As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

21st Century Sustainable Enterprise Force Field

“The desired state for a company is being a truly sustainable enterprise that partners with other organizations to lead society to a more just, safe, healthy and resilient future. The 21st century sustainable enterprise force field is a dashboard of sustainability-related forces that affect companies”

UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report 2021

Human development has been spurred by changes in technology. But so has inequality. Today’s staggering inequalities began to appear with the industrial revolution. The pace of technological change is accelerating due to digitalization and frontier technologies. New technologies can have severe downsides if they outpace a society’s ability to adapt.

2019/2020 Action Plan For The Office of The Youth Envoy (OYE)

“The Youth Envoy mission is to lead advocacy and champion youth agency in the prioritization of youth issues within continental, and other decision-making and
governance spaces.”

Beyond Race and Rota (January 2021) It Takes a System- The Systemic Nature of Racism and Pathways to Systems Change

There are three central pillars to race thinking as a mental model. The first pillar is that humanity can be differentiated along the lines of the category called ‘race’. The second is that there exists a racial hierarchy in which being white is the highest form of humanity. The third is that populations racially minoritised as ‘other than’ white are deeply and irreversibly biologically and/or culturally flawed. In other words, the racial order is largely fixed.

How Waste Monopolies are Choking Environmental Solutions, and What We Can Do About It

“Monopoly power in the U.S. has reached catastrophic levels, affecting every corner of our economy and society. While this crisis is gaining more attention, particularly in the tech industry, there is much more to understand about how it affects our lives.”

Petition to the Government of Canada

“The consensus for the shift to a wellbeing economy is growing. Scientists have called on governments to “shift from pursuing GDP growth and affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving wellbeing” to tackle the climate emergency. Business leaders are pressing for an economic reset that recognises human dependence on nature and includes measures of economic performance beyond GDP,  and most citizens agree that the government should prioritise health and wellbeing goals above economic growth.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

The 36×36 project has officially commenced! This exciting initiative brings together femxle leaders from around the world to co-create a revolutionary architecture for the global economy. 

The neoliberal economic “story” has proliferated around the globe for decades, legitimising a huge concentration of wealth and power and the destruction of our environment. This story, based on “trickle-down”, free-market ideas, was crafted by a group of 36 men in 1947, at a resort in Switzerland. Despite the widely recognized failures of this economic ideology, it continues to dominate the way that we organise and govern systems of production and exchange. 

The Schumacher Institute, Collective Leadership Institute and Wellbeing Economy Alliance collaborated around the exciting notion that if 36 men could shape the old economic system, womxn could come together to transform it and create the new economy we all need. 

The three partner organisations were energised by the idea of a network of femxle leaders – a network that, far from being a closed shop like the “boys’ clubs” of old, would be diverse, collaborative and inclusive from the start. The first 36 womxn would be just the beginning of a femxle revolution in economic thinking – hence the idea of 36 by 36: a multiplier effect. 

“Up until the 21st century women’s voices were almost absent in the economic and finance discourse and decision making.  This project is a step in the direction for women to have an equal say.  It is absolutely crucial for the future of people and planet.” – Vala Ragnardottir, Schumacher Institute

After months of project development, outreach and dozens of incredible applications, the 36×36 project has now brought together a cohort of impressive womxn involved in a diverse range of pursuits to co-create this new vision. From 24 countries and a hugely diverse range of backgrounds, these womxn are already leading the way to a new economic system. Together, their change-making power multiples – find out who they are here.

What will they do?

The womxn will participate in a certified leadership program, interrogating the dimensions of a new economic system and what it will take to get there. They will host a series of public events to bring wider knowledge into the process, and they will collaborate on their shared challenges to advance their own work., All of this will culminate in a visionary manifesto that will lay out what is needed to change our economic system. 

 “Womxn have been in the forefront of naming the problems with prevailing economic thinking and practice. It is time that they take the lead in reinventing the purpose of economy: caring and serving life on this planet. And it is time that they become the drivers of transformations.” – Petra Kuenkel, Collective Leadership Institute

How can I get involved?

Over the next 9 months, these womxn will embark on a journey together to spark a femxle-led revolution in economic thinking. We invite all of you into this process: the programme and manifesto aim to reflect the wider new economic movement. 

“Economics continues to be dominated by old, white men and if we are serious about rebalancing the world, we must also rebalance the economics discipline. 36×36 provides an opportunity to build a transformative network, demonstrating that a different economic system is not only possible but just a few strategic decisions away” Amanda Janoo, WEAll 

To stay updated about the progress of 36×36, and hear about ways to get involved, check out the following:

36×36 Website

36×36 Newsletter

WEAll Citizens Platform, “36×36 Femxle Economic Revolutionaries group”

(WEAll Citizens > Groups > “36×36 Femxle Economic Revolutionaries”)

Last month, the WEAll Scotland team met with around 50 of our friends and colleagues at the (strictly virtual) pub for an evening of discussion, reflection, and games. It was a chance to chat about what WEAll Scotland accomplished last year, how the wellbeing economy movement is progressing, and also for our guests to tell us about what they’ve been working on.

Before we moved on to the festivities (the WEAll Scotland team runs a top-quality scavenger hunt, after all), we sent a survey round for people to fill out as and when they wished throughout the evening.

One of the more fun questions?

“What was your least favourite buzzword of 2020?”

We want to share some of the responses with you.

Happy reading, and please drop us a message if you’d like to share your own least favourite buzzwords with us, too.

What were your least favourite buzzwords of 2020?

2020. It was an unprecedented year—although maybe we shouldn’t use that particular word, since it was officially the least popular buzzword from last year . . . at least according to our guests at last month’s WEAll Scotland social.

After unprecedented, other unpopular buzzwords included new normal, world beating, and the last name of a certain former US president.

Not everyone suggested buzzwords they thought were bad, of course. Take social distancing, for example, which was one of the responses that didn’t crack the top 10, so it’s not featured in the list below. Social distancing is a vital practice just now. But it’s also understandable that some of these terms become part of the background noise after one hears them 57 times in a single day.

That’s what we work to avoid with wellbeing economy. Yes, it’s a phrase that we use a lot, but its meaning is both tangible and highly relevant to Scotland and the world: an economy that enables social justice on a healthy planet. Sounds like a pretty good idea after all the uncertainty of 2020, eh?

But back to the buzzwords.

In order of un-popularity, here are our guests’ top 10 least popular buzzwords of 2020:

  1. Unprecedented
  2. New normal
  3. World beating
  4. Trump
  5. Pivot
  6. Moonshot
  7. Cummings
  8. Brexit
  9. Woke
  10. Maga

There you have it! And remember, this was just an ice breaker game–all in good fun. But we do hope it got you thinking about communication and how we can go about it in 2021.

So with that, in an unprecedented year of new normals, we hope you enjoyed our world-beating list of buzzwords. And if not, maybe you’ll pivot after giving it another read.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Escaping the Growth & Jobs Treadmill- European Environmental Bureau

“Livelihoods matter. Not just for the richest in society. But for all of us. Labour matters. Not just as the means to production but as an investment in the building of society. Work matters. Not just as the means to an income but as the tangible manifestation of our commitment to a collective future.”

Petition to the Government of Canada

“The consensus for the shift to a wellbeing economy is growing. Scientists have called on governments to “shift from pursuing GDP growth and affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving wellbeing” to tackle the climate emergency. Business leaders are pressing for an economic reset that recognises human dependence on nature and includes measures of economic performance beyond GDP,  and most citizens agree that the government should prioritise health and wellbeing goals above economic growth.”

Climate Justice Playbook for Business – B Corporation

As the source of the vast majority of the planet’s greenhouse gases, the business sector is uniquely culpable for the climate emergency. The business sector is therefore responsible for demonstrating leadership in eliminating emissions, drawing down carbon as rapidly as possible, and directly addressing the injustices brought about or exacerbated by climate change.

The Power of Corporations in a Digital World – Oxfam Report

“Our key concern is to consider the significance of data and algorithms, the establishment of monopolies, and policy assumptions in competition law. Our touchstone is whether digitalization supports the social and ecological transformation of the economic system or – what we hope to avoid – hampers it.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Climate Justice Playbook for Business – B Corporation

As the source of the vast majority of the planet’s greenhouse gases, the business sector is uniquely culpable for the climate emergency. The business sector is therefore responsible for demonstrating leadership in eliminating emissions, drawing down carbon as rapidly as possible, and directly addressing the injustices brought about or exacerbated by climate change.

The Power of Corporations in a Digital World – Oxfam Report

“Our key concern is to consider the significance of data and algorithms, the establishment of monopolies, and policy assumptions in competition law. Our touchstone is whether digitalization supports the social and ecological transformation of the economic system or – what we hope to avoid – hampers it.”

Bridging the Divide Between Impact Investing and Native America – Stanford Social Innovation Review

Saying that it’s important to include Indigenous Peoples in decision-making practices is one thing, but if the majority lack capital screens founded on Indigenous principles and practices, how can it translate into action?

The Economics of Biodiversity – Dasgupta Review

“It would seem then that, ultimately, we each have to serve as judge and jury for our own actions. And that cannot happen unless we develop an affection for Nature and its processes. As that affection can flourish only if we each develop an appreciation of Nature’s workings, the Review ends with a plea that our education systems should introduce Nature studies from the earliest stages of our lives, and revisit them in the years we spend in secondary and tertiary education. The conclusion we should draw from this is unmistakable: if we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists.”

Crack the Crises – The Global Goals

“Join organisations from across the UK, advocating for a better future for people and planet, have come together in this new coalition. We want to bring people together to tackle these crises by taking individual actions, by supporting others and by asking decision-makers to act.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

The entrenched nature of racism in our current economic system is abundantly clear. All over the world, there are cases where one race or class of people are discriminating against and exploiting the ‘other’. This trend is seen with the Rohingya in Myanmar, Africans residing in China, and globally reflected by the massive civil rights protests for #BlackLivesMatter. The discrimination against an ‘other’ is unfortunately a key tenet of how our global economy operates.

It goes without saying that in order to develop a new global economic system that delivers social justice on a healthy planet, we must ensure that these trends do not continue. It is vital that this emergent system is actively ‘antiracist’. 

What does it mean to be antiracist?

Before we can define antiracism, we must define racism. In his book, “How to be an Antiracist”, Ibram X. Kendi defines racism as, “a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalises racial inequities.” 

Racist ideas suggest that one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way. Racist policies come about when these ideas influence decision making on how to distribute opportunities and power, often unfairly and unequally As a result, we see racial inequity, when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximate or equal footing to access benefits from our collective systems, such as the financial system or the political system. 

These definitions show that racism goes beyond individuals having prejudices; it is about how those beliefs translate into power imbalances that perpetuate massively different life chances and life outcomes between two racial groups. 

For greater clarification – this is about inequity, not inequality. See the graphic below which illustrates the difference of these two phrases.

Artist: Angus Maguire

In contrast, Antiracism is “a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” 

We are not simply looking for equality, which is giving everyone the same opportunities, but does not consider everyone’s starting points. We are looking to remove the barriers and address the systemic factors that have disadvantaged certain groups, so that everyone ultimately ends up with the same standing. This is equity.

Simply put, antiracism promotes equity, and racism promotes inequity. 

This framing allows for a simple way to identify which policies are racist or antiracist. For example, do-nothing climate policy is racist since the non-white Global South is being victimised by climate change more than the whiter Global North. 

Transitioning away from policies that promote inequity, requires a shift in how we think about our economic system. 

Our current system – underpinned by capitalism [‘an economic system characterised by private ownership for the means of production, especially in the industrial sector’] latches onto existing hierarchies in a society – like gender or race – exploits and exacerbates them, and creates new hierarchies”. As Cedric Robinson states, “Without this ability to exploit existing divisions, the profit margins of the corporations that drive capitalism would be seriously undermined.”

This insight shares the reasoning behind building racial hierarchies in society; to build hierarchies of value. In the Open Democracy Podcast, “Is Capitalism Racist”, Dalia Gebria points out that upholding these hierarchies, where some people do the dirty work that keep others alive, means that “you have to differentiate people into more worthy and less worthy, more human and less human, and with particular characteristics that make them seem ‘naturally suited’ to this work, all while concealing the fact that this differentiation is socially constructed.” 

Continuing to uphold these hierarchies in society will perpetuate the capitalist system that is underpinned by racist policies. Kendi says, “Whoever creates the norm creates the hierarchy and positions their own race-class at the top of the hierarchy.” Meaning that, to dismantle these hierarchies of power and to ensure policies are not racist, policymaking must be inclusive of all the voices of communities. Building policies that are inherently collaborative, is the process needed to build a Wellbeing Economy

In a Wellbeing Economy, people and the planet are the priority. The focus is on building equity in societies all over the world. As Kendi writes, “Changing minds is not a movement. Critiquing racism is not activism. Changing minds is not activism. An activist produces power and policy change, not mental change.” 

This is why a core part of WEAll’s network is focused on convening and connecting stakeholders from different focus areas and geographies and bringing them into each other’s work thus catalysing new powerbases of people that can shift policy and structural change in our economic system. This is created through our place-based Hubs, [ScotlandCosta Rica, Iceland, Cymru- Wales, California, New Zealand], which advocate for policy change, and the establishment of the WEGo Partnership, which is the world’s only living lab testing Wellbeing Economy policies.

To transition towards a Wellbeing Economy, our future policies must stop thinking of transaction, value extraction, and accumulation, but rather begin to think about togetherness, survival, and repair. We are all on the same planet, in this complex system; as one.

Visit our anti-oppression page to learn more about how to incorporate antiracist decision making into your work. 

Our upcoming Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guidebook will also outline the specific tools needed for policymaking that promotes equity. 

If you are interested in starting a WEAll Hub in your local area, see our Hub Guide.  

Written by Isabel Nuesse

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

The Economics of Biodiversity – Dasgupta Review

“It would seem then that, ultimately, we each have to serve as judge and jury for our own actions. And that cannot happen unless we develop an affection for Nature and its processes. As that affection can flourish only if we each develop an appreciation of Nature’s workings, the Review ends with a plea that our education systems should introduce Nature studies from the earliest stages of our lives, and revisit them in the years we spend in secondary and tertiary education. The conclusion we should draw from this is unmistakable: if we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists.”

Crack the Crises – The Global Goals

“Join organisations from across the UK, advocating for a better future for people and planet, have come together in this new coalition. We want to bring people together to tackle these crises by taking individual actions, by supporting others and by asking decision-makers to act.”

The Little Book of Flourishing – The Flourishing Institute

“Resilient children are made, not born. Children become resilient as a result of the levels of stress and nurturing that they experience early on in life. If our early experiences are dysfunctional they will lead to changes in the way we respond and behave. The healthier the relationships a child has, the more likely he or she will be able to recover from trauma and thrive.”

Achieving an Economy of Wellbeing in Europe Healthy Europe

“All Policies for a Healthy Europe is calling on the EU and its Member States to step up to the challenge and grasp the opportunity offered by the pandemic to effectively move beyond GDP as the main indicator for economic and all other policies”

Quarterly of the European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies – Opinion Piece from Katherine Trebeck “The Wellbeing Economy Agenda”

“Why go back to an economy that treats many of our most essential workers so badly and which implicitly tolerates such inequalities? The economic systems of some countries generate insecurity, despair and loneliness, which spurs desperate searches for ways to cope, whether at the pill box or the ballot box.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Achieving an Economy of Wellbeing in Europe Healthy Europe

“All Policies for a Healthy Europe is calling on the EU and its Member States to step up to the challenge and grasp the opportunity offered by the pandemic to effectively move beyond GDP as the main indicator for economic and all other policies”

Quarterly of the European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies – Opinion Piece from Katherine Trebeck “The Wellbeing Economy Agenda”

“Why go back to an economy that treats many of our most essential workers so badly and which implicitly tolerates such inequalities? The economic systems of some countries generate insecurity, despair and loneliness, which spurs desperate searches for ways to cope, whether at the pill box or the ballot box.”

The Alternatives Project – Project Launch – Sign their statement!

“We, the undersigned, believe that current social, economic, political, and educational arrangements reproduce relations of power that engineer profound inequities and will ultimately threaten life on the planet. We stand for alternative pedagogies and for just, regenerative education systems that will support the social transformations we need in order to create a richer, more equitable, and sustainable world.”

The Case for an Ecological Interest Rate – Policy Research in MacroEconomics

Driving all this growth and increased consumption is, of course, our economic and financial system, with money and its price as lubricant and enabler. What can be done about it?

Building a Resilient Economy – WWF, ZOE, NEF & WEAll

“In the wake of COVID, tackling the multiple interlinked crises the world is facing – climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water security, and inequality among others – requires policy makers to answer a key question: where should we focus to help drive this transition most rapidly, efficiently and fairly?”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

Upcoming Events

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

Mark McKergow, founder, Village In The City (http://villageinthecity.net )

You arrive in a new city to find that although everything is bustling, there seems to be no way to connect to people in your neighbourhood. Or perhaps you have lived in a city for ages, only to find that the pandemic lockdowns cut you off from your normal social channels. That was me, a few months ago. 

However, I noticed that the lockdown produced a change in our street. People started talking to each other. An email and Whatsapp group were set up. News was shared, support offered, I played my saxophone for the neighbours on the doorstep, and we started to connect. In one way, I felt life improving as a result of this terrible event. I wanted more of it, for me and for others.

So, I set up Village In The City in June 2020, with the idea of learning about how to build my own micro-local community in Edinburgh’s West End, and to connect and share with others who feel they want to share a similar journey. My background is in leadership and organisation development, in particular the approach of ‘leading as a host’.  I figured that I have some professional expertise to bring to the community development field. So, I wrote a Manifesto with six key elements which can act as the basis for community and set about it, inviting others to join in. Micro-local communities improve well-being, economy, and connection.

What IS a ‘village in the city’?

It’s a small patch, a neighbourhood rather than a council area or local government unit. It may only be a few streets. You can probably walk across it in 10 minutes maximum. To create one, we suggest to people to start small at first – connect, invite people to join you, take some small steps, maybe set up a Facebook group or similar, have a kick-off meeting to see what people would value, and go from there.

Village-level community can:

  • Improve all our lives in the short-term and long-term. Both building an active community and being part of one are positive experiences.
  • Build inclusive cross-generational and cross-demographic community, to expand our awareness of how the world is experienced by those around us.
  • Build resilience and mutual support with people right there on their doorstep, continuing and expanding the positive developments seen during the COVID pandemic.
  • Connect businesses, support groups, families, churches, secular groups, and everyone else with an identity and local participation.
  • Act as a necessary counterbalance to online communication; access to global communication leaves space for micro-local in-person interaction.
  • Help citizens become more empowered and purposefully connected than they have been in recent years.

We now have a growing band of village-builders around the world, from North and South America to continental Europe and the United Kingdom. We hold monthly calls with experts in community development, as well as learning & sharing calls and forums – all free to join. We are also developing resources including the ‘Village Builders Handbook’ (now in its third iteration and growing all the time). 

We welcome folk from anywhere in the world who want to start work to build community in their local patch. It doesn’t even have to be in a city! Some of our members have found themselves working from home, spending more time in their local patch, and finding they want to use their skills and experience to improve it. You are welcome to join our international group where we learn, share, support each other, improve our own lives and the lives of our neighbours too. 

You can find out more about Village In The City by joining our free online FireStarter Festival event on Thursday 4th February at 4pm UK time, visiting the website, or joining one of our free calls. You are also welcome to contact me at mark@villageinthecity.net

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

By: Dirk Philipsen

Originally published in AEON Magazine

Against the capitalist creeds of scarcity and self-interest, a plan for humanity’s shared flourishing is finally coming into view

I’ve witnessed massive swarms of fireflies
grace my garden like never before, drawn
to the air cleansed of our arrogant greed,
their glow a flashback to the time before
us, omen of Earth without us, a reminder
we’re never immune to nature. I say this
might be the end we’ve always needed
to begin again …
– From the poem ‘Say This Isn’t the End’ (2020) by Richard Blanco

A basic truth is once again trying to break through the agony of worldwide pandemic and the enduring inhumanity of racist oppression. Healthcare workers risking their lives for others, mutual aid networks empowering neighbourhoods, farmers delivering food to quarantined customers, mothers forming lines to protect youth from police violence: we’re in this life together. We – young and old, citizen and immigrant – do best when we collaborate. Indeed, our only way to survive is to have each other’s back while safeguarding the resilience and diversity of this planet we call home.

As an insight, it’s not new, or surprising. Anthropologists have long told us that, as a species neither particularly strong nor fast, humans survived because of our unique ability to create and cooperate. ‘All our thriving is mutual’ is how the Indigenous scholar Edgar Villanueva captured the age-old wisdom in his book Decolonizing Wealth (2018). What is new is the extent to which so many civic and corporate leaders – sometimes entire cultures – have lost sight of our most precious collective quality.

This loss is rooted, in large part, in the tragedy of the private – this notion that moved, in short order, from curious idea to ideology to global economic system. It claimed selfishness, greed and private property as the real seeds of progress. Indeed, the mistaken concept many readers have likely heard under the name ‘the tragedy of the commons’ has its origins in the sophomoric assumption that private interest is the naturally predominant guide for human action. The real tragedy, however, lies not in the commons, but in the private. It is the private that produces violence, destruction and exclusion. Standing on its head thousands of years of cultural wisdom, the idea of the private variously separates, exploits and exhausts those living under its cold operating logic.


In preindustrial societies, cooperation represented naked necessity for survival. Yet the realisation that a healthy whole is larger than its parts never stopped informing cultures. It embodies the pillars of Christianity as much as the Islamic Golden Age, the Enlightenment or the New Deal. In the midst of a global depression, the US president Franklin D Roosevelt evoked an ‘industrial covenant’ – a commitment to living wages and a right to work for all. During the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr gave voice to the broader idea when he said that no one is free until we are all free. On Earth Day 1970, the US senator Edmund Muskie proclaimed that the only society to survive is one that ‘will not tolerate slums for some and decent houses for others, … clean air for some and filth for others’. We should call these ideas what they are – central civilisational insights. Social and economic prosperity depends on the wellbeing of all, not just the few.

Cultures that fundamentally departed from this awareness usually did not, in the long run, fare well, from the Roman Empire to Nazism or Stalinism. Will neoliberal capitalism be next? Rather than acknowledge the endless variety of things that had to be in place to make our individual accomplishments possible, it is grounded in the immature claim that our privileges are ‘earned’, made possible primarily by private initiative.

But what a claim it is: where would we be without the work and care of others? Without the food from the farmer? Without the electricity and housing and roads and healthcare and education and access to information and hundreds of other things provided to us, day in and day out, often for free, and routinely without us knowing what went into their existence? Seeing ourselves as seemingly free-floating individuals, it’s both easy and convenient to indulge in the delusion that ‘I built it. I worked for it. I earned it.’

The painful flipside are the billions of those who, through no fault of their own, drew the short end of the stick. Those who were born in the wrong country, to the wrong parents, in the wrong school district – ‘wrong’ for no other reason than that their skin colour or religion or talents didn’t happen to be favoured. The limited focus on the individual can here be seen as nakedly serving power: if those who have privilege and wealth presumably earned it, so must those who have pain and hardship deserve it.

Old and young, meanwhile, sense the loss of a cultural heritage that transcends the private, a purpose beyond the marketing of self. We likely fear, with good reason, that, in all the self-promotion, we can no longer rely on others to be there for us, to provide us with consistent work, a stable community, a bit of love and kindness. We are scared of climate change, the ultimate consequence of our voracious consumption. We dread loneliness and depression, too much work, the loss of jobs, debt. We sense, and often experience, that everyone looking out for themselves brings out the worst in us – me against you, one tribe against the other. Many experience it simply as a culture in distress.

Standard economic thinking both seeds and feeds the underlying fear by instructing that we’re all in a race to compete for limited resources. Most definitions of mainstream economics are based on some version of Lionel Robbin’s 1932 definition as the ‘efficient allocation of scarce resources’. The answer to scarcity coupled with people’s presumed desire for more is, of course: keep producing stuff. Not surprisingly, the guiding star for success, of both policymakers and economists around the world, is a crude, if convenient metric – GDP – that does nothing but indiscriminately count final output (more stuff), independent of whether it’s good or bad, whether it creates wellbeing or harm, and notwithstanding that its ongoing growth is unsustainable.

It’s circular logic: (1) scarcity makes people have endless needs, so the economy needs to grow; (2) for the economy to grow, people need to have ever more needs. Such thinking dominates the field of economics, and much of contemporary culture: Man (yes, those ideas overwhelmingly come from men) as the endless optimiser of self-interest; people reduced to producers and consumers; all aspects of life that go beyond the mere accumulation of stuff – morality, joy, care – confined to kindergarten, fiction and the occasional ethics course in high school or college. The result is what Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times calls a ‘moral myopia’ threatening to collapse under a mounting pile of stuff.

Dysfunctions such as climate change, racism and inequality are not unrelated and naturally occurring features of life. On the contrary, they are based on the fictions and failures of the ‘private’ that later turned into systems that now govern our lives.

In reality, we collaborate, organise together, show love and solidarity – as the Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom documented in her book Governing the Commons (1990) – in the process invariably creating common rules and values that organise communal life. We rely on society, community, family, day-in and day-out. And yet the tragic disconnect between our lived reality (however embattled at times) and the dominant ideology, celebrating ‘the private’ in textbooks, newspapers and Hollywood movies, often eludes us. When large corporations, run by people who preach the gospel of the market and private gain, need the public to bail them out, few in power raise the most obvious question: why do you need public money to bail you out if you are supposed to be pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?

A deeper question might be: why should wealth and privilege – largely built on the free work of nature and the cheap work of labourers – be rescued, when in trouble, by the very people otherwise deemed ‘disposable’?

The particular version of the ‘private as property’ likely has its origins in the Roman empire. It comes with the notion of absolute dominion – denoting one’s right to have full control over one’s property. Initially, such dominion was exercised by the male head of household, over both things and people – or, more precisely, over things, but also over people who, in what was possibly the first legal power grab in the name of the private, came to be defined as things (children, slaves).

When George Floyd was killed on 25 May 2020, it put on global display, once again, that most people – poor, younger, older, Black, Brown, non-male – remain disposable in the regime of private interest. All too often, they are violated in the scarcely disguised name of private property, perpetrated by those tasked to defend it, the police. The mistake of vandals in recent demonstrations, as satirists have pointed out, was that they didn’t loot in the name of private equity firms. Put differently: in order for the law not to put its boot on your neck, your theft has to come at white-collar scale and the sanction of power.

The tragedy of the private, in short, doesn’t come from the private as individual, but from the private as ownership, as control over land, resources and others. To own was always less about protection of the self than it was about exclusion of others. As such, it is a logical violation of the ‘other self’ or, really, other selves. You against me – your gain as my loss.

To illustrate: no single event, short of war, created as much misery in a country like England as when those with access to violence (arms, laws, wealth) privatised and fenced in the land that people needed to stay alive. It came to be known as ‘enclosure of the commons’ but represented a largescale and bloody theft, allowing a tiny percentage of people to exclude the majority from access to a common heritage. The result has since been naturalised and replicated the world over and sanctified in law as ‘the rights of private property’.

No bodies were ever more violated than those brutalised as slaves or serfs, all in the name of profit and – as authors such as Kidada Williams have documented in painstaking detail – sanctified by a vicious regime of private property. Racism, as thinkers from C L R James to Angela Davis to Barbara and Karen Fields remind us, is an essential building block to the system of private capital.

No form of governance, social or economic, has plundered the resources provided by nature as much as private property (though the state ownership of communism came close).

No single circumstance undermines political rights and freedoms today more than poverty – the violent exclusion from essential human rights: access to work, income, vital resources.

The private as dominion over property thus inevitably violates the private as personal integrity and freedom. Humans become objects – my slave, my worker, my child – and are denied access to the essentials of life. Thus deprived of independence, the private reduces the freedom of the majority, all those without access to sufficient capital, to the narrow choices provided by the marketplace in service of private property – they are, in Amartya Sen’s words, effectively denied ‘the capability to realise one’s full potential as a human being’.

Over generations, open theft of common heritage became disguised as private property, hiding behind legal contracts and the cold fiction of money as wealth. One gets used to customs, this history suggests, even when they defy rational thought. The original freedom fighters against the enclosure of common land, groups such as ‘the Diggers’, were remarkably less mystified than their modern compatriots: no one is free, they declared in 1649, ‘till the Poor … have a free allowance to dig and labour the Commons’. Thomas Jefferson (the freedom fighter, not the slaveholder) would’ve understood the logic – as would’ve Toussaint L’Ouverture or Nelson Mandela.

Legally ‘set free’ to sell their labour power, the landless were instead reduced to a state of abject poverty where they became the unwilling ‘masses’ populating the satanic mills of early industrialisation – freedom as a choice between misery or death.

The excuse for the ruthlessness of the exclusion and exploitation of others in the name of private interest was always the same: the prospect of a better future for all. Today, we should ask: has it succeeded? It is a question far more difficult to answer than modern apologists such as Steven Pinker would have us believe. Yes, by any available measure, capitalism (based on private interest) has generated unprecedented wealth and knowledge.

This explosive creation of wealth, however, came, and continues to come, with a steep, and exponentially rising, price. Powered by fossil fuels, it is both depleting and burning up the planet. Grounded in extraction and exploitation, capitalist progress carries mounting violence and destruction in its wake. The flipside of civilisation, in Walter Benjamin’s words, appears to be ‘a document of barbarism’. Growth, expansion, development – the struggle to conquer scarcity both gave and took in large measure from those who populated our land. Perhaps it’s finally time to recognise the carnage that created the wealth.

At first, modern economies succeeded in providing more calories to a starving patient. Based on this initial success, the economics profession (no doubt based on sophisticated mathematical models) concluded that more calories will forever improve health. Now dealing with a lethally obese patient, our leaders and economic advisors stubbornly resist acknowledging the obvious question: if we continue on an exponentially increasing regimen of calories, won’t we incapacitate, if not kill, the patient – ourselves?

Much has been said about how the incessant race for more, bigger, faster has also led to a crisis of meaning and purpose, what King, Jr called a widening ‘spiritual death’ of living in a ‘thing-oriented’ rather than ‘a person-oriented society’, or what D H Lawrence simply labelled ‘the Mammon of mechanised greed’.

But whether the death is one of spirit or meaning, or the actual death of nature and people, all spring from a common root: the single story of self-interest, and its logical manifestation, the private. ‘We do not have to escape from the Earth,’ as the environmental activist Vandana Shiva exhorts us in Oneness vs the 1% (2019), ‘we have to escape from the illusions that enslave our minds …’

We live in a different world now. Whatever might have been justified in the past to overcome poverty and scarcity no longer holds sway. Today, we face an entirely different challenge. Not too little, but too much. Not scarcity, but abundance.

In the modern world, more is actually less. Indeed, the costs of economic growth have begun to outpace their benefits, visible in the plunder of the environment and escalating inequality. We no longer need more, but rather better and more fairly distributed, in order to provide prosperity for all. Collectively, we produce and grow enough for every child, woman and man to have a good and dignified life wherever they live. As a world community, we know more and create more than we know how to process. It’s a huge accomplishment. We should celebrate and enjoy it together, rather than remain on the deplorable path of pitting one against the other in the race for ever more, one dying of too much, the other of too little.

And yet, our dominant economic systems continue to follow colonial extraction and brutal exclusion, in the process creating two organically related, existential problems: the perpetuation (and in some cases intensification) of poverty, and the violation of the biophysical limits of our planet. What a tragic irony that, in the early 21st century, higher education’s economics departments worldwide still instruct some of our brightest minds in simplistic economic models about the efficient allocation of scarce resources, rather than in how to sustainably build the good life based on an abundance of knowledge and resources.

To emphasise: chasing the bogeyman of scarcity, we are, by now, in the process of passing some frightening historic thresholds, altering the very makeup of life and creating an unsustainable future for our children and grandchildren. It’s Barbarism 3.0.

I wonder if the real tragedy of the private lies in separating what can function only when together, in the process excluding, individualising, destroying, alienating and, in consequence, undermining the innate creativity and resilience of a necessarily complex system of interaction – between human and human, and between human and nature.

We’re living in the midst of a historic transition. It might be our great fortune that, at this juncture, we still have a choice: to wake up, or continue to muddle along on our current path. If we choose the latter, as most mainstream experts from around the world keep telling us, ‘collapse is very difficult to avoid’.

Certainly, the history of how we got here, and the options of changing course, are immensely complex. Yet the reason why collapse is virtually assured if we continue on our current path is actually quite simple: too much.

The Achilles heel of modern economies is the exponential nature of economic growth. Based on what economists consider a ‘healthy’ growth rate of about 3 per cent, the economy would have to double in output roughly every 23 years. If such growth is difficult to imagine, that’s because it is absurd. Imagine economies such as the United States with 16 times the output in 100 years, 256 times in just 200 years, or 5,000 times in as little as 300 years. There is one diagram in economic theory, writes Kate Raworth in Doughnut Economics (2018), that ‘is so dangerous that it is never actually drawn: the long-term path of GDP growth’.

Instead, we should ask, what do we really value? And how do we measure it? When authors write about economies for the common good, or for the wellbeing of all, they highlight a very different set of values than those, based on private property and private gain, that dominate modern economies today – not efficiency but health and resilience; not the bottom line but collective wellbeing. They are founded on the basic moral claim that, as the legal scholar Jedediah Purdy puts it in This Land Is Our Land (2019), ‘the world belongs in principle to all who are born into it’.

Most civilisational traditions agree that everyone brought into this world should have an equal claim to thrive. If we follow those traditions, we must conclude that cultures ‘already parcelled out’ into private property and wealth are morally bankrupt. They value the private over people.

In The Value of Everything (2019), the economist Mariana Mazzucato points to an underlying flaw in thinking: ‘until now, we have confused price with value’. Economists and policymakers have created a system disconnected from the real world that privileges market transactions over our personal and planetary wellbeing. This, too, is standard circular logic: earnings are justified because something was produced that presumably has value; value, in turn, is defined by the amount of earnings.

Here perhaps is the crux of our technocratic era: we value what we measure. When we measure the wrong things, the result is perverse. Today, what matters most to a thriving life is not counted at all in our dominant economic performance indicators. A natural environment that will continue to provide us with fresh air, clean water, rich soil – not counted. Communities that educate and nurture their members – not counted. Forms of governance with a stable degree of accountability – not counted. In the end: our ability to continue life on Earth (what is meant by the word sustainability) – not counted. We have an economic system, reflects Lorenzo Fioramonti in Wellbeing Economy (2017), ‘that sees no value in any human or natural resource unless it is exploited.’ The result is what the medical historian Julie Livingstone calls ‘self-devouring growth’. The triple challenges of climate change, pandemic and systemic racism highlight the deeper systemic defects.

Perhaps it is, then, unrealistic to expect individuals to make smarter choices, when dominant economic reasoning rewards them for moving in the wrong direction. I see this every spring when talented undergraduates face limited choices for their future: corporate law, consulting, finance, highly specialised medicine. Can we build forward on fleecing investors, addicting consumers to ever more products or making a career lying to the public, yet make it virtually impossible for those seeking a sustainable future and balanced life to pay their bills?

The urgency of now might instead require a change in the operating logic, a system that supports the core values that make up all thriving life – health, diversity and resilience. One might call it ‘shared prosperity within biophysical boundaries’ or, as Raworth has it, ‘doughnut economics’.

Whatever we call it, we need an economy focused on shared flourishing, rather than on the chimera that more money will somehow, someday magically get us there. It’s a simple and hard-nosed recognition of reality.

Beyond what is possible, we should ask what we actually want. Perhaps the deepest tragedy of the private is not even the destruction of our home in the name of self-interest, but missing out on history’s greatest opportunity, failing to realise what thinkers of the past could only dream about – a life liberated from want and scarcity. A culture where ‘the love of money as a possession’, in the words of John Maynard Keynes in 1930, ‘will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity.’ A future, as Vandana Shiva aptly summarised it, in which the economy’s ‘currency is not money, [but] life’.

It is a sorrow of the narrow that modern cultures, for the most part, no longer give themselves permission to dream and strive for a better life. Rather than idolise some past greatness or false realism that never was, why not imagine a grown and healthy adult who is no longer prisoner to the regimen of ‘ever more calories’ – a mind liberated from ‘the love of money’ that the sustainability economist Tim Jackson envisioned in Prosperity Without Growth (2009). Yet it could be even more. Prosperity without mental and cultural imprisonment, without the drudgery of wage labour, and the dismal reduction of life to cost-benefit analyses – a life, in the words of the poet Langston Hughes, ‘where greed no longer saps the soul’.

It could be a life as imagined by theorists such as adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy (2017) and the young activists of the International Indigenous Youth Council, the Movement for Black LivesFridays for Future, the Sunrise Movement or the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. People in such groups are imagining life within stable and healthy communities, respectful of difference. They envision regenerative and carbon-free economies, communities that offer meaningful work to everyone who wants it. They have drafted sophisticated policy proposals (see links above), and authored detailed accounts of a possible wellbeing economy. They are fighting for what the legal scholar Amna A Akbar in The New York Times called a governance system ‘whose primary allegiance is to people’s needs instead of profit’. In short, by finding our personal and collective sovereignty, we could, in solidarity with each other, build a thriving society for the common good, not just for the select few.

Given our current global situation, the temptation is to dismiss all such thinking as idealistic and naive. And yet, if you pay close attention, signs of life are cracking through the edifice of the old everywhere. As the social theorist Patricia Hill Collins reminds us, ‘there is always choice, and power to act, no matter how bleak the situation may be.’

German millennials have called out their elders with the missive Ihr habt keinen Plan (2019), or ‘You Don’t Have a Plan’, and then set out to construct a vision that holds promise for future generations. The public intellectual Rutger Bregman asks us to finally stop defending the indefensible. His book Utopia for Realists (2017) is grounded in a profound realisation: many utopias are more realistic than current reality, no matter how much the latter is defended as the only option by those with suits, impressive university degrees and big bank accounts.

We need to have a broad democratic dialogue on the mix of policies that might work best in promoting the common good, in overcoming the tragedy of the private. A new freedom will have to nestle within the realities of nature and the rights of others. Limits will be rediscovered as essential to freedom. This will require difficult transitions – away from fossil fuel or the mass-produced consumption of meat or the acceptance of rampant inequality. Yes, a sustainable wellbeing future will make obsolete many skills and professions, likely eliminating more jobs than it replaces, opening up opportunities for shorter working weeks for everyone. Among the many possible paths forward, the following core features will be essential:

  • local, national and international regulations preventing the violation of critical ecological thresholds;
  • repair of the most egregious market failures through true-cost accounting, properly valuing essential work(ers), ending the privatisation of gains and socialisation of costs, and compensating for essential ecosystem services and the care economy (a full-cost accounting of gasoline, for instance, could raise the price to $16 a gallon);
  • making available basic services and basic income to everyone (we could call it a ‘self-evident truth that all Earthlings have an unalienable right to the preconditions of life, liberty and happiness’);
  • access to work for all, for everyone deserves the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution;
  • a basic moral recognition that nothing – not race, not nation, not gender, not personal contributions, not your zip code – should ever be legitimate cause for either extreme poverty or excessive wealth;
  • and, most fundamentally, a basic acknowledgement that we don’t own or control this planet, but simply borrow it ‘from the seventh generation’ – those coming after us. The principle should always be, as many learned in kindergarten: ‘Leave it as good as, or better than, you found it.’

Yes, it is time to rewrite the script. A climate in deep crisis, a global pandemic, systemic racism and inequality are all part and parcel of the same bad script, the tragedy of the private, aggravated by an elite inability (or unwillingness?) to contemplate a better future.

Even though narrow selfishness, when elevated into ideologies in service of the private, has repeatedly brought the world to the brink of disaster, we have thus far survived largely because of our underlying ability to cooperate. It is now time to make our exceptional human capacity to create and cooperate part of our governance structures – part of the operating logic of modern societies. Perhaps then we can bring to life what others could only envision: a system focused on wellbeing of people and planet, liberating our individual and collective capabilities.

Learn more about Dirk Philipsen here

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Decoupling Debunked – European Environmental Bureau

“Not only is there no empirical evidence supporting the existence of a decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures on anywhere near the scale needed to deal with environmental breakdown, but also, and perhaps more importantly, such decoupling appears unlikely to happen in the future”

Growth without economic growth – European Environment Agency

“It is unlikely that a long-lasting, absolute decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures and impacts can be achieved at the global scale; therefore, societies need to rethink what is meant by growth and progress and their meaning for global sustainability.”

If Not Now, When? – The Social Renewal Advisory Board Report

“We have a crisis of inequality in this nation that we cannot continue to tolerate. A crisis where sticking plasters fail to address negative outcomes. A crisis of performance in a system that reacts to negative outcomes rather than preventing them happening in the first place. Moves towards a wellbeing economy should be the central goal of every government.”

The Tragedy of Growth– David Barmes, Fran Boait| Positive Money 

“We must transform the structures of our economy such that they no longer require GDP growth to temporarily fend off financial, economic, and social crises. If growth is low or negative, these structures – referred to as ‘growth imperatives’ – generate multiple undesirable crises. Rising unemployment, deepening inequality and debt crises are just a few of the common consequences of insufficient growth in our current economic system.”

Transforming Towards Life-Centered Economics: How Business, Government, and Civil Society Can Build A Better World – Sandra Waddock

“This slim volume is not just as thorough and concise a summary of the need to transform our financial system as you will find anywhere. It also clearly envisions how the creation of collaborative value, sustainable stewardship, and an “enough-not-more” mantra can drive a transformational change that will benefit the all as well as the one.”

Job Openings & Opportunities

What to Watch

Listen Up

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

From the Archives

Positive and empowering messaging around a Wellbeing Economy is incredibly important and a vital part of our work in catalysing the transition toward a different economic system. On January 20, Positive Money, NEON, PIRC and WEAll, hosted a webinar to present findings on the ‘how to’ of effective messaging around a Wellbeing Economy to a diverse audience. The discussion officially launched the new Wellbeing Economy Messaging guide, which you can find here.

Dora (NEON) introduced the guide and provided 4 key messaging tips from the guide: 

Relating to the first point, shared value is a key tenant to beginning conversations around changing our economic system. What values can we agree on that can underpin our economy? WEAll and its members created the 5 WEAll Needs that showcase the values we believe to represent a Wellbeing Economy:

Dora spoke about how it is key to ensure that people know that they are a part of the economy and can contribute to its development. Most people continue to believe that the economy = money. However, we are the economy and therefore, have the ability to change it.

A feature of the guide that is incredibly useful is a list of Messaging Do’s and Don’ts:

During the webinar, we discussed the importance of shared language. This list above provides the language that we suggest using in order to shape people’s understanding of a Wellbeing Economy and how people can contribute to its development.

After Dora’s presentation, we ended the call with a rich discussion with the audience; we’re sharing some of the key questions, comments, and resources discussed. Watch the webinar to learn the answers to the questions asked below. Questions that were not answered on the call, are answered in italic.  For privacy, we’ve removed last names.

From Robert : How do you deal with words like ‘capitalism’? Do you actively avoid them?

From Madis : Instead of capitalism, some suggest to use the term “growthism”, which sounds more neutral. What are your thoughts?

From Rhiannon : Can you give any more examples of that common ground starting point? What shared values should we lead with?

From JOANNA : How much does the word ‘wellbeing’ resonate with people? Is it understood what it means?

From jo : Absolutely don’t problematise, but if we are trying to say the economy as it is, harms people, many people will think ‘really?’ as they live very comfortable lifestyles. How do we persuade them this is not so?

From Morven (she/her) – Sustain : Question – what about communicating to people we know are quite opposed to our ideas? i.e. to national govt, or specific Tory politicians. When someone has ideological preconceptions, they will turn off to certain messaging but listen up when they hear things like ‘jobs creation’.

From Roger: GDP is a measure of income. How do we talk about GDP without addressing people’s incomes?

From Juliet (she/her): 

1. Can you share some do/donts on avoiding the elidiing the goals of a wellbeing economy with a wellness/yoga/healthy eating frame? 

2. Are there good ways of responding to the attack ‘but the economy does currently depend on growth?’

From Hayley : Have you explored any messaging with ‘ordinary people’ / people outside our ‘bubbles’?

From Bridget: ECG : How can we collaborate more between our networks to use case study examples of practical tools, models and approaches of what is working now in practice to create wellbeing economies locally and regionally?

From jack : Thanks so much for that Dora. How do we try to make this seem less radical/revolutionary and more common sense, given that we don’t hear much on this from the likes of Labour? 

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : I agree with Joanna on jargon

From Rhiannon : I think people can connect and understand the word wellbeing a lot more than other economic concepts

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Whose «  wellbeing » is the immédiate question.

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : And on top of if people understand ‘wellbeing economy’, do they see it as a legitimate and important goal or as an unrealistic ‘nice-to-have’?

ANSWER: It depends on the audience. It seems the reasons why a Wellbeing Economy is important are becoming ever clearer. Our current economy is incredibly fragile as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. This is obvious to many. There are still the die-hards that are not going to accept a change in the system as they may be benefiting hugely from it. The WEGo partnership shows that there are a number of countries that are serious about undertaking efforts to shift towards a Wellbeing Economy, which is positive for the movement as a whole.

From Auska : Do you think this messaging should also translate into changes in visual communication and graphic design?

ANSWER: Absolutely. If you know of anyone that would be willing to do some of this work on a volunteer basis, please let Isabel know.

From James : On the “wellbeing economy” point being jargon… I suspect I’ll immediately turn people off with this one without a lot of further information.  “Get with the real world” 🙂

From Sally she/her : yes me too – ditto to Juliet’s question 1) re ensuring we don’t end up leading people to be thinking we’re talking about individual wellbeing/wellness

From Peter : The trick is to be short and snappy, and to realise that we are trying to put across what seems like incredibly complex issues for people, and questions such as ‘who’s going to pay for this?’ will almost inevitably surface.

From Mila P’s : true. one word has different meanings for different people. meeting people where they are at kind of mindset. And that comes to mind, who is the audience ?

From francine : I’ve read that Scot Gov is quite into the wellbeing economy, as are some other smaller country govs like new zealand and denmark…is your wellbeing economy promotion today all part of this same thing?

From Peter : I would urge that we all get acquainted with the basics – at least – of Modern Monetary Theory

From Jon : I like wellbeing as you can link it to people (the meaningful and fulfilling journey/ destination) and the planet (the outer ring of the doughnut). I agree with Rachel it is wide umbrella.

From francine  : In recent years, before wellbeing was linked to wellbeing economy, the word wellbeing has always been linked to mental health…

From Siddhartha (Medact) : I Organise healthcare workers to call for economic change. this guide is super helpful. we are working right now to call for financial support for people to self isolate. we are planning to also campaign on liveable incomes (wages and benefits) and secure housing as well. what advice would you have of communicating theses specific issues that fall under the need for a wellbeing economy

 From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Isn’t it about a whole social-political-system rather than  just ‘economy’.

ANSWER: Absolutely yes. One may argue that the economy IS the whole social-political system.

From martin: In relation to growth, is there anything to be gained from redefining what we commonly mean by “economic activity” to embrace activities that create wellbeing?

ANSWER: This is a great idea. When you think about it, ‘economic activity’ is rather vague. Curious what these activities could be defined as.. 

From Tabea : In Wales we have a “wellbeing of future generations act”, and “wellbeing goals” set in law – it does seem to resonate with the public as well as politicians (…although someone will always try and redefine it to suit themselves….)

From jack. : Talking about a fairer economy can work quite well as right? As fairness resonates with people. 

From Mila: There are at least 81 types of new economies, how does wellbeing economy collaborate either these others?

From Tamsyn (FrameWorks Institute) : @Jack: fairness is a tricky values frame. It can trigger zero sum thinking, or an evaluation of individual deservingness. We need to think beyond resonance, to ‘where does this particular value take people’?

From Lisa : @Tabea  – there is a Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) hub emerging in Wales and Wales is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership. More info on WEAll Cymru here if you’re interested in connecting with them https://wellbeingeconomy.org/cymru-wales. Email cymru@weall.org if you want the details

From Lisa : More info here on the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership https://wellbeingeconomy.org/wego

From Linda (Loving Earth Project): ONS has already done some work on GDP, which includes estimates of unpaid work.

From Isabel Nuesse (she/her) WEAll: GDP WEBINAR: https://t.co/vQKz3vWLaY

From francine H (Melrose) : I like the idea of new language and words. You gave a few examples – THIS gov rather than THE gov…words like fulfillment and meaningful lives…and the positive concept that everything human ddesigned can be redesigned. Could be useful to publish a whole list of ‘replacement’ words/ vocabulary that can quickly become mainstream and alter our way of thinking?

ANSWER: Yes. The start of this work is in the guide itself. Will note to continue as it’s useful  🙂

From Rachel Oliver : Positive Money’s The Tragedy of Growth report https://positivemoney.org/publications/tragedy-of-growth/

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : A system that dépends on growth is doomed to failure in a ‘spaceship earth’.

From Donald : This is all very well for academics and activists, but where exactly does the debate about wellbeing happen with ordinary people at the grassroots?

ANSWER: In short, it starts with small conversations amongst each other about what we want  to see in our futures. Back to shared values. What values do you have with your neighbor who may be of an opposing party. Can you agree on some? This begins to shift our framework away from just economy = money = good to economy = people flourishing = good.

From Lisa : A clear distinction is that the wellbeing economy is about shared, societal wellbeing rather than individual wellbeing

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Is the phrase « the common good’ a useful one?

From Peter : it often seems to me that current mainstream capitalist economics is based on a kind of quasi-religious concepts, like ‘balancing the books’, ‘staying on top of debt’, ‘living within your means’, etc. which lead to the ‘wrong conversation’. it’s finding the punchy messages that take us ‘through’ these quasi-religious concepts, and makes our points.

From Laura : Just a fyi as a small real life example or what works with current govt audiences, we tweaked the second sentence of this EDM on Carnegie’s report on Gross Domestic Wellbeing in order to get Tracy Crouch as a sponsor. Before it said something like: “gdp growth is a poor measure of progress”  as you’ll see it’s a bit softer now:  https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57830/gross-domestic-wellbeing   (leaving aside the ridiculousness of EDMs as a format for communicating anything…)

From Juliet (she/her) : Great answers, thank you! Really love the ‘which bits of the garden’ metaphor

From Lisa  : @Donald – we’ve run some fantastic community sessions on a wellbeing economy in Scotland where people were very energised in design sessions for what a wellbeing economy would mean where they are. People know what is needed locally, you’re absolutely right that the conversation needs to be out of the bubble!

From Mila: if it’s not growth as measurement criteria, what about collaborating with the living system economy folks? Align economy to how it impacts all life forms , focussing on shared prosperity?

ANSWER: This is a part of the goal, yes. Shared prosperity, human flourishing, these are the terms to use to shift the metrics we use to measure ‘success’. 

From Bridget: ECG : Economy for the Common Good has the concept of the Common Good Product as an alternative to GDP ecogood.org

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : The PIRC guide is really great! It’s here https://publicinterest.org.uk/TestingGuide.pdf

From Peter : I think often an essential concept to get across is that a household/individual’s budget is not the same as a State/Governments’ budget.

From Laura : Not a very important Q, but wonder whether there are any good examples of business comms on wellbeing economy or closely related that we can also draw on? This springs to mind: https://www.imperative21.co/

From Tamsyn (FrameWorks Institute) : Here’s the framing the economy guide, if you haven’t seen it already: us, NEON, NEF & PIRC – https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/Framing-the-Economy-NEON-NEF-FrameWorks-PIRC.pdf

From Hayley : Would love to connect with PIRC as they are also based in Wales

From David Thomas : Partly related and may be of some interest, we at Social Value International are supporting and championing a UK campaign called ‘How Do Companies Act’ looking to reform company law and regulation to better protect people and planet, and also looking to replicate this in other countries. www.howdocompaniesact.org

From Lisa  : Hi @Laura! Here’s the WEAll Business guide https://wellbeingeconomy.org/business-guide

From Mila : yes collaboration 🙂 .. there are already 81 new types of economies… why work in silos?

From Lisa Hough-Stewart : Bridget, let’s continue that conversation…the idea of having a shared international PR person perhaps across orgs could be very exciting (I’m comms lead at WEAll, just back from mat leave) – lisa@weall.org

From Mila : the only part of collaboration to may be mindful is about focussing on the best interest of the whole rather than the self-interest of one,like living systems naturally do .. ie trees in forests, bees, ants etc

From Paddy : If anyone would like to hear more from Anat Shenker-Osorio (who Dora mentioned earlier), she’s speaking later today: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anat-shenker-osorio-messaging-this-moment-tickets-136600789639?keep_tld=1

From Juliet (she/her) : +1 to checking out Anat Shenker-Osorio – this podcast is a great introduction to her work https://neweconomics.org/2019/10/weekly-economics-podcast-the-stories-that-broke-the-economy-and-the-stories-that-can-fix-it

From Isabel Nuesse (she/her) WEAll : https://docs.google.com/document/d/15kIla25zp5yc8kr6IYokj0GQ8S2VPBqfKzIdlYNssWE/edit

From safia : www.REALsustainability.org happy to network

From francine H (Melrose) : @david – great point – make it legal – in the same way as there’s a campaign to make ecocide illegal!

From Caroline she/her : feasta.org (Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) very happy to network too –  global focus, and some focus on Ireland too

From David : @Francine, thank you! Will look into the ecocide campaign!

From David, SCCAN : Such rich ideas – hopefully helping all our social justice and global justice and climate justice and racial justice movements to achieve engaging, ways of hooking citizens into a different narrative which looks forward to the future we all seek.  Great collaboration.  Thank you from someone involved in grassroots climate campaigns – look out for Transition – Bounce Forward Summit that Transition Network and ControlShift are running 3-20 March

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : @Juliet and anyone else interested in checking out Anat Shenker-Osorio – she is doing this event online this evening that @Paddy is organising, signup is free 🙂 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anat-shenker-osorio-messaging-this-moment-tickets-136600789639?aff=ebdssbeac

From safia minney : Why not “New Economics” rather than Well being economy. 

ANSWER: A ‘new’ economy infers that this has never been done before. When in fact, these economies may exist in other cultures or have existed before our time. A Wellbeing Economy also embedded int he name, sets a clear focus.

by: Rabia Abrar

Are you a bit uncomfortable using Facebook and other social media platforms these days – but don’t feel like you can stop using them? 😰

You’re not alone! After all, one of our five universal human needs is connection! That’s why we’re all on social media platforms to begin with. 

With all the news around Facebook lately, I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought: 

What exactly does ‘connection’ mean, at a societal level? 🧐

The WEAll membership has defined it as “a sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good”. I want to dig into that last part: “institutions that serve the common good”.

I would say that, due to its size, influence, and the central role that it plays in connecting the world, Facebook IS an institution. ☝️

Facebook is the biggest of all the social networks, by far. 

With this much power, tech is no longer just a ‘tech issue’. It’s a societal and economic issue! 

Serving the common good?

For over a decade, we’ve become aware of multiple instances where Facebook has failed to ensure the privacy of its users’ data, allowing it to be harvested for targeted advertising, particularly political advertising, as well as failing to stem the spread of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and calls for violence. We’ve all heard at least a little about the controversies around Cambridge Analytica, the GDPR, the pro-Brexit Leave EU campaign, and the 2016 US presidential election. And most recently, the controversy around changes to WhatsApp’s privacy policy, which states that Facebook reserves the right to share data collected on WhatsApp with its family of companies:

“We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings.” 

In reading about these issues, you have to wonder:

Is Facebook serving the common good? 👀

Source: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

It all comes down to the business model.

As a vehicle for creativity and innovation, business is a key player in creating the solutions we need to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. But in our current system, finance and the economy tend to serve themselves, rather than serving society and the environment. 👎

“Today, society and the environment are serving business, when business needs to be the servant of society.” 

Martin Rich, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Future Fit

Since economist Milton Friedman declared that “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” in a 1970 New York Times op-ed, the ideal of ‘profit maximisation’ and continual growth to increase shareholder value has become the dominant model for how businesses operate. This often means deprioritising the interests of others stakeholders.

This seems to be true in the case of Facebook.

One of many popular ‘Mark Zuckerberg is a Robot’ memes; Source: Know Your Meme

As Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at the University of Surrey, explains,

“Facebook openly says that their business model is to use data related to users for profit.”

This explains why we can use social media platforms for ‘free’. This makes logical sense. How else would they make money? 🤷‍♀️

This raises a foundational question:

If Facebook’s primary goal and business model was not centred around growth and profit maximisation, how might it approach issues of data privacy and digital safety? 🤔

Social Media in a Wellbeing Economy

“If a business is designed to maximise financial return, delivering environmental and social return as well, is inevitably a cost on the bottom line and competes with the financial return. However, if a business is designed to deliver environmental and social return as well as financial, it enhances rather than competes with financial return.”  

Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder of Riversimple

To see business playing a key role in the shift toward a Wellbeing Economy (where the economy serves society as its core purpose), they must embody the principles of ‘Wellbeing Businesses”. These include: 

  • Connection – a corporate culture that aligns the organisational purpose with collective values. 🙏
  • Dignity – a business model that creates the means for employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to live with dignity. ✊
  • Participation – balanced and values-based relationships with all stakeholders. 🤝

Olga Koretskaya and Gus Grosenbaugh explain that, to put these principles of care and responsibility into practice, Wellbeing Businesses work to:

1. Ensure transparency and accountability 🔍

When multinational corporations work across multiple regional and regulatory borders, it often leads to a lack of transparency and accountability. 

“Listed companies are in effect owned by nobody, because everybody does. The result is a lack of responsibility.” 

Martin Rich, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Future Fit

Wellbeing Businesses recognise the importance of transparency and disclose data about environmental, social, and economic performance to all employees and the public in a way that is easy to retrieve and understand, across the entire supply chain or footprint of the organisation. 

For example, if Facebook were a Wellbeing Business, we might have seen more transparency and clarity upfront when Whatsapp’s new privacy policy was announced, about where metadata collected about users would be used and if and how it may be shared with third parties.      

Source: Glenn Carrie, Unsplash

2. Internalise externalities 🤓

A “negative externality” in business or industry is something that the business makes or produces, that negatively affects other people or the environment, and for which the business does not pay and is not reflected in the price. Wellbeing Businesses don’t ignore these “externalities” – they take responsibility for them and embrace different strategies for avoiding, reducing, or paying for harm. 

Here are 10 proposals for concrete actions that tech companies like Facebook and governments can take to prevent social media platforms from damaging democracy, spreading hate, or inciting violence.

3. Evolve toward stewardship

As a business grows and occupies a new role in the market, Wellbeing businesses evolve toward a model of stewardship, so that a range of stakeholders have a say in the business decisions that affect them. Riversimple, an eco car company, demonstrates one way to do this. Their governance model includes representatives of 6 different stakeholder groups: The Environment, Customers, Communities, Staff, Investors and Commercial Partners. 

Do I have a choice?

I know what you’re thinking – all of that is well and good, but what can I do about these issues around social media today?

Source: Markus Winkler, Unsplash

In our own work, WEAll still has to use some social media as it helps us spread the messages of a Wellbeing Economy to global audiences. But while it may not be possible to fully step away from social media, we can start to take steps to reduce our participation in some of the harm these platforms cause (and hold them accountable to make changes!). 💪

“After careful consideration WEAll has come to the conclusion, shared by countless others, that Facebook is no longer a platform we want to engage with. We feel that to be actively present is to be complicit. Therefore, we will keep our page open – but will no longer be actively engaging with it. While we still as a team rely on WhatsApp and as an organization use Instagram – this is the first step to move away from these predatory platforms.” 

WEAll message on our Facebook page

WEAll supports the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which calls for changes needed, including preventing lies in political ads, closing down groups that are associated with violence, and allowing victims of severe harassment to immediately reach a live Facebook representative for help. 

Believe it or not, social media platforms like Facebook are not our only options to stay connected. 🙌

For example, if you’re looking to connect and collaborate with like minded changemakers in the movement toward a Wellbeing Economy, the WEAll Citizens platform is a great option.

With over 2200 active users daily and at least 30 new members joining each week, Citizens is a thriving space to connect and feel a sense of belonging – minus any advertisements. 😉

There are a vast selection of books that can deepen our knowledge of our economic system and our understanding of how to practically change the system to support human and ecological wellbeing. 

This past week, we reached out to our member network to suggest their top picks for these kinds of books. Here’s the result of this participatory process, listed alphabetically.

The  2021 Wellbeing Economy Reading List:

  1. Prosocial– Paul W.B. Atkins, David Sloan Wilson and Steven C. Hayes

2. Rethinking Racial Capitalism- Gargi Bhattacharyya

3. Humankind – Rutger Bregman

4. The New Possible – Philip Clayton

5. Sacred Economics – Charles Eisenstein

6. Green Swans – John Elkington

7. Debt: The First 5000 Years- David Graeber

8. Less is more – Jason Hickel 

9. Braiding Sweetgrass – Robin Wall Kimmerer 

10. The Value of Everything- Mariana Mazzucato

11. The Nordic Theory of Everything- Anu Partanen

12. How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy – Raj Patel 

13. The Tyranny of Merit- Michael Sanden

14. The Lorax – Dr. Seuss

15. Growing Young: How friendship, optimism and kindness can help  you live to 100 – Marta Zaraska

____

In case you missed them, here is a list of our Wellbeing Economics book recommendations from 2019 – 2020 This list  compiles recommendations from our members  WEAll members” and the WEAll Read book club.

  1. An Economy of Wellbeing: Mark Anielski
  2. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Ha-Joon Chang
  3. Change Everything: Christian Felber
  4. Wellbeing Economy: Lorenzo Fioramonti
  5. The Divide: Jason Hickel
  6. New Economy Business: Margo Hoek
  7. Local Is Our Future: Helena Norberg-Hodge
  8. The Age of Thrivability: Michelle Holliday
  9. Prosperity Without Growth: Tim Jackson
  10. The High Price of Materialism: Tim Kasser
  11. A Finer Future: Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, John Fullerton and Anders Wijkman
  12. Economics Unmasked: Manfred Max-Neef
  13. The Spirit Level: Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson
  14. Doughnut Economics: Kate Raworth
  15. What Money Can’t Buy: Michael J. Sandel
  16. Small is Beautiful: E.F. Schumacher
  17. Local Dollars Local Sense – Michael Shuman
  18. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: John Thackara
  19. The Economics of Arrival: Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams

By Xola Keswa

Today, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Why is this important to note? Because the Earth is inherited by the young people of the world. Today, young Africans are not faced with the same threats that threatened their ancestors such as lions or other wild animals. Instead, we face our biggest existential threat ever: climate change.

Africa’s main environmental challenge is to mitigate the effects of climate change, as due to Africa’s size and position, it will be the most impacted.

This problem should and will initiate creative and dynamic solutions that young Africans will create. 

Africans have an innate knack for creating tools, techniques, and methods that help mankind survive. The technologies they discovered thousands of years ago to help survive amongst dangerous creatures in the Savanna of Africa, are still in use now within African traditions and customs. These technologies are how Africa is able to support a large population of about 1.6 billion people.

The innovation that helps sustain Africa today, is the same thing which will ensure her continued survival – and that of the world – through climate change.

Green Technology Innovation in Africa

Groundbreaking science research has been happening in Africa in the field of medicine, much of which is based on indigenous knowledge systems on natural flora and fauna. Much of that research by universities from western countries has been transferred to startup companies in Europe and the US, which have gone on to become successful in competitive pharmaceutical markets. 

Due to emerging policies such as the European Green Deal, companies in the Global North will ultimately need to seek alternative sources for investments in innovations in green technology. I propose that foreign investors start to actively invest in research and development for sustainable green technologies in African countries in the same way that they are investing in pharmaceuticals.

Especially within the area of innovation relating to waste and a circular economy, we have become very good at turning waste into upcycled and redesigned products.

These countries can learn a lot from Africa, “the world’s dumping grounds”. 

A good example of green technology innovation in Africa is the tippy tap. Many rural areas in Africa don’t have running water from a tap. So, naturally, innovative young Africans found a way around that. They ensured that there is a tap close to homes by making a tap using upcycled materials i.e. old plastic bottles.

 The hands-free design means bacteria is not transferred between users. 
The tippy tap is low cost – it can be made with local, salvaged materials.

A Fair Process of Technology Transfer

I’d now like to introduce myself. My name is Xola Keswa and I am from South Africa. I am a 27 year old environmental and social entrepreneur. I founded my own startup, Organic Matters in 2014, during an internship at Schools Environmental Education Development (SEED).

In 2019, I was selected to participate in international policy and practice research research programme at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Risk Governance Programme, in cooperation with the South African urban food and farming trust. Through their outreach programme, The Environmental Entrepreneurs Support Initiative, I received philanthropy funding and access to resources and support centres. 

Following this research, my startup Organic Matters created a horticultural technology within the UCT Global Risk Governance Programme in partnership with a German University, called the ‘self-watering raised bed’. 

The self-watering raised bed relies on wicking so that the plants draw up only the water that they need and none is wasted. You only need to fill up the water reservoir once a week. This technology can be adapted for use within both urban areas and peri-urban areas to mitigate climate change.

I want to help the less fortunate to at least grow their own vegetables, made out of recycled material – to help people become resilient and self-sustainable during these difficult times.

In September, EnsAfrica Africa’s largest law firm facilitated the ‘transfer of technology’, which is an academic term meaning that research and development created in universities is released from the institution for commercialisation.

Now, I own the intellectual property for the self-watering raised bed, meaning that I can retain the value of African innovation in Africa. But my experience is not the norm for young innovators in Africa.

Protecting African Intellectual Property

In the case of the tippy tap, and many others, young Africans are barely aware that they are inventing a method and a product. This is a big problem because these young people are unaware of the legal system and the opportunity to learn from experts to improve and market their products.

I see this as a contributing factor for Africans always finding themselves behind.

Instead, international organisations and universities usually come and extract information from Africa innovators through research, and take it back to Western countries to undergo R&D, create startups, and make licensing agreements. These organisations make a huge profit from such innovations. The Khoisan Hoodia, is an example of what I’m talking about. Research based on the use of the hoodia cactus in African traditional medicine was developed as a potential cure for obesity and taken to the USA and the UK, where patent applications were filed and accredited to western Pharmaceutical companies.

In a just transition, intellectual property would be protected from the very beginning of the creation of knowledge in Africa. 

Let’s say a few students conduct research in Africa and create a product. In a just transition, the research should be left in Africa and developed in partnership with its original creators. When the product is developed to the point that it can reach the market, intellectual property rights should be allocated to the relevant person or people who contributed to it from Africa. When royalties are negotiated or letters of intent are drawn up by third parties, young Africans should be listed and acknowledged. This in turn will ensure sharing of useful technology in the world that can improve the wellbeing of people and planet.

Young Africans should be given access to mentorship and support from European and North American countries, to make sure that they understand the protocol of intellectual property law. They should be supported to push their innovations into the mainstream market. This can happen in various different ways in the agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and telecommunications sectors. 

Looking Ahead

For two years, while I conducted my research at UTC in and around Cape Town, South Africa, using community based approaches, I would often encounter broken communities, plagued by gang violence and high crime rates. 

I came to realise that, much the same way as schools and business centres have helped me learn and become creative, with the right support in terms of mentorship and information, Africans from any background are capable of creating much-needed innovations. 

If given a fair opportunity, young Africans can play a major role in creating greener, circular, and more wellbeing-focused economies worldwide. 

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

There is so much rich content out there in the world about a Wellbeing Economy. Part of our job is to amplify and connect the various initiatives and work that exists. 

These WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond every week. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Opportunity Knocking – Jessica Rose, Marjorie Kelly | Democracy Collaborative  

“Impact investors and other capital providers could be the agents that help resolve this vicious crisis—stepping in to turn the misfortune of small-business owners into a new start for employee-owners. Capital could be the agent that begins to take employee ownership to scale in this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”

Building a Resilient Economy – Barth J. and Coscieme L., Dimmelmeier, A., Kumar C., Mewes S., Abrar R., Nuesse I., Pendleton A., Trebeck K | ZOE, NEF, WEAll 

“The following chapters (and the research underpinning them) focus on the role of government and policy in delivering systemic change. We outline where public policymakers should place the emphasis in order to transform the world’s economic and financial systems most effectively to mitigate future environmental crises.”

Humanity Report– James Arbib & Tony Seba | RethinkX 

“We can choose to elevate humanity to new heights and use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to end poverty, inequality, resource conflict, and environmental destruction, all for a fraction of the cost we incur dealing with them today. Or we can choose to preserve the failing status quo and descend into another dark age like every leading civilization before us.“

Work-life balance and self-reported health among working adults in Europe: a gender and welfare state regime comparative analysis – Aziz Mensah & Nicholas Kofi Adjei | BMC Public Health

“The pressing demands of work over the years have had a significant constraint on the family and social life of working adults. Moreover, failure to achieve a ‘balance’ between these domains of life may have an adverse effect on their health. This study investigated the relationship between work-life conflict and self-reported health among working adults in contemporary welfare countries in Europe.”

Visions of a Wellbeing  Economy – Anna Chrysopoulou | Standard Social Innovation Review

“To solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges we face today, we need to rethink the status quo. Governments and other institutions around the world need to embrace new ways of thinking and actively engage in widespread systems innovation to make real progress toward a healthier, more prosperous world.”

The Little Book of Education – Wendy Ellyatt 

“If we want to create a better world, we have to start by looking at whether the values that we have been promoting to children through our education systems have been serving the long-term wellbeing and potential, within the context of a sustainable future”

Building Better Systems– The Rockwool Foundation

“System innovation is needed when two conditions apply. First when society faces a systemic challenge which requires a systemic response. Second when society has a systemic opportunity to create a new kind of system.” 

Job Openings 

What to Watch

Listen Up

WEAll Originals  

Blogs:

Publications:

Upcoming Events: 

From the Archives

Towards the end of the 2020, WEAll hosted a series of webinars through the WEAll Citizens platform in partnership with our members and fellow citizens. The 3-part series was designed to dive deep into the various aspects of narrative development, to support our ability to create narratives around a Wellbeing Economy that are feasible and desirable.

Our three brilliant hosts demonstrated just how complex narrative can get. The major takeaways for me were:

  1. Bring it back to the values. Values underpin our decision making, how we think, react, and communicate with each other. These values can underpin a society and therefore, underpin the way in which we communicate the change that we want to see in the world. 
  2. Narratives are constant. There is not A narrative. There are many narratives, which are developed and re-developed all of the time. The key is to allow for emergence of new stories that can speak to the overarching narrative you’re hoping to change.
  3. Don’t give up on people. People are hypocritical and stubborn and incredibly complex. As soon as we give up on supporting other people’s journeys to deeper understanding, we lose. We need to make sure that we are patient, kind, and understanding as perspectives transform and shift. Avoid shaming people into believing! 
  4. It’s here – we just need more of it. A Wellbeing Economy does exist. It starts with highlighting what already exists, and replicating these inittaives over and over again. This builds the powerbase that can then shift the real power at the top.  People are agile and able to create significant change swiftly and effectively, as we’ve seen with some of the response to COVID-19.  

Here’s a summary of each webinar in the Narratives series:

1. “How Narratives Facilitate Change” 

Rina Tsubaki from the European Forest Institute (EFI) hosted this launch session. The EFI are working on a digital media analysis project around the Amazon fires in 2019. Rina used this research to explore narratives, how they are spread around the world, and how they can be used to facilitate change. 

You can watch the event recap here

There were a few points that were particularly interesting about her research:

  • Hashtags. When a movement is being created, the use of hashtags is incredibly important. They shift and change and there is always an ‘end of life’ to the use and viral nature of these terms. To learn more, see (21:00).
  • Narratives evolve. This is shown when an initial issue is discussed (e.g. Amazon fires) and  connected to and used to restart the conversation on another issue that was dormant (e.g. Indegenous cultures fight for life). To learn more, see (26:00).
  • Influencers. Rina’s research showed that images that were most popular in the Amazon fires movement were popularised first by more famous accounts and influencers of the public. See her example of Emanuel Macron at (37:00). 

One of Rina’s most striking research insights was that the classic ‘Hero’s Journey’ (see image) story structure or template, no longer applies in today’s world. 

We now live in a world where there is no single structure that fits all narratives. This dramatically shifts the ways we communicate with each other. In our ever-changing society, it is no longer about sharing the ‘single most beautiful story’ but rather, focusing on the change that we want and mobilising around that vision. 

Rina asks us to imagine what our ultimate dream scenario for the future can be, then work backwards from there, rather than start with the immediate changes needed. See image below:

She also introduced the “Iceberg” model, which can also be useful to identify the change that is needed to build a Wellbeing Economy. We need to think closely about the substance underneath the surface of the story that we’re trying to share.

Lastly, Rina introduced a beautiful illustration of the ‘types’ of narratives that can exist in today’s world. There are three types of stories. 

  1. Story as a light: Which makes previous stories that were invisible, visible. 
  2. Story as glue: Which supports community building, creates movements, connects people, and introduces a shared language to create a shared understanding. 
  3. Story as a web: constructed with a diverse set of narratives based on common themes. They recognise the depths and interconnectedness of the movement as a whole. 

Rina’s presentation paved the way for  the second webinar in the Narratives series…

2. “How do We Shift Our Internal Narratives?” 

In November, Jackie Thoms from Fraendi shared research to help us better understand how we, as individuals, see the world, understand complexity, and shift our internal thinking and behaviour as a starting point to change society.

This webinar was particularly informative around human behavior, how we think, what appeals to us, and what the process is for transforming our internal thinking and perspectives (which is key to narrative formation). 

You can watch the recap here 

The main points Jackie touches on are the three dimensions of adult development that are integral to understanding how our worldviews are created.

At 15:00, Jackie dives deep into the social- emotional piece of adult development:

Social-Emotional: This aspect of human development is where we develop maturity and wisdom. It is how we take decisions and is often crisis-led. There are five stages to this.

Stage 1: Our social-emotional learning as we develop from birth.

Stage 2: A stage of cognitive development but with a low social and emotional capacity.This may be someone who is unwilling to go beyond themselves. 

Stage 3: Is the stage that most of society is at. This is mainly about belonging. Once someone sees that they may not align with a community, they shift to the next stage. This stage can feel risky as individuals are leaving the comfort of their family of origin. Or, they may be changing their relationships or community.

Stage 4: This stage is embodying the values that we hold dear and the principles that we want to lead our lives by. 

Stage 5: This final stage is where people begin to consider other people’s perspectives more critically. This is where people may begin to experience the ‘other’ and not see one perspective as particularly dominant. This is someone who can hold a very broad view of life.

Jackie then turns to discussing the cognitive part of adult development (27:30)

Cognitive: This aspect of human development supports us in moving into a wider scope of responsibility and building the capacity to hold many different perspectives and thoughts.

Jackie then ran us through an exercise to discuss these thought-forms in a real-time example. You can check that out at (45:46). 

Jackie wrote a recap blog here if you’re interested in learning more. 

3. “How to move from Understanding to Action” 

Mariana Mirabile hosted the final narratives webinar, a highly interactive session supporting the audience to understand how to move from understanding how narratives work, to developing narratives about a new economy in real life.

Watch the webinar here.

Mariana speaks to the importance of understanding the values that underpin the change that we want to see in the world from (from 2:15-15:00). She uses this graphic to explain how stories and narratives are generally created. 

In the exercise that Mariana ran, she encouraged us to each think of an initiative that we are a part of in our daily life (i.e. a coop grocery store, bike share program etc.) – to illustrate the what we do – and then relate the initiative to one of the 5 WEAll Needs: 

She was making the point that a Wellbeing Economy is happening every day. We are living certain aspects of it in our daily lives. And, to be able to change narrative, we need to understand what tangible initiatives we’re supporting that are already helping to build the world we want to create. As we continue to see and support these initiatives, it will transform our mental models and in turn, build a Wellbeing Economy. 

If you’re interested in continuing to work on narratives for a Wellbeing Economy, please reach out to Isabel

By: Isabel Nuesse

One of the most significant measurements in our economy is Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is a measurement of the total value of goods and services produced in a country. It measures the size of a nation’s economy but doesn’t reflect a nation’s wellbeing. While inherently flawed, GDP continues to dominate the space as the measurement to compare countries against one another, and more importantly influence global policymaking. 

In a Wellbeing Economy, we argue that it is time that we move beyond GDP and find a more holistic measurement that encapsulates both human and ecological wellbeing. 

In the podcast Citations Needed, Economic Anthropologist and WEAll Ambassador Jason Hickel breaks down the history of GDP, how it drives both the climate crisis and inequality, and what practical steps we can take to ensure thriving livelihoods for all. 

What’s the history?

GDP was initially developed as a war-time measure. Simon Kuznets, the economist that created the national income accounts which inspired the current GDP measurement, warned the US congress about using this as the measurement. 

“The [people’s] welfare can therefore scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above.” 

Meaning, there is no determination of social progress or human welfare that can be derived from this metric. So why do we continue to use it?

Using GDP as the main measurement of economic success was solidified after WWII hit. Countries focused on the measure of economic production, as wartime was a race to military domination. Growth ruled supreme. Who could produce the most output, the fastest, and where did the highest capacity lie?

It was further solidified after the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 which had over 700 delegates from 44 nations and created big institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). GDP then continued to dominate during the 1980s, when these institutions created structural adjustment programs (SAPs) – primary for countries in the global south- which move countries away from national development models and push for global development models that essentially only pursue economic growth. 

Luckily, these criticisms of GDP as the sole metric for economic success are coming to the forefront. It’s hard to ignore when the richest 1% of the human population pockets 22% or a quarter of total GDP 

As Jason says, “We’re plundering the earth to pay tribute to the global elite.” 

To further demonstrate this, Hickel says that if we took ⅓ of the income of the richest 1%, it would be enough to raise everyone in the world above a high poverty line of $7.40/day – eradicating poverty forever. If we took another fraction of that, we could provide high-quality universal public healthcare for the world. And, it would still leave the richest 1% with over $130,000/year per person forever. 

These numbers are striking. 

Where do we go from here?

Jason points out that once we admit that we don’t need more growth – we can focus on building an economy that can deliver high quality of life for all, and meet the ecological needs of the planet. 

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) model that outlines how to keep global warming to under 1.5 degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels, requires a reduction in material use and energy use in the global economy. Meaning, we must scale down – or reduce growth. 

If both material and energy use is reduced, GDP will likely crash, causing our economy to collapse as our entire system is underpinned by its health. In order to prevent that crash, we need to organise our economy in a way that will not deliver such a catastrophe. 

How can we develop policies that allow human flourishing, despite declining industrial activity?

What’s needed is a fair distribution of existing income and a redistribution of productivity gains to more people.  Jason suggests that one practical way of doing this is shortening the average working week to four days, increasing wages so they are living wages for workers despite fewer hours, and redistributing necessary labour amongst more people. 

He raises  an interesting point about how self-defeating we will be if we continue to pursue GDP growth. Yes, the world is switching to renewables at a rapid pace, which will reduce the carbon footprint of our globe. However, renewable development still requires extraction of raw materials. And, if we’re continuing to grow the economy, we need to transition the whole economy to renewable energy and do it three times over to maintain our current pace of growth. 

In order to give technology a chance to be effective in delivering goals of human and planetary flourishing, we need to remove the growth priority so that innovations that address some of the glaring problems of the world are elevated, not stunted, because of low growth trajectories. The more you require companies to ramp up supply to meet demand, the more pressure on those capacities and the less of a solution they become.

How does equity play a role? 

Equity and justice have to be at the core of this transition to a ‘post-growth’ economy. The vast majority of the causes of the ecological crisis come from excess consumption from high-income nations. If everyone in the world consumed at the level of the average person in the Global South, we would have no ecological crisis. If they consumed at the level of the high-income nations, we would be operating at over 4x capacity of the Earth

There needs to be a balance between necessary growth for lower-income nations and degrowth for higher-income nations. 

The other key point is that this transition must be de-colonial at its core. No longer can the Global North rely on the extraction from the Global South. Imagine the possibility of an economy that doesn’t rely on that kind of extractivism! 

Institutions such as the IMF can no longer link voting power to GDP metrics. This is actively exclusionary and continues to set the wealthiest nations up for success. As Jason notes, “it’s crazy to have a plutocracy1 at the heart of global economic governance.”  

1 Plutocracy: a society that is ruled or controlled by people of great wealth or income

Jason presents another glaring statistic: “The poorest 60% of humanity only receive 5% of the income from global GDP growth”- proving that the theory that wealth at the top will “trickle down” to all levels of society does not hold true in the real world. 

Meaning, this idea that global aggregate economic growth is necessary in order to reduce poverty is untrue. The global south contributes the vast majority of both labour and resources and yet don’t reap the benefit of their output. 

We need a fair economy that allows the global south to claim their fair share of yields they produce. This will in turn eradicate much of the poverty in the world simply by distributing income more fairly. 

Jason concludes that once we build a more fair economic structure and shift to a post-growth economy we can more easily fight the climate crisis and tackle global poverty. 

The last point that Jason makes on the podcast is around the phrasing that, “humans are the virus” that is damaging the earth. He wants to completely shift that thinking. Humans are not the virus, capital is the virus.

Capital is programmed to replicate itself – everything it touches turns into more capital. Exactly like a virus that colonises the host to produce more of itself. 

The problem is that expansionary economic systems are organised around appropriation, plunder, and extrication. 

It’s time we changed the economic system, don’t you agree? 

By: Rabia Abrar

Over the last 24 hours, like everyone else, I’ve cycled through an overwhelming series of emotions: disbelief, frustration, anger, helplessness, sadness, dread. 

I felt especially sad because, while yesterday’s violent acts of white supremacy in Washington D.C. are news, white supremacy and the institutional and systemic racism1 that enables it, is far from new.  

This past year has been a reckoning in the face of racial injustice and police violence. These systemic issues aren’t going away just because 2020 is over. 

At the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), we are working with a global network to bring about a Wellbeing Economy, an economy2 that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

I’ll speak to the situation in North America. We are not there yet. There is still so much work to be done. 

I had to go out for a walk to clear my head. As I trudged through the snow, I kept asking myself,

“Where do we go from here? Where do we even start?” 

I don’t have all the answers (does anyone?!) But here’s what I do know. 

1. Protect your mental health.

As I walked, I had to remind myself: does my frustration, on its own, help anyone? No. If we are to effectively deal with societal issues that are upsetting and exhausting, we’re going to need to protect our mental health. In the wise words of Oprah, 

“Your real work is to figure out where your power base is. And to work on the alignment of your gifts that you have to give with the real reason why you’re here. The number one thing you have to do, is to work on yourself…and to fill yourself up, and keep your cup full.”

In short: You can only give or contribute to positive change if ‘your cup runneth over’. Honour yourself.

The New Economics Foundation suggests Five (Evidence-based) Ways to Wellbeing, around the themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning, and giving. 

Breathe deeply, get some fresh air, talk to a friend, listen to music, dance to shake it off.

Today, I did all of the above.

2. Support organisations doing the work. 

The social justice and environmental crises we face are multidimensional and interconnected. We don’t have to look any further than the COVID-19 crisis to see this. Indigenous and racialised communities are not only disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, but also by environmental issuesthe effects of climate change, and poverty – and these issues reinforce one another. And since these issues are all interconnected, your support for organisations working to address any of them, is helping (as long as we hold them accountable to take an intersectional approach). 

Once I’d had enough of reading and watching videos of yesterday’s riot on Instagram, I started to google social justice organisations I could donate to. Here’s a good list of Canadian social justice organisations I found.

Not everyone has the privilege to be able to donate. And even if you do, you may not have a lot that you are able to give. But if you can, even donating $5 is still $5 that is flowing in to help move forward the change we need.

“Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything.”

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Author and Animal Activist

3. Examine your own role.

All countries have their own systemic social justice issues. That includes Canada. For example, Indigenous people represent about 26% of those in a correctional facility, while only accounting for about 3% of the population.

Halfway through my walk, I remembered this excerpt from the Living Hyphen team’s anti-racism statement: 

“We are committed to continuously (un)learning our role and responsibility in […] dismantling the mentality of white supremacy that exists as a result of this colonisation.” 

Institutional racism in our economic, legal, and political systems is tied to power imbalances rooted in colonialism and capitalism. Before we can reimagine more equitable institutions and systems, we have to understand and acknowledge the impacts of colonialism that continue to exist today. 

Living Hyphen has created Indigenous Allyship resources and Anti-racism resources to help in this task. They also raise tough questions we all need to ask ourselves, as a starting point: 

“Can we celebrate our communities’ achievements while also interrogating and rising up against the systems that led us here? How can we hold all these truths at once?” 

While this felt like a heavy thought, it was also an empowering one. If I have a role to play in enabling or challenging systemic racism, I am not helpless to its effects. And I can get started right in my own small social circle.

With all of this in mind, I finished my walk feeling a little lighter and with a new emotion: resolve. 

“Revolutions do not happen only in grand moments in public view but also in small pockets of people coming together to inhabit a new way of being. We birth the beloved community by becoming the beloved community.”

Valarie Kaur, Author of One World

1 refers to the ways that white supremacy (the belief that white people are superior to people of other races) is reflected and upheld in the systems in our society. Read more here.

2 a system that measures how we produce and provide things

Connect with Rabia on Twitter & LinkedIn.

By: Isabel Nuesse

COVID-19 has killed over 1.7M people and infected more than 77M globally. Just this last month, the promise of a vaccine seems to bring renewed hope that the days of isolation and struggle may soon come to an end. However, as the roll-out of these technologies begins, it’s not a coincidence that they are being deployed to the wealthier nations, first.

This trend is not new. 

Historically, lack of access to affordable health care medicines for the global population has been a recurrent concern – especially since the World Trade Organization (WTO) created the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPS”)  agreement. This agreement was created to strengthen the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRs). 

What is the significance of the TRIPS agreement today?

The COVID-19 vaccine is patented and many lower to mid-level income countries simply cannot afford it. The alternative is to create a generic version of the vaccine at a more affordable cost. This is only possible if IPRs on COVID-19 vaccines are eliminated.

India and South Africa have already requested a waiver to remove the IPRs on these medicines and technologies that prevent, contain, and treat COVID-19.

This proposal essentially calls for solidarity amongst governments around the globe to make access to the vaccine equitable and affordable, without the threat of sanctions or being found in violation of international trade rules. 

The waiver proposal has been extended from its initial December 31, 2020 expiration date. As of now, 9 countries oppose this waiver: the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada,  Australia, Brazil, and the European Union. These are seemingly countries that do not have to worry about affordability with the vaccine. Likely, they even house the multinational corporations that produce the vaccine. Therefore, they may stand to benefit from keeping the IRPs in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies.  

The significance of this waiver brings about an important point. As it stands, the TRIPS agreement places the goal of free trade above the needs of the people. At what point does the intellectual property of medicines and technologies take precedence over saving lives? 

Christian Felber recently gave a talk on the transitions that need to be made in order to support Ethical World Trade, a key component of a Wellbeing Economy. Mainly, trade cannot be the end, but rather, a means to the end. The goal of international trade should be to support human flourishing, not to support free trade. Read the recap of the event here.

One interesting example of when such a goal has been effectively pursued was with the WHO and the TRIPS agreement was during the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 2000’s. The initial offer from the pharmaceutical provider of HIV/AIDS medication requested the Brazilian government pay $1.59 per pill. But, Brazil saw that it could get the medicines made from India for $0.45 per pill which would enable them to distribute the drug more widely. However, because of how the TRIPS treaty works, the pharmaceutical provider has monopoly rights over the distribution of the drug. This meant that Brazil had to pay the $1.59 to the pharmaceutical provider, even though the generic brand was available at a lower cost. TRIPS institutes the monopoly power for the pharmaceutical provider so that companies don’t lose out on the expensive research and development costs (even though much of this research is publicly funded). **to learn more about this see Mariana Mazzucato’s work on the public funding seeding investment for the private sector. Here is an article in Time Magazine as well. 

Brazil’s president stated that he was not willing to sacrifice the health of his country’s citizens for the sake of world trade. 

After this debate, international leaders met for the Doha Declaration in November of 2001 and formally established that the TRIPS agreement should be interpreted and implemented to promote public health.

The Compulsory Licensing Provision within the TRIPS agreement now allows developing countries to produce or buy generic versions of the patented medication, which inevitably reduces the cost of the medicine. Each country can determine the grounds on which the compulsory licencing may be granted. These could be on the grounds of national emergency, extreme poverty, public non-commercial use, and to remedy anti-competitive practices. 

The precedent that this case study set is of concern for many nations. Having strong IPRs over pharmaceuticals prevents people from low to middle income countries from having access to life-saving medication. So, it is important to allow generic manufacturers to override patent holder rights in certain situations. 

Where does this leave us, in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine?

The vote on whether to eliminate IPRs for the COVID-19 vaccines will take place in the next few months, and coalitions amongst countries are already being made. Luckily the WHO has a policy for one vote per country. 

If you’re interested in learning more about international trade issues, please check out the organizations below:

Regions Refocus

Third World Network

DAWN

SEATINI

Bretton Woods Project

Gender and Trade Coalition