by Rabia Abrar

COP26, the UN Global Climate Summit, was originally meant to have taken place in Glasgow starting this Monday – but it was delayed until next year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the event has been delayed, the urgency to address the climate crisis remains the same.

‘Unusual suspects’, as some may view them, have taken leadership on pushing the agenda of the urgently needed, transformational climate action, with or without a conference.

Youth Leading the Way

Frustrated by the fact that no innovative way could be found to hold the COP26 summit online, young climate activists have organised their own two-week “Mock COP”, which starts this week (November 19). The conference is designed to mirror the format of the delayed U.N. talks, but with youth from more than 140 nations as the negotiators. The online summit will focus on themes including climate education, carbon targets, climate justice, health and green jobs. A large emphasis is about moving past simply discussing change, to exploring how to implement solutions.

Youth organisers of the Mock COP aim to, in part, change views of what young activists are capable of doing, rather than being perceived as little more than an inspiration for older officials.

“People will have seen that … we can do more than just strike and protest”

Josh Tregale, 18, Britain

But youth want more than to change perceptions; more crucially, they want a seat at the (economic decision-making) table. This thinking is in line with key components of a Wellbeing Economy, which would put humans at the centre of economic purpose: intergenerational justice and participation of ‘the people’ in economic decision making. 

“Young people will pay the tax to pay off the (economic stimulus and climate) decisions we make now. It’s effectively our money they’re spending at the moment… (and) young people should have a voice, especially at this time.”

Josh Tregale, 18, Britain

While youth are making their voices heard, so are artists. 

Calling all Musicians (to Action)

A group of Scottish artists at all levels, including multi-award winning musician Karine Polwart and Edinburgh’s Soundhouse Choir, has released a song called, Enough is Enough.

If our planet Earth could talk to us right now, what might she say?

The song covers themes of environmental justice and collective wellbeing and draws on the imagery of Glasgow’s coat of arms (a tree, a bird, a fish and a bell).

Spearheaded by Oi Musica, an independent artist-led music organisation in Edinburgh, the project aims to unite choirs, street bands and community-based music groups across the UK in a collective, creative action ahead of next year’s COP26. The aim is to raise awareness and build public pressure in the lead up to the climate summit in Glasgow in 2021. 

Brass, Aye? – an open access street band in Glasgow. Photo credit: Heather Longwell

“We’re excited about creating a shared focus for bands, choirs & musicians at a difficult time for live music – and finding positive, creative ways of raising our voices in support of climate justice and systems change”. 

Olivia Furness, Oi Musica Co-Director 

WEAll is a partner in this collaboration, sharing its vision of a future economy that rejects eternal economic growth and instead, focuses on delivering social justice on a healthy planet. 

No Need for Delay 

A restriction to virtual meetings during COVID-19 hasn’t held the musical collaboration back. To assess the song’s potential for mass participation, Enough is Enough was road tested with 120 singers, who filmed and recorded their parts on mobile phones. This process added a whopping 1500 recorded files to the studio recording! 

The Edinburgh Soundhouse Choir in the ‘Enough is Enough’ music video

Pandemic restrictions continue to impact the working life of musicians; and the digital skills that are being acquired as a result of this collaboration are strengthening connections between people and communities through tough times. 

The song, ‘Enough is Enough’, and the process by which it has been created, exemplifies the role WEAll envisions the Arts to play in a Wellbeing Economy, which includes the Arts helping to tell the story and paint the picture of a more humane economy.

As Dom Jaramillo, a 21-year-old Ecuadorian delegate to Mock COP put it,

“Everyone says we’re the leaders of the future… I find myself leading things in the present.” 

We can take the lead of the youth and musicians who are not waiting for a more convenient time to collaborate around tackling the climate crisis. 

COP26 may be delayed. Transformational climate action needn’t be. 

Find out more about the Mock COP26 conference, running from November 19 – December 1, here. Donate to the Mock COP26 Crowdfunder campaign and join the conversation on Twitter: @MockCOP26, Instagram: @mockcop26 and Facebook: @MockCOP26.

Listen to ‘Enough is Enough’, here, and register your interest to join the musical collaboration around ‘Enough is Enough’, here. You can follow along on Twitter: @Oi_Musica, @IAMKP; Instagram: @oi.musica , @karinepolwart; and Facebook@oimusica; @soundhousechoir; @karinepolwart.

We asked Meg Thomas, Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem, to tell us about the work being done at Includem and how it relates to the wellbeing economy. Read her guest blog below.

At Includem, we work 24/7, 365 days a year, to support families when they need it the most. We provide intensive, bespoke support to young people and families in challenging circumstances, building solid relationships of trust to help young people realise their full potential.

For many of the young people and families we support, entrenched poverty is the most common and persistent issue they face. This has of course been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our families report regular issues affording the basics, telling us they struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, and cover the costs of internet access. Social security payments are too low, wages are often insufficient, and the cost of living is too high. This in turn has caused a deterioration in mental health.

That is why discussions of a wellbeing economy are so greatly welcomed – a shift towards a social understanding of the economy beyond the narrow parameters of GDP could provide a vital framework (and impetus) for policies that end poverty and give families such as those we support a strong and reliable financial foundation.

To develop a wellbeing economy, it is crucial that the voices of those at the margins of society – who face the sharpest consequences of current economic policy – are at its heart. The increased emphasis on lived experience in policy development across Scotland gives us reason to be hopeful this can happen.

Initiatives such as Get Heard Scotland enable those affected by poverty to have their voices heard on the policies and decisions that impact their lives; Youth Justice Voices has given young people with care and justice experience a direct route to shape national policy and practice; and The Promise has put those with experience of the care system it is set to transform, front and centre.

At Includem, we too have focussed on amplifying the voices of our young people and families, conducting research on Digital Access and Poverty to highlight the key issues they face, as well as ensuring young people’s lived experience shapes our policy submissions to the Scottish Government.

But while progress is being made in Scotland, there are significant engagement barriers that must be dismantled to ensure marginalised voices are fully and authentically involved at all stages and in all areas of policymaking, service design and delivery.

Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society.

A key obstacle is digital exclusion, an issue that has become particularly prominent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society. Their voices are lost in the process. It is imperative that children, young people, and families can participate in decisions that affect them, and digital access is a crucial pillar in ensuring these rights are upheld.

From our experience of delivering intensive family support services, we also know that both stigma and a distrust of statutory services can prevent young people and families from engaging – particularly as families in poverty are 10 times more likely to have their children on the child protection register and to come into care.

Regrettably, this is rarely considered in discussions of tackling poverty and centring the voices of lived experience. I was particularly struck by Dr Calum Webb’s piece on Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality where he remarks on reviewing thirteen of the top selling and topcited books on the topic of inequality, injustice, and its consequences, including four of the highest cited books on the public health consequences of inequality, only to discover none of these books had a dedicated chapter about child protection or social work.

Despite the fact that families in poverty are more likely to receive state intervention, the most deprived local authorities in England “have seen the greatest cuts to their preventative spending, fuelling more disruptive and damaging forms of intervention.”  I would argue that true preventative spending addresses the underlying causes of poverty, not the behaviours resulting from it. 

Fundamentally, parents should not fear being separated from their children because of poverty – a structural inequality which current economic and social policies perpetuate.

I am Australian. I had an aunt who was from Australia’s First Nation. She was one of Australia’s Stolen Generation where children were forcibly removed from their families solely due to race. If current practices continue, we risk having another stolen generation, this time due to poverty.

It is vital that young people and families are given the space to be open and honest about their experiences and struggles without fear or likelihood of consequences. If we do not urgently create such an environment, they will continue to be afraid of speaking out, go unheard by decision-makers, and their voices lost.

As a society, our collective mission must be to ensure that those who are most marginalised have their voices both heard and acted upon. Ultimately, all children, young people, and families should be able to exert their right to be heard. Only then can we truly shape a wellbeing economy for all. 

Meg Thomas is the Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem.

References

Bywaters, P., Scourfield, J., Jones, C., Sparks, T., Elliott, M., Hooper, J., McCarten, C., Shapira, M., Bunting, L., Daniel, B (2018) Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK
https://pure.hud.ac.uk/en/publications/child-welfare-inequalities-in-the-four-nations-of-the-uk

Includem (2020) Poverty and the Impact of Coronavirus on Young People and Families in Scotland
https://www.includem.org/resources/Poverty-and-the-Impact-of-Coronavirus-on-Young-People-and-Families—Includem—Oct-2020.pdf

Includem (2020) Staying Connected: Assessing digital inclusion during the coronavirus pandemic
https://www.includem.org/resources/staying-connected-includem-digital-inclusion-report-may-2020.pdf

The Poverty Alliance Get Heard Scotland
https://www.povertyalliance.org/get-involved/get-heard-scotland/

The Promise
https://www.thepromise.scot/

Staf and The Children’s and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) Youth Justice Voices
https://www.staf.scot/blogs/blogs/category/youth-justice-voices Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
https://socstudiesresearch.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/child-protection-and-removal-the-hidden-inequality/

Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
https://socstudiesresearch.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/child-protection-and-removal-the-hidden-inequality/


For further information on Includem’s policy and research work, including government consultation submissions, please see: https://www.includem.org/about-policy-research/

On Wednesday, 28th October, Holyrood and the RSA held their online conference, “Scotland: The Recovery”. Chaired by WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas, the event provided an opportunity for the public, private, and third sectors to gather and discuss how Scotland can move forward and build a post-pandemic society that works for everyone.

After initial remarks from Sarah, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, opened the event by sharing her aspirations for a wellbeing economy. Acknowledging that economic policy should be “a means, not an end”, the First Minister called for the people of Scotland to work together to deliver an economy that places “wellbeing alongside wealth”—not just as an afterthought, but as a vital part of Scotland’s post-pandemic economy.

Also speaking by video address was Rt. Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government. The Minister also emphasised his commitment for a green recovery.

In other words, now is the moment for a wellbeing economy.

Throughout the day, there were numerous discussions, panels, and guest speakers (including WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Katherine Trebeck). The dominant theme was everyone’s shared commitment to taking wellbeing economy ideas and discussing how best to turn them into permanent, lasting reforms.

Sarah explained the shared vision of a wellbeing economy in her opening remarks:

“With nations across the world taking unprecedented steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the global economy and society is bleak, with many challenges ahead. It’s also widely acknowledged that climate change poses a major threat, placing further crises on the horizon. So, as we seek to build back better, we must do so in a manner that builds resilience and addresses what’s not working in the current economic paradigm.

“It requires us to ask fundamental questions and explore ‘radical’ solutions. How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

“In other words, how do we build a ‘wellbeing economy’, transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet—the first time round.

“This requires us to consider questions like, what kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

“It’s recognised that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the root causes of societal problems—leading to ‘upstream’ preventative measures—rather than focusing mainly on ‘downstream’ measures, which involve cleaning up and redistributing after the fact. Whilst the latter are also important in the short term, we won’t escape the downward spiral by patching up after the event. Instead, we need upstream systems change.

“As a founding member of the WEGo partnership, alongside Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is already at the forefront of global efforts to build a new, inclusive economy focused on societal and environmental wellbeing. 

“So how do we do it? Today’s Holyrood event, in partnership with the RSA, brings together policymakers and thought leaders to explore that key question.”

As the conference came to an end, the closing keynote came from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, The Scottish Government. She spoke to Holyrood back in August about Scotland’s desire “to create a strong, resilient wellbeing economy”, and the need is just as prevalent today.

There’s still lots of work to do, but it truly is promising to see the wave of support for economic systems change that benefits everyone—including the key workers on whom we’ve relied so greatly this year.

Now is the moment to make it happen.

We asked Stephanie Mander, Senior Project Officer at Nourish Scotland and Co-ordinator of Scottish Food Coalition, to speak to WEAll about food insecurity and how it relates to Scotland’s wellbeing – both before and during the pandemic. Here’s what she had to say:


We’re fortunate to live in Scotland, a country where the leadership not only recognises the shortcomings of GDP as the measure of a country’s economic progress, but also actively seeks to position national success as directly tied to the wellbeing of the population.

Earlier this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “Scotland is redefining what it means to be a successful nation by focusing on the broader wellbeing of the population as well as the GDP of the country. The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing… Putting wellbeing at the heart of our approach means we can focus on a wider set of measures which reflect on things like the health and happiness of citizens.”

This is an inspiring vision, and in line with the goals of the Scottish Food Coalition[1] – who would love nothing more than to see the health and happiness of Scotland’s citizens be the impetus behind the governance of our food system. Access to a healthy, sustainable diet is a human right, and that right is not being realised by too many in Scotland. We’ve been pushing for a proper look at the food system, and a bit of oomph behind the political will to address the many challenges it is facing – i.e. diet-related illnesses, food waste, climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, neglect for workers’ rights and poor animal welfare.

Unfortunately, oomph has seldom characterised the Government’s work in this area. They have persisted with taking a siloed approach, trying to address these interconnected challenges in isolation. This has led to different Government departments creating separate and sometimes contradictory strategies according to disparate policy goals. Scottish Government has recognised that we need a more coherent, and joined-up approach, yet despite multiple commitments to a Bill to reform the food system (the Good Food Nation Bill), there have been years of delays, back-tracking, and watered-down policy commitments. Pressure from our Coalition, opposition parties, the public and many other stakeholders in the food system helped to bring the Bill back to the table.

The Bill was finally due to be introduced in Spring 2020 when the Government, understandably, took the decision to prioritise bills essential to coping with the pandemic. However, there remains a cruel irony that COVID-19 led to a delay in a Bill, which – as a result of the outbreak’s impact on our food system – is now needed more than ever.

Jobs: Food workers have suffered during this pandemic; those in the hospitality sector have taken a huge economic hit, with a higher proportion of furloughed staff (and expected redundancies) than any other profession. Additionally, they face great risk; workers in the food production and retail sectors have suffered some of the highest death rates from COVID-19.[2] Even before the pandemic, people working in the food and drink industry are amongst the most likely to face insecure employment; in-work poverty with zero-hours contracts is pervasive across the food sector.

Health: Diet-related illness have been definitively linked with vulnerability to COVID-19 – people with type 2 diabetes are 81% more likely to die from it. Obese people are 150% more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and severely obese people over 300% more likely. Even before the pandemic, poor diet was responsible for one in seven deaths in the UK – 90,000 a year – almost as fatal as smoking, which is responsible for 95,000 deaths a year.[3]

Food insecurity: In April 2020, the Food Foundation reported that in mid-April 2020, over 600,000 adults in Scotland were facing food insecurity.[4] This means that around 14% of the adult Scottish population are either skipping meals, having one meal a day, or being unable to eat for a whole day.[5]  Prior to the pandemic, Scotland was seeing rising numbers of food insecurity:  between April 2018 & September 2019, food banks in Scotland were giving out more than 1000 emergency food parcels on average every day.[6]

If current patterns continue, Trussell Trust has warned this could go up to food banks giving out six emergency food parcels per minute.[7] COVID–19 has not only worsened food security for those on low incomes; it has also created new vulnerabilities for people with previously secure incomes. 

While arguments around resilience in our food chain hit new heights on the political agenda following this year’s well-publicised supply issues, the need for a new approach has never been more apparent.

The Scottish Government has prioritised wellbeing throughout its navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic – demonstrated by the £120 million investment to support people facing barriers to accessing food. But the underlying issues facing the food system existed before the pandemic; they are deeply entrenched. Stronger policy levers are desperately needed to galvanise systemic change.

However, this crisis has also shown what a new system could look like. We’ve seen some great stories of adaptation, and a renewed appreciation in the positive offerings of the food system. The pervasive disruption has jolted consumers into shifting their attitudes – with many thinking beyond their weekly supermarket shop. The pandemic has spurred a surge in demand for food boxes, community deliveries from local producers, and a perceived move to healthier and more sustainable buying. People are thinking more about where their food comes from.

We’ve been having conversations with people from across Scotland and hearing their thoughts on what the pandemic has revealed about our food system.

“Before COVID-19, Beach House Café in Portobello was a café we liked to visit. Since COVID-19, it has become our main grocery shop. A shop that knows our name, will flex to our diaries and work commitments and has shown us great care, energy, and commitment throughout. They are a shining example of what COVID-19 has taught me: cherish our local food producers, businesses, and organisations, as they truly are key workers that deliver so much more than our cupboard basics.”

We’ve seen communities come together, recognising that food is about more than calories – it’s about mental as well as physical wellbeing:

“I was so grateful for fresh fruit and some food each week from Blackhill’s growing group. I was having panic attacks at the thought of having to go to the shops…. standing 2 metres apart for 30/40 minutes just to get into the shop was pretty stressful for me. I am able to face shops a bit easier now. The friendly faces and chats from the folk delivering these food packages was also so appreciated.”

“What COVID-19 has taught me is that growing your own food is as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health…  and with Brexit looming, increasingly my allotment has also signified food security.”

But there remains a recognition of the disconnect between the food system and the wellbeing of the population:

Stirling is surrounded by farmland. Farmland is a 10-minute walk away from anywhere in the city centre – yet despite great need, we were unable to source Stirling-grown fruit or vegetables throughout all of lockdown.”

Frustratingly, there is not enough time before the next Scottish election to introduce the Good Food Nation Bill. But COVID-19 has shown us beyond a doubt that reform is needed.

The Scottish Food Coalition will continue to call for the introduction of the Good Food Nation Bill, with human rights at its heart.

More people are at the sharp end of systemic inequalities and inadequacies in our food system and the shortcomings in its governance. They should not have to continue to bear this burden. Legislators must learn lessons from COVID-19 that they have consistently failed to learn before this crisis. The Government must act now to ensure we realise our human right to food.

All we are saying is: give wellbeing a chance.


[1] The Scottish Food Coalitionis an alliance of small-scale farmers and growers, academics, workers’ unions, and charities focused on the environment, health, poverty, and animal welfare. The coalition has over 35 members including RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland, STUC, UNISON Scotland, Unite, Nourish Scotland, Trussell Trust, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, Scottish Care and Leith Crops in Pots. http://www.foodcoalition.scot

[2] https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/partone/

[3] ibid

[4] https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Report_COVID19FoodInsecurity-final.pdf

[5] ibid

[6] https://news.stv.tv/scotland/crisis-warning-as-1000-food-parcels-handed-out-every-day?top

[7] https://www.bigissue.com/latest/foodbanks-could-give-out-six-food-parcels-every-minute-this-winter/

WEAll Scotland is delighted to welcome three new trustees to our board: Gillian Harkness, Charlotte Millar, and Siri Pantzar.

Our board oversee the work that our dedicated team carry out, and they’re also active in representing the organisation and contributing to our activities, both in public and behind the scenes.

Read on to learn a bit about each of our new trustees!

Gillian Harkness

Gillian is a commercial, corporate and charities lawyer working with public and third sector clients, and with those private sector organisations interested in engaging with the public and third sectors (including as part of the wellbeing economy).  Gillian is passionate about the part that social enterprise and the wider third sector can play in shaping the economy and in “building back better”.

Charlotte Millar

Charlotte is a leader and strategist for systems change, with expertise in collaborative leadership, organisational development and coaching. She developed this expertise through co-founding the Finance Innovation Lab and the New Economy Organisers Network and growing them to scale. In both organisations, she led on strategy, culture, leadership development, diversity and inclusion and coaching. She was twice winner of NESTA’s New Radicals award and was recognised in 2019 as one of the UK’s 100 most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise.

Siri Pantzar

Siri is passionate about imagining a future that is not only adequate, safe and sustainable, but also fulfilling and exciting—for all of us—and then working towards that future. She is currently working with Climate Outreach, a climate change communications charity, as an Executive Assistant. Her background is in community charity work in Edinburgh, and she has supported several young charities in fundraising, systems development and governance, helping them acquire the necessary tools to work effectively towards their mission. Siri has a master’s degree in Global Environment, Politics and Society from the University of Edinburgh.

Want to learn more about the team and what we do? Check out the WEAll Scotland team page to find out more.

WEAll Scotland response to the Programme for Government in Scotland
Lukas Hardt and Katherine Trebeck; 28 September 2020

Earlier this month, the Scottish government published its Programme for Government, setting out its plans until the election for the Scottish parliament next year and explicitly committing to building a wellbeing economy in Scotland; an economy that is “fairer, greener, more prosperous”.

We welcome that commitment. And lot of the measures go in a promising direction.

For example, the government recognises that rebuilding the economy after COVID needs to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation and other environmental goals. The promised investment in energy efficient buildings, green sectors, tree planting and peatland restoration is important and to be welcomed, even if it still falls short of the scale necessary.

There are nods to the importance of social enterprises, community wealth building and the 20-minute neighbourhood. Some money is provided for cycling infrastructure. The emerging Scottish National Investment Bank could be used to provide the long-term investment we need for a just and green transition. The Youth Guarantee could be a great way to provide meaningful, well-paid job opportunities (although it could also become another way to subsidise poverty wages). Adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law gives society real power to hold the government to account.

But, despite the promising direction, the Programme for Government doesn’t live up to the ambition of a wellbeing economy. Building a wellbeing economy is about transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet, the first time round. That last phrase is important, because the Programme for Government, and much of our social policy debate in Scotland, is still too much about cleaning up and redistributing after the fact.

What do we mean by that? Our current socio-economic model is failing because it tries to deliver good lives, but does so by taking the long way round. The approach can be described in three steps1:

  1. Get the economy to grow bigger, but don’t fret too much about the damage to people or the environment that this does.
  2. Second, sequester a chunk out of this economy via taxes.
  3. Third, channel some of this money into helping people and the planet to cope with step number 1.

The limits of this approach are clear – it implicitly concedes to damage and harm being done to people and planet by stage 1; such damage is now so great that actions in Step 3 cannot keep up, so people and planet are inadequately repaired; and in a world of finite resources and ever-more apparent limits to growth, the risks of step 1 are mounting.

Unfortunately, the main thrust of the Programme for Government seems largely confined to such a model. Step 1 policies include the £100 million “Green Jobs Fund” or the “Inward Investment Plan” aimed to boost GDP. Yes, the government is now putting a strong green slant on such policies, which is good, but fundamentally such policies are still about stimulating more growth within the current system. That won’t work.

On the other end, the government needs to spend heavily on Step 3 policies to patch up social inequalities and environmental damage.

Consider the high-profile announcement of a Scottish Child Payment and Child Winter Heating Assistance; or the Tenant’s Hardship Loan facility, which will help tenants, but is only shifting their debt from landlords to the government; or the £150 million of additional funding quietly earmarked for additional flood protection measures (and, while you’re at it, compare the latter amount to the Green Jobs Fund – telling isn’t it?). Such policies are good and important if we are to take care of people in the face of an economic system that generates inequality, financial insecurity and poverty and climate chaos.

But the real tragedy is that they are necessary in the first place.

Heralding redistribution as progress and patting ourselves on the back for helping people survive and cope with the current system is a sad reflection of how low our ambitions are.

A wellbeing economy is about attending to root causes – looking upstream. Designing the nature and configuration of the economy so it enables people to live good lives first time around rather than allowing so much damage to be done – often in some outdated and misguided pursuit of growth – and then thinking we’ve done well when we patch up that damage. A wellbeing economy agenda asks more of the economy. It starts from the premise we can no longer be content to patch and heal and repair – we need to construct the economic system in a way that delivers social justice on a healthy planet. From the outset.

Building a wellbeing economy requires changing the rules of the game and redesigning our institutions, our infrastructure and our laws. It means embracing the potential of pre-distribution rather than re-distribution and measuring our progress in a way that is better aligned with what is really needed. We already have lots of ideas on how to do this.

Some of what is needed is already being done in Scotland – just too tentatively. Take support for alternative business models that put people and planet before profits, such as worker-owned cooperatives or social enterprises. There are good steps towards community wealth building to keep wealth in the place where it is created and reform of land ownership rules (and that of other assets). The National Performance Framework is starting to broaden goals away from simply GDP growth – but hasn’t yet knocked GDP off its ill-deserved pedestal.

While the Scottish government’s powers are limited, it could use planning and procurement and business support much more proactively to cultivate the sort of business activities required for a wellbeing economy. Radical transformative action can be done in small steps. It is time that it takes its own rhetoric on the wellbeing economy seriously and initiates transformative change.


[1]Trebeck, K., and Williams, J., 2019. The economics of arrival: Ideas for a grown up economy. Policy Press, Bristol, p. 86

Blog by Isabel Nuesse

Busy as ever, Katherine Trebeck, WEAll’s Influencing and Advocacy Lead, has been speaking on panels, podcasts, webinars and academic lectures to encourage stakeholders to take a hard look at the feasibility of building back better to a wellbeing economy.

In Scotland, she continues to work alongside the WEAll Scotland Hub to influence the Scottish Government to move beyond GDP, to adopt wellbeing economic policies and serve as an example for the rest of the world.

Diminishing Marginal Returns

On August 28th, Katherine Trebeck spoke at the SURF Festival, opening with a few major issues in the current system, which are underpinned by our dependence on growth and GDP.

Those countries that have ‘arrived’ (i.e. have the capacity to provide decent living for their residents) experience diminishing marginal returns of growth i.e. where growth is no longer improving our quality of life. Instead, growth is driving failure demand: public spending on patching up the damage created in the pursuit of more growth.

An example of this reactive and avoidable spending is in the ‘guard labour’ industry, which is thriving because widening inequalities has made people afraid of one another. Meanwhile, individually, we are spending on pseudo satisfiers to fulfill our need of belonging – something that our economic and social system should be enabling.

Watch her entire presentation here.

Demographics and COVID

Most recently, Katherine spoke to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in Scottish Parliament. She begins by speaking about what demographics in our economy are most affected by the COVID pandemic.

She cites research which concludes that Black and Minority communities have shouldered more risk during the pandemic, as have women. Women were already more likely to feature in front-line sectors or service-based sectors of the economy. In addition to this increased exposure, as a result of the pandemic, women have also had to take on additional burdens of childcare and domestic work.

Hope for the future

However, Katherine also sheds light on positive developments, like the now mainstream questions around the necessity of business travel. She also mentioned the enormous increase of the gift economy. That has kept communities and families going, even though this is not accounted for in the GDP measurement.

Watch the full video of Katherine and the other prominent speakers discuss Building Back Better in Scotland post COVID-19.  

Global Ethical Finance Initiative – Ethical Finance 2020

Monday 5th – Thursday 8th October 2020

Virtual event

The premier event advocating finance for positive change.

Ethical Finance 2020 will take place from 5th to 8th October 2020; a 4-day virtual gathering of banks, investors, asset owners, regulators and development agencies from across the globe to explore the transition to a sustainable financial system where capital drives positive change.

Register for free here.

Topics that will be explored:

  • Policy and Regulation – the role of banking sector in hitting zero carbon targets
  • Climate-related financial risk and climate smart lending
  • SDGs/Principles for Responsible Banking
  • Green/sustainable FinTech
  • ESG integration across asset classes & avoiding “green washing”
  • Bridging the SDG financing gap
  • Asset owner challenge – decarbonising portfolios: The Debate – engage v divest
  • Unravelling the investment opportunities for the circular economy

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Fiona Reynolds, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment
  • Chris Stark, CEO, UK Committee on Climate Change
  • David Pitt Watson, Consultant Investor & Author
  • Professor John Kay, Author & Economist
  • Hiro Mizuno, Board Member, Tesla & Former CIO, GPIF
  • Keith Skeoch, CEO, Aberdeen Standard Investments
  • Peter Blom, CEO, Triodos Bank
  • Heather McGregor, Executive Dean, Edinburgh Business School
  • Simon Thompson, CEO, Chartered Banker Institute
  • Dame Susan Rice, Chair, Banking Standards Board
  • James Anderson, Partner, Baillie Gifford
  • Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, CEO, Green Finance Institute

More speakers are listed on ethicalfinance2020.com

This year the summit forms part of our pathtocop26.com campaign that is helping to build momentum towards the COP26 UN Climate Summit taking place in Glasgow in 2021.

Get the full details and register here.

By Dr Gemma Bone Dodds, Trustee (Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland)

This article was originally published in the Friends of the Earth Scotland members magazine, What on Earth 81: How We Build Back Better.

We are at a pivotal moment in human history. Across the world, humanity is going through a shared experience like never before. We have all felt fear, despair, and bewilderment at the vast transformation of our lives as this virus has spread rapidly across every continent. 

But this experience has also been experienced very differently and those for whom the economy was not working before the crisis have suffered the most from it. Women. Ethnic minorities. Precarious workers. Inequality causes deaths, and Covid-19 exacerbates this. Poor housing, cold, damp and overcrowded. Insufficient income to provide enough food, medicine, heat and power. Insecure jobs, dangerous and unsanitary conditions. All of these factors have put the most vulnerable on the front line of this epidemic. 

Our economy has been consistently telling some people “You are unskilled, you are undeserving, you are low paid”. Yet during this crisis, this ruse – this false vision of the world and of worth – has been unmasked. Instead, with a fearful cry “You must go out to work. Keep the economy going. We need you. You are our key workers. You are our heroes.”

Our response to this crisis has been centred on care. We care for each other by staying at home. Our NHS workers, cleaners, doctors, porters, nurses, paramedics, GPs and receptionists have stepped up, as they always do, to care for those who fall ill, often at great cost to themselves. Our care workers, often some of the lowest paid and least valued workers in society, have stepped across the thresholds of our care homes, knowingly entering a dangerous place, to care for our most precious loved ones. Our communities have set up mutual aid groups, caring for our neighbours and each other. 

The basis of humanity is care. This crisis has proven it to be so. But our economy, far from recognising this fundamental need we have, to care and be cared for, seeks to create conditions which make care difficult. Long working hours. Insufficient parental leave. Low wages and high living costs. A manufactured drive to consume. Quantity over quality. 

Enough. There is another way.

wellbeing economy

What if our economy could celebrate, recognise and enable the conditions for us all to care and be cared for? What if we could explicitly design an economy that enables us all to thrive and live on a healthy planet? 

We can. And we must. 

We at Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland work to show that there is another way. We believe that it is possible to design and create an economy that works for both people and planet. End discrimination and precarious work. Work less and have more time to care. Ensure sufficiency for all. Live within our planetary means. 

This is not a utopian ideal (unlike endless growth on a finite planet). We can see the shape of the world we can create in the present. There is much that already exists that we can build upon, especially in Scotland. These are the foundations upon which we will build back better including: basic income, circular economies, just transition, community wealth building, the Scottish National Investment Bank and more. We have an engaged and innovative civil society movement full of ideas and the passion to make them happen. We have fantastic businesses and social enterprises who are already showing how to do business better. We have a Government that is willing to talk about the environment, inclusivity and creating a wellbeing economy. 

But what is built back after the crisis will depend on how brave we are to let go of the old world, which may feel safe and normal and comforting. We must be willing to ask radical questions and explore innovative solutions. We cannot collapse into old patterns. This can also be exciting – to create, dream and design. It is a journey for which we must prepare, but with the ultimate aim of getting to our destination: a caring wellbeing economy which works for people and the planet. 

If our destination has changed, we also need a different measure of progress, one richer and more illustrative of how we are doing as a society. For me, there is no more beautiful way to show the difference between the old and the new than the example used by my colleague Dr Katherine Trebeck. Rather than measure GDP, she asks, “Why not ask countries to measure the number of girls riding bikes to school?”

pink and white bicycle beside gray metal rail

Where GDP gives us an idea of our economic output, girls on bikes tells us so much more. For example, if girls are riding bikes to school then: girls are going to school, bikes are a common mode of transport, it is safe for children to cycle, there is likely to be less pollution, we are likely to be healthier, girls are empowered and unafraid – and if more girls cycle to school, then more boys will, too. 

An economy that measures progress through girls on bikes would be a caring economy. It would focus on creating the conditions we need to care for one another and the planet. It will be hard for us to get there, and we will need to plan our journey as we go, but we all know we need to make it. There is too much at stake to do anything less.

In August 2020, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and North Ayrshire Council became the first two local authorities to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance as members. Both councils have shown leadership with their leading “build back better” campaigns, which seek to revitalize their local economies through a green, sustainable recovery.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

(Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region)

The announcement of Liverpool City Region’s membership follows the release of its economic recovery plan, Building Back Better. The plan provides a blueprint for how the City Region will recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic by building an economy that is globally competitive, environmentally responsible and socially inclusive.

The plan has four key themes—the business ecosystem, people-focused recovery, place, and a green recovery—and includes proposals for a £1.4bn investment from Government that would unlock £8.8bn worth of projects and create more than 120,000 jobs. This includes the Mersey Tidal Power project, which can contribute to the UK’s long-term sustainable energy mix, while creating employment for thousands.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “When I said that there was no going back to normal after the crisis, I meant it. That means building a society that focuses on the five Es: employment, the environment, the eco system, the economy and essential workers.

“I want the Liverpool City Region to be the most inclusive, fair and socially just economy in the country. Our economic recovery plan lays out how we’ll do that and I’m proud that we are is the first governmental body in the world to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). I look forward to working with them, sharing ideas from all over the world and making Liverpool City Region a model of how we can make the economy work for people, and not the other way round.”

North Ayrshire Council

(The North Ayrshire Council Building at Cunninghame House in Irvine)

When North Ayrshire Council became the first Scottish local authority to join WEAll, the council had already introduced its pioneering green recovery plan, based on community wealth building (CWB). CWB involves spending public money locally, keeping wealth generated within the local area, encouraging community ownership and using land and property in a socially just way to boost the local economy and tackle poverty and inequality.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council and Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building, said: “We are delighted to be teaming up with WEAll and look forward to speaking to a range of influential thinkers who can help inspire us as we look to radically overhaul what we are doing here in North Ayrshire.

“We are in the midst of a global recession and now is the time to be bold, think differently and build a new economy. That new economy must work for the benefit of people and planet, ending decades of an extractive economic model that has worked for neither and has saw inequality soar to record levels.

“That’s what we want to achieve through our Community Wealth Building strategy which, post-COVID, will help us build back better, fairer and greener…

“WEAll are leading the case for an economy that values the wellbeing of people and planet and I am excited by the opportunity to work with them to realise our joint ambitions for a fairer future.”

Some Thoughts from the WEAll Team

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll, said of Liverpool’s joining: “The role of government in transforming how our economies operate cannot be underestimated. So governments at all levels are natural partners for the wellbeing economy movement. WEAll is thrilled to welcome the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as a member of our diverse network. WEAll is excited to learn from them, connect them with our members, and amplify their pioneering work, which demonstrates that a wellbeing economy is not just what is needed, but with political will, it is entirely possible.”

Sarah Deas, trustee at WEAll Scotland and chair of North Ayrshire’s expert advisory group on Community Wealth Building, said: “North Ayrshire Council was the first Scottish local authority to commit to Community Wealth Building and is now the first to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). The Council appreciates that direct local action can achieve systems change, enabling the economy to deliver human and ecological wellbeing.

“Through participating in the WEAll network, the Councils will inspire others to adopt similar pioneering approaches while benefiting from ideas and innovations from across the world.”

The use of the term, ‘Wellbeing Economy’ has been increasing with Scotland being an official member and organiser of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, WEGo.

On Thursday 27th August, 75+ economic development practitioners gathered at a Consultation hosted by the Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS) and WEAll, to exchange ideas about how Scotland can further develop wellbeing economy policies and discuss the practical implementation of a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland.

Dr Robert Pollock, Managing Director, Regional Development Solutions and EDAS Board Member and Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead, introduced WEAll’s Policy Design Guidebook. The Guidebook aims to support policymakers looking to introduce wellbeing economy policies in their respective spheres, with a focus on the ‘how to’: presenting specific policymaking principles and processes to turn ideas into actions.

WEAll Scotland’s Gemma Bone Dodds, set the stage for the discussion of actualising a wellbeing economy in Scotland, by presenting the wellbeing economy policies that already exist in Scotland and where there are potential gaps. Breakout groups then explored possible next steps to move Scotland beyond a Wellbeing Economy framework and vision, and toward policy implementation.

Gary Gillespie, Chief Economic Adviser from the Scottish Government, closed by discussing the WEGo partnership and Scotland’s development of their national performance framework.

Get Involved

The input from the Consultation supports a participatory process that is vital to the Guidebook‘s creation. If you are a policy maker interested in reviewing or supporting with the guides development please contact Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead.

Submit a ‘Wellbeing Economy Case Study

As the Wellbeing Economy space is new, policies supporting the health of people and planet are often not recognised as “wellbeing economy policies”. In order to inspire policy makers on their journey to creating wellbeing economy policies, WEAll is looking for case studies from around the world — especially from the Global South –that are examples of wellbeing economy processes (e.g. participatory policy processes) and outcomes (e.g. bold wellbeing policies). Please share relevant case studies here by August 31st, 2020.

On 12th August 2020, the Office for National Statistics announced that the UK’s GDP had fallen 20.4% in the second quarter, putting the UK into its worst recession since records began. Following the UK’s prolonged lockdown, this drop in Gross Domestic Product is more severe than losses seen in the US and the Eurozone.

The impact of COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially those who have become ill or lost loved ones. For many, it’s been a prompt to take stock of what really matters, placing a greater emphasis on individual and community wellbeing.

At WEAll, we’re passionate about advancing the wellbeing economy concept: an economic system purpose-built to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. Within a wellbeing economy, humanity determines economics, not the other way around.

So when we see figures like this—that GDP has fallen by 20.4%—it’s important to clarify what this data means and what it does (and doesn’t) tell us about the state of society.

No one should argue that these are not difficult times, with furloughs and redundancies widespread and social isolation still a reality for many people. In terms of the actual numbers we use to measure our country’s economic health, however, we propose that GDP is a skewed figure that reveals little about the wellbeing of the millions of people who keep the economy running, each and every day.

GDP doesn’t see the outpouring of community support, for example, and it neglects our country’s renewed focus on nature. It measures cash transactions, which include drug dealing, but ignores volunteer work and caring duties.

Find new oil? GDP goes up. Start a community garden? No impact.

Have to deal with flooding caused by global warming or medical treatment to cope with heatwaves? GDP will see that as a good thing. Spend more time with your family and friends? GDP isn’t interested.

Take your car into a congested city? GDP loves that. Jump on your bike and use one of the new cycle lanes? GDP doesn’t care.

The last few months have seen big hits to restaurants, education, the arts, public transport, and even healthcare—all sectors which are very important to the wellbeing economy, not to mention to their workers. However, even here the GDP statistics do not tell the full story. Childcare and education did not disappear. For better or for worse, it just happened at home. We are seeing our friends and family less than we would like to, but we still see them. It’s just that many of us now go for a walk in the park rather than for a meal in a restaurant. These activities still have value, but they are simply not captured by GDP.

We can all agree on the need to rebuild, but it’s imperative that we build back better instead of simply returning to the status quo, which works only for the few and often neglects the very key workers on whom we all rely. We are just not convinced that GDP is the most useful measure of how Scotland builds back better, renews, or recovers. See our recent response to comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, to learn more about the myth of “green growth”.

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll and co-founder of WEAll Scotland, has long campaigned for alternative measures of progress to GDP. One such alternative to GDP she points to is to focus on things like the number of girls riding bikes to school. It might sound radical at first, says Katherine, but just think of the contextual factors that need to be in place in order for higher numbers of girls on bikes (and in education) to improve.

There are tough times behind us, and no doubt there will be tough times ahead. So moving forward, let’s build a stronger economy that works for all of us, not just those who benefit from outdated measures of success like GDP.

by Rabia Abrar

Recent comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, have caused quite a stir. WEAll would like to address his claims about how growth is the best way to build a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland.

“A market economy is well capable of responding to environmental change and delivering wellbeing”.

The current state of the world is proof that this is not the case.

The economic model that dominates policy making has strangled our imaginations and our sense of possibility: the current economy is seen as the only kind of economy that we can have – and changing it would bring society to its knees. But, we’re already there.

Our world is facing multiple crises: rising inequality, accelerating climate breakdown and rapid biodiversity loss. These issues are interconnected and stem from the same core problem: our economies are structured, governed, and measured to promote short-term growth over long-term stability.

A focus on ‘growth’ is not supporting the wellbeing of society. That’s why we see widening economic inequalities; increasing levels of insecurity, despair and loneliness; and the emergence of coping mechanisms that turn people inwards or against each other – all while trust in institutions withers away.

A focus on ‘growth’ is not supporting the wellbeing of our planet. Our home is on the brink of the 6th mass extinction with the prospect of catastrophic climate breakdown getting closer and closer. In the last 40 years, humanity as a whole has gone from using one planet’s worth of natural resources each year, to using one and a half, and is on course to using three planets worth by 2050.

Governments have responded to both crises with a suite of (often inadequate) amelioration measures, such as:

  • Redistributing after the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has opened up
  • Cleaning up after floods and storms caused by climate change
  • Providing respiratory medicines after peoples’ asthma is exacerbated by pollution

While these are vital measures to help people cope with today’s circumstances – they are reactive measures that could be avoided in a wellbeing economy, which attends to their root causes.

“The recovery for Scotland has to be green, it has to be fair and it needs to be inclusive, but it needs to have economic growth”.

We disagree that a wellbeing economy is about generating “strong economic growth”.

A wellbeing economy would ask: “What sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing? What sort of lives do people want to live and what sort of economy can enable that?”

Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘green’ modifiers to ‘growth’ does not answer either of these vital questions.

In a true wellbeing economy approach, business, politics and economic activity would exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing – while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.

We are not against growth in GDP per se, but we are against the idea that GDP growth should be the top priority. We should only pursue growth in those areas of the economy that contribute to collective wellbeing and shrink those areas of the economy that damage it.

We do not need growth in GDP to achieve wellbeing.

What we need to be happy is security, comfort, social connections, a healthy environment and a feeling of belonging in our community(ies).

“A wellbeing economy needs growth to pay for itself”.

Growing GDP is incredibly expensive.

In our current economic system, growth in GDP is demanded as a means to pay for services that people need. But very often, these services are needed to fix the harm to people, communities and the environment that is created by a growth-driven economy. The costs of this ‘failure demand’ are enormous. For example, poverty in the UK alone, costs £78 billion every year.

A wellbeing economy would deliver good lives for people the first time around, and thus avoid having to deliver expensive down-stream interventions to fix the damage caused by growth-focused economies.

While avoiding these costs, wellbeing economy policies could also deliver benefits such as job creation in a growing renewables sector and the circular economy; improvements in health and economic and social resilience due to better environmental quality and equality.

Building a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland will require a different approach.

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

The recovery period following the COVID-19 pandemic is a window of opportunity for Scotland to lead the world in truly putting collective wellbeing at the heart of economic policy making.

Imagine an economy, that by its very design, ended inequality and environmental destruction and delivered good lives for everyone, everywhere.

That’s better than growth.

Rabia Abrar
Communications Lead, WEAll.

#BuildBackBetterScot #BuildBackBetter #betterthangrowth

Earlier this month, the WEGo partnership was featured in the 2020 edition of WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, which outlines how we can restore our relationship with nature to realise the promise of the SDGs and Leave No One Behind.

Individually, the 17 SDGs define key areas of progress for humanity. Delivered together, they will transform the world and create prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

The publication gives inspirational examples of where each of the 17 SDGs have been put into practice – ranging from Supporting Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Myanmar to Renewable energy solutions for better health and energy security in Karachi, Pakistan.

In WEAll’s article, we discussed how to shift toward a Sustainable and Just economy – one that promotes wellbeing for all. 

Action on the SDGs in the next ten years is not possible without a fundamental transformation of our economic system.

In order to do this, WEAll’s membership has developed the 5 priorities a wellbeing economy should deliver on.

‘We All Need’:

  1. Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
  2. Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
  3. Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
  4. Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
  5. Participation: Citizens actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.

These principles guide the work of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

WEGo member states have achieve great successes in mainstreaming social equity and ecological restoration – in line with the SDGs:

Read all of the inspiring examples of the shift toward a wellbeing economy in the WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, here.

The Repair Stop, a new community repair enterprise, is opening in Glasgow on 21 July. Sophie Unwin, founder and director of the Remade Network, shares her thoughts on how community repair enterprises such as The Repair Stop can provide a model on building a greener, fairer world.

As the Remade Network launches its new, collaborative community repair project in Glasgow, Katherine Trebeck’s words resonate with me:

“The economic model that has become so dominant is called all sorts of things: neoliberal, market fundamentalist, overly financialised, extractive, and toxic. What it is called doesn’t matter so much as how it has strangled our imaginations and our sense of possibility.”

We know the scale of the challenge that we face in our world is huge. Oppression, inequality, waste, and pollution are in every corner. Headed in one direction, it looks like an inevitable move to a certain dystopia – where we blindly consume and compete instead of sharing resources and showing empathy to each other.

As bad as things could get, it perhaps allows us to dream big of a better world that we would like to see. But for those of us – like me – who have reached our middle age, our hopes are inevitably tempered with a sense of realism. We have heard new ideas and slogans come and go, from sustainable development to the triple bottom line. And we know that real change can be hard won, as it speaks of shifts to the status quo.

Could a wellbeing economy offer us something new?

“As bad as things could get, it perhaps allows us to dream big of a better world that we would like to see.”

For me, building an economy based on repair skills – the work I’ve carried out over the last 12 years, which has grown from London to Edinburgh and now Glasgow – chimes closely with what the Wellbeing Economy Alliance advocates. This is a regenerative economy, one that prevents waste at its source rather than just recycling materials; a collaborative economy where we work with other community groups and Glasgow City Council; and a business model with purpose and shared values at its heart.

In January this year, we started work in earnest with five other organisations: Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Repair Café Glasgow, Glasgow Tool Library, The Pram Project, and Glasgow City Council. Meeting each fortnight, we developed a collaborative business plan, for which the City Council granted us a social enterprise start-up grant.

Then came COVID-19.

With no social contact allowed, we started meeting online and had to pivot our plans. But we also had space to share ideas, discuss our values, and reflect on what was really important to us. From April, Remade Network has grown from three members of staff to seven, and this July we open our new project – The Repair Stop.

Based at Govanhill Baths’ Deep End on Nithsdale Street in Govanhill, The Repair Stop will offer affordable repairs, priced at £5 or £10, and accept donations of unwanted laptops, phones, tablets, and prams that we will fix, redistribute, and sell on.

And, thanks to contracts with both Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government, we will be distributing 500 desktop computers to vulnerable people across the city. People like Mohamed from the Somali Association, who will ensure the computers help people find jobs, access basic services, and stay in touch with their families. And people like Elaine, a single mum whose son, Maxwell, has struggled to do his schoolwork since COVID, as they don’t have a working computer at home.

The C-40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have recently published some principles about a green recovery, and some of these speak to the project:

  • Excellent public services, public investment, and increased community resilience will form the most effective basis for the recovery
  • The recovery must address issues of equity that have been laid bare by the impact of the crisis
  • The recovery must improve the resilience of our cities and communities

Equity and resilience are so vital here. It is the people who consume the least who are most impacted by pollution and environmental problems. But it is also those people, and poorer communities, who often hold a wealth of creativity and ideas. Poorer communities are already used to being resourceful and resilient.

As the Aboriginal leader Lilla Watson says, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Moving away from extractive to regenerative economies also means valuing indigenous knowledge, the skills and ideas that are already in place when we come to start work on a new project. Without this basic attitude of respect and curiosity, how can we achieve anything meaningful?

We firmly believe that repair can help us build a better world post-COVID and help regenerate forgotten places. It values and draws on people’s skills and creativity, as each repair is different, and it creates new jobs – repairing creates 10 times as many jobs as recycling. Finally, it brings people together and helps build community. Repair is not a new idea, but it is one whose time has come.

As the Wellbeing Economy Alliance reminds us, “Humanity defines economics, not the other way around.” In many ways, this could be a motto for social enterprise as a whole – business and profit is not the end in itself, but a means to harness our core values and create a better world.

You can visit the Repair Stop at 21 Nithsdale Street in Glasgow, open 12-2pm Monday to Saturday, from 21 July, for repairs of household items and to donate unwanted and broken laptops, phones, tablets and prams. For more information, email repair@remade.network, visit www.remade.network, or follow @remadenetwork on Twitter and Facebook.

(Photography credit: Hollin Jones)

Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland is seeking to recruit three or four trustees from a variety of backgrounds to join our board and drive forward our work to support positive change.

You will be passionate about the need for economic system change, and you will have a good understanding of the issues facing our economy, society, and natural environment. You should be confident that you can make a valuable contribution to our work and comfortable with working at board level.

The board plays a vital role setting WEAll Scotland’s strategy, overseeing a small core team and the projects that we deliver as well as acting as ambassadors of the charity. Trustees will be appointed for an initial period of up to 3 years with potential for extension. The commitment required is a minimum of one day per quarter (attending board meeting and preparation), but we would also expect trustees to take an active role and interest in the charity beyond attending meetings – for example, by attending public events on behalf of WEAll, providing some project oversight, and taking on pieces of work for and on behalf of the board.

We are particularly looking for trustees with fundraising, organisation building, legal expertise, and governance experience.

There is no remuneration; however, all necessary travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed. Previous board experience is not a requirement.

We aim at all times to recruit the person who is most suited to the job and welcome applications from people of all backgrounds – men and women, people of all ages, sexual orientations, nationalities, religions and beliefs.  However, we particularly encourage applications from women, disabled, and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, as these groups are underrepresented on boards in Scotland.

If you feel you have the passion, experience, and commitment, please send a cover letter setting out why you are interested in the role and your CV to scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org

The closing date for applications is 24th July 2020.

Background:

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is a new global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements, and individuals working together to change the economic system to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing.  At a time when a global pandemic has caused deep social, economic, and environmental shocks, many people are radically rethinking the kind of future they want. There has never been a more important time to be part of the work to build an economy that works for people and planet, internationally and here in Scotland.

Scotland is a key player in the global movement for a wellbeing economy. Across Scotland, the purpose of the economy and the dominant model of growth is being reconsidered, with pioneering projects springing up within different sectors. WEAll Scotland will connect these initiatives, amplify narratives and create a safe space for government, businesses, and society to question the current economic model and champion bold new policies.

Visit https://wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland to learn more.

This week, WEAll joined Social Enterprise Scotland in a webinar: ‘Time for Change – New Economy’ on the role businesses can play in creating a Wellbeing Economy.

Three great speakers joined the session: Michael Roy (Glasgow Caledonian University), Michael Weatherhead( Wellbeing Economy Alliance) and Julie McLachlan (North Ayrshire Council).

If you missed it, you can watch the webinar recording here.

WEAll’s Michael Weatherhead covered takeaways from our Business of Wellbeing Guide, from the 19 minute to the 39 minute mark, including:

  • Analysis of the dimensions businesses need to deal with when trying to contribute to building a wellbeing economy, from leadership to accounting for impact;
  • Case studies of pioneering businesses to inspire what’s possible;
  • Expert views on how to navigate transformation;
  • A self-assessment tool to help decision makers plan their next steps.

Download the PDF guide here – or explore extracts in our dedicated Business of Wellbeing web portal.

Today, 22 June 2020, the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery published its report, ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’.

As an organisation whose purpose is to support the creation of a wellbeing economy in Scotland we are excited to see the prominence given to this goal in the report’s title.

Our initial sense is that there are parts to praise and unfortunately parts that fall short in recognising the type of transformation that could truly transform Scotland into a wellbeing economy.

We welcome the ‘four pillars’ approach laid out in the report, which gives business, people, community, and the environment balanced priority. This is an important step to designing a wellbeing economy, although a true wellbeing economy approach goes one step further to say that business and economic activity must be designed to serve people and planet, not thrive alongside them. After all, what is the benefit of an economy if it does not directly serve the people who sustain it?  We would also add that conflating business with the economy in the four pillars seems to miss the vital role of unpaid role of care and social reproduction in families and communities in supporting the market economy. This would be a serious blind spot for a country where the gender equality discussion is better than in other localities.

We are also concerned at the extent to which a desire for ‘growth’ still features prominently in the report’s language. What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

Indeed, the answers are the crux of what separates a traditional, growth-driven system from a true wellbeing economy. A wellbeing economy is one that is purposed and designed explicitly for human and ecological wellbeing – economic activity in service of these higher order goals.

In the report’s foreword, Benny Higgins (who led the group tasked with compiling the report’s recommendations) states: ‘Scotland had the ambition to become a robust, wellbeing economy. That is one that generates strong economic growth… and that does so with an unequivocal focus on climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality’. We disagree that a wellbeing economy is about generating “strong economic growth” – a wellbeing economy would ask: ‘what sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing?’ It is about the economy (and growth where necessary) being in service of delivering collective wellbeing.

For example, we welcome the emphasis on conditionality in business support and recommendations such as a jobs guarantee: the post-covid economy cannot be one where businesses get away with social and environmental harm while young people see their future ebbing away.

Recognition that a wellbeing economy attends to climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality is promising to hear. The report rightly gives prominent focus to green recovery tests, and to circular economy principles.

Again though – and crucially – to truly initiate a wellbeing economy, the restructure must be designed to enable people and planet to flourish while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.

The Advisory Group’s report is a good starting point, and we welcome the embrace of the ‘wellbeing economy’ concept. The conversation can’t end here – not least when creating a wellbeing economy requires substantial economic transformation. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Government, businesses, and the wider public as we all move into this new era of economic recovery. Scotland has an opportunity to lead the world in truly putting collective wellbeing at the heart of economic policy making and creating an economy that delivers for people and planet first time around.

Katherine Trebeck (WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead) has been advocating alternative measures of progress to GDP for a long time – including her work on Oxfam’s Humankind Index.

One alternative metric she’s become known for championing is the number of girls riding bicycles to school. Just think, she urges us, of the number of policies that need to be working for the benefit of people in order for higher numbers of girls on bikes – and in education – to be possible.

This month Katherine spoke with The Alternative UK about this idea and the vision of a wellbeing economy more broadly. Watch the “fascinating, informative and warm exchange”, part of their “The Elephant Meets” series, below or find it on The Alternative here. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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