On September 23rd, you can support the WWF in making that a reality. WWF is hosting a webinar with WEAll’s Amanda Janoo, and Club of Rome member and WEAll Ambassador, Sandrine Dixson.

The ideals of a wellbeing economy were endorsed by the European Union (EU) in October 2019 and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in January 2020, adding to the growing number of governments that are interested in the co-creation of a wellbeing economy in their areas.

The WWF is now calling for the European Commission, European Parliament, and the Member states to take direct actions to implement a wellbeing economy, which are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In its 22- page report to be released on September 23rd, the WWF outlines it recommendations on which new measures of progress are needed to guide a wellbeing approach.

With the SDGs as the guiding tool, the recommended Wellbeing Economy strategy would:

  • Balance the social, environmental and economic dimensions of the recovery from the current health and economic crisis
  • Respond to calls from the EU Council for a common EU approach to the economy of wellbeing
  • Provide an EU strategy for implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, five years after their international adoption

Learn more about what it will take for the EU to adopt a wellbeing economy at WWF’s upcoming webinar on September 23rd. Register here.

Guest speakers include:

  • Amanda Janoo, Knowledge and Policy. Lead,  Wellbeing Economy Alliance
  • Estelle Goeger, Commissioner Gentiloni’s Cabinet, European Commission
  • Ester Asin, Director, WWF European Policy Office
  • Taru Koivisto, Director, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland

Blog by Isabel Nuesse

Busy as ever, Katherine Trebeck, WEAll’s Influencing and Advocacy Lead, has been speaking on panels, podcasts, webinars and academic lectures to encourage stakeholders to take a hard look at the feasibility of building back better to a wellbeing economy.

In Scotland, she continues to work alongside the WEAll Scotland Hub to influence the Scottish Government to move beyond GDP, to adopt wellbeing economic policies and serve as an example for the rest of the world.

Diminishing Marginal Returns

On August 28th, Katherine Trebeck spoke at the SURF Festival, opening with a few major issues in the current system, which are underpinned by our dependence on growth and GDP.

Those countries that have ‘arrived’ (i.e. have the capacity to provide decent living for their residents) experience diminishing marginal returns of growth i.e. where growth is no longer improving our quality of life. Instead, growth is driving failure demand: public spending on patching up the damage created in the pursuit of more growth.

An example of this reactive and avoidable spending is in the ‘guard labour’ industry, which is thriving because widening inequalities has made people afraid of one another. Meanwhile, individually, we are spending on pseudo satisfiers to fulfill our need of belonging – something that our economic and social system should be enabling.

Watch her entire presentation here.

Demographics and COVID

Most recently, Katherine spoke to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in Scottish Parliament. She begins by speaking about what demographics in our economy are most affected by the COVID pandemic.

She cites research which concludes that Black and Minority communities have shouldered more risk during the pandemic, as have women. Women were already more likely to feature in front-line sectors or service-based sectors of the economy. In addition to this increased exposure, as a result of the pandemic, women have also had to take on additional burdens of childcare and domestic work.

Hope for the future

However, Katherine also sheds light on positive developments, like the now mainstream questions around the necessity of business travel. She also mentioned the enormous increase of the gift economy. That has kept communities and families going, even though this is not accounted for in the GDP measurement.

Watch the full video of Katherine and the other prominent speakers discuss Building Back Better in Scotland post COVID-19.  

WEAll’s Rabia Abrar wrote a piece for the Autumn edition of The Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA)’s magazine, on what Building Back Better actually means in the context of a Wellbeing Economy.

“Build” is active and participatory.
“Back” suggests that some essential elements of the economic system and indeed daily life will return – but crucially stands in a helpful contrast to
the alternative “back to normal”.
“Better” is the most important of the three words – our old system is gone. What do we want to build in its place?

In short – a system that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Read the full piece in the SEDA magazine issue, along with articles outlining the future role of Sunspaces (enclosed solar balconies), the Coltman Street Self Build, the use of Hempcrete in Scotland and, crucially, Positive Action in Housing’s fight with the UK Home Office to get decent housing for asylum seekers.

Learn more about SEDA here.

By: Rabia Abrar

We were all saddened by the recent loss of David Graeber, a true visionary for radical economic change and an unwavering advocate for politics based on kindness. 

His work as an influential anthropologist, political activist and professor was instrumental in building a vision of an economy designed to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. 

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In particular, David’s research on ‘bullshit jobs’ outlined the problem with the nature of work in the current economic system:

A “bullshit job” is one that even the person doing it secretly believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone, or the world might even be a slightly better place. 

Something like 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference.  

There is an almost perfect inverse relation between how much your work directly benefits others and remuneration.

The question for me is: why isn’t this situation seen as a major social problem?

His work didn’t stop at criticising the status quo – he also discussed a ‘New Way’ to respond to common needs of humanity and the planet: designing jobs that meet fundamental needs and are remunerated based on the social value they create. 

“People want to feel they are transforming the world around them in a way that makes some kind a positive difference to other people. In a way, that’s what being human is all about”.

Just think what kind of culture, music, science, ideas might result if all those people were liberated to do things they actually thought were important”.

I’d say: let’s just give everyone enough to live on, some sort of universal basic income, and say

You’re all free now to decide for yourselves what you have to contribute to the world‘”.

David will be sorely missed, but his work will live on as inspiration for our collective efforts to bring about a wellbeing economy.  

Explore some of his ground breaking work:  

  • Bullshit Jobs: The Rise of Pointless Work, and What We Can Do About It  
  • Debt: The First 5000 Years, which was turned into a 12-part BBC radio series, and explores the ways debt has shaped society over 5,000 years. 
  • The Utopia of Rules 
  • The Democracy Project 
  • Direct Democracy & the End of Capitalism

Photo: HIROYUKI ITO / GETTY IMAGES

Global Ethical Finance Initiative – Ethical Finance 2020

Monday 5th – Thursday 8th October 2020

Virtual event

The premier event advocating finance for positive change.

Ethical Finance 2020 will take place from 5th to 8th October 2020; a 4-day virtual gathering of banks, investors, asset owners, regulators and development agencies from across the globe to explore the transition to a sustainable financial system where capital drives positive change.

Register for free here.

Topics that will be explored:

  • Policy and Regulation – the role of banking sector in hitting zero carbon targets
  • Climate-related financial risk and climate smart lending
  • SDGs/Principles for Responsible Banking
  • Green/sustainable FinTech
  • ESG integration across asset classes & avoiding “green washing”
  • Bridging the SDG financing gap
  • Asset owner challenge – decarbonising portfolios: The Debate – engage v divest
  • Unravelling the investment opportunities for the circular economy

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Fiona Reynolds, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment
  • Chris Stark, CEO, UK Committee on Climate Change
  • David Pitt Watson, Consultant Investor & Author
  • Professor John Kay, Author & Economist
  • Hiro Mizuno, Board Member, Tesla & Former CIO, GPIF
  • Keith Skeoch, CEO, Aberdeen Standard Investments
  • Peter Blom, CEO, Triodos Bank
  • Heather McGregor, Executive Dean, Edinburgh Business School
  • Simon Thompson, CEO, Chartered Banker Institute
  • Dame Susan Rice, Chair, Banking Standards Board
  • James Anderson, Partner, Baillie Gifford
  • Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, CEO, Green Finance Institute

More speakers are listed on ethicalfinance2020.com

This year the summit forms part of our pathtocop26.com campaign that is helping to build momentum towards the COP26 UN Climate Summit taking place in Glasgow in 2021.

Get the full details and register here.

By: Kitty Forster, Assistant Psychologist & Researcher, Wales 

To use a very bold metaphor, the human race is at risk of becoming a parasitic killer of our host, planet Earth. We are taking more than is sustainable, from a finite resource. All parasites which kill their host, die out or have to evolve. 

We don’t have the option to evolve on a different host.

Evolutionary Psychology and the Economic System

Our brains have been structurally the same for 250,000 years, yet our lifestyles have changed radically. Our brains are out of date. We’ve created a puppet, the present economic system, that controls how we meet our basic needs. This isn’t working for people or planet.  

Although the architecture of our brains won’t evolve, our mental construct of capitalist economic system, which is only a couple of hundred years old, can! We don’t have to let it dictate the demise of people and planet. We have a choice: we can decide to ‘evolve’ consciously, a privilege only the human specifies has.

We are conscious co-creators in the evolution of life. We have free will. And we have choices. Consequently, our success is based on our choices, which are, in turn, totally dependent on our awareness. – Bruce H. Lipton

Empowering a New Reality

Shifting opinions towards being supportive of a Wellbeing Economy could be an opportunity for people to feel less apathetic, to regain some autonomy – even to feel empowered!

This relies on people making a conscious decision to accept a new economic system. To perceive that they are making autonomous choices, based on common sense, and contributing to the positive evolution of humanity, rather than blindly following destructive consumption patterns.  

Fascinatingly, interoceptive awareness is linked with personal agency. This implies that our agency (semantically related to ‘free will’) can be honed and improved, because interoceptive awareness can be increased via contemplative practise i.e. mindfulness, yoga, chi kung, meditation. 

We have the capacity to make decisions with more awareness, deliberately working on eradicating automatic and blind habitual behavioural patterns. To intentionally change the course of human history.

But First… Overcoming the Fear of Change

People fear the unknown and tend to dislike change, even if it’s for the better. This irrational tendency stems from the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls our fear response.

The amygdala may alert its owner to ‘danger’, when there is, in fact, no threat.

Humans tend to ‘pattern-match’ with similar situations to make sense of the world – and any kind of radical political revolution, like a shift to a new economic system, can have negative associations with civil unrest, maybe even on an unconscious level.

In the case of a wellbeing economy, this can lead to a population wary of the prospect of a change to the economic system.

Emotions, like fear, are constructed – they are a predictive coding model within the brain.

Just because you feel a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s a true interpretation of reality.

The Language of a Wellbeing Economy

Humans use language to deriving meaning and make sense of the world. So, to help counter humans’ natural distrust of change, the language used to describe a Wellbeing Economy needs to be carefully considered.

The language used needs to appeal to peoples’ emotions around their core needs – food, shelter, health and family – emphasising specific, concrete examples of people-centred policies and what a society within a wellbeing economy would look.

Visual Imagery

This emotional appeal can be supported by the use of statistics or visual imagery, to evoke feelings of injustice about the damage caused by the current economic system.

Practical Framing

It would be beneficial to describe the benefits of local systems in a way that sounds practical and realistic; avoid confirming any existing negative preconceptions about radical alternative solutions.  Ideally there would be both ‘left and right’ wing representatives for WEAll.

Framing what is ‘Socially Desirable’

It wasn’t very long ago that Western society shifted from being needs-based, to being based on desire-based consumption. This can be turned around.

Shifting opinions to support a more sustainable rate of consumption, a pillar of a wellbeing economy, would require making it socially desirable to hold sustainable value systems.

There are some interesting developments regarding social shaming for consumer decisions that affect the environment: ‘eco-shaming’.

What could this picture look like?

People of the future might gradually associate unnecessary abundance of materialist possession as socially shameful.  Neglecting to look after things, refusing to mend items, or upgrading possessions for no real reason could be seen as wasteful.

Only consuming what you need could become admirable, rather than being associated with being in poverty (failure) or mean with money (unkind). 

Excessive use of fossil fuels could be socially unacceptable and open you up to criticism and being shunned by peers – rather than being envied for a jet set lifestyle.

Coveting efficient and sustainable choices amongst peer relationships, rather than propagating judgement for getting a bus (‘peasant wagon’), the ostensible shame of buying from charity shops or having old-fashioned household items.

Psychology research provides a plethora of resources to help create public support for a wellbeing economy … and intentionally change the course of human history.

Kitty’s Bio: I have a Psychology Bsc and MRes in Psychology. I have worked in the children’s social care sector, the NHS and within the Psychology department at Bangor University. I like to consider the macro perspectives in mental health issues and consider how these could be addressed systemically for the wellbeing of our society.

Pathways to a People’s Economy, a project of New Economy Coalition (NEC), is a movement to build a people’s economy. NEC understands the time for a new system, changing the rules, giving communities control is now. And, they see a pathway forward. 

Through a four-part policy proposal, Pathways to a People’s Economy sets a vision for policies that will bring about change toward an economy that values people ahead of profit and sees the dignity in all life.

The Policy Areas are:

  1. Own our Workplaces
  2. Build our Neighbourhoods
  3. Finance our Futures
  4. Restore our Planet

In each policy area on NEC’s website, they clearly outline the pathway to economic systems change, including specific policy proposals and explanations as to why they propose such ideas. Each section includes cases studies that support their proposals of bringing this economy to life. We have briefly outlined those proposals here:

1. Own our Workplaces:

Vision: a world where there is no difference between “worker” and “owner”.

This proposal sees worker-owned cooperatives as a way to build community wealth and control. Some suggestions for policymakers are to:

  • Invest in local financial support for worker cooperatives, including revolving loan funds, loan guarantees and grant programs for both worker cooperative businesses and the technical assistance providers to serve them.
  • Give workers the right of first refusal to buy businesses that are put up for sale or threatened with closure.

Cooperatives are a solution that meets the needs of the business sector in communities, while also ensuring that wealth stays within the communities, to support the owners that reside in them. It also ensures that businesses do not close if issues arise with ownership. It shares accountability and ensures community prosperity.

2. Build Our Neighbourhoods

Vision: a world in which safe and quality homes are a human right—where our housing system and policies are rooted in community, participation, equity and anti-displacement.

Similar to cooperative business models, NEC advocates for housing cooperatives, land trusts and resident-owned communities. They suggest policymakers can reach these goals if they:

  • Make 50% of publicly owned vacant land available to community-owned/ democratically controlled housing at nominal or below-market prices.
  • Require building, rehabbing, or funding of community owned / democratically controlled housing in exchange for public subsidies and/or land use accommodations provided to for-profit developer.
  • Prioritise and expand public subsidies available to enable deeper affordability and prioritise permanently affordable, community-controlled developments.

By providing a variety of ownership options in the housing sector, these solutions remove predatory landlords and give security to historically insecure communities by reducing gentrification and homelessness.

3. Finance Our Future

Vision: a world in which the financial systems puts people over profits.

This means tighter regulations on private banks and Wall Street, divesting from extractive and predatory industries and expanding public banking and community-owned capital. NEC suggests policymakers undertake the following strategies:

  • Limit the size and power of banks
  • Create and strengthen those banks, community capital vehicles and financial institutions that prioritise the communities they serve.

In rethinking how money flows in our economy, we have the opportunity to create a system that fuels a regenerative economy and invests in visionary institutions that meet the needs of communities and planet.

4. Restore our Planet

Vision: a world where regenerative economies ensure that both people and the planet are thriving.

In order to prevent complete climate collapse, we must restore air, water and soil quality, meet the needs of communities and protect the most vulnerable populations from the crisis that already exists. NEC suggests policymakers act quickly and embrace the following:

  • Restore Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination
  • Divest from climate destruction and reinvest in climate resiliency
  • Build regenerative agriculture systems

It’s imperative that we move away from dependence on fossil fuels for jobs and energy, towards climate resilience and restoration.

These policy areas are just a preview of the expansive resource that NEC has developed.

Do check out NEC’s People’s Economy site and follow them on socials Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

By Dr Gemma Bone Dodds, Trustee (Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland)

This article was originally published in the Friends of the Earth Scotland members magazine, What on Earth 81: How We Build Back Better.

We are at a pivotal moment in human history. Across the world, humanity is going through a shared experience like never before. We have all felt fear, despair, and bewilderment at the vast transformation of our lives as this virus has spread rapidly across every continent. 

But this experience has also been experienced very differently and those for whom the economy was not working before the crisis have suffered the most from it. Women. Ethnic minorities. Precarious workers. Inequality causes deaths, and Covid-19 exacerbates this. Poor housing, cold, damp and overcrowded. Insufficient income to provide enough food, medicine, heat and power. Insecure jobs, dangerous and unsanitary conditions. All of these factors have put the most vulnerable on the front line of this epidemic. 

Our economy has been consistently telling some people “You are unskilled, you are undeserving, you are low paid”. Yet during this crisis, this ruse – this false vision of the world and of worth – has been unmasked. Instead, with a fearful cry “You must go out to work. Keep the economy going. We need you. You are our key workers. You are our heroes.”

Our response to this crisis has been centred on care. We care for each other by staying at home. Our NHS workers, cleaners, doctors, porters, nurses, paramedics, GPs and receptionists have stepped up, as they always do, to care for those who fall ill, often at great cost to themselves. Our care workers, often some of the lowest paid and least valued workers in society, have stepped across the thresholds of our care homes, knowingly entering a dangerous place, to care for our most precious loved ones. Our communities have set up mutual aid groups, caring for our neighbours and each other. 

The basis of humanity is care. This crisis has proven it to be so. But our economy, far from recognising this fundamental need we have, to care and be cared for, seeks to create conditions which make care difficult. Long working hours. Insufficient parental leave. Low wages and high living costs. A manufactured drive to consume. Quantity over quality. 

Enough. There is another way.

wellbeing economy

What if our economy could celebrate, recognise and enable the conditions for us all to care and be cared for? What if we could explicitly design an economy that enables us all to thrive and live on a healthy planet? 

We can. And we must. 

We at Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland work to show that there is another way. We believe that it is possible to design and create an economy that works for both people and planet. End discrimination and precarious work. Work less and have more time to care. Ensure sufficiency for all. Live within our planetary means. 

This is not a utopian ideal (unlike endless growth on a finite planet). We can see the shape of the world we can create in the present. There is much that already exists that we can build upon, especially in Scotland. These are the foundations upon which we will build back better including: basic income, circular economies, just transition, community wealth building, the Scottish National Investment Bank and more. We have an engaged and innovative civil society movement full of ideas and the passion to make them happen. We have fantastic businesses and social enterprises who are already showing how to do business better. We have a Government that is willing to talk about the environment, inclusivity and creating a wellbeing economy. 

But what is built back after the crisis will depend on how brave we are to let go of the old world, which may feel safe and normal and comforting. We must be willing to ask radical questions and explore innovative solutions. We cannot collapse into old patterns. This can also be exciting – to create, dream and design. It is a journey for which we must prepare, but with the ultimate aim of getting to our destination: a caring wellbeing economy which works for people and the planet. 

If our destination has changed, we also need a different measure of progress, one richer and more illustrative of how we are doing as a society. For me, there is no more beautiful way to show the difference between the old and the new than the example used by my colleague Dr Katherine Trebeck. Rather than measure GDP, she asks, “Why not ask countries to measure the number of girls riding bikes to school?”

pink and white bicycle beside gray metal rail

Where GDP gives us an idea of our economic output, girls on bikes tells us so much more. For example, if girls are riding bikes to school then: girls are going to school, bikes are a common mode of transport, it is safe for children to cycle, there is likely to be less pollution, we are likely to be healthier, girls are empowered and unafraid – and if more girls cycle to school, then more boys will, too. 

An economy that measures progress through girls on bikes would be a caring economy. It would focus on creating the conditions we need to care for one another and the planet. It will be hard for us to get there, and we will need to plan our journey as we go, but we all know we need to make it. There is too much at stake to do anything less.

Conventional metrics of economic success, like Gross Domestic Product, have long been criticised for their inability to capture wellbeing, inequality or environmental destruction. 

This has led to a growing interest in the different measures of progress, leading some governments, such as Iceland and New Zealand, to trial using wellbeing metrics to determine how government money is spent. 

Katherine Trebeck, WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead recently joined Benedikt Arnason, Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister and Committee of Ministers of Iceland, and Andrew Simms, Co-Director, New Weather Institute, at a #BeyondCOVID event to discuss exactly this topic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted both the fragility of our economy and how this can damage our health and wellbeing. This session explored how an approach to policy that prioritises wellbeing could sit at the heart of efforts to recover from the pandemic and to realise a more resilient, sustainable and fair society. 

Watch the event here to learn more details about how Iceland is putting into practice 39 wellbeing indicators, to bring the vision of a wellbeing economy to life. These indicators cover all areas of the 5 ‘WEAll needs’ in a wellbeing economy: dignity, nature, connection, dignity, fairness and participation,  ranging from measures of work-life balance to security to air quality.

This event was part of the Beyond COVID: The Discussion Series, which brings together leading experts to explore key issues in the debates over how to recover and reform from the coronavirus crisis. The series is part of the wider Beyond COVID initiative, which helps people navigate the debate over how we build a fairer and more resilient economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Learn more at beyond-covid.org#BeyondCovid

In August 2020, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and North Ayrshire Council became the first two local authorities to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance as members. Both councils have shown leadership with their leading “build back better” campaigns, which seek to revitalize their local economies through a green, sustainable recovery.

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

(Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region)

The announcement of Liverpool City Region’s membership follows the release of its economic recovery plan, Building Back Better. The plan provides a blueprint for how the City Region will recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic by building an economy that is globally competitive, environmentally responsible and socially inclusive.

The plan has four key themes—the business ecosystem, people-focused recovery, place, and a green recovery—and includes proposals for a £1.4bn investment from Government that would unlock £8.8bn worth of projects and create more than 120,000 jobs. This includes the Mersey Tidal Power project, which can contribute to the UK’s long-term sustainable energy mix, while creating employment for thousands.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “When I said that there was no going back to normal after the crisis, I meant it. That means building a society that focuses on the five Es: employment, the environment, the eco system, the economy and essential workers.

“I want the Liverpool City Region to be the most inclusive, fair and socially just economy in the country. Our economic recovery plan lays out how we’ll do that and I’m proud that we are is the first governmental body in the world to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). I look forward to working with them, sharing ideas from all over the world and making Liverpool City Region a model of how we can make the economy work for people, and not the other way round.”

North Ayrshire Council

(The North Ayrshire Council Building at Cunninghame House in Irvine)

When North Ayrshire Council became the first Scottish local authority to join WEAll, the council had already introduced its pioneering green recovery plan, based on community wealth building (CWB). CWB involves spending public money locally, keeping wealth generated within the local area, encouraging community ownership and using land and property in a socially just way to boost the local economy and tackle poverty and inequality.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council and Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building, said: “We are delighted to be teaming up with WEAll and look forward to speaking to a range of influential thinkers who can help inspire us as we look to radically overhaul what we are doing here in North Ayrshire.

“We are in the midst of a global recession and now is the time to be bold, think differently and build a new economy. That new economy must work for the benefit of people and planet, ending decades of an extractive economic model that has worked for neither and has saw inequality soar to record levels.

“That’s what we want to achieve through our Community Wealth Building strategy which, post-COVID, will help us build back better, fairer and greener…

“WEAll are leading the case for an economy that values the wellbeing of people and planet and I am excited by the opportunity to work with them to realise our joint ambitions for a fairer future.”

Some Thoughts from the WEAll Team

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll, said of Liverpool’s joining: “The role of government in transforming how our economies operate cannot be underestimated. So governments at all levels are natural partners for the wellbeing economy movement. WEAll is thrilled to welcome the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as a member of our diverse network. WEAll is excited to learn from them, connect them with our members, and amplify their pioneering work, which demonstrates that a wellbeing economy is not just what is needed, but with political will, it is entirely possible.”

Sarah Deas, trustee at WEAll Scotland and chair of North Ayrshire’s expert advisory group on Community Wealth Building, said: “North Ayrshire Council was the first Scottish local authority to commit to Community Wealth Building and is now the first to join the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll). The Council appreciates that direct local action can achieve systems change, enabling the economy to deliver human and ecological wellbeing.

“Through participating in the WEAll network, the Councils will inspire others to adopt similar pioneering approaches while benefiting from ideas and innovations from across the world.”

By: Nikita Asnani, WEAll Youth Member

The link between money and sustainability has not been adequately discussed. We often take our monetary system as given, like the laws of nature: A broken mirror, that cannot be replaced, no matter how distorted the image, as long as it serves those who made it.

We know that 80% of environmental impact reductions can be made in the design phase of a product or a service.

Can our economy, the web encapsulating all of goods and services, be designed in a way that harnesses this opportunity?

This article aims to explore how.

Let’s suppose that you have two potted plants in front of you. One is kept in the open air, where it gets enough sunlight and is kept well-hydrated. Naturally, it is flourishing.

The second plant is kept in the shade and is not well-watered. As a result, its leaves have turned yellow and are drooping.

The two pots are akin to the haves and the have-nots in our world: sharing the same geography but divided by race, class and wealth.

Similar to how we would address a dying plant – it makes sense that we take steps to nourish the people of colour, working class and the poor, who have been denied equal access to economic resources made available to the white and the rich.

Here comes the ‘But…’

“Economics is the study of the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Sunlight and water may be in plenty, but economic resources, unfortunately, aren’t.”

I urge you to think differently, radically:

Isn’t it funny that nature, the most complex and intricately designed system, provides for all beings, without any form of differentiation… yet we choose to rely on an economic system that allows for massive inequality based on the idea that wellbeing is a zero-sum game? 

Is it possible to engineer an economic system, that promises sustainable abundance for all, without exception?

Unravelling the patterns that got us to where we are today, can help us detach from patterns that no longer serve us.

New Money for a New World (2017) proposes a unique approach to our relationship with money – which I believe has the potential to accelerate a shift into a healthier, happier and wiser future for all.

The book outlines how all conventional, national currencies today, are Yang currencies. They have a positive interest rate, which means that a user benefits from accumulation (the more you accumulate, the richer you become) and encourages competition (Lietaer, 2002).

The book then takes us back to ‘the Golden Age’, which as the name suggests, was a time in history that was characterised by sufficiency, not scarcity; generosity, not greed; and faith, not fear. Every household was prosperous, as people were able to raise enough money to serve their needs, without having to raise taxes, redistribute wealth or rely on government support!

A river that freely flows becomes the ocean. It is the forced stream that gets trapped in a dam.

The secret ingredient of the Golden Age was its reliance on Yin currencies. The key component of a Yin currency is its negative interest rates, which means that I am not any richer today, than I was yesterday, just by stacking cash under my bed or in my bank account. As a result, a Yin currency encourages circulation of cash towards where it is needed the most, be it infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, etc, rather than stockpiling it (Lietaer, 2002). In other words, a Yin currency incentivises investments to increase social capital, rather than individual wealth.

Our economy is a web of closely-knit industries that are interdependent on each other. If we truly want to achieve social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing for all, our economy must be built on a solid foundation of nurturing feedback loops, not self-destructing ones.

The potential for increased social capital (connections with neighbours) as a result of positive feedback loops is depicted by the Participatory Cities’ research-basedBenefits to social capital: The Multiplier Effectdiagram.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Based on the idea of building social capital, the organisation Slow Money, channels investment capital into community development projects, where it is needed most. By making 0% loans to farmers and small food enterprises, they are saying ‘NO to Oil, and YES to Soil’, thereby building towards a restorative economy. Their model shows that positive, mutually reinforcing change can lead to positive outcomes for wellbeing.

This feedback loop of creating physical, natural capital, financial and social capital could be achieved at a global scale, by an economy that is based on both Yin and Yang currencies.

Such an economic system would allow every person, every being, to get their fair share of sunshine and rain.

About the Author: Nikita Asnani is a 19-year old student based in Dubai. She is passionate about design thinking and systems change for a circular economy. She joined WEAll Youth because it offered her hope in the ability of young people to catalyse a new economic system, by harnessing the power of localisation, as an alternative to globalisation.

References

Belgin, S. and Lietaer, B. (2010). New Money for a New World

Lietaer, B. (2002). The Mystery of Money: Beyond Greed and Scarcity. Munich: Riemann Verlag

As a part of WEAll’s narratives work, we are always looking to find new articulations of the vision of of a new economy – one that is designed with the purpose of delivering collective wellbeing. Last week, we discovered 5 inspiring projects presented by undergraduate UC Berkeley Civil and Environmental Engineering students in their ‘Design for Global Transformation’ course.

These students designed planetary-scale strategies for real-world transformation in the Nature-Based Solutions, Transportation, Food, Industry, Buildings and Energy sectors.

They drew inspiration from the Exponential Roadmap, which is highlights 36 solutions that can scale exponentially to halve Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030 worldwide.

In a beautifully artistic way, each presentation showcases a set of slide decks and StoryMaps to help communicate the essence of their strategies.

For example, in the Nature-Based Solutions presentation, the students show both the present state, the preferred state and the pathway to get there. They include extensive research to back their claims and in their StoryMaps have interactive tools so the user can do their own researching.

Each presentation specifically shares pathways to success with examples and aesthetically pleasing slides to match. To learn more and engage with their interactive StoryMaps, use this link.

The use of the term, ‘Wellbeing Economy’ has been increasing with Scotland being an official member and organiser of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, WEGo.

On Thursday 27th August, 75+ economic development practitioners gathered at a Consultation hosted by the Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS) and WEAll, to exchange ideas about how Scotland can further develop wellbeing economy policies and discuss the practical implementation of a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland.

Dr Robert Pollock, Managing Director, Regional Development Solutions and EDAS Board Member and Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead, introduced WEAll’s Policy Design Guidebook. The Guidebook aims to support policymakers looking to introduce wellbeing economy policies in their respective spheres, with a focus on the ‘how to’: presenting specific policymaking principles and processes to turn ideas into actions.

WEAll Scotland’s Gemma Bone Dodds, set the stage for the discussion of actualising a wellbeing economy in Scotland, by presenting the wellbeing economy policies that already exist in Scotland and where there are potential gaps. Breakout groups then explored possible next steps to move Scotland beyond a Wellbeing Economy framework and vision, and toward policy implementation.

Gary Gillespie, Chief Economic Adviser from the Scottish Government, closed by discussing the WEGo partnership and Scotland’s development of their national performance framework.

Get Involved

The input from the Consultation supports a participatory process that is vital to the Guidebook‘s creation. If you are a policy maker interested in reviewing or supporting with the guides development please contact Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead.

Submit a ‘Wellbeing Economy Case Study

As the Wellbeing Economy space is new, policies supporting the health of people and planet are often not recognised as “wellbeing economy policies”. In order to inspire policy makers on their journey to creating wellbeing economy policies, WEAll is looking for case studies from around the world — especially from the Global South –that are examples of wellbeing economy processes (e.g. participatory policy processes) and outcomes (e.g. bold wellbeing policies). Please share relevant case studies here by August 31st, 2020.

Bob Willard is a member of WEAll who has just recently published his first white paper. You can learn more about Bob and his work by visiting his website here

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Here are the opening paragraphs of my first white paper, “7 Bold Strokes To Save Our World.”

“We are at a pivotal point in the course of human civilization. We need to acknowledge that the system that got us into this global quagmire is not fit for our future. Let’s capitalize on this rare opportunity to truly transform global systems.

“It’s easy to criticize the status quo. There have been glaringly obvious national and global failures to mitigate our current crises effectively, let alone prepare for them. But it’s time to challenge ourselves to propose what we would do if we were in charge of the world. If we had a magic wand, what are the actions that we would immediately take to transform our world to a more resilient, just, inclusive and safe socioeconomic system?”

A 16-page paper is too long to be a blog and too short to be a book, so I decided to make it a “white paper.” According to Wikipedia, a white paper “is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body’s philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.” That summarizes my intent perfectly.

Donella Meadows’ famous advice is that we should work on the highest leverage points in the system that we want to change. Her most effective and highest leverage point is: “The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.” The seven bold strokes take direct aim at the mindset / paradigm of our current global system. They are:

  1. Replace the GDP with an SDG-based GPI for governments.
  2. Mandate a multi-stakeholder wellbeing purpose for all corporations
  3. Implement SDG-based sustainable procurement
  4. Implement a fair and consistent global tax system
  5. Ensure gender equality in public and private sector leadership positions
  6. Implement a Green New Deal
  7. Reform the banking and securities systems

There are 28 specific actions within the seven bold strokes. We can all work on whichever bold strokes and actions we are closest to, have the most energy for, or have the best possibility to influence. I expect that you are already working on a couple of them, as am I.

We do not have a deficiency of understanding; we have a deficiency of bold, paradigm-shifting action. The urgency of the self-inflicted global crises gives us the courage and duty to act. Collectively, we can accomplish the necessary transformation of our global systems, in time. Let’s get on with building back better.

What do you think? Are the actions too bold, or not bold enough? Are any missing? Please feel free to add your comments, suggestions and questions using the “Leave a reply” comment box. For email subscribers, please click here to visit my site and provide feedback.

On 12th August 2020, the Office for National Statistics announced that the UK’s GDP had fallen 20.4% in the second quarter, putting the UK into its worst recession since records began. Following the UK’s prolonged lockdown, this drop in Gross Domestic Product is more severe than losses seen in the US and the Eurozone.

The impact of COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially those who have become ill or lost loved ones. For many, it’s been a prompt to take stock of what really matters, placing a greater emphasis on individual and community wellbeing.

At WEAll, we’re passionate about advancing the wellbeing economy concept: an economic system purpose-built to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. Within a wellbeing economy, humanity determines economics, not the other way around.

So when we see figures like this—that GDP has fallen by 20.4%—it’s important to clarify what this data means and what it does (and doesn’t) tell us about the state of society.

No one should argue that these are not difficult times, with furloughs and redundancies widespread and social isolation still a reality for many people. In terms of the actual numbers we use to measure our country’s economic health, however, we propose that GDP is a skewed figure that reveals little about the wellbeing of the millions of people who keep the economy running, each and every day.

GDP doesn’t see the outpouring of community support, for example, and it neglects our country’s renewed focus on nature. It measures cash transactions, which include drug dealing, but ignores volunteer work and caring duties.

Find new oil? GDP goes up. Start a community garden? No impact.

Have to deal with flooding caused by global warming or medical treatment to cope with heatwaves? GDP will see that as a good thing. Spend more time with your family and friends? GDP isn’t interested.

Take your car into a congested city? GDP loves that. Jump on your bike and use one of the new cycle lanes? GDP doesn’t care.

The last few months have seen big hits to restaurants, education, the arts, public transport, and even healthcare—all sectors which are very important to the wellbeing economy, not to mention to their workers. However, even here the GDP statistics do not tell the full story. Childcare and education did not disappear. For better or for worse, it just happened at home. We are seeing our friends and family less than we would like to, but we still see them. It’s just that many of us now go for a walk in the park rather than for a meal in a restaurant. These activities still have value, but they are simply not captured by GDP.

We can all agree on the need to rebuild, but it’s imperative that we build back better instead of simply returning to the status quo, which works only for the few and often neglects the very key workers on whom we all rely. We are just not convinced that GDP is the most useful measure of how Scotland builds back better, renews, or recovers. See our recent response to comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, to learn more about the myth of “green growth”.

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll and co-founder of WEAll Scotland, has long campaigned for alternative measures of progress to GDP. One such alternative to GDP she points to is to focus on things like the number of girls riding bikes to school. It might sound radical at first, says Katherine, but just think of the contextual factors that need to be in place in order for higher numbers of girls on bikes (and in education) to improve.

There are tough times behind us, and no doubt there will be tough times ahead. So moving forward, let’s build a stronger economy that works for all of us, not just those who benefit from outdated measures of success like GDP.

WEALL member @r3dot0 held a one-hour webcast about the latest developments of r3.0, with a focus on getting participants an overview of the two forthcoming Blueprints on Sustainable Finance and Value Cycles, as well as an overview of the September 8-11 7th International r3.0 Conference.

As in earlier years the conference delivers a top-notch set of 16 keynote speakers in four plenary sessions as well as about 35 more speakers in breakout sessions and market-making sessions, covering eight important focus areas: science, behaviour, finance, growth, value, circularity, education and governance.

The conference is fully online and more details can be seen at www.conference2020.r3-0.org. r3.0 also informed about the start of two new Blueprint projects on Educational Transformation and Systemic Governance & Funding. Interested parties can find more information on www.r3-0.org or can directly contact r.thurm@r3-0.org or b.baue@r3-0.org.

To watch the recording of the webinar that was hosted last week, please view it below:

by Rabia Abrar

Recent comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, have caused quite a stir. WEAll would like to address his claims about how growth is the best way to build a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland.

“A market economy is well capable of responding to environmental change and delivering wellbeing”.

The current state of the world is proof that this is not the case.

The economic model that dominates policy making has strangled our imaginations and our sense of possibility: the current economy is seen as the only kind of economy that we can have – and changing it would bring society to its knees. But, we’re already there.

Our world is facing multiple crises: rising inequality, accelerating climate breakdown and rapid biodiversity loss. These issues are interconnected and stem from the same core problem: our economies are structured, governed, and measured to promote short-term growth over long-term stability.

A focus on ‘growth’ is not supporting the wellbeing of society. That’s why we see widening economic inequalities; increasing levels of insecurity, despair and loneliness; and the emergence of coping mechanisms that turn people inwards or against each other – all while trust in institutions withers away.

A focus on ‘growth’ is not supporting the wellbeing of our planet. Our home is on the brink of the 6th mass extinction with the prospect of catastrophic climate breakdown getting closer and closer. In the last 40 years, humanity as a whole has gone from using one planet’s worth of natural resources each year, to using one and a half, and is on course to using three planets worth by 2050.

Governments have responded to both crises with a suite of (often inadequate) amelioration measures, such as:

  • Redistributing after the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has opened up
  • Cleaning up after floods and storms caused by climate change
  • Providing respiratory medicines after peoples’ asthma is exacerbated by pollution

While these are vital measures to help people cope with today’s circumstances – they are reactive measures that could be avoided in a wellbeing economy, which attends to their root causes.

“The recovery for Scotland has to be green, it has to be fair and it needs to be inclusive, but it needs to have economic growth”.

We disagree that a wellbeing economy is about generating “strong economic growth”.

A wellbeing economy would ask: “What sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing? What sort of lives do people want to live and what sort of economy can enable that?”

Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘green’ modifiers to ‘growth’ does not answer either of these vital questions.

In a true wellbeing economy approach, business, politics and economic activity would exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing – while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.

We are not against growth in GDP per se, but we are against the idea that GDP growth should be the top priority. We should only pursue growth in those areas of the economy that contribute to collective wellbeing and shrink those areas of the economy that damage it.

We do not need growth in GDP to achieve wellbeing.

What we need to be happy is security, comfort, social connections, a healthy environment and a feeling of belonging in our community(ies).

“A wellbeing economy needs growth to pay for itself”.

Growing GDP is incredibly expensive.

In our current economic system, growth in GDP is demanded as a means to pay for services that people need. But very often, these services are needed to fix the harm to people, communities and the environment that is created by a growth-driven economy. The costs of this ‘failure demand’ are enormous. For example, poverty in the UK alone, costs £78 billion every year.

A wellbeing economy would deliver good lives for people the first time around, and thus avoid having to deliver expensive down-stream interventions to fix the damage caused by growth-focused economies.

While avoiding these costs, wellbeing economy policies could also deliver benefits such as job creation in a growing renewables sector and the circular economy; improvements in health and economic and social resilience due to better environmental quality and equality.

Building a fairer, greener and more equal Scotland will require a different approach.

Decisions made in times of crisis have long-lasting consequences. After the 2008 financial crisis, inequality grew, and climate emissions spiralled. We want to see this moment seized for the common good, not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The recovery period following the COVID-19 pandemic is a window of opportunity for Scotland to lead the world in truly putting collective wellbeing at the heart of economic policy making.

Imagine an economy, that by its very design, ended inequality and environmental destruction and delivered good lives for everyone, everywhere.

That’s better than growth.

Rabia Abrar
Communications Lead, WEAll.

#BuildBackBetterScot #BuildBackBetter #betterthangrowth

By: Beverley Smith

WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead, Amanda Janoo and WEAll Wales Hub lead, Duncan Fisher, spoke at the “Care and Education – Cornerstones of Sustainable and Just Economies” webinar.

The webinar was hosted by Make Mothers Matter (MMM)a network of 40 grassroots organisations working in 30 countries to support and empower mothers and their families, and to advance the human rights of women and children.

Specifically, MMM advocates for the recognition of mothers as change-makers and spending on Care and education as essential investments and not expenses.

Amanda’s talk outlined the first concrete steps taken by a few women-led countries to promote the emergence of a Wellbeing Economy, and how they support Care and gender equality. Watch the “Care and Education – Cornerstones of Sustainable and Just Economies” webinar here.

Inspired by the webinar, Beverley Smith writes about her experiences as an advocate in Canada for the recognition of unpaid care as an essential economic activity, since 1976:

Statistics Canada admitted that unpaid labor, if counted, would account for one third of the GDP. But, GDP does not account for unpaid labor for childcare – which saves governments billions from not having to fund public daycare.

So, I was pleased to learn of alternatives to GDP on the webinar. The webinar showed we are making big strides. But there are still hurdles.

Terminology

A ‘working mother’ implies there are non-working mothers. Though we say ‘housework’ and being in ‘labor’, a person there is dubbed inactive. Economist Marilyn Waring said,

“When I see a woman holding her child, I know I am watching a woman at work”.

She was ground-breaking and right. Still, terms like ‘work’, ‘labor force’ , and ‘productivity’ only count paid work. And because childcare is defined as paid care, government funding for it goes only to daycares.

Viewing Care as a Privilege or a Burden

The myth that women at home are rich, led to higher taxes on the single income household, as costs of childcare were only claimable if cash was paid to a third party. This was despite the evidence from the Canadian Council on Social Development that most families with a parent at home live near the poverty line.

When parents pointed out their role was not leisure and involved sleepless nights and intense days, traditional economics flipped the view. Now, care of children was a burden – and the answer was for men to share the load so that women could do useful paid work. These moves did not value caregiving.

The Right to Choose

First wave feminists got the vote. Second wave feminists got women a career, pay equity. Third wave feminists aim at the win-win, respect for paid roles and care roles equally. But traditional economics is still blind to the value of unpaid roles.

Is care a personal decision or a societal one?

In the current economic paradigm, we are told that people ‘need‘ daycare and have no other choice: mothers hire caregivers so they can return to paid jobs, which creates two ‘jobs’ in the economy – a success story.

Nobody asks what the parent wants though, and nobody asks the child.

Luckily, it is us, who set up the economy. We could fund care itself to give full choice to parents. We’re not there yet.

We are confronting traditional economics that only counts paid work. No wonder this is hard. 

And sigh… most of this lobbying to get unpaid work valued, will be done by unpaid work.

You can contact Beverly for a the timeline of international caregiving, a summary of 100 years of women’s rights advocacy or a study on the state of children’s rights, globally.

Want to better understand the arguments for a wellbeing economy? Change starts with knowledge. 

Today, we publish Understanding Wellbeing, the latest in our series of WEAll Briefings: Little Summaries of Big Issues.

WEAll Briefings consolidate and promote the research, theory and practice that demonstrates a wellbeing economy is possible and explores how we can get there. WEAll members, partners and collaborators help pull these together.

In this Briefing, we delve into how different communities of interest describe wellbeing and how governments use these concepts to improve lives.

Broadly speaking, the perspectives and models for promoting wellbeing can be categorised into three interconnected concepts: personal wellbeing, community wellbeing and societal wellbeing.

Community and societal wellbeing are more than the aggregate life satisfaction of citizens, but they cannot be said to exist in the absence of the personal life satisfaction of citizens.

Understanding Wellbeing has been written by Christopher BoyceLuca CosciemeClaire Sommer and Jennifer WallaceRead it and all other WEAll Briefings here.

Hungry for more? Browse our Wellbeing Economy Resource Library.

Got great resources you’d like us to feature or suggestions for future topics for WEAll Briefings? Send them to info@wellbeingeconomy.org

New WEAll Members, European Health Futures Forum (EHFF) and Feasta, have teamed up to deliver the Bridging the Gaps podcast series, which covers topics like:

• How best to measure wellbeing
• The politics of land
• Wealth distribution
• Diversity, both biological and cultural
• Blame, shame and compassion
• The role of digital technology in society

…..all in the context of a biosphere which is critically ill and in need of urgent care.

They recently put out a podcast episode: ‘Towards Wellbeing’, featuring David Somekh of EHFF interviewing Stewart Wallis, Chair of WEAll

The episode covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Reasons why a large majority of people consider the current economic system to be dysfunctional
  • Five basic things that people throughout the world say they need
  • Potential for Ireland to join the WEGo Partnership (which currently consists of Scotland, New Zealand, Wales and Iceland).

Watch the podcast episode (#6) and the rest of the EHFF & Feasta’s Bridging the Gaps podcast series, here.