships 

Suppliers form one of the three most pivotal relationships we have at work alongside customers and colleagues. Yet how often do we think of them as part of our community? How balanced is the relationship we have with them? 

It might be the case that our suppliers are larger and more powerful than us or vice versa. Regardless of which way around it is, genuine and balanced relationships can be forged if businesses go beyond compliance to a deeper relationship of shared values. 

Often it is easier just to tick a box, but we have seen that the most forward thinking businesses go deeper to cultivate relationships based on shared values…and why wouldn’t they? 

Building relationships with suppliers around a shared purpose and with similar value sets can increase reliability and simplify collaboration.

As the economic systems begin to transform, will we only be able to succeed by treating suppliers as a vital part of our community.

Ultimately the boundaries around organizations will become less fluid. What we will see will resemble an organizational ecosystem rather than large organizations.”
Daniel Christian Wahl, author

 

 

Finding your place in the community

Often as a business, we choose to locate our offices and sites based on accessibility, tax rates and employee wages. But how much do we consider our relationship to the communities we are a part of?

Business can be a catalyst for exchanging knowledge and collaborating at the local and regional level, generating value in their location and beyond. Through working with other local stakeholders early on, a business will find how  it can contribute to supporting a vibrant local area. 

Rehema Isa, Womanomics

We need collaborative creation processes to define and design together what wellbeing means in each organization and local context. We need access to spaces that allow us to be part of the change scenario and explore how we can contribute to the ecosystem.”
Rehema Isa, Womanomics

 

 

Depending on local conditions a businesses contribution could look different, for example: ensuring that employees get safely to their workplace and back home during a night shift or supporting local governments with education around waste management and recycling. 

Recognizing your role in the wider system

Being a pioneer is not easy, but if we want to achieve change in our sector, we need the ability to recognize the potential that comes with forging a new path. 

No matter if you work in the chocolate industry, banking, hospitality or reforestation, hearing how challenges were experienced and solved by other leaders can give us inspiration. Understanding where luck and human connection made a difference, gives us courage to take up the challenge of rethinking business as usual.

We at Triodos are an important drop in the ocean, but we remain a drop in the ocean. Only if we recognize our place within the wider systemic spectrum can we really have an impact.
James Vaccaro, Special Advisor at Triodos Bank

 

Many organizations that provide support to businesses have recognized the importance of communities of practice. Organizations like the Impact Hub have based their business model on the value they provide through an active community of support.  

That’s why communities of practice provide great support to leaders and changemakers:

We see ourselves as a provider of credit and capital. However we also provide value in being at the centre of a community and therefore play an important social function.
James Vaccaro, Special Advisor at Triodos Bank

 

 

 

What?

  • Saughton Park, City of Edinburgh Council, is the UK’s first green-powered or low-carbon park.
  • The park utilises the green energy Ground Source Heat Pump, powered by a micro-hydro system located on the Water of Leith.
  • This energy powers recreational and visitor facilities

 

 

 

Why?

  • The park renovation is part of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan projects, which number 120 overall.
  • This is in support of the Scottish Government’s energy strategy to decentralise and decarbonise Scottish energy systems.

 

 

 

 

 

How

  • The Saughton Park energy schemes have 6 different funding channels, including the Heritage Fund, Sustrans, Scottish Energy Efficiency Programme, Salix Finance and Scottish Power’s Green Economy Fund.

 

You can read more about the initiative in Green Spaces Scotland’s own case study here.

What do we want? To save the world!

When do we want it? Now!

How are we going to do it? Errr….

It was easy to be caught up by the exuberance of the Climate Strikers and Extinction Rebellion last Spring. Greta took many of us by surprise – a determined Swedish Joan of Arc campaigning solo against climate change. Who could forget her on the stage at Davos next to the venerable Sir David Attenborough, the old and the young united in purpose – calling for “a plan”? But as yet no masterplan has appeared to rescue the natural world and moderate climate change. And so, as we feared, the alarming decline continues.

For far too long an environmentally unaccountable economic juggernaut has dragged us towards a precipice of environmental collapse. But now the cohorts of climate protest have done something truly worthwhile- they have lit a beacon that will now be impossible to extinguish. However, it is vital that this beacon shines on the right place– the interface between economics and the natural world. The philosophical ground has been laid by Raworth, Klein and Occasio-Cortez and others. Their arguments are heartfelt, compassionate and elevating: the goals are admirable. Nevertheless, even the Green New Deal is as yet only a list of aspirations. We still lack the all-embracing blueprint for a practical, immediately realisable green economics revolution that doesn’t plunge the world into economic chaos. So where do we find that?

I’ve been searching for that blueprint for a long time, and I discovered it has been right under our noses all the time – in Nature itself.

It’s several decades since I first got seriously worried about what was happening to the environment and began the journey that eventually led to the publication of my book, Junglenomics, earlier this year. For years I suffered the pains of the ‘eco-anxiety’ that the American Psychological Association now recognises as a mental condition and describes as “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. Rachel Carson drove the nails in deeper. I may have been hard to live with sometimes, I admit. I found it difficult to see a future worth having children for (though I’m forever grateful to my wife for ignoring me!). Then I came across an old book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, by Dale Carnegie. Two pieces of advice stick in my mind: “compartmentalise” and “one step at a time”. The book taught me that you have to take control of your fears, not wallow in them. To do that I realised I needed to understand why we humans destroy the natural world that we depend on for our very survival. Not the superficial why- “greed” for example, but the genetic, developmental, anthropological why. “Look deep into Nature”, Einstein said, “and then you will understand everything better”. Few wiser words have been uttered. Yet I was to find that Nature not only helps you understand, it also provides solutions.

I began to see who we humans are in the big scheme of things: for example, that we are genetically driven to colonise resources, like all our ancestors before us since the beginning of life. I also came to realise that we live in an “economic ecosystem” that is an extension of natural ecosystems, with us as its “species”. But we aren’t tied to one niche like wild species: we are avatars, able to slip from one niche to another. Here, evolution is provided by ever more rapidly advancing technology and the new jobs it creates, while the out-dated go extinct.

And there lies the problem: our economic ecosystem has evolved too fast and too far to develop the fine synchrony that takes ecology millions of years to achieve; too fast in particular to build the checks and balances that in ecosystems keep species from destroying their environment. The chief reason our economic ecosystem has got so out of balance with the natural world is therefore because, unlike in ecosystems, polluters and degraders are divorced from the consequences of their destructive behaviour, so their own viability isn’t directly diminished by it. In ecosystems, “detritivores” have coevolved with potential polluters to clean up and recycle their outputs, each working for its own profit, innocently colluding to transfer nutrients back down into the soil to begin their life-giving journey once again. In contrast, markets have been free to degrade the environment yet thrive.

This is foremost an economics issue therefore. The power of markets, expressed through our ancient resource-hungry genes, now needs harnessing to work for the environment not against it, and until markets are subjected to the same economic disciplines found in ecosystems, the decline will go on.

There is of course much more to this, but the really exciting thing about this ecosystem approach is that it at last provides real beef- a manifesto covering all areas of the economics-ecology interface that any enlightened government could begin tomorrow: for example “Robin Hood” levies that take from polluters to fast-track a green tech revolution, and investment instruments that permanently protect important wilderness in return for infrastructure capital that benefits the poorest.

I believe passionately that if we can get our leaders to adopt it, such “ecosystem economics” could get us back in synch with the natural world before it’s too late.

Simon Lamb is the author of Junglenomics: Nature’s solutions the world environment crisis: a new paradigm for the twenty-first century and beyond

You can find the “12 Core Principles of Junglenomics”, and the “60-point manifesto for an environment-saving economics revolution” at https://junglenomics.com

By Kristín Vala  Ragnarsdóttir

6 December, 2019

Vala is a WEAll Ambassador, member of the WEAll Global Council and leader of WEAll Iceland. She is Professor of Sustainability Science at the University of Iceland.

 

 

During my summer vacation in 2018 in the Norwegian mountains I read the Nordic Secret by Lene Rachel Andersen from Denmark and Tomas Björkman from Sweden.  The subject of the book was an eye opener for me.  Despite being from a Nordic country (Iceland) I was not aware of the history and social development in the Nordic countries during the 19th century.

Andersen and Björkman demonstrate in the Nordic Secret that when enlightenment came to Copenhagen around 1850 (a century after enlightenment in central Europe) salons were held (mostly by women) and new ideas from Central Europe were discussed.

Unlike Central Europe where the ideas were discussed largely by the ‘intelligentsia’, in Denmark salons were held with a wide participation. Then „folk“ high schools were set up for the children of Danish farmers.  First only young men came to the schools, usually set up by men with their wives – where everyone lived together and discussed new ideas together.  Later young women were also welcomed.  In the „folk“ high schools they discussed new ideas pertaining to philosophy, farming, craft etc.  Everyone lived together, cooked and cleaned, did chores on the land.  No exams were held.

The young people stayed for 3-6 months and then went home to participate and later take over their parents farms – with new ideas in mind.  They were no longer only proud of being farmer children, they were proud of being Danish. This was the foundation of the farming industry in Denmark and the Scandinavian design which is to this day notable.  Later „folk“ high schools were opened up in Norway and Sweden and to a lesser extent in Finland.  By the end of the 19th century there were hundreds of „folk“ high schools in the four Nordic countries. Though no such schools were opened up in Iceland, some of the new ideas came to Iceland with men that had studied in Copenhagen. Of interest is that the „folk“ high schools were set up by clergy and the general public in Denmark, teachers in Norway, the intelligentsia in Sweden and women in Finland.

Once the young people were back on their parents’ farms they were instrumental in founding and supporting co-operatives.  The cooperatives were at the centre of each community, and fostered the building up of libraries and discussion groups.

What was different with the Central European enlightenment was that it largely only affected the intelligentsia.  In the Nordic countries it affected the whole population.  The „folk“ high schools were thus the foundation of the Nordic countries as they are today with their admirable and enviable (proclaimed by many) welfare- and social democratic societies with social justice, universal health care and education at the core.

What is suggested by Andersen and Björkman at the end of the Nordic Secret is that we need to continue with the ideology of the 19th century – where the Bildung of the Nordic population took place (the German word Bildung means more than education – it also is rooted in culture and aims at widening peoples’ horizons). They proposed that Bildung 1.0 occurred from 1850-1900.  Bildung 2.0 took place in the 20th century – and that we now need Bildung 3.0 – with the aim of raising everyone’s horizons to care for humanity as a whole, the Planet and future generations.

I wholly agree and therefore I started to have salons in my living room in November 2018.  Once or twice a month anyone interested can meet in my living room to discuss new ideas with the aim of raising everyone’s horizons.  We read books together and discuss their content.  So far we have gone in detail over the Nordic Secret, in addition (but in less detail) Spiral Dynamics (by Beck and Cowan) and Integral Meditation (by Ken Wilber).  The two latter books outline the evolutions of thinking (Beck and Coward) and the need for the simultaneous development of thinking and states of consciousness (Wilber).

The next book we will discuss is the latest book by Andri Snær Magnason (About Time and Water), which was published in Iceland in early October – but is currently being translated into more than 20 languages.  It is about the climate crisis – and why we find it so difficult to get our heads around the issues at hand.  I recommend that everyone look for this book when it comes out in their language. Magnason is a master in putting complicated issues into words that everyone can understand.