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 

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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

This is reposted from CDS  – see the original piece here.

 

Research carried out by Women’s Enterprise Scotland shows that women-led businesses contribute more than £5 billion towards the Scottish economy, and that if rates of women-led businesses equalled that of men, the contribution to Scotland’s GVA would increase to £13 billion. Therefore, it’s encouraging that the past few years have seen a rise in the number of female-fronted businesses in the employee ownership sector, with several of the businesses transitioning to EO being owned or run by women.

We caught up with our director Sarah Deas to hear about some examples.

“One of Scotland’s most prominent EO businesses being run by a woman is Arran’s award-winning Auchrannie Resort. Established by Iain and Linda Johnston in 1988, it became employee-owned in December 2017, with 160 members of staff becoming owners. Linda has led the company as managing director and board chair since 2010.

The team at employee-owned Auchrannie in Arran

“With two 4-star hotels, 30 5-star self-catering lodges, two leisure clubs, three restaurants, an ASPA spa and Arran Adventure outdoor company, Linda and Iain had cultivated a hugely successful business. When considering her succession options, it was important to Linda that the ethos of the company, the existing team, and the community use of Auchrannie’s facilities for the future was protected.

“Those were the drivers in deciding that employee ownership was the way forward for the company, and the new ownership structure means that her team now plays a huge part in shaping and influencing the future success of Auchrannie.

“Another Scottish business which has adopted the EO model in recent years is Doune-based Harvey Maps, a professional mapmaking service for the sport of orienteering. Founded 40 years ago by Robin Harvey MBE and Susan Harvey MBE, it is one of a very small number of companies in the UK to generate its own map data, becoming a market leader in maps for outdoor pursuits.

“As Susan considered her exit strategy, she felt it was important that the business they had built up over the years wasn’t swallowed up by a competitor. She decided that EO would give the company the best chance of continued independent existence and success, while retaining jobs locally. The employee buyout saw ten staff given the opportunity to become owners.

The team at Harvey Maps, Doune

“Heading up Glasgow-based architects Page \ Park is Karen Pickering, who was appointed as its chair of the board of directors following its transition to employee ownership. Having served 27 years with the company, her energy and drive to ensure the best possible architectural outcomes has continued in her new leadership.

“She states that becoming employee-owned boosted productivity and increased engagement among staff – team members are no longer ’wage earners’, they are ‘company owners’ and that has brought about greater energy, drive and pride – a great endorsement of the employee ownership model.

Page\Park Architects in Glasgow

“Also benefiting from EO is East Kilbride-based brand-realisation company Novograf. When the founders were considering their succession options, the company was performing well, winning some significant new business. They wanted to ensure this momentum would continue with those who knew the company best.

“Heading up the team of employee owners is managing director Jennifer Riddell–Dillet, who is harnessing the power of a highly engaged and motivated workforce to drive the business forward to further innovation and success.

Novograf in East Kilbride

“Employee ownership has great potential to help drive economic growth and create greater wealth equality in society. It’s great to see such successful, female–led businesses thrive within the sector, and we look forward to the number of women leading the way in EO continuing to grow.

If you have a question or you want to talk about how employee ownership can help you, please get in touch with us here using the ‘expert support’ option.

In conjunction with the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, and Scotland’s Futures Forum, WEAll Scotland held a seminar on the idea of Scotland as a wellbeing economy.

The seminar was chaired by Gordon Lindhurst MSP, convener of the Committee, and featured a presentation from Dr Katherine Trebeck, Policy and Knowledge Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland, on the concept of and reasons for a wellbeing economy, and the work of WEAll Scotland.

Listen to this podcast to hear what happened at the seminar.

 

Other members of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland also participated, with Peter Kelly from the Poverty Alliance and Andrew Cave from Baillie Gifford providing perspectives on why their organisations are involved.

Read more here.

 

Photo credit: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Guest blog by Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy, Carnegie UK Trust

Over the past two decades, the word wellbeing has increasingly been used in public policy. The relevance of the conversation in both policy and people’s individual lives suggests a deep-seated sense of unease at the way prevailing economic and policy processes are failing to enable wellbeing for all.

But there remains conceptual confusion about the core meaning of the term, what one academic referred to as ‘a cacophony’ of different meanings. This confusion brings a wide number of people into wellbeing discussions but does so at a cost – not all concepts of wellbeing have the same underpinning philosophical root and there are potentially rather contradictory implications from these different conceptions.

In the international wellbeing movement, of which WEAll is now a key player, wellbeing is understood as a way of measuring and thinking about social progress. The movement is often defined by what it is against, namely that social progress cannot be defined solely as economic progress, as measured by GDP. But there is less agreement about what the movement is for – ‘Living well’ (personal wellbeing) and ‘living well together’ (societal wellbeing) give us two broad mechanisms to do this but the policy implications of these two definitions are often in tension.

Personal wellbeing focuses on ‘living well’ and measures quality of life through subjective measures of life satisfaction and happiness (and so it is sometimes called subjective wellbeing). It has its philosophical roots in Epicurean happiness and utilitarianism. In classical utilitarianism, it is not the distribution that matters, merely the total amount of utility. That some are left behind is not necessarily problematic. A broader, but still personal, version of wellbeing has been promoted in the UK over the past two decades.

There are reasons for caution in using personal wellbeing as a guide for public policy. For one, evidence shows that there is a genetic component to wellbeing, which means that the proportion of personal wellbeing that governments can positively affect is smaller than it might first appear. Related to this, there are well known life cycle trends in personal wellbeing and distributive effects which require careful analysis and care. Environmentalists caution against the short-termism of an approach which does not factor in the potential medium to long-term environmental costs of policy decisions. And there are critiques that argue personal wellbeing is further individualisation of the role of governments, focusing on interventions on the person rather than structural changes that would alter the contexts in which people live, work, and play.

Societal wellbeing, or living well together, addresses these concerns by setting out measures that are understood by the society as being essential components of a good society. The philosophical roots are in the Aristotelian-eudemonic tradition which sees human flourishing as the goal for society. To flourish, basic needs must first be met, housing, education, health and so on. Basic needs are universal to human beings, but their realisation is relative. For example, we may agree that housing is a basic human need, but the quality of that housing, how it is to be provided and what is tolerated as good enough housing, will differ across societies.

While the absence of income, health or education may make flourishing difficult, their availability does not itself create flourishing. To flourish is understood as having a purpose in life, participating in society, having a community around oneself. Amartya Sen developed the Capabilities Approach which seeks to supplement purely objective measures with an understanding of what people can do (functionings) and be (capabilities). Societal wellbeing, based on this philosophy, is therefore a multi-dimensional concept that describes progress in terms of improvements in quality of life, material conditions and sustainability. Further, societal wellbeing includes the assessment of longer-term harm caused by actions that create short-term happiness, it is therefore a system for assessing social progress that incorporates both the present and the foreseeable future, often described as the wellbeing of future generations.

The balance between personal and societal wellbeing plays out in practice across the jurisdictions of the UK. In my experience, perception from outside Westminster is that personal wellbeing has ‘captured’ the wellbeing movement in the UK, with key proponents reinterpreting the word wellbeing as relating solely to personal wellbeing. Meanwhile the small devolved jurisdictions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have developed frameworks for measuring societal wellbeing. Their use of societal wellbeing, and the transformative impact it has on public policy, is explored in my next blog ‘The Value of Wellbeing’.

Jennifer’s book Wellbeing and Devolution: Reframing the role of government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is available open access available via Springer Online.

Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy, Carnegie UK Trust

 

One of the most puzzling and important questions for proponents of wellbeing economies is what arguments can we use to convince governments to change their ways? If we could understand their motivations then perhaps we could find a way to bring them closer to delivering on a better society for all? We have much evidence on what binds governments to the current model – electoral cycles and media hostility play significant parts here. But we know far less about what would support them to overcome these barriers and see the value of a wellbeing approach.

I am privileged in my role at Carnegie UK Trust to have been actively involved in wellbeing developments in two jurisdictions (Scotland and Northern Ireland), constituent parts of the UK that have significant devolved powers for primary legislation. Scotland began its journey in 2007 when it launched the National Performance Framework, which it subsequently put into legislation through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015. The uninspiring name hides its intention to put wellbeing at the heart of government and move to a system that balances economic, social and environmental outcomes. Northern Ireland has a much newer system, put in place in 2016 but suffering from the current lack of government. But the intention is no less dramatic, to completely reframe the work of government as a system that aims to create wellbeing for all. The other devolved legislature of the UK, Wales, has also taken a wellbeing approach with its world class Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. For a naturally curious Scot, the coincidence was too much to go unnoticed: why would three small devolved governments embark upon an approach that other, larger governments are not willing to risk?

In exploring this question for my new book, Wellbeing and Devolution I found each of the UK’s devolved governments had a specific reason for wanting to put wellbeing at the heart of governance of public services. For Scotland, the problem that wellbeing speaks to is the need for more joined up, efficient public services. For Wales, it is a mechanism to embed sustainable development. For Northern Ireland, with its recent history of conflict, wellbeing is a mechanism for creating a shared vision of the future of the region that focuses on what people need and want for a good life. Only Wales was influenced by Beyond GDP arguments at the outset, though the other two have moved in this direction (with Scotland recently reimagining their framework to connect it to the Sustainable Development Goals).

Despite their different origin stories the three wellbeing frameworks have evolved to have very similar characteristics – each includes a statement of intent putting wellbeing at the heart of the purpose of government, each includes a set of outcomes that make up their vision for wellbeing and each includes a longer list of indicators for measuring progress towards the outcomes. The approaches are far reaching – they cover all government activity, in two cases they are embedded in legislation, in all cases they have been part of a much larger conversation about transforming the work of government to improve lives.

There are learning points here for the international wellbeing movement. The most compelling argument for a government may not be about the economics of growth but lie closer to the day-to-day delivery of public services and political tensions. But the stories from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also show that the origin story doesn’t matter as much as you might think. Regardless of why they were implemented, each wellbeing framework evolved into a much more fundamental shift to a wellbeing approach. Once the need for an overarching framework is established, the logic of balancing economic with social and environmental outcomes in decision making is inescapable. Building systems that prioritise prevention rather than mitigate harm becomes the order of the day. Programmes and activities that have multiple benefits across wellbeing domains begin to be prioritised, and where money flows culture change can follow.

It is still too early to say just how successful these wellbeing approaches will be in transforming systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are generational shifts not short-term initiatives. The value of a wellbeing approach is only beginning to be understood throughout the system. But the early indications are positive and the story they tell about how to make change happen may just turn out to be inspirational.

Jennifer’s book Wellbeing and Devolution: Reframing the role of government in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is available open access available via Springer Online.

 

 

Guest blog from WEAll Scotland

The launch of new book ‘The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown-up economy’ by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams this month provided a great opportunity for WEAll Scotland to engage with the public on how to create a wellbeing economy by putting on launch events in collaboration with Oxfam Scotland.

Sold-out audiences in Glasgow and Edinburgh listened to an inspiring talk by the authors on the idea of ‘Arrival’ – the point at which economies can stop focusing on growth and instead focus on how to make ourselves at home in this place of plenty.

The concepts in the book resonated with participants, who were full of questions and ideas. Can Scotland follow in New Zealand’s footsteps and create a wellbeing budget? What can Scottish businesses do right now to contribute to this agenda? From a local councillor, what can councils do to encourage more participation? And, from the youngest participant who was just 9 years old, how can we make sustainable solutions more affordable for everyone?

All these questions and more were discussed in interactive sessions after the talks, with people contributing ideas and solutions for how Scotland can become a ‘grown-up economy’.

As with previous WEAll Scotland events, the diversity of perspectives in the room was very encouraging, with not only politicians, activists and business people taking part but also citizens who are increasingly concerned about the current system and keen to contribute to making change.

As one attendee put it: “I’m just a mum with a normal job, but recently my daughter has helped me realise about inequalities and unfairness and I want to play my part.”

Another, a student at Edinburgh University, said that the event and the connections with people there helped him feel hopeful for the future at a time when it seems like there’s a lot of cause for despair.

‘Arrival’ is the idea that a society collectively has the means for this. Growth has reached a point at which a decent standard of living could, theoretically, be universal – and countries like Scotland could lead the way. This week’s events certainly helped the WEAll Scotland team feel like this is not only possible, but already starting to happen.

The book is available from Policy Press here.

This week, as the World Economic Forum gets underway in Davos, Oxfam has unveiled its latest report on the global inequality crisis. They revealed that just 26 people hold more wealth than  the poorest 3.8 billion people in the world.

These shocking figures have generated a buzz of global conversation around what we can do about the situation – and we’ve been part of it, making the case in the media for a wellbeing economy.

WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck has given interviews and written op eds for a number of media outlets – check out the coverage at the links below:

HuffPost
BBC Radio Scotland 
The Herald
The National
Holyrood Magazine

Blog by Lisa Hough-Stewart

At the first WEAll Scotland event in Edinburgh this week I spoke about the need for a wellbeing economy with a farmer. And with an artist. As well as an investment banker, a civil servant, a teacher, a scientist – and so many more. This event really was for everyone, and one of the many things about it that made me feel hopeful was the rich diversity of views and experiences in the room.

Keynote speaker Jacqueline McGlade (former Chief Scientist of UNEP and currently of University College London and Maasai Mara University) struck a chord with the Scottish audience when she called for a “a juggernaut of change” to bring about a systemic shift. Crucially, this change must be global and inclusive, but she and other speakers highlighted the potential for Scotland to play a leadership role.

The purpose of the day was to launch the concept of a wellbeing economy and WEAll as an alliance that aims to connect, enhance and amplify the work of the existing movement in Scotland. Katherine Trebeck, of the WEAll global Amp team and WEAll Scotland team, delivered an inspiring presentation showcasing some of the amazing “chinks of light” projects and ideas around the world demonstrating that a wellbeing economy already exists. She also emphasized that the event was happening as part of Challenge Poverty Week – and during Climate Challenge and Good Money Weeks, too. All great examples of people recognizing change is needed, across linked agendas that WEAll is working on.

Doreen Grove from WEAll Scotland said in her talk: “We know what people care about – having meaningful lives, having agency. When we talk about changing the system though, everyone needs to be there not just those with power.”

Perhaps not everyone in Scotland was there for the inaugural WEAll Scotland meeting but a meaningful cross-section of Scottish society brought their experience and voices to the room. After hearing the global perspective from Jacqui and Katherine, it was over to the participants to analyse what can be done in Scotland to advance the wellbeing economy agenda.

There were healthy challenges from participants about the value WEAll can add, and no shortage of ideas for action. The WEAll Scotland team has an exciting to-do list as a result of afternoon discussions about prioritization! We heard that support is needed to help accelerate the good work already happening, help people connect and collaborate, and to support those going against the current system, because it is hard tiring work.

As Carol Tannahill (Head of Social Policy for the Scottish Government and director of the Glasgow Centre for Population Health) summarized, hope was an overarching theme for the day, with positive energy and optimism brimming from all discussions. This is, participants agreed, a unique moment for Scotland. Political will, public engagement and capacity to change seem to be intersecting, and together they provide fertile ground for Scotland to act as a leader in the shift to a wellbeing economy.

The event was an important milestone on the route to a wellbeing economy for Scotland – to follow this journey or get involved in Scotland check out www.wellbeingeconomy.org/scotland

 

 

 

 

 

WEAll Policy and Knowledge lead Katherine appears on the latest Politics Galore! podcast, talking wellbeing economies, and a little bit of Scottish politics.