Almost one year after publishing its first Vision Brochure, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance is excited to launch a brand new version of this important strategic document.

The WEAll Vision brochure sets out:

  • What WEAll is, including the background and vision for change
  • Details about WEAll’s theory of change and ongoing work
  • Who is involved with WEAll: the Amp team, Ambassadors, Global Council and Organisational members
  • WEAll’s future ambitions for transforming the economic system.
Click here to download a PDF of the new brochure now.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck recently gave the evening keynote lecture at the Nourish Scotland conference in Edinburgh.

This new talk takes an in depth look at the role of food in our economy. In it, Katherine examines what our food systems would look like and do in a wellbeing economy.

Watch her fascinating talk HERE from 23:30.

A new WEAll Ideas paper has been published today, setting out what a wellbeing economy is in a variety of styles.

Compiled by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Katherine Trebeck, Claire Sommer and Stewart Wallis, this ten-page PDF document aims to make wellbeing economy concepts accessible and clear to all readers.

All the material contained in the short paper has emerged from conversations and discussions with people in the WEAll family and beyond. Much of it is synthesised from their reports, papers and vision documents. There are too many minds and ideas to acknowledge them all individually, but their work is vital in informing understanding of a wellbeing economy.

Download the paper “What is a wellbeing economy?” here

What are WEAll Ideas papers?

Little Summaries of Big Issues

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance seeks to make the economy more humane and more sustainable. With over 100 affiliated groups across the world, we are as broad as the current model is narrow – diverse in our experience, expertise, focus, strategy, and our spheres of influence.

We agree that not only do we need to collaborate to have the impact we need – ‘togetherness above agreement’ – we also share a sense of what a wellbeing economy is. Different parts of the movement will emphasise different elements and add more details as their experience, knowledge, and focus allows – but they will do so from a common sense of what a wellbeing economy is all about.

The ‘WEAll Ideas: Little Summaries of Big Issues’ paper series is an attempt to share some of that sense in different formats that are useful for different audiences.

The content in this paper is drawn from the wellbeing economy community in its broadest sense. Our founding members contributed to the goals/fundamentals/building blocks – themselves drawing on processes of engagement, dialogue and discussion with their networks. People from all over the world have added to the Old Way Vs New Way matrix. And WEAll’s communications group has helped draft the everyday explanation.

 

Wellbeing economy ideas are making a splash around the world. Global and national media outlets are giving them more and more attention.

This week, the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership of Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand had positive coverage from Australia to the US.

And our own Katherine Trebeck went down a storm as a panellist on BBC Debate Night in the UK.

Check out all of the coverage from the past week here:

Image: SBS World News

At the end of 2017, Auchrannie resort on the island of Arran in Scotland became the first Scottish resort to transition to a model of employee ownership. A trust now owns 100% of the company’s shares on behalf of its 160 employees.

The co-founder, and Managing Director since 2010, Linda Johnston said of the employees in relation to the transfer:

“They realise that what each of them does will affect the future success of the business and that this is directly linked to their own success, so they have already become more engaged in making the business better and understand the power and influence each and every one of them now has on their own future.”

 

New targets for the business

New efficiency targets for the business, agreed by the ‘new owners’, created the conditions to become a Real Living Wage Accredited Employer in April of 2018.

While the efficiency targets helped boost profitability, paving the way for the introduction of the Real Living Wage, there was also a recognition that the introduction of the wage would in and of itself support further financial benefits. These included lower staff recruitment costs (due to higher retention), greater productivity and increased occupancy from an improved reputation.

Linda Johnston, MD of Auchrannie resort

“Employee ownership will give the whole Auchrannie team a stake in the continued growth of the business. All of us will work together to build a more efficient, sustainable and profitable business.”
explains Linda Johnston

 

Since the acquisition of a 16-room guest house in 1988 by Linda and her late husband Iain, the resort has become home to two 4-star hotels, 30 5-star self-catering lodges, 14 luxury ‘Retreats’, two leisure clubs, 3 restaurants, children’s playbarn, a destination spa and outdoor adventure company.

 

Ownership transfer as an exit strategy

The ownership transfer was born of a desire for an exit strategy by the Johnston family (sole owners of the resort) that would allow the business to continue to flourish as well as upholding the ethos of the company, maintaining and motivating the team plus continuing the community’s access to the facilities of the resort.

“We are confident that the collective efforts of our fantastic team will continue to strengthen Auchrannie’s customer care and community focus as well as improving the sustainability of the business going forward.”
adds Linda Johnston, MD and former owner of the resort

Crucially, the transfer arrangements were designed for it to be affordable to the business to be able to reinvest in the future as well as financially reward the employees after the transfer. The previous shareholders will be paid out of the profits of the business over the next 25 years.

  • This is an extract from the forthcoming ‘The Business of Wellbeing – Alternatives to Business as Usual’ Guide, launching in January 2020. For more extracts, please click here
  • To stay informed of the release of each extract, please sign up to our newsletter here.

 

By Lisa Hough-Stewart

Last week WEAll was delighted to partner with Thomson Reuters Foundation to deliver a lunch event on wellbeing economics as part of their flagship Trust Conference in London.

Energy and ideas were flowing as a packed room full of leaders from the worlds of business, development and philanthropy (and beyond) discussed how we can better work together to transform the economic system.

WEAll Executive Chair Stewart Wallis inspired participants with a short introduction, explaining that “he’s been trying to change the world for a long time” and that what he had learned from over 50 years of work was that:

“Where a cause is both just & urgent, and we collaborate across barriers, it’s possible to achieve the seemingly impossible”

After Stewart outlined what the vision of a wellbeing economy looked like, participants round the table shared their dreams for what would change in the next ten years to help bring this about. Some named equality for all; others talked about decision making and monetary flows being based on solutions not problems; and we shared ideas about bringing all voices to the conversation and changing power structures.

It was clear that the vision for the world we want to live in is rich and shared by many – how we get there is less clear. This is where WEAll comes in – and Stewart invited everyone to participate as members or in some other capacity with our work.

The event was a great starting point for new ideas and relationships, and we are excited to build on this strong beginning.

It came as part of the two-day Trust Conference, which showcased innovative examples of pioneering business practices around the world and explored solutions to human rights challenges.

One highlight was a celebration of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, with video clips of leaders Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland, Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand and Katrin Jakobsdottir of Iceland helping raise awareness of this important project.

I was personally incredibly impressed with two businesses in particular that we heard about: Nik’s Fudo in Geneva makes feminist economics a reality, providing business opportunities to migrant women enabling them to share their cooking skills and amazing food. Annie Cannons in the Bay Area trains and employs survivors of human trafficking in their cutting edge coding and tech company.

Both of these examples give me hope that innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, feminism and kindness can come together to support the type of future businesses that should one day be the norm. This is a wellbeing economy in action.

Wellbeing economics featured prominently in media coverage of the event, with Nicola Sturgeon’s TED talk being quoted:
“The goal of economic policy should be collective wellbeing: how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is.”

By Samantha Kagan

Those who follow the development and proliferation of wellbeing economics are likely already aware that earlier this year, New Zealand became the first country to reorient its national budget and decision-making framework to centre on wellbeing expansion, rather than on GDP growth. The shift was momentous, and it was executed with the intent from the Government of improving its service to citizens. Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson claimed in his speech introducing the new approach that “The things that New Zealanders valued were not being sufficiently valued by the Government”, and this was leading to outcomes undesired by citizens.[1] However, he relayed confidence that implementing the new wellbeing framework would rectify previous missteps and improve outcomes delivered by government. The new approach was well-intentioned, but little evidence existed to support the notion that citizens are more satisfied with a government that pursues wellbeing expansion over one that focuses on GDP growth. I conducted a study to investigate this assumption, and I found evidence that the Minister, in fact, was correct: in New Zealand, citizens are more likely to regard the government highly when wellbeing expands, rather than when GDP grows.

I came to this conclusion using two complementary methods of analysis. First, I examined correlations between GDP and satisfaction with the government’s performance, then between wellbeing and the same measure. I found a tendency for government satisfaction to move more closely with wellbeing factors than it does with GDP level or GDP growth rate. Next, I distributed surveys to New Zealanders that pitted hypothetical policies against one another and asked participants to indicate which option they would support. One policy would grow GDP, while the other would expand wellbeing, and results showed a preference for the latter.

The findings of my study are encouraging, as they suggest leaders in New Zealand acted rationally by shifting government priorities to focus on wellbeing. The objective for adopting this scheme was to improve satisfaction among citizens, and it appears that the strategy was well-calculated. According to Adam Smith, the value of any government is judged in proportion to the extent that it makes citizens happy.[2] Leaders in New Zealand improved their performance in this sense and have good reason to claim victory.

In other nations where government satisfaction is a concern, leaders would be sensible to consider launching a response like New Zealand’s. In Iceland and Scotland, such action is already underway, as each country’s government has introduced a plan to comprehensively restructure its framework.[3] In Britain, although the proposal is yet to be approved, individual policymakers are pushing for wellbeing to take precedence over GDP in government decision making.[4] Examples set by these countries and findings like those in this study should motivate policymakers to contemplate pivoting toward wellbeing to earn more satisfied citizens.

While improving contentment of citizens is itself a valuable objective, the findings of my study also have important implications for policy options available to legislators. Traditionally, policymakers are bound by the paramount goal of GDP expansion. If an otherwise sensible policy appears to threaten growth, it is usually denounced for precisely that reason. This study suggests when a policy is generally constructive, the fact that it may hurt growth should not lead to its automatic dismissal, and if the policy will enhance wellbeing, then it should be given serious consideration. In response to issues like the climate crisis or worsening mental health conditions, the most effective solutions may not be those most conducive to growth. They may even diminish GDP. This study, however, suggests that the public would prefer policies that sacrifice growth in the name of wellbeing, rather than forego wellbeing to consistently safeguard growth. Therefore, policymakers should feel encouraged to maintain a level of indifference toward GDP while observing wellbeing as the primary measure of their legislative success. A new range of policies will become available to them, and citizens will likely become more satisfied as a result.

Samantha Kagan from LSE with a distinction in Inequalities and Social Science. This blog summarises the findings of her dissertation: “Satisfied citizens: how GDP growth and wellbeing expansion relate to government satisfaction”

[1] Robertson, G. (2019) ‘Budget Speech’. New Zealand Government. Available at: https://www.budget.govt.nz/budget/pdfs/speech/b19-speech.pdf (Accessed: 25 June 2019).

[2] Smith, A. (1976) The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Oxford University Press.

[3] WEGo: Wellbeing Economy Governments (2019). Available at: http://wellbeingeconomygovs.org/ (Accessed: 7 July 2019).

[4] Partington, R. (2019) ‘Wellbeing should replace growth as “main aim of UK spending”’, The Guardian, 24 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/24/wellbeing-should-replace-growth-as-main-aim-of-uk-spending (Accessed: 7 August 2019).

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Ideas can change the world. And misplaced ones can hold back progress. Myths and half truths about economics influence decision making across government and in business, and there are fundamental flaws in how economics is invariably taught.

To build an alternative and underpin the transition to a wellbeing economy, we need a strong and coherent knowledge and evidence base. Much is already known about what policies and ways of doing things need to change to change the world. But the theoretical base is disparate and would-be practitioners lack useful guidelines for implementation. The knowledge is scattered and often inaccessible.

So, what’s WEAll doing?

WEAll – via the Knowledge and Policy cluster – is helping bring together and promote wellbeing economy theory and practice.

We’ve been producing a diverse suite of knowledge products accessible to all sorts of practitioners, policy makers, and interested individuals.

We’ve gathered some of the most exciting and well-regarded thinkers on aspects of a wellbeing economy in a WEAll Research Fellows Network. Their work explores all corners of a wellbeing economy. They will contribute to the various publications WEAll is curating. Their expertise will be drawn on to help practitioners and politicians seeking to create a wellbeing economy.

We’re developing plans for an online interactive library. Interested people will be able to find their way to the most useful material for their interests, needs, and level of awareness.

We’re commissioning synthesis of the current state of the knowledge base in various areas of a wellbeing economy in our series ‘WEAll Ideas: Little Summaries of Big Issues’.

We’ve outlined how the wellbeing economy would deal with and respond to a range of issues, topics and challenges (and how this differs to the response of the current system). This provides an ‘at a glance’ insight into a wellbeing economy (see wellbeingeconomy.org/oldwaynewway).

We’ve published dozens of blogs, authored papers and articles for a range of outlets and even some books. We’ve also given media interviews; recorded many podcasts; and given presentations in many different countries to a range of audiences. You can see these featured in the WEAll news updates.

We’ve been active in policy influencing – speaking at All Party Parliamentary Groups and holding meetings with civil servants and members of parliament.

Leadership built on ideas

And of course WEAll instigated the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership that was the ‘big idea’ at the centre of Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland’s 2019 TED talk. We have ongoing liaison with the civil servants leading this work and are supporting the engagement of additional members.

Without the ideas, energy, guidance, expertise of our members, this work would be slow going. Instead it has momentum and ambitious plans.

With your help, we can build on our strong start and sustain this work to build solid roots for the wellbeing economy movement.

 

Right now, WEAll is running our #WEAllGive fundraising drive so we can keep broadening the movement and developing the knowledge required to drive change.

Donate today to help make it happen.

By Isabel Nuesse

On October 10th, WEAll Scotland held an event in Edinburgh in collaboration with Baillie Gifford and the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

“The transition to a sustainable economic system: what’s the role of finance?” raised questions of the future of finance and how the sector can adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. The speakers were Frank Dixon of Global Systems Change, Jessica Runicles of Business in the Community and Andrew Cave of Ballie Gifford, hosted by WEAll’s Lisa Hough-Stewart.

Frank Dixon presented his concept of System Change Investing (click to download PDF) as a proposal for an approach the finance sector could take, modelled on his extensive experience developing SRI frameworks. He questioned, what if the finance sector applied the rule of law (“do no harm to others”) to their thinking? How would that effect the systems that make up the sector as well as the investments that are made inside it? He argued that investing in systems change is the most important action needed to solve climate change and address the Sustainable Development Goals.

The conversation then evolved into speaking about the role of business in environmental and social governance. Jessica Runicles emphasised how important it is for financiers to educate businesses on their opportunities to become more responsible. While explaining the Responsible Business Map she talked of some challenges she has with businesses not grasping the profitable opportunities better business can present.

Our final speaker was  Andrew Cave from Baillie Gifford who had the audience watch this video, “Corporate Scandals that Changed the Course of Capitalism.” He spoke about Baillie Gifford’s long term investment and engagement strategies and their new communications approach which emphasises the need for investors to “help shape the new world – not just shore up the old one”.

After the speakers presented, we had a panel discussion where the audience was able to ask questions. It was clear that education is a huge missing piece in elevating the role of finance in society. It was discussed that radical transparency is also necessary to increase the understanding of how the finance sector works and more specifically, how individuals and business can take more aggressive steps to move money into more socially responsible initiatives. The event provided a valuable opportunity for finance professionals and other interested attendees to share their challenges in creating change openly and honestly, and it was the start of a valuable conversation that WEAll will continue to drive forward.

Follow @WEAll_Scotland to find out about other upcoming events in Scotland. If you’re interested in getting involved with WEAll’s work on finance within Scotland contact us here.

 

The OECD has convening power. It has influencing power. And it has the power of its policy advice. It can prescribe changes that are listened to the same way a patient listens to their doctors advice.

So when the OECD’s regular gatherings on measuring wellbeing and shaping policy show signs of moving away from the cosy ‘GDP and beyond’ mantra and the non-system-challenging focus on treatment, then it is worth taking notice.

There’s a new regime in town.

In Paris over one hundred people spent two days hearing from the governments leading the effort to embed a focus on wellbeing into policy agenda. By the end, people were joking that the audience must have ‘framework fatigue’.

Diverse governments, from the UAE to Iceland, from Scotland to Jersey, from France to New Zealand, from Finland to Paraguay set out their efforts to shape policy-making – and, crucially – budgeting, in accordance with promotion and enabling of wellbeing. Discussion was about taking this seriously, changing planning and spending accordingly: the OECD Secretary-General told the audience that: “if it ain’t in the budget, it ain’t really a priority”.

Tensions between different conceptions of wellbeing were, thank goodness, not swept under the carpet as they often are in such discussions. People recognised that a focus on multidimensional wellbeing and the drivers of wellbeing was not the same as rallying around a single number measuring subjective self-reported wellbeing.

But what is done with any measure matters: Professor Jeff Sachs warned that looking at narrow measures means narrow perspective: “the stock market rising”, he said “but US life expectancy is falling, [the US has a] suicide and opioid epidemic – our country is in crisis, but we don’t know it’s a crisis because we don’t look at the right data; this question is not even asked”.

Speaking of drugs, Sachs (channelling WEAll Ambassador Robert Costanza) likened the prevailing money and growth focus to an addiction: “making money is addictive and we have an addiction”. This was reinforced by Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician and Director of the Statistics and Data Directorate who said “GDP was never meant to measure wellbeing; it’s been abused and now we’re addicted to it – need to go to a clinic to stop this addiction”. Fortunately, the doctors on duty are willing to look the patient in the eye and tell them some hard truths.

One of these is grappling with the need for both of the ‘two S.C.s’ as I described them. This first is a focus survival and coping – treating people whose wellbeing is low. This is, of course a humane response. It is also not enough in the face of an inhumane economy that is the root cause of so much anxiety and stress, to both people and to planet.

Hence the need for the second ‘S.C.’: system change that asks why people’s wellbeing is low and what changes in the economic set up need to be undertaken in response? Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff challenged delegates to think beyond celebration of amelioration: “Even the existence of social safety nets tells us people are falling and we need to catch them. But how do we keep them from falling?”

In terms of system change, there was also a frank discussion about the relevance of a growth orientated agenda in the richest countries. Of course ecological economists and others have been questioning this for years, but to have senior members of the policy making establishment state that growth doesn’t matter for quality of life in GDP-rich countries (asserting it is “irrelevant for rich country’s wellbeing”) and to even question why the OECD would maintain a programme under the heading of ‘Inclusive Growth’ seemed to be a new high point for the post-growth conversation.

Finally, an impatience with the disconnect between what the wellbeing community has been measuring and saying for years and slow progress in shifting the economic agenda was apparent. Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, opened the conference by saying the world is “well past the point when a lack of data is an excuse – [now the] need is to rationalise and choose and targets which are the relevant indicators”.

If these two days were a heartening stock-take on the state of the debate on wellbeing measures and policy agendas, their timing was just as useful: Finland is currently President of the EU and has made the ‘economy of wellbeing’ it’s flagship agenda. At times, the Finnish contribution seemed a little out of place, better suited to a gathering 5 years ago in that it emphasised the business case for wellbeing and asserting that if governments boost wellbeing that will boost growth. Fortunately, if the rest of the OECD conference was anything to go by, the thinking has moved on and the question is now “what can growth do for wellbeing?”. Not the other way around.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Anna Chrysopoulou is a volunteer with WEAll Scotland – she has written this blog to mark Challenge Poverty Week 2019.

“What does economic growth, measured by GDP[1], tell us about essential issues such as poverty and social inequalities?

Technically nothing. As long as the economy is growing in terms of production and consumption, the country is considered successful. When it comes to the distribution of wealth, are we still successful when poverty and social discontent are rising?

Having a job and yet struggling financially

Although GDP ignores factors such as pay gaps, unpaid work and inequalities, what it does measure is paid work. What if employment does not guarantee the route out of poverty?

Working or in-work poverty, which describes households who live in relative poverty even though someone in the household is in paid work, is a rising issue. The Scottish Government in 2015 issued a report which proved that the majority of working-age adults (52%) in Scotland are in ‘in-work’ poverty, and this figure has been gradually increasing. Indeed, in 2017/2018, working poverty increased to 60% (representing 390,000 working-age adults after housing costs), which means that more people are locked in daily struggle.

Let’ s add now to the conversation social inequalities. Our economy creates powerful currents that could easily pull any of us into poverty.

Women, ethnic minorities and disabled people are more at risk of poverty

Poverty in Scotland has a female face; women are more likely to be living in poverty compared to men. In 2015-2018, the poverty rate for single working-age women was higher than for single adult men, whether they had dependent children or not.  The same relation is found to pensioners, as the relative poverty rate is higher for single female pensioners than male. Apart from the pay gap, one of the reasons for this difference is that women are the majority of low paid workers, due to what is usually considered “women’s work”, such as cleaning, care and retail, being underrated in the labour market.

These figures follow a global trend which shows that it is harder for women to escape poverty. And of course, not to mention unpaid work, such as childcare and housework, which is not even taken into account. According to Oxfam, women do at least twice as much unpaid care work than men, with an estimated global value of $10 trillion, equivalent to one-eighth of the world’s entire GDP.

Social inequalities appear in terms of race and disability, as well. Relative poverty rates are higher where a family member is disabled[2] and are also higher for ethnic minorities. People from minority ethnic (non-white) groups are more likely to be in relative poverty from the ‘White- British’ group. A report in 2017 revealed that poverty in BME[3] communities is twice that of white communities, which is even worse for BME women as they are more affected by austerity. Unemployment levels in many ethnic groups, which is strongly related to poverty and is holding people down, are also higher than most of the Scottish population.

So when we aim to tackle poverty, inequalities ought to  be considered thoroughly and comprehensively.

This evidence demonstrates that we cannot measure everything using economic growth and a monetary system. Living in poverty cannot be described only with numbers. It affects all aspects of one’s life, including those such as mental health that are not measured and therefore, are ignored.

For this reason, it is vital to redesign our current narrow economic system, which keeps failing to show the big picture and focus on people’s wellbeing rather than the economy itself. Scotland could lead the way on that.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, stated in her recent TED talk that “the objective of economic policy should be collective well-being. What we choose to measure as a country matters. It matters because it drives political focus and public activity”.

A wellbeing economy that places people and the planet first is necessary.  This wellbeing economy could be the solution for poverty and social injustice. It is based on the creation of a society that accounts for nature, distribution of resources and better quality of life for everyone. It aims at social, economic and environmental justice and suggests alternative business models, like the employee ownership model that as Sarah Deas, board member of WEAll and former director of CDS, explained: “fosters ‘predistribution’ of wealth with employees,  while companies perform well in terms of productivity, inclusion and innovation”.

And as Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams argued in their book The Economics of Arrival “Growth up to a certain point is important- and countries and people below their respective threshold points need more of it, as long as it is good quality and distributed well. After that point, however, societies need to become better at focusing on the quality of the economy instead of its size. Bricks and mortar are the material foundations of a house, but they are not what constitutes the warmth, welcome and comfort of a home- that stems from relationships, security and personalisation”[4].

Maybe this exactly how we should think of our economy.”

 

References

[1] GDP: Gross Domestic Product which measures the total value of all goods made, and services provided, during a specific period of time.

[2] Since 2012/2013, disabled people are identified as those who report any physical or mental health condition(s) that last or are expected to last 12 months or more, and which limit their ability to carry out day-to-day activities

[3] Black and Minority Ethnic

[4] Trebeck, K. and Williams, J. (2019). The Economics of Arrival. 1st ed. Bristol: Policy Press, p.71.

Sam Butler-Sloss, who is leading the emerging WEAll Youth group in Scotland, has written a powerful piece in today’s Independent.

In his opinion piece, “Criticise the climate strikers if you like. In five years we’ll all be at the ballot box and the world will change”, Sam makes a strong case for economic system change and advocates for the strength and power of young people in driving change.

Read Sam’s piece on the Independent site here.

As world leaders met at the UN this week, a small country was making a big decision about its approach to tackling climate change.

On 25 September, the Scottish Parliament voted to approve an ambitious new Climate Bill. With a target of net-zero emissions by 2045, the Bill stretches Scotland further than the UK as a whole and sets it apart as a world-leader in terms of targets. The 2045 target is legally-binding, meaning any remaining emissions would have to be entirely offset with measures such as increased tree planting and carbon capture and storage technology. In addition the bill sets a target to reduce 75% of greenhouse emissions by 2030 (on 1990 levels)

Úna Bartley, Director of WEAll Scotland said, “These new targets are to be welcomed and celebrated, especially given the role of civil society in driving up ambition in the bill’s final stage. However, setting targets is only the beginning; the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government must now take swift and bold action to drastically reduce emissions and ensure a just transition to a wellbeing economy begins as soon as possible.”

The bill also incorporates the UNFCCC principles, and a statutory duty to regularly report on Scotland’s consumption emissions, In addition, the bill pledges to hold Citizens Assemblies, which is a very exciting step towards more democratic ownership of climate policy and action. WEAll Scotland looks forward to engaging in these Assemblies, sharing ideas for economic transformation and helping connect our network to the Parliamentary process.

Scotland’s approach to climate change is a critical component of its contribution to the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative. Nicola Sturgeon declared in her recent TED talk that in the context of climate emergency, “the argument for the case for a much broader definition of what it means to be successful as a country, as a society, is compelling, and increasingly so.”

Achieving Scotland’s new climate change ambitions in a way that is inclusive and sustainable simply will not be possible without a transformation of our economic system. Young people are taking to the streets (and many of us not-quite-so-young people are joining them) demanding system change: targets are not all that we are asking for. We need policies and incentives to drive a complete redesign of Scotland’s economy. Check out this blog series that WEAll edited for Bella Caledonia with some of the ideas to make that happen.

Next year Glasgow will host COP26, and all eyes will be on Scotland as the world reckons with its progress on climate change five years after the Paris Agreement. The meaningful work for Scotland to live up to its climate leadership ambitions starts now: Scotland is on its way to having a leadership story worth telling at the COP.

Image – Andrew Cowan, Scottish Parliament

This blog has been reposted from Happy City

Why is it that almost all the radical approaches to delivering a new economic vision are being led by women?

From Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand to Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, there is a North-to-South shared agenda calling for wellbeing to be put at the heart of government thinking.

Here in the UK, of the five largest national parties, only the two led by women have come out in support of the fast growing ‘wellbeing economy movement’ that is challenging the foundation stones of our economic and social systems. In July this year, Caroline Lucas called on parliament to take seriously the urgent need to move ‘beyond GDP’ in our measures of progress and to better assess and prioritise the wellbeing of people and planet. Yesterday, Jo Swinson used her first party conference as leader to announce that the Liberal Democrats would introduce a Wellbeing Budget to tackle climate change and social inequality.

And this trend goes beyond the headline makers.

Having led a pioneering wellbeing economy organisation, Happy City, for the last 10 years, I have seen this pattern repeated at every level and around the world.  Within global organisations like OECD to national ones like ONS, it is women who are leading on the serious work being undertaken to challenge the central role of GDP as a reliable measure of societal progress.  NGOs and campaigning organisations, such as Wellbeing Economy AlliancePositive MoneyDoughnut Economics and New Economics Foundation, all have powerful female leadership blazing a trail for a new way to do policy and practice.

What began as a personal curiosity about an emerging pattern, is fast becoming a blindingly clear thread running through the wellbeing economy movement.

There is, however, a real risk that policy makers and the media may once again fall into the misogynistic pothole some of our current leaders seems to keep disappearing down.  Whenever ‘wellbeing’ or ‘happiness’ are mentioned it is usually alongside a slight snigger about anyone serious wasting their time thinking about such frivolities. The notion that suggesting a Minister for Happiness, or a Wellbeing Budget might be the action of a ‘big girls’ blouse’ is so far from the truth that our politicians, institutions and media giants need to catch up.

Increasingly, economic heavy-weights and leading environmentalists are pointing to wellbeing economics as the only way to address our current social and environmental crises.

This is no fluffy stuff.  It is one of the most urgent actions of our time, and women leaders need to be supported for their courage in stepping up and saying so.  I for one, am with them every step of the way.

Liz Zeidler

Co Founder and Chief Executive

Happy City

WEAll Scotland is excited to be collaborating with the innovative Take One Action Film Festivals on one of their Edinburgh events this month.

On Monday 23 September, WEAll Scotland Chair Doreen Grove will be a panellist at the discussion following the screening of System Error at the Grassmarket Centre. Doreen will be joined by Claire Rampen of the 2050 Climate Group and Lisa Hough-Stewart of WEAll/Take One Action.

About the film

Director: Florian Opitz | Countries of production: Germany | Year: 2018 | Length: 95 min
Language: English, German with English subtitles | Age: 12+ years

As a central tenet of capitalism, the concept of growth dominates our politics, our economy, and our understanding of what makes the world go round. Yet the social fabric and nature itself are showing the strain of this constant drive for bigger and better at all costs.

Through candid conversations with staunch advocates of “business as usual” (finance journalists, multinational executives, lobbyists, traders and financiers such as former Trump communications officer Anthony Scaramucci, the self- proclaimed “artist of capital”), director Florian Opitz reveals the absurdities behind our current system – and asks if it may be time for a radical re-think.

Find out more – the event is free to attend

About Take One Action

This screening is just one of dozens taking place as part of the Take One Action Glasgow and Edinburgh Festivals between 18-28 September.

Take One Action nurtures communal exploration of the stories, ideas and questions at the heart of positive social change. Through film screenings, conversation and enquiry, we bring people together to inspire a fairer, more sustainable and more fulfilling world, in Scotland and beyond our borders.

Through debate and innovative presentation, our activities bring individuals, communities, campaigners, filmmakers, politicians, academics and artists together to explore the connections, systems and cultures underpinning social, cultural, environmental and economic inequality – and empowers them to envisage tangible action.

Their work is independent, values-driven, widely recognised for its artistic and social merits, and delivered through partnerships with a range of charities, grassroots groups and NGOs (including WEAll Scotland) who support local creativity, opportunity and action.

This year’s programme includes the latest film by acclaimed director Ken Loach ‘Sorry We Missed You;, screening in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

See the full programme and book tickets.

What are you willing to teach others in the WeALL network?

We all have amazing things to offer the wellbeing economy movement. And when we share what we have to offer, making change becomes easier for us all!

In this virtual event, community members come together to identify and exchange their knowledge, skills, resources and needs. Whether you are offering to share tips on beekeeping, a list of climate-change journalist contacts, or organize a zero-waste event, this is a fun and safe way to meet others in the Citizens community. You can share both personally and on behalf of an organisation. We will unearth the variety of talents and expertise that is at our fingertips. 

Join us Monday, August 19 at 12pm EST// 5pm UK  for the first WEAll Citizens Offers and Needs Market. 

The second event will be on Wednesday, September 4 at 2pm Perth (Australia)/7am UK.

These events are a free, fun and effective way to connect, get more comfortable expressing your offers and needs, and begin conversations with interesting people.

The events are presented as a partnership between WEAll and the Post Growth Institute. You can find out more about the Offers and Needs model here.



Click here to register on Monday, August 19 at 12pm EST//5pm UK 

Click here to register on Wednesday, September 4, 2pm Perth (Australia)//7am UK

 

 

 

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon delivered a TED Talk on why governments should prioritise wellbeing in their approaches to economics.

Saying that she is determined Scotland will be a country that helps influence the world to “put wellbeing at the heart of everything we do”, Sturgeon spoke about the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership between Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand.

The audience applauded several times, including when  the First Minister spoke about the importance of female leadership, and when she said:

“Growth in GDP should not be pursued at any and all cost … The goal of economic policy should be collective well-being: how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is.”

Watch the talk here, and please share widely.

 

Photo Ryan Lash/TED