Wellbeing Economy Alliance (Scotland) – Volunteer recruitment

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.

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. See https://wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland

We are seeking to recruit two new volunteers, to work with our small team and drive forward our work to support positive change.  Volunteers will be passionate about the need for economic system change, and will have a good understanding of the issues facing our economy, society and natural environment. These are exciting opportunities to support the establishment of a newly formed NGO. While this is a voluntary position all reasonable expenses incurred will be reimbursed.

  1. Events coordinator: The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is looking for an Events Co-ordinator to support us with the successful delivery of a range of events, from large one day conferences to smaller seminars. Download more information on the role and how to apply here.
  2. Executive assistant : The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is looking for an executive assistant to provide a range of administrative support functions for  our small but dedicated team.  Download more information on the role and how to apply here.

The closing date for applying for both roles is 6pm on Sunday 18 August. We anticipate holding interviews in Edinburgh on 28 August and in Glasgow on 29 August.

Reposted from Oxfam Scotland

Scotland is making mixed progress towards achieving the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, according to a unique new report by civil society organisations published last week.

On Target for 2030?’ assesses Scotland’s progress against the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing reviews on each goal, authored by expert organisations operating within each field in Scotland.

The UK and Scottish governments are completing their own national reviews, with these analyses expected to be released later this year. This report supplements these governmental reviews by capturing the independent assessments of a diverse range civil society stakeholders in Scotland working on issues as diverse as poverty, climate change, biodiversity, nutrition, equality, fair work, and education.

Co-ordinated by the UWS-Oxfam Partnership, in collaboration with the SDG Scotland Network, the report is believed to be the first such analysis in Scotland.

Organisations including the Child Poverty Action Group, Citizens Advice Scotland, the Fife Centre for Equalities, Girlguiding Scotland, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the Scottish International Development Alliance all provide commentaries on progress and outline what Scotland still needs to do to reach each Goal by 2030.

The SDGs were adopted by the 190 countries making up the United Nations in 2015 to create a healthy planet for current and future generations and for a world free from poverty, injustice and discrimination – while leaving no-one behind. The goals are universal in nature and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made Scotland one of the first countries to pledge to deliver them in 2015.

A clear thread that runs through many of the contributions in ‘On Target for 2030?’ is that the negative effects of slow progress on the goals are felt disproportionately by low-income households. This undermines the cross-cutting commitment of all SDGs to ‘leave no-one behind’.

The editors of the report want to contribute to renewed pressure to meet these goals for governments, as well as amongst businesses and civil society itself. They say that improving progress is not just the responsibility of government, action is needed especially from business and the third sector, as well as individuals, in order for Scotland to fulfil its 2030 commitments.

Dr Hartwig Pautz, from the UWS-Oxfam Partnership, said: “This snapshot review is the first of its kind in Scotland. It brings together experts on every one of the goals for an honest assessment of where Scotland is and what we need to do to get on target for 2030, in their own words.

“While the individual assessments, put forward by a very diverse range of civil society organisations, show that there is clear policy and political commitment on many of these goals, more needs to be done to actually achieve them.

“The report shows that poverty and inequality are common issues with regards to many of the SDGs, and making progress on them will be essential to ensure we can achieve sustainable development.

Rhiannon Sims, Policy and Research Adviser, Oxfam Scotland, said: “The Sustainable Development Goals will only succeed if every country signed up to them puts in place the measures needed to drive change. Whilst there is clear policy commitment in Scotland, more needs to be done to achieve the 2030 vision.

“Governments have a big role to play, but achieving this ambition is not just a responsibility for government, it also for businesses and civil society itself to contribute to this shared agenda.

“The action needed to achieve the goals by 2030 is not unrealistic or impossible. We hope that leaders at every level can use this report to redouble Scotland’s commitments to make the world free from poverty, injustice and discrimination.”

Paul Bradley, Project Coordinator, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “Scotland’s charities and wider civil society organisations have provided expert insight into where Scotland is on the SDGs and what we still need to do as a nation.

“Meeting these goals for 2030 is not just up to politicians, it is a responsibility for all of us and this report shows that work is being done in communities by organisations up and down Scotland.”

· Report available at: http://uwsoxfampartnership.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/On-Target-July-2019-Web-FINAL.pdf
· Sturgeon commitment: https://news.gov.scot/news/leading-the-way-in-tackling-inequality.
· The UWS-Oxfam Partnership has operated, since 2011, as a formally established relationship between the University of the West of Scotland and Oxfam Scotland. It revolves around the development of Oxfam’s anti-poverty advocacy and campaigning in Scotland and seeks to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable Scotland.
· The SDG Scotland Network is a coalition of over 230+ people and organisations from across Scotland committed to making sure that the Global Goals for Sustainable Development become every Scot’s business.

Each month, the WEAll Amplification team (Amp team) shares what they’ve been working on, and their priorities for the coming month.

Find out more about our team members here 


Ana Gómez

What’s kept you busy in June?

  • Our team meeting together for the first time since last December
  • The confirmation of my attendance to Encuentro+B, the connections already made with Sistema B and the excitement of a bigger connection with Latin America
  • The interest and acceptance in New Zealand to establish a WEAll NZ Hub

June highlight:

  • Being in Scotland!

July priorities:

  • First call with key actors in NZ to start WEAll NZ Hub, along with the one in Canada and Costa Rica
  • Trying to get in touch with different movements and networks around the world to give WEAll more diversity and opportunities of collaboration about members
  • …and that I’ll be turning 46 on July 7th!


Lisa Hough-Stewart 

What’s kept you busy in June?

  • Continuing to develop WEAll Citizens – early users gave fantastic feedback via our survey, and we’re making changes based on this. Valuable connections are being made on the platform every day, which is exciting to see
  • Lots of great events in Scotland that I helped coordinate or was part of, including: WEAll Scotland’s first community engagement event in Mayfield, Midlothian in partnership with Oxfam; an event on feminist economics and new technologies in Easterhouse; a roundtable dinner with Deloitte and business leaders on wellbeing economies; a conference on narratives and framing with JRF
  • It feels like here in the UK, more and more interest in wellbeing economics is emerging. I was truly impressed by Ed Miliband’s podcast on the topic, and there have been APPG meetings about the wellbeing economy at Westminster as well as favourable motions passed at Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils. Change is in the air!

June highlight:

  • We’re all saying the same thing, but it was so important to have three days together as a team in Scotland. We managed to finish conversations about every single element of our strategy and work, and we really needed it!

July priorities:

  • Continuing to develop WEAll Citizens with a focus on strategic partnerships
  • A review and big update of both the WEAll website and our vision brochure, working with Frankie at the Equality Trust
  • I’ve taken over the coordination of the Narratives cluster from Katherine, and there’s lots of work to do in this space including pursuing funding opportunities
  • …outside of work, I’m helping organise – and performing in – the Encontro Street Band Festival in Glasgow (26-28 July), always the highlight of my summer!


Katherine Trebeck

What’s kept you busy in June?

  • Loads of activities promoting the WE agenda to external audiences – several talks in too many different cities, including opening the GIZ climate gathering in Berlin with a call to prioritise an economy that delivers collective wellbeing and speaking at Westminster to an All Party Parliamentary Group
  • Meeting several members or future in London – NESTA, the Rapid Transition Alliance, the Strategy and Communications Group
  • Hanging out with two important families – the Amp team and my Mum and Dad (but not at the same time)

June highlight:

  • Speaking with an amazing group of passionate community activists in the north west of England who are building a wellbeing economy agenda from the bottom up. Loads to be inspired by here, loads WEAll can do to help

July priorities:

  • Back in Scotland for loads of meetings with some Research Fellows and WEAll Scotland (including new Trustees!) and its allies.
  • Back in Berlin to work with Dirk Philipsen on some knowledge products, the resources hub project and meet some possible WEAll members
  • Protecting some time for finally diving deep into some writing and research


Stewart Wallis

What’s kept you busy in June?

  • Follow up calls and actions from April/May Fundraising trip to California
  • Wonderful Amp meeting in Strachur
  • Writing chapter on New Economic System for the Anthropocene for Lancaster University

June highlight:

  • Amp team Face to face meeting. It was highly productive and very supportive especially as I was not in Malaga – and also making contact with potential major philanthropic funding source

July priorities:

  •  Funder Follow up and submissions continued
  • Global Council planning and outreach
  • Contacting potential new members with Ana
  • Work on California and other US Hubs
  • Finalising chapter for Ecological Economics book


Michael Weatherhead

What’s kept you busy in June

  • Running a story telling session and workshop on the creation of alliances for the German government’s development agency
  • First meeting of Amp team in six months
  • Agreeing a plan for the development of the Alternative to Business as Usual Guide

June highlight:

  • Back to back meetings in London and Edinburgh on a strategy to engage businesses, society and politicians around the issue of short-termism

July priorities:

  • Start the ‘Alternative to Business as Usual Guide’
  • Prepare plans for Global Council to consider as regards WEAll’s future legal structure
  • Fundraising

This piece was originally posted by Enough

In 1983 President Reagan declared, ‘There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits to human intelligence, imagination and wonder’.

That was an era when students were striking against the risk of atomic war, when celebrities sang that aid and charity from the west would ‘feed the world’.

It was a time when the scientific community was building a strong evidence base about hydrofluorocarbons that resulted in political agreement (the ‘Montreal Protocol’) to eradicate their use in order to protect the ozone layer.

Today, some three decades on, thousands and thousands of students around the world are striking against the inadequate political response to the climate crisis.

Today, both celebrities and companies are being called out for tax evasion which undermines state budgets for health and education in the UK and around the world.

And the scientific community is not only warning against the 6th mass extinction, it’s building an evidence base that the link between economic growth and environmental impact is real. The recent Global Assessment pulled no punches in saying: ‘A key constituent of sustainable pathways is…steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth’.1

Only calling for our current economic system to be decarbonised ignore such biodiversity losses. They also ignore the evidence

  • That decoupling growth from carbon emissions is a case of buying things from overseas rather than at home (so it is recorded in another country’s carbon ledger)
  • That efficiency gains are liable to be partially offset by rebound (spent on other goods and services which themselves have a carbon footprint), and
  • That any decoupling is just too slow to be a solution.

This is the unfortunate reality for proponents of a technological saviour scenario or green growth (which, in a way, is the macroeconomic equivalent of greenwashing).

Community groups and scholars alike are also pointing to the mounting evidence that economic growth is not an automatic contributor to equality of opportunity, despite the claims of hundreds of economics text books and so many politicians in the UK and around the world.

How would such claims go down with communities in Scotland who haven’t seen many drips trickling their way from the growth in Scotland’s GDP in the decades since Reagan was President?

How would it sound to the people who have to turn to food banks after a shift at work because the economic activity on offer isn’t enabling them to feed their families?

How would it sound to the streets of Scotland where life expectancy is more than fifteen years below that of the rest of the population, where amenities are crumbling, and opportunity is restricted by deeply unequal outcomes?

And yet, in spite of such contemporary realities, thinking from the Reagan era lives on – on our airwaves, political debates, and even in our mindsets.

Just over 12 months ago, a report was published on behalf of the SNP and voted on at their 2019 spring conference, the product of the “Sustainable Growth Commission”.

The 354-page document contains some useful and progressive proposals – not least its framing of tax as an investment and welcoming the role of migrants in Scottish life.

But the very premise of the report has been inadequately discussed and the critique of it thus far has focused on Scotland’s currency post-independence, with even some of the currency arguments being framed according to their impact on GDP growth.

Turning the pages reveals that the report focuses on “sustainable” in the “perpetual” sense of the term, not the “taking into account environmental limits and so operating in a way to respect and regenerate the ecosystem” sense of the term.

The latter doesn’t make for such a catchy title, but the former sense and the agenda of the report itself needs to be re-examined in light of scientific consensus around climate change, youth outrage at political intransigence, and the failure of a growth-orientated model to deliver for enough communities in Scotland.

The Growth Commission points to New Zealand’s economy over the last decade or so as something to emulate, despite New Zealand’s concerted efforts to move away from its recent growth-ist orientation and instead build a wellbeing economy. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

people look [at our GDP] and say ‘you’re doing OK’. But we have homelessness at staggering rates, ones of the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD and our mental health and wellbeing is not what it should be. We need to address the societal wellbeing of our nation, not just the economic wellbeing. 

These words could easily apply to Scotland. Instead of persisting with an economic model that our Kiwi friends are discarding, we should accompany them in imagining and creating an economy more suited to the environmental realities of our age and which does more to ensure the economy works for all, not just the privileged few.

And in many respects, Scotland is pioneering a new way, recognising that our economy can be one that is better than growth. They entail efforts to make the economy circular and businesses more inclusive. There is cross-party support for broadening the notion of national success towards a broader set of goals via the National Performance Framework and, just recently, a shift in the goal of Scottish Enterprise towards supporting businesses that deliver quality jobs, wellbeing and tackling inequality. And Scotland is showing leadership in convening the new Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) initiative

Yet, despite these highlights, the Growth Commission sits alognside a long list of examples that illustrate ubiquity of the growth-ist mindset.

You see it in the almost ubiquitous talk of boosting Scotland’s productivity – without exploration of:

  • More of what (do we really need to churn out more things?)
  • Without recognition of the power imbalances in workplaces that so often mean productivity gains are captured by the owners of capital, with workers making do with the crumbs, and
  • Without discussion as to whether faster and faster is an appropriate goal for a post-industrial economy that could pride itself on services, on care, on craftmanship?

You read about the growth-ist mindset each time there is a news report that compares Scotland’s GDP to that of the UK or the OECD, every time a financial analyst makes predictions for the Scottish economy and all they consider are future GDP and simple employment numbers.

You see it in the business case being made for gender equality or addressing poverty (“it’s a drag on the economy”).

And you hear the growth-ist mindset every time we have a nice adjective stuck in front of growth: ‘inclusive’, ‘green’, ‘low carbon’, ‘shared’.

These at least concede that growth comes with environmental and social collateral damage. But these new ways of framing growth show our collective mind has been so tuned to growth, our imaginations so limited, that the best we can do is put an adjective in front of it.

Expanding our collective imagination to encompass the possibility and the necessity of a post-growth economy that serves people and planet requires updating Reagan’s quote for the 21st Century and using our limitless imaginations, wonder, and human intelligence to build an economy that is better than growth.

It means, to cite Gramsci, massively rejigging the ‘hegemony of the common sense’.

The Enough! Project is a vital much needed driver of that rejigging: multifaceted, grassroots focused, with eyes firmly on reframing the discussion and collaboration for change.

And the Enough! framing can be applied to the significant shifts needed in how things are discussed and done in Scotland:

  • Enough adhering to a 20th century model
  • Enough pitting environmental goals against social justice and employment
  • Enough of being content with downstream sticking plasters, important though they are
  • Enough tribalism when young people are deeply and rightly concerned about their future
  • Enough chasing for more and more as the solution to all our woes.

And enough of not recognising that while we have enough resources, we certainly don’t have enough of sharing and cherishing them.

Last month both Edinburgh and Glasgow City Councils passed motions on the value and importance of prioritising the shift to a wellbeing economy. WEAll Scotland is delighted at this recognition of wellbeing economics by Scotland’s two largest cities, and looks forward to working with both councils to support their efforts in this space.

Claire Miller, Green member of City of Edinburgh Council, was successful in June at getting agreement to look at wellbeing measures of economic activity. This was supported by the SNP, Labour and Lib Dem groups. The council has a five-year economy strategy which monitors a range of indicators, and has a fairly traditional approach to economics – a focus on growth. Claire’s work means these indicators can be reviewed, but it will rely on the advice and advocacy of people working on wellbeing economics, as the council wants to use external expertise on this subject. To get in involved in this, you can email Claire at c.miller@edinburgh.gov.uk

Councillor Miller’s motion in full:

Committee: “Notes the benefits of measuring economic success using wellbeing and the potential synergy of wellbeing measures with this Council’s economy strategy, which is to build inclusion, innovation and collaboration in the city’s economy.

Recognises the depth of expertise on wellbeing economics in Scotland, including Wellbeing Economy Governments policy labs and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance.

Calls on officers to identify ways in which wellbeing measures can be incorporated into and strengthen the economic aims of this Council, and to make recommendations to the relevant executive committee(s).

Notes, in addition, that the City Region Deal is a key driver of the regional economy for decades ahead and, within the evaluation framework for the City Region Deal, seeks opportunities to develop wellbeing measures of economic performance where it is possible for Edinburgh to influence its regional partners.”

In Glasgow, Green Councillor Jon Molyneux was also successful in raising a motion, as follows:

“Council notes that its strategic plan aims to support inclusive economic growth and understands that work is underway to develop ways of measuring and articulating that better. Council believes this work is urgent in light of the recent Poverty and Inequality Commission report which concluded that very little has changed in how the inclusive economic growth agenda is being delivered since it became national policy four years ago. 

Council understands there is growing consensus that GDP and other economic output measures are inherently inadequate due to their failure to reflect economic inequality, human wellbeing or environmental impacts, and their prioritisation of private riches over public wealth. Council commends the work of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and others who are advancing alternatives to GDP and notes that New Zealand – one of the comparator economies for Scotland highlighted in the Growth Commission report – has started to embrace wellbeing economics and has published what has been described as the world’s first wellbeing budget. 

Council further understands that the climate and ecological crises highlight the urgent need for economies to adapt so they function within finite planetary limits. 

Council believes there is a compelling case to consider how concepts of wellbeing economics and degrowth can inform the city’s future economic strategy and therefore resolves to create a cross party working group to take evidence from appropriate experts and report back to an appropriate committee within the current calendar year.”

This piece was originally posted on CDS Scotland

It is ten years since I took up my role as director at Co-operative Development Scotland. As someone who is passionate about creating a progressive economy – one that delivers for people and planet – it has been a real privilege to lead CDS over the past decade. As I prepare to move on, I’ve been reflecting on what we’ve achieved.

Initially on the edge of the economic development agenda, co-operative models have shifted firmly to the mainstream. Thousands of businesses and individuals have benefited from the 290 consortium co-operatives, community co-operatives and employee-owned businesses established in Scotland over the past ten years.  We have seen a fivefold increase in employee ownership since we started promoting the model and the pace of take-up is accelerating.

This growth has led to Scotland being viewed as a pioneer in co-operative development, with many aspiring to echo our approach. Over the years, I have been invited to speak at a range of international events and forums, including in the co-operative heartlands of Italy and Spain. A true recognition of our success.

In 2018, the Ownership Effect Inquiry, an independent review into employee ownership’s impact on the economy, recommended that the UK Government replicate “Scotland’s successful scheme that has delivered a tenfold return on investment for every £1 devoted to on-the-ground support.”

There are a number of reasons behind Scotland’s success in this area. We’ve had exemplary support from the Scottish Government, which recognises the key role that co-operative models can play in delivering its economic goal of Inclusive Growth – a fairer economy which distributes wealth more widely and addresses inequalities.

An encouraging amount of cross party support has also led to increased dialogue around the models, with parliamentary debates on the importance of co-operatives and employee ownership to the Scottish economy. I have frequently been invited to contribute to meetings of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee (and its predecessors), where I’ve shared some of Scotland’s many success stories as evidence of the wider economic and societal benefits of co-operative working, bringing these to the forefront of the economic agenda.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to promoting co-operative models was further demonstrated with last year’s launch of ‘Scotland for EO’, an industry leadership group co-chaired by Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills. Led by industry working in partnership with the public sector, it has a championing, influencing and facilitating role which aims to build and strengthen Scotland’s EO community. ‘Scotland for EO’ is built on the immense pride and passion displayed by Scotland’s employee owned businesses in endorsing the model over the years – hugely valued support which has been vital in effecting wider change.

Also key to the surge in awareness of co-operatives is the work of a dedicated team here at CDS, whose commitment and approach to promoting the models has been instrumental to their growth. From raising awareness among professional advisors to providing businesses with advice and financial support, the team is passionate to drive momentum. With the ongoing support of our colleagues at Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway, we have continued to attract increasing demand for our services, and as I move on, there is a strong pipeline of businesses looking to adopt co-operative models, particularly EO.

While progress has been significant, there remains work to be done to reinforce the benefits of co-operative models, and the route they offer to a more equal economy. As I hand over the reins to my successor Clare Alexander, I feel very positive that our activity over the past ten years has paved the way for continued change.

With a wealth of experience in driving better business through workplace innovation, Clare is ideally positioned to fully maximise the opportunities, and further drive the uptake of co-operative models in line with the Scottish Government’s Inclusive Growth Strategy. With her belief that “business leaders should be predisposed to see the power of their people”, her values are synonymous with those of ‘Scotland for EO’. Her position on the board will see her working towards the group’s ambitious goals of increasing the number of employee-owned businesses in Scotland to 500 by 2030, and by 2040 to have created the best environment for EO businesses to thrive with Scotland having the highest density of EO businesses in the economy as a consequence.

Meanwhile, I plan to continue to promote inclusive approaches through the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – a new global collaboration of organisations, movements and individuals working together to change the economic system to one that delivers human and ecological wellbeing. I look forward to building on what we’ve achieved over the past ten years and continuing to promote co-operative and employee ownership models as a way of achieving a fair and inclusive society.

Lisa Hough-Stewart of the WEAll Amp team and WEAll Scotland team recently attended a community engagement event with Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, organised by Glasgow Council for the Voluntary Sector (GCVS).

This was a great opportunity for the Governor to hear how economic policies and realities are being felt by the most vulnerable people and communities in Glasgow, and for attendees to learn more about the purpose and work of the Bank of England. Lisa was pleasantly surprised to hear from Carney that the objective of the Bank is to “promote the good of the people” as well as his recognition that we are in times of serious change. It is encouraging that he is undertaking this series of community and citizen engagement events, which demonstrates a real willingness to understand the lived experiences of British people.

Lisa took part in a spirited table discussion with fellow charity/non-profit representatives, which covered basic income, lack of dignity in the welfare system, the lack of hope in our current system for people living in poverty, and the trend towards insecure work that fails to offer meaning and purpose.

Outgoing Chief Executive of GCVS Helen Macneil made powerful closing remarks touching on the need for economic system change:

“The UK has become stuck in trying to meet the needs of its people because we are using 19th  and 20th century thinking, systems, concepts in responding to 21st century issues. We’re not facing up to  21st century conditions – changing demography and its impact on people and communities; lack of social mobility; changes in the labour market; increasing social isolation; the impact of social media; and the wider digital revolution …and climate change.

We’re never going to address these effectively if we stay as we are – in silos and comfort zones. Our decision making is slow when it needs to be fast; our systems are clunky when they need to be flexible; our public institutions are risk averse and uncertain when they need to be solutions focused, confident and assured.”

Watch the summary video of the event below, including a clip of Lisa talking about WEAll, and read more here.

Wellbeing Economy Alliance (Scotland) – Volunteer recruitment

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.

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. See https://wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland

We are seeking to recruit three new volunteers, to work with our small team and drive forward our work to support positive change.  Volunteers will be passionate about the need for economic system change, and will have a good understanding of the issues facing our economy, society and natural environment. These are exciting opportunities to support the establishment of a newly formed NGO. While this is a voluntary position all reasonable expenses incurred will be reimbursed.

  1. Events coordinator: The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is looking for an Events Co-ordinator to support us with the successful delivery of a range of events, from large one day conferences to smaller seminars. Download more information on the role and how to apply here.
  2. Administrator: The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is looking for an administrator to provide a range of administrative support functions for  our small but dedicated team.  Download more information on the role and how to apply here.
  3. Communications Assistant: The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland is looking for a Communications Assistant to provide various communication functions for our small but dedicated team. Download more information on the role and how to apply here.

The closing date for applying for all three roles is 6pm on Sunday 30 June. We anticipate holding interviews in Edinburgh on Tuesday 9 July and in Glasgow on Wednesday 10 July.

Blog by Una Bartley, Director of WEAll Scotland


Confused by the term ‘inclusive growth’? You’re not alone. That is one of take home messages from the IPPR report Delivering Inclusive Growth in Scotland, commissioned by the Poverty and Inequality Commission to explore what difference the inclusive growth agenda has made to policy and practice, particularly around reducing inequality.


The authors found a lack of clarity amongst policy makers and practitioners on what the term means, what it looks like in practice and how it can be measured. No surprise then that the report also found limited evidence of the inclusive growth agenda making a difference to people’s lives in Scotland.


Defining inclusive growth

For their research, IPPR defined ‘inclusive growth’ as ‘a departure from growth at all costs, to one that builds equality into economic growth.’


If you’re still scratching your head, the report authors expand on their definition by putting forward four key aspects that they believe underpin inclusive growth. The first states that inclusive growth must include ‘both growth and greater inequality’. Secondly, it should ‘narrow inequalities through the process of economic growth.’ (The authors state that this means reducing inequalities prior to the redistributive practices of government through tax and social security spend.) Thirdly, it should focus on ‘benefiting people who are experiencing socio-economic inequalities’. And finally, it requires ‘sustainability from a climate change and environmental perspective… (and) in the sense of lasting, entrenched and long-term change’.


Still confused?  Me too, but let’s take each of those four principles in turn.


Can inclusive growth address inequality?

First off, there is no doubt that the economy needs to be reshaped to address inequality (and environmental degradation) but can this really be achieved within a economic model that’s utterly dependent on growth? Can growth in itself deliver the outcomes that we want?


To be crude, in an economic system that prioritises GDP, profits are maximised and perceived costs  minimised. In practice that means minimising spend on labour (either through suppressing wages or cutting jobs – increasingly easy to do through automation), and taking short cuts, regardless of their impact on our communities, health or environment. Yet frustratingly, or perhaps inevitably, the report falls short of explaining exactly how an economy can address inequality while continuing to pursue growth.


If we really want to address inequality, we need to move away from the limited mindset that assumes the economy has to be geared towards GDP, and recognise that sometimes growth has to be sacrificed for other goals.


Distribution rather than redistribution

Establishing policies that distribute prosperity and equalise wealth prior to tax and social security spend is a sound principle. To tackle the roots of inequality, we need to shape our economy so that a larger portion of the prosperity created is distributed more evenly from the outset. However, the examples in the report of what this might look like in practice are largely limited to mechanisms to increase wages, and more spend on early years.


If we really want to scale up our ambition around addressing the entrenched inequalities so apparent in Scotland, this principle needs to be applied in a much more radical way. We need to move beyond talking about how to increase wages and look at how we give people a much greater stake in their communities, over our resources, and in the wealth they are creating, for example, through encouraging more community energy projects, promoting community bonds and endorsing alternative business models such as, cooperatives, social enterprises and employee ownership.


Who is economic growth for?

While there’s no surprise that a report commissioned by the Poverty and Inequality Commission proposes that inclusive growth should benefit those experiencing socio-economic inequalities, it is interesting to note that the report goes on to suggest that addressing inequalities will help deliver stronger growth. This begs the question –  which is the means here and which is the end? Do we want to address inequality to beget stronger growth or do we want stronger growth, in the belief that it will  deliver inequality?


Economic growth and environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability, while deemed a key tenet of inclusive growth at the start of the report, barely gets a mention thereafter, bar a passing reference to a low carbon infrastructure in relation to Scottish National Investment Bank.


This is a glaring oversight at a time when our society is finally waking up to the devastating damage our economic model has wreaked on the environment, and the cost that individuals, particularly those in our most deprived communities will pay further down the line.


And yet, the desire to sidestep this issue is understandable given the challenge of reconciling economic growth with a world of finite resources.  Likewise it is all too easy to ignore the adverse consequences that our current economic model inflicts on communities in the narrow pursuit of growth.


An alternative to ‘inclusive growth’

And therein lies the confusion; you can dress up economic growth as ‘inclusive’, ‘green’, or ‘sustainable’ but none of those adjectives will disguise the fact that growth so often drives inequality and environmental degradation; and as such, growth in its current state – without saying growth of what – cannot also be the vehicle that we use to tackle these interlinked issues.


While there is much to disagree with in this report, its publication is timely and the breadth that it covers around recent economic policy in Scotland is useful. This makes it a helpful contribution for a debate that we urgently need to have on the role of the economy in shaping the society we wish to see. But if we want to continue the debate, let’s end the confusion,  let’s drop the term ‘inclusive growth’ and adopt a more meaningful term, one that allows us to both question, and move away from, the concept of growth. Did someone just say ‘wellbeing economy’…?


“But how would things actually be different in a wellbeing economy?”

This is probably the question that our team gets asked most often – and while there’s no single answer, there ARE lots of answers. It all depends on the location, and the issue area.

WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck has created a new section of the WEAll website exploring how the dominant economic system tends to respond to issues, from mental health to the climate crisis, and how a wellbeing economy would respond differently.

The current economic system (the “old way”) responds to the common needs of humanity and the planet in ways that do not address the heart of problems and do not make life better for all. In fact, often problems are made worse or at best responses act as ‘sticking plasters’.

In a wellbeing economy (the “new way”), responses would be person-centred, positive and long-term. The exciting thing is – the new way is already emerging, with inspiring examples around the world showing us the way.

This new online resource sets out indicative wellbeing economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives. It’s a work in progress and open to further contributions –we’re inviting people to submit their suggestions to keep developing the ideas and examples.

Check out the “Old Way vs New Way” resource now.

 Blog by Sam Butler-Sloss, Economics for Change

Economics for Change – a student-led campaigning organisation based in Edinburgh focused on the need for economic system change – is enormously excited to be joining the Wellbeing Economy Alliance to lead their efforts to establish a WEAll Youth Hub here in Scotland. This Youth Hub’s mission is to mobilise young people behind the historic opportunity to drive economic systems change.


Why young people? And why is it such a historic opportunity?

We are all acutely aware of the multiple crises that face us in the 21st century, from spiralling inequality to run away climate change. Yet however well documented these challenges are, bizarrely, awareness has not been enough to drive the adequate action. Since this insufficient level of action has become the new normal, it has taken our generation to stand up and say the current efforts are simply not enough. They do not begin to meet the scale or the urgency of the challenges that we face.

This year has been a striking demonstration of young people’s’ capacity to be at the forefront of social change. We have shown that we have the expectations and ambitions for a better, cleaner and fairer world that dwarf those who are currently at the helms of power. It is in this same spirit that Economics for Change is bringing young people together to take a stand against a failing economic system; to stamp out the tendency of simply ‘muddling through’ and to advocate for an economy that enables both the people and the planet to flourish.

It is often easy for us to feel overwhelmed, but at the centre of WEAll’s narrative is the idea that whilst the challenges are certainly demanding, the opportunities they present are enormous.

To overcome these great societal challenges requires us to transform our economy–and the climate challenge gives a decade to do so.

A decade to redesign how we produce, consume and share in the 21st century. The chance to fundamentally redesign our economy does not come about often, and with it, comes the once in a lifetime opportunity to redraw a better world.

As the economic consensus fractures and the old principles that defined our economy expire, a space is opening up, in which the case for systems-change has never been stronger. As this space widens, a new era is emerging.

This new era is generating new norms, new business models, new energy sources and new ideas of shared prosperity. It is outcompeting today’s system and is paving the path to a wellbeing economy. Yet the question remains, will this change happen fast enough?  

There is no doubt that were are approaching a paradigm shift between a system built on extraction, exploitation and exhaustion and one that is regenerative, circular and inclusive. And this is where young people must step up and have a catalytic effect.

WEAll Youth is a vehicle to enable us to do so: we are a global, interconnected network of young people fighting for a new kind of economics from all corners of this world. We are thinking globally, with a shared vision for change, whilst acting locally to catalyse this transformation from the ground up. We acknowledge our assets: our votes hold power; our voices form new narratives; and our connectivity brings untamable potential to mainstream new ideas and paradigms with the urgency that does these challenges justice.

While fundamental redesign is no modest task it holds the keys to transforming our future; to keeping us within a 1.5 degree world; and to enabling all humans to live a prosperous and dignified life. As young people, we have the most to gain and the most at risk. This is no dress rehearsal, there will be no second chance. The time to come together to drive systemic change is now–we would be mad not to seize this opportunity.

In the coming month, Economics for Change and WEAll Scotland will be establishing the WEAll Scotland Youth Hub. If you share our passion for an economy that serves people & planet and want Scotland to lead the way, get in touch at scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org and join the movement as  WEAll Citizen at www.weallcitizens.org 

If you’re a young person (16-34) and want to get involved with WEAll Youth wherever you are in the world, contact weallyouth@gmail.com 



WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck appeared on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday, 4 May, to debate economic and climate change issues.

The debate focused on the need to move away from growth-oriented economics.

Listen here (from 1:37:20)

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

I write this as I finally get a coffee after a long but exhilarating morning. Actually, a long but exhilarating few years.

This morning a few of us from the WEAll family were sitting in the house that Adam Smith used to live in.

We were there to see the kick off of the first Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) policy lab: Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand coming together to collaborate on wellbeing economy policies.

WEGo is about governments rolling up their sleeves, linking arms, and walking together down a path that sees national success as being defined by the quality of life of citizens rather than the growth rate of a country’s GDP. As the Chief Economist of the Scottish Government said, WEGo is about driving the wellbeing agenda in economic, social, and environmental policy making.

WEAll has been supporting (and sometimes agitating) for this project for many years (even before WEAll was officially formed).

So, sitting back with a coffee after this morning, after these years, and reflecting on the potential of this little project is a nice moment.

We heard the First Minister of Scotland quote Adam Smith and declare that a nation’s success shouldn’t be measured by its gold or silver: that growth is only of value if it makes people’s lives better – it is not an end in itself.

We heard the Prime Minister of Iceland – Katrin Jakobsdottir – say she is personally committed to collaborating with other governments on this agenda and that Iceland is excited by the WEGo project because it is “time to think differently about growth”.

Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes “this event will be the first of many…[because] there is much to gain from working with other countries”.

The governmental engagement in the project is underscored by the support of the OECD – Carrie Exton from their Statistics Directorate described WEGo as “a fantastic project”.

But beyond this, in the context of global divisions, dangerous populism, alienation, Katrin Jakobsdottir looks at WEGo and sees a “light in the darkness” – backed by Nicola Sturgeon who recognised that “if there is ever a right time for such an initiative, it is now…we should seize this [collaboration] with both hands: [this agenda] is the most important overarching thing in my government, because it affects everything”.

Hard to imagine a stronger endorsement for a project rich with potential. It might even be a game changer – setting a new tone for governmental cooperation, leadership, new norms in definitions of success, and working together to deal with the challenges facing today’s world.

Fuelled by coffee, working with such extraordinary and open minded leaders, WEAll might just achieve this wellbeing economy we so urgently need.

Read First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s full speech here.




From 30 April to 2 May, WEAll Scotland Director Una Bartley takes over popular Scottish news and opinion site Bella Caledonia as guest editor.

Una has curated a series of eight new blogs, all written by prominent women in Scotland, exploring the need for and path towards a wellbeing economy.

The links to all blogs will be available below as they go live:

An Economy For the 21st Century – Una Bartley

Financial Investments as if People and Planet Really Mattered – Pauline Hinchion

A Fintech Sector Where People Really Matter – Nicola Anderson

Economics as if Women Mattered  – Anne Meikle

Teaching Economics as if People and Planet Really Mattered – Lovisa Reiche

A Business Model as if People and Planet Really Mattered – Sarah Deas

A Social Policy as if People Really Mattered – Cleo Goodman

Community Energy as if People and Planet Really Mattered – Gillian Wilson

This article was first published by The Herald here.

Building an economy that works for all – Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead


In 1983, Reagan declared that “there are no great limits to growth because there are no limits to human intelligence, imagination and wonder”.

When Reagan uttered those words, students were striking against nuclear weapons. Celebrities were singing that aid and charity from the west would “feed the world”. The scientific community was building an evidence base about hydrofluorocarbons, resulting in political agreement to eradicate their use in order to protect the ozone layer.

Today, students strike against inadequate political response to climate change. Celebrities (and companies) are being called out for tax evasion which undermines state budgets for health and education.

And scientists are not only warning against the 6th mass extinction, but building an evidence base that links between economic growth and environmental impact are real, with any decoupling a case of offshoring production, liable to rebound, and frankly – and unfortunately – just too slow to be a solution.

Community groups and scholars are also pointing to mounting evidence that economic growth and equality of opportunity are not, as was recently suggested on national radio, “two sides of the same coin”. How would that claim sound to communities in Scotland who haven’t seen many drips trickling down from Scotland’s GDP growth in recent decades? Or to people turning to food banks after a shift at work because the economic activity on offer isn’t enabling them to feed their families?

Yet, in spite of such realities, thinking from Reagan’s era lives on. Eleven months ago, a 354-page document was published on behalf of the SNP. The “Sustainable Growth Commission” and its recommendations will be voted on by SNP members at their conference this weekend.

The Commission’s report contains useful and progressive proposals – especially its framing of tax as an investment and welcoming the role of migrants in Scottish life.

But questions could be asked of its underlying premise: turning the pages reveals that it means “sustainable” in the “perpetual” sense of the term, not the “taking into account environmental limits and ensuring the economy regenerates the ecosystem” sense.

The latter doesn’t make for such a catchy title, but would chime better with Scotland’s role in pioneering a new way of understanding economic success. Scotland is already recognising the need to make the economy circular and businesses more inclusive. The Government is broadening the notion of national success away from GDP alone via the National Performance Framework and showing leadership in convening the new Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative.

The report also points to New Zealand’s economy of the last decade or so as something to emulate but turns a blind eye to New Zealand’s concerted efforts to move away from previous growth-ist orientation and instead build a wellbeing economy. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says:

“People look [at our GDP] and say ‘you’re doing OK’. But we have homelessness at staggering rates, ones of the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD and our mental health and wellbeing is not what it should be. We need to address the societal wellbeing of our nation, not just the economic wellbeing.”

These words could apply to Scotland. We should accompany New Zealand in imagining and creating an economy suited to the environmental realities of our age and which ensures the economy works for all, not just the privileged few.

Perhaps the Growth Commission needs another volume, entitled: “From Growth Orientation to Wellbeing: Building an Economy Really Fit for Scotland’s Future”.Writing that would mean updating Reagan for the 21st Century and using our limitless imaginations, wonder, and human intelligence to build an economy that is better than growth.

On Saturday 20 April, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck appeared on BBC Radio Scotland. Interviewed by Isabel Fraser for around 7 minutes, Katherine put forward the case for a wellbeing economy and explained why it’s urgent that we work to change the system now.

Listen here from 13:33  (BBC Sounds)


Wellbeing Economy Alliance (Scotland) – Trustee recruitment notice

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.

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. See https://wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland

We are seeking to recruit three 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. However, prior Board experience is not a requirement.

The Board will play a vital role setting WEAll Scotland’s strategy, overseeing a small core team and acting as ambassadors of the charity.  Trustees will be appointed for an initial period of up to three years with potential for extension. The commitment required is a minimum of one day per quarter (attending Board meeting and preparation). 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 and by taking on pieces of work for and on behalf of the Board. There is no remuneration, however all necessary travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed.

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

The closing date for applications is 31st May.


This blog was first published by Carnegie UK

To coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the Carnegie UK Trust is publishing a series of blogs which outline the approach taken to measuring and improving wellbeing by different governments, organisations and initiatives around the world.

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: the current economy is seen as the only kind of economy that we can have, and the mainstream thinking is that to resist it would be to bring society to its knees.

Yet society is already on its knees – seen in widening economic inequalities; in levels of insecurity, despair and loneliness; and in desperate searches for ways to cope, whether at the pill box or the ballot box. Many people fear the loss of their jobs, insecurity in old age and the destruction of their dreams and cultural norms. And, as Martine Durand writing in this series observes, “bitter divisions within society…[are] so vividly demonstrated in a number of recent elections”.

The planet is also on her knees – on the brink of the 6th mass extinction with the prospect of catastrophic climate breakdown getting closer and closer.

The root cause of so much of this is how the economy is currently designed – in a way that does not account for nature, in a way that is blind to distribution of resources, and in a way that puts measures of progress such as short-term profit and GDP to the fore.

These are structures that are deliberate – and hence can be dismantled and designed differently.

In the depth of the Great Depression, in 1933, John Maynard Keynes wrote:

The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the War, is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed

Today is a time of similar economic inequality to when Keynes was writing and just as then, more and more people are beginning to despise the current arrangements.

Fortunately, today we are not short of ideas as to what to put in its place.

Concepts of societal wellbeing are familiar the world over, even though different terms might be used to describe the central idea of flourishing for all people and sustainability for the planet.

This shared vision for a better way of doing things can be found in the scripts of many religions. It is contained in worldviews of First Nations communities. It can be read in the scholarship of development experts and in research findings about what makes people content. This vision echoes in evidence from psychology about human needs and from neuroscience about what makes our brains react, and, perhaps most importantly, can be heard loud and clear in conversations with people all over the world about what really matters to them.

growing movement is forming around the idea of a wellbeing economy. Academics are laying out the evidence base, businesses are harnessing commercial activities to deliver social and environmental goals, and communities are working together not for monetary reward, but following innate human instincts to be together, to cooperate and collaborate. These efforts will be made easier the more pioneering policy makers embrace a new agenda for the 21st century. We can look to how Costa Rica delivers longer life expectancy and higher wellbeing than the US with just a third of the ecological footprint per person. New Zealand is showing how to design government budgets for a wellbeing economy. Alternative business models like cooperatives show us how success beyond profit can be embraced.

So we’re not starting from scratch. By learning from the many examples and reorienting goals and expectations for business, politics and society, we can build a wellbeing economy that delivers good lives for people first time around, rather than requiring so much effort to patch things up. We designed the current economy, so we all can design a new one: the only limits are our imagination.

On Tuesday 26 March, WEAll Scotland teamed up with Rethinking Economics to co-host an event in Edinburgh discussing economics education and how Scotland can champion a more pluralist approach to economics.

Rethinking Economics is a WEAll member, and comprises an international network of students, academics and professionals building a better economics in society and the classroom.

The event was full of students, civil society professionals, academics and interested members of the public keen to discuss economics curriculum reform.

The panel was chaired by Ross Cathcart from Rethinking Economics, and included:

  • Gary Gillespie, Chief Economic Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Professor Robert McMaster, Professor of Political Economy, University of Glasgow
  • Lovisa Reiche, Rethinking Economics and APEG Member; Economics Student at University of Aberdeen
  • Dr. Katherine Trebeck, Research Director, Wellbeing Economy Alliance

Gary Gillespie kicked off by explaining his background as an academic economist who joined government to try to apply his economics skills to real world issues, particularly health issues in Scotland. Gary was clear that the central objective of the Scottish Government economics directorate is to improve economic and other outcomes for the people of Scotland. He said: “as an academic economist, I used to use policy to show how good the models were, not the other way around!” In later remarks, he stressed the importance of being responsive to the issues of the day, and of the need for economics and other graduates working in the public sector to be motivated by real world concerns.

Katherine Trebeck was clear that economics is at its best when it is pluralist and not “constrained by narrow bandwidths”. She re-imagined the famous Ronald Reagan quote (“the only limits to growth are the limits to our imagination”), saying that our imaginations are presently limited by fixation on growth but can go further. However, it’s not just a question of growth or no growth, but of opening minds – which the university system is particularly well placed to do. She also raised the question of elitism in economics, calling for people from a more diverse range of backgrounds to engage in the topic both as a degree subject and a career.

Robert McMaster explored the interplay between ethics and economics – which, he says, not enough economists are interested in doing. As a Professor who has taught economics at university level for a number of years, he believes that issues start on day one when students are required to focus straight away on “economic scarcity vs. unlimited wants”. He implored the audience to consider that economics, as currently taught, “tacitly condones those who wish to shape our wants”, and ignores power structures beyond market power.

Fourth year Economics undergraduate student Lovisa Reiche had the last word. In her view, economics should be about creating a system that works for as many people as possible. She said: “Economics isn’t all bad: but there are clear problems in the way it is being taught”. For Lovisa, some of the teaching has felt “artificial” and far removed from recognisable human behaviour and values. Frustrated with what she perceives to be the stripping away of relevance from the subject and profession, Lovisa and her fellow students at Aberdeen University have been campaigning for changes – from simple shifts in focus to curriculum overhaul.

The panel coalesced around the notion of the political coming back into economics – though none of them advocate losing the technical rigour of the subject. As Gary summarised, however, “what’s the point of economics if it’s not about addressing the big challenges we’re facing?”

Spirited questions from the audience continued the conversation, and it was clear that nobody wanted the discussion to end! It doesn’t have to: keep up with the work of Rethinking Economics and support the campaign for economics curriculum reform.

You can also find out more about the Scottish Government’s approach to wellbeing economics and the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership here.

This article was first posted on Open Democracy

A few weeks ago I spoke on a panel at an economics conference alongside an academic who specialises in analysing results from surveys that ask people how they feel. These are the kind of surveys that ask people to rate how happy or anxious they are on a scale of 1-10, which in turn inform the evidence base of ‘subjective self-reported wellbeing’.

The results from these surveys certainly matter, but they do not depict the whole story of how a society is doing. To put it simply, you could report being very happy in an economy that is doing a lot of damage to the environment, becoming more unequal, or failing to ensure everyone has their basic needs met. But that’s another story.

What was interesting (and irksome) was his response to my suggestion that we need a new economic system. A system that does not see nature as simply an input to the production of things and a waste sink at the end of the production processes; but one that enables people to collaborate and build strong communities; that attends to reducing the inequalities that separate people from each other. In response to this, the academic declared that this was “fluffy bunny stuff”, and that I was being naïve.

This was not the first time I have been called naïve. As with this panel, every previous instance has been from a man older than me who seems to pride himself as a defender of the current economic system. The naïve insult is hurled to give the impression that to even think that things might be done differently is daft, and that serious and sensible people do not talk about changing the economic system.

My fellow panellist told the audience that if they “look at the data” they will see that things are fine in the UK, that the welfare state is working well, that people are naturally competitive, and that inequality doesn’t matter.

The problem is that just as only looking at how happy people say they are does not provide the whole picture; by only looking at selected pieces of information, defenders of the status quo effectively turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence against it.

There are many examples of this. For example: data is often subject to the tyranny of averages, as is the case with GDP per capita which masks the extent of inequality. Moreover, looking at headline employment statistics misses that many of those in work are not earning enough to live on and are turning to food banks. And while average subjective self-reported wellbeing in countries like the UK might be relatively high compared to other countries around the world, it misses the growing number of people self-harming or feeling stressed or lonely.

Furthermore, those who say that we are in an era of unprecedented prosperity conveniently disregard the impact that the creation of this ‘prosperity’ has had on the natural world. And even if, when pushed, they recognise that the environment matters, they tend to point to ‘green growth’ or casually say that things are fine due to the potential of decoupling CO2 from GDP growth. But that again ignores other aspects of environmental breakdown, and that decoupling is often achieved by offshoring to other countries – like a child sweeping their toys and books under the bed in order to tell their parents their bedroom is tidy.

As my intellectual hero Maja Gopel says, the burden of proof now sits with those who claim the current economic system is working fine or – perhaps worse – that it is the best we can do.

The defenders of the status quo need to explain why ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ will sufficiently attend to the interlocking crisis: how it will give people a sense of control over their lives; how it will ensure they are optimistic about the prospects of their children; how it will stop the world plunging into dire climate change; how it will bring people together rather than push them apart behind gated communities and twitter bubbles.

Fortunately, those of us working on building a wellbeing economycan do this. We can explain how a new economic system which is geared up around the purpose of human and ecological wellbeing will attend to these questions, and how it will be better for current and future generations. That, of course, doesn’t mean that shifting to such an economy will be easy, it just means the possibility is there.

Returning to that panel.

As an Australian, from a country where rabbits were introduced and did great damage to native flora and fauna, I’m not the biggest fan of bunnies.

But in the context of asking who really is naïve in discussions about the economy and the future of society and the world, then I am proud to be a fluffy bunny.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Image by Joe Brusky, CC BY-NC 2.0