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.