Calling all femxle change makers! 

We’re accepting applications for the new 36×36 project, which will gather next generation femxle professionals from all over the world, to develop the pillars for our economic future. 

Why?

The current neoliberal economic “story” was created in 1947, in a Swiss resort called Mont Pelerin by 36 men. These Western Male thinkers disseminated this story around the world. It presents all humans as inherently rational, competitive and individualistic, without considering the balancing “feminine” characteristics of empathy, connection and interdependence. It continues to dominate our current thinking of how to manage our global economic system and underpins much of the decision making in the world.

This thinking is the root cause of the climate emergency, resource depletion and social inequalities. 

Now, it’s time to change that story. 

We urgently need new visionary economic thinkers and professionals who can build a balanced economy, which unites a variety of approaches to foster human flourishing and wellbeing on a healthy planet.

How?

The application process for the 36×36 project launches this week. It will bring together 36 next generation femxle professionals between the ages of 25-40, who are committed to building a more just and sustainable world. 

This applies to any proactive femxle who is passionate about building economies focused on supporting life on earth and planetary wellbeing.These young protagonists can be thinkers, practitioners, activists, policy developers or researchers. 

This program will be hosted online between February and October 2021. A global gathering is planned in Sweden at the end of September 2021. 

Over this 9-month period, the 36×36 grouping will receive online professional education in “Strategising Transformative Change”, engage in online exchanges around new economic theories and approaches, collaborate on new prototypes to materialise these strategies in practice, create a manifesto which will identify the essential building blocks of new economic architecture and ultimately, become a part of a global femxle transformation network to implement a new economic story. 

This is about changing the future. This project is funded by the Postcode Foundation in Sweden and launches today. Applications are open until December 31. Please check out our new  website, and learn more about how you can get involved.

* The term femxle / womxn encompasses all persons identifying as female/ woman, and is used throughout this project to be inclusive.

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By: Avwerosuoghene Onobrakpeya for Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH)

A multi-diverse country, made up of over 200 million citizens, and about 250 ethnic groups, where more than 500 languages are spoken. This is Nigeria.

And so, we have coined many ways of describing ‘wellbeing’. To mention just a few:

The Yorubas call it Alafia, Omakpupo is what the Urhobos say, Tivs say Mlu u dedoo, it is Odimma in Igbo, and Lafiya describes wellbeing in Hausa.

Still, even with the differing beautiful translations of wellbeing, the message remains the same and we all want the same thing – a Wellbeing Economy. An economy where the health and Alafia of people and the planet come first. So, what will a Wellbeing Economy look like in Nigeria?

A Wellbeing Economy can be described as ‘yôu-yôu u uma’ in Tiv

My vision of a Wellbeing Economy in Nigeria cannot be attained while Nigeria’s two main problems of health and insecurity exist. 

“The groundwork for all happiness is good health”

Leigh Hunt
Mothers have their babies vaccinated at the Primary Health Care Maraba, in Karu, Nigeria on June 19, 2018.
Photo © Dominic Chavez/GFF

Good health is paramount to accomplish the wellness of people. When good health institutions are not put in place, healthcare is going to suffer greatly. This is the situation in Nigeria today. The two foremost health problems are inadequate health institutions and hospital negligence. In recent years, there have been thousands of deaths in Nigerian hospitals, for reasons such as a nonexistent healthcare database to verify health insurance, which leads to treatment refusal; no wrenches to turn on oxygen cylinders; and unqualified personnel who are handling care. All being forms of negligence. 

Thousands of health institutions litter Nigeria, but they are mostly unequipped, either in manpower or equipment. Industrial strike actions by medical personnel are a norm. These healthcare practitioners constantly demand better working conditions and better pay. How can the people be cared for, when the healthcare professionals lack the facilities to handle care? How can the health of the people be achieved when healthcare workers themselves are not well cared for?

Rather than invest in Nigeria’s health sector, most government officers are ‘medical tourists’, globetrotting in search of good healthcare for themselves, which the people back in Nigeria are deprived of. It is sad that government officials have experienced the true definition of working health systems, yet refuse to work towards it in Nigeria. 

Thankfully, progress has been made in recent years.

Firstly, in some states like, Delta state, free medical care for pregnant women and children aged 0 to 5 has been introduced. Additionally, healthcare used to be very difficult to access, because it was unaffordable. In recent times, the government, as well as private firms, have implemented insurance schemes, making healthcare more accessible. The current health insurance scheme implemented by the Nigerian government covers employees at government parastatals, their spouses, and their dependents between the ages of 0 to 18 years. Today, most private employers give their employees comprehensive health insurance. Most private educational institutions also provide insurance for students. During my secondary school education, I was actually a recipient of the Salus Trust health insurance scheme, paid for alongside my school fees.

Though many in Nigeria own health insurance today, there are more without this privilege.

Those in the rural areas, the average Nigerian working at a small establishment, the jobless, the students. Health insurance remains a luxury. It is no wonder that pharmacies, rather than hospitals, are the first stop whenever most Nigerians are sick.

Still, more has to be done. A yôu-yôu u uma cannot be achieved if the people are unhealthy. I envision a Nigeria where access to good healthcare will not be a luxury, a Nigeria where people are not reluctant to get care for their health, because it would rip a hole in their pockets. I dream of a Nigeria where hospitals will not be considered death traps. To achieve this, there has to be:

  • Greater investment in health.
  • Employment of more healthcare professionals.
  • Higher pay and benefits for healthcare workers.
  • A facelift of existing healthcare infrastructure, with facilities made suitable for patients, and medical technologies provided.
  • Health campaigns, to educate the public on health issues and subsequently, aid prevention.

“The safety and security of the citizens of a country is so important. If the citizens are unsafe, the nation cannot move forward”

Tonye Cole
Peaceful End SARS Protests at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria. October 2020.
Source: Twitter

A yôu-yôu u uma in Nigeria is kept at bay by the insecurity that persists. Insurgency, banditry, terrorism, cattle rustling, police brutality, these are the insecurity issues that plague our everyday lives in Nigeria. In October 2020, police brutality by a particular unit of the Nigerian Police Force, Special Anti-robbery Response Squad (SARS) birthed the End SARS movement. Nigerian youths were exhausted by the wanton killings by SARS and with one voice, rose to say, “Enough is Enough!” Peaceful protests took place in states across Nigeria, as we called for not just the removal of SARS, but also the overhaul of the Nigerian Police system and justice for the lives lost. Unfortunately, even during these peaceful protests, the protesters were still victims of police brutality. Our security, our safety, our peace of mind, this is part of our alafia, our wellbeing, and when they are lacking, we are miles away from being a yôu-yôu u uma

Some efforts are being made by state governments to curb insecurity. Currently, there exists local policing in states across Nigeria, such as Amotekun in western Nigeria. Local vigilante groups also work in conjunction with police. This has helped beef up security a bit, although we are still lacking in many areas.

My vision is that Nigerian youths will be able to walk the streets without being profiled as criminals, just because of their appearance or their gadgets. I hope we can walk the streets without fear of a stray bullet. I hope to not be greeted with images of deaths and attacks whenever I watch the local news. This can be accomplished by: 

  • A total overhaul of the police system.
  • Routine mental health assessments of cadets and those in the police force.
  • Investigation of police brutality cases and punishment of the guilty.
  • Development of a criminal database, to make policing easier.
  • Increased pay and provision of benefits for security officers.

The image of a Wellbeing Economy that I have every morning when I wake, is of a Nigeria with healthy and safe people. We need to improve our health systems and uproot insecurity. Healthy people equate to happy people and this is the only way we can achieve a yôu-yôu u uma.

References

Avwerosuo is a blogger at Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH). She is currently using her voice to speak against, discuss and enlighten about gender-based violence, health inequalities, women’s health and planetary health. She hopes to contribute to creating a safer and better Nigeria for youths like her.

You can connect with Avwerosuo on LinkedIn and read more of her work at the SOGH blog.

By: Christopher Boyce

I’d been writing about wellbeing for years. In fact, I’d published loads on the subject; an ‘expert’ you might say. Yet, the really curious thing was that when I thought about my own life, how I spent my time (mostly working), whether I had neighbours I could rely upon (eerily quiet stairwells), my health (OK, but I needed much more fresh air), I didn’t feel very content with how things had turned out. Sure, I did well at “the job”, achieved a lot and got paid more than enough. But those things don’t really matter all that much – much as my own research into understanding the links between money and happiness kept telling me.

When it came to wellbeing, I knew a lot and I could talk a good talk, but behind all of that, I wasn’t living the way I needed to feel fulfilled. In a society that cares more for profit than people, that is a difficult thing for any of us to do. 

My decision to quit my comfortable but not very happy life, and head out into the world on my bicycle, wasn’t an easy one. Sadly, making choices that fulfil us on a deeper level is rarely made easy. I was hoping that my bicycle would take me to places where they were finding other ways to live, that didn’t involve growing the economy ever larger. This was a journey that from top to tail, was centred around wellbeing – how I travelled, where I went, and who I encountered. Eventually, I was hoping that the end point of my journey would be when my bicycle and I would reach Bhutan, the country famous for its use of happiness to guide its national policy.

In the end, I cycled a good way up most of the Americas (from Argentina to Canada), before journeying to Bhutan via South East Asia – 25 countries and 20,000 km of pedalling. 

A huge chunk of my journey was spent in Latin America. Nearly 10 months – far longer than I had anticipated, yet the places I passed through there, were so inspiring and inviting.

Day 23: In Uruguay – fresh but nervous about the long road ahead.

In terms of how much people laugh and smile throughout the day, it is in Latin American countries where this is the highest in the world. The wellbeing they have is relational – that is, their wellbeing is grounded in relationships and the community – rather than in continuous, and often endless, achievement. Their wealth resides in their connections with one another and on countless occasions I was extended the most touching hospitality. It is an innate human need to give, and Latin Americans certainly haven’t lost the art of doing that. In the materialistic profit-orientated mainstream economy, there is such an extreme focus on getting and taking, often at the expense of others, that our wellbeing inevitably suffers.

Day 80: Up in the Andes. It was a simple, humble life that often had me touching the divine and feeling deeply fulfilled.
Day 134: Ecuador. Passing the Southern hemisphere into the Northern hemisphere.

The country that stands out the most in Latin America from a wellbeing perspective, is Costa Rica. Having heard so much about Costa Rica over the years, it was a joy to be there on my bicycle. It is uncanny that Costa Rica outperforms the United States on life expectancy (81.0 versus 79.1 years), democracy (a full democracy versus a flawed democracy), and population life evaluation (7.1 out of 10 versus 6.9). This is all despite having an average income more than three times smaller than in the United States. 

Day 247: A happy little village in Guatemala. Happiness the relational way.

During my time there, I met with Costa Rican government officials. They told me that their way of life has come about because Costa Rica made crucial policy decisions – high investment in health and education in the 50s/60s, as well as environmental protections in the 80s. What I loved about Costa Rica is that there is a national pride in living a simple, yet happy, relational lifestyle – they refer to it as the “pura vida”. I remember with fondness camping for days on end, watching the waves crash on beaches, and getting a taste of that “pura vida” for myself – no rushing, just being.

Another stand out country on my journey was Canada. Their national index of wellbeing is pushing the frontiers of going beyond measures of GDP – as the director of the index explained to me, when I met up with him. Not only was their index developed with citizen consultation, but it also has direct links to policy and is useful at the local and regional level. 

I was surprised I got as far as Canada. It wasn’t an easy journey and had been deeply challenging in places – from a dog bite in South America early in the journey, to crushing loneliness in North America – and in all honesty, by the time I reached Canada, I was ready to give up on Bhutan and come home.

As much as the journey was centred around arriving in that curious country, I’d long figured out that my own happiness wasn’t dependent upon me arriving there.

My personal process on this journey led to me letting go of achievement and being more present and compassionate in my approach to life, much like how the most inspiring people I met on my journey lived. They tended to be the happiest people I met too.

It was in Canada that lots of people I didn’t know started becoming interested in this journey of mine. It seemed that because I’d gotten this far, others thought I could genuinely make it to Bhutan. I got a new lease of life and I journeyed on through to Asia. It was in India where I was my happiest by far.

Day 500: Many curious and friendly souls in India.

Not only was I, after 18 months of cycling, excitably close to Bhutan, but I was well looked after by the countless people I met there. And I still can’t forget the happiness I felt two weeks earlier, when I was in neighbouring Sikkim, looking at mountains that might well have been Bhutanese mountains.

Day 508: Bhutanese Mountains. Finally arrived and feeling happy.

In Bhutan, it is dekyid that policymakers are trying to preserve and protect. Dekyid translates to happiness in English, but it means much more than that. It actually is more akin to peace and tranquillity. And in Bhutan, they aren’t ready to sacrifice it for the sake of a bigger economy. Though it has to be said that as a subsistence economy, there would perhaps be some benefits to economic growth there.

Yet, Bhutan is growing its economy in a way that is aligned with their own unique values. Such development takes time, but it is necessary. 

Day 511: Finally at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan on International Day of Happiness, 20th March 2019.

There is a lot to learn from countries like Costa Rica, Canada, and Bhutan. They’re not perfect, no country is. But, the stand out features are that they are cultivating ways of life that haven’t been prescribed by the globalisation agenda. By the time I arrived in Bhutan, I had so much I wanted to incorporate into my life when I returned home. I couldn’t wait to get more involved in wellbeing conversations. In fact, when I set out for Bhutan, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance didn’t exist. But I’d watched as it gathered steam whilst I was away, and I couldn’t wait to come back and be a part of it.

Even though I quit a respectable job to take what was quite an absurd journey, people seem to value what I have to say a little more than before. It is one thing to research wellbeing, but quite another to live and breathe it. 

Christopher Boyce is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Stirling Management School, University of Stirling and a member of the World Wellbeing Panel. His research has explored how the economy contributes to individual and national happiness and wellbeing. Three years ago, he left academia to go on his cycling pilgrimage to Bhutan and is currently writing a book based on that journey, tentatively titled, ‘A Journey for Happiness’.

Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @drhappyboyce; his website and sign up for book updates here.

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: Sandra Waddock

There is a lot of talk today about bouncing ‘back’ or returning to what passed for normal before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world and everyone’s lives. But there is a huge problem with that idea. 

By the nature of complexity and wicked problems in social systems, complex systems simply cannot return to prior states once change has been triggered. 

Despite many calls to ‘bring back’ the system as it was, and efforts by governments and business leaders to do so, many economic, work, educational, and social systems have already changed in unpredictable ways that make a complete return to pre-pandemic conditions unlikely. 

Something else important is happening, too. The pandemic has raised awareness that the economic drivers that shaped the prior ‘normal’ have created many problems—including existential crises like climate change, species extinction, and inequality. Some observers have even laid the COVID-19 pandemic at the feet of overly aggressive exploitation of nature. 

So the real question is, what will our economic and social systems look like after the pandemic if we can indeed do what WEAll suggests and ‘build back better’ or ‘bounce beyond’ today’s economics? 

Today’s dominant economic drivers include beliefs, or what the late systems theorist Donella Meadows called mindsets, that form an economic paradigm. That paradigm— neoliberalism —has been used to justify growing inequality, ignorance of environmental impacts, and a drive towards ‘efficiency’ that justifies layoffs, abusive conditions in many companies’ global supply chains, and cutthroat competition. The most vocal proponent of this flawed set of beliefs was the late Milton Friedman

Neoliberalism claims that markets are and need to be ‘free’, that people are self-interested profit maximisers—and so are companies. That the best governments are the ones that exert the least regulatory or legal influence on the powers of business. That endless growth is the goal of economies and companies. That companies’ only social responsibility is to maximise profits for one group of stakeholders—the shareholders, as Friedman put it in a famous and influential, yet problematic, New York Times article in 1970

Neoliberalism’s flawed and problematic orthodoxy (a generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice) remains deeply embedded in both business practice and governmental focus on flawed measures like GDP. The thing is, as my recent paper ‘Reframing and Transforming Economics around Life’ (published in Sustainability) argues, what the world really needs now is not another attempt at reforming the current framing, but a completely new economic orthodoxy.

The world needs an economics that favors life in all its aspects. One that fosters wellbeing for all humans, as well as non-humans. That economics needs to be built on powerful precepts— ‘memes’ or core building blocks of culture—that resonate broadly yet are considerably more holistic than those of neoliberalism.

Such memes support today’s new / next economies initiatives—such as Amsterdam’s recent adoption of Raworth’s ‘doughnut economics’and other wellbeing economies.

My paper argues for six synthesised precepts or building blocks, for Wellbeing Economics, drawn from a wide range of literatures. 

1. Stewardship of the Whole

Stewardship of the whole is foundational. Simply put, this means that leaders, governments, communities, businesses, and other institutions and, indeed, all of us, have shared responsibility for ensuring that the ‘whole’ system, including the planet itself, is healthy and supporting all of life for the foreseeable future. Living systems, including communities, organisations, and Earth itself, are healthy when all of their parts work together productively—when the ‘whole’ is considered, not just the parts. 

2. Co-creating Collective Value

Economic activity can be positive or negative (think the clear cutting of forests). This is why the focus of today’s economics on the growth of money as the sole way of assessing wellbeing is incredibly narrow-minded. Many other values, though perhaps not as readily measured as monetary outcomes, are important to humans, including health, relationships, community, meaningful work, and belonging, among others. Thus, another precept that underpins health, life, and wellbeing is co-creating collective value. Scholars Donaldson and Walsh argue that generating collective value should be the core purpose of businesses. Many important societal values that lend ‘life’ to human systems can be included in such a metric, as the Genuine Progress Indicator demonstrates. 

3. Cosmopolitan-localist Governance

Another core precept is cosmopolitan-localist governance. Given today’s technologically connected world, it is possible to create local governance systems in which citizens can have voice, input, and impact, and connect those to the global system. Cosmo-local governance, as it is sometimes called, relies on this connectivity, while decentralising decision making as much as possible, and allowing for communities to create and share ideas, knowledge, skills, technology, culture, and ecologically sustainable resources. 

4. Regeneration, Reciprocity, and Circularity

Cosmo-localism is complimented by an approach to production of goods and services that emphasises regeneration, reciprocity, and circularity. The idea here is to produce goods and services in alignment with the natural environment’s capacity to regenerate them, to operate in accord with nature’s own principles, in which exchanges are reciprocally balanced as inputs and outputs, and avoid toxic by-products (or products). Circularity avoids the take-make-waste approach too often used today, and instead adopts the idea of ‘waste equals food’, as some ecologists put it— which suggests that what is waste for one part of the system, needs to be reused as ‘food’ (inputs) in another part. 

5. Relationship and Connectedness

In contrast to neoliberalism’s strong bent towards individualism and individual responsibility, economics for all of liferecognises the idea of relationship and connectedness as foundational to what it means to be human—and what it means to exist in a complex world where physicists tell us, everything is connected. Human beings thrive in the context of relationship—and indeed, cannot survive on their own. The South African principle of Ubuntu, the idea that ‘I am because we are’, and the Lakota principle of Mitikuye Oyasin, or the idea that ‘all are related’ (sometimes translated as ‘All my relations’) reflect the core principle of relationships and connectedness. 

6. Equitable Markets and Trade

Since we are all connected, equitable markets and trade needs to replace the flawed idea of free markets and trade—because how we treat each other in markets and trading situations matters. Equitable or fair markets/trade offer fair and fully costed products and services, with all costs internalised, because otherwise, they are absorbed by and harm societies and the natural environment. It also means producing goods and services that are actually needed by customers and recognising the importance of good—and participative—governance over their fairness. 

There’s much more that could be said about each of these principles. 

The key idea here is that to make progress towards a Wellbeing Economy, many more progressive initiatives need to come to agreement about what the core ideas are, that would drive such an economy. 

My paper is intended as a start on that conversation, though by no means is it the end point. 

Dr. Sandra Waddock is the Galligan Chair of Strategy, Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility and Professor of Management at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Sandra has published well over 100 articles on corporate citizenship, sustainable enterprise, difference making, wisdom, stewardship of the future, responsibility management systems, corporate responsibility, management education, and related topics. Her research interests are in the area of macro-system change, intellectual shamanism, stewardship of the future, wisdom, corporate responsibility, management education, and multi-sector collaboration. 

Connect with Sandra on her website, blog and on Twitter: @SandraWaddock and @IntellectShaman

Faces of the Wellbeing Economy Movement is a series highlighting the many informed voices from different specialisms, sectors, demographics, and geographies in the Wellbeing Economy movement. This series will share diverse insights into why a Wellbeing Economy is a desirable and viable goal and the new ways of addressing societal issues, to show us how to get there. This supports WEAll’s mission to move beyond criticisms of the current economic system, towards purposeful action to build a Wellbeing Economy.

by: Erinch Sahan

A fundamental change is sweeping across the business world. Big ideas are spreading, new slogans being echoed, and the very purpose of business being questioned. A host of concepts and initiatives are driving this conversation. From BCorps to Social Enterprise, Cooperatives to Shared Value, the market-place of ideas is heating up.

These are all, by-and-large, positive developments. But how do these enterprise design ideas compare? Here’s an attempt to compare their essential structural features and assess the extent to which shareholder dominance and profit primacy remain embedded in enterprise design. In other words, the framework below compares the minimum in structural design that is required by these concepts.

It’s worth noting that we are comparing a mixture of legal forms, certifications and management concepts. For instance, many jurisdictions allow legal registration as a CooperativeSocial Enterprise or Benefit Corporation. Others are certifications to validate claims of being a Social Enterprise or BCorp. Meanwhile, new concepts like Shared Value or Triple Bottom Line are infiltrating MBA programmes, to guide a new generation of corporate leaders. They all (at least implicitly) deviate from shareholder primacy.

Turning away from Friedman? The answer lies in enterprise design.

In 1970, Milton Friedman penned, in the New York Times Magazine, the article ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’. While proclaiming this today would seem short-sighted (and a public relations own-goal), it is an honest account of shareholder primacy. This remains baked into the DNA of most companies – a persistent straight-jacket that most executives must wear.

The economic imagination has since moved away from this singular obsession with profits for shareholders as the exclusive purpose of business. But enterprise design hasn’t. 

While trapped in shareholder primacy, a growing chorus of business leaders declare their discovery of enlightened self-interest, where their long-term profitability relies on being socially responsible. Inconvenient trade-offs are swept aside and questioning how profits are shared remains taboo (the largest shareholders always get the biggest dividend cheques). Yet, some executives pronounce that the purpose of their company is ‘people and planet before profits’ – a far cry from Friedman’s doctrine and the prevailing corporate model that financial markets hold firmly in place. Nonetheless, the narrative has moved, substantially.

How the narrative has shifted

This means enterprise design has become central as we explore purpose and impact. It has crept up on us all. It probably started a few decades ago, with new corporate goals like minimising or eliminating the worst harms of corporate behaviour (usually where a PR-disaster beckoned). Think sweatshops and poisoned rivers. It then evolved to focus on broader social and environmental impacts: human rights impact assessments, environmental impact reports, or indicators for how a business impacts sustainable development. This focus on impact largely happened over the last decade. 

But positive impact requires practices and investments that actively foster it. Without inclusive trading partnerships, workers in supply chains remain trapped in poverty wages and precarious employment. Without investment into water-treatment plants, local rivers remain polluted. Under shareholder primacy, if the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t add-up, people and planet take a back-seat (unless regulated by government).

To embrace ‘purpose’, a business must be designed to prioritise such investments and practices. 

This means enterprise designs that allow objectives other than profit growth to be a priority, and to give voice and power to stakeholders other than shareholders. Otherwise, doing good is only possible where it grows profits. 

A note here to not confuse profit maximisation with commercial viability. Staying in business is necessary for all businesses. Continuously growing profits isn’t.

Pursuing purpose while in a straight-jacket

The enthusiasm for corporate purpose is evidence that we are joining the right dots. However, unless business is designed to focus on people and planet, it chases ever more profits and ignores social and environmental impacts, where the financial rewards don’t suffice. And it is enterprise design that can unlock the practices and impacts that we all agree business must embrace.

Expectations of dividend growth and boards full of shareholder representatives lock-in the shareholder primacy design. This dominant structure ensures a focus on always increasing profits, and forces extraction of profits for the purpose of growing shareholder wealth. It’s a straight-jacket, within which inclusive and truly sustainable corporate culture is held in check, often relegated to projects and initiatives that don’t threaten the pursuit of growing profits. 

All businesses need to be profitable, but it’s the focus on maximising or growing profits that holds back authentic corporate purpose. Whether an enterprise is designed to deviate from this paradigm is the central question. 

In recognition, an increasing number of businesses are claiming to possess a more evolved design. But how can we know if a business is truly designed to put people and planet before (or alongside) profit? Ideas and movements like Social Enterprise, Triple Bottom Line, BCorp, Shared Value and Cooperatives are attempting to give the answer.

People, Planet & Profit: how far do ideas really go?

While on paternity leave, I’ve had some headspace to grapple with how enterprise design ideas compare. I threw up on Twitter some thoughts, and a discussion unfolded (see thread here):

What emerged is a framework that helps draw key distinctions between concepts like BCorp and Social Enterprise. The focus is on the most fundamental and structural features that determine enterprise design.

Based on my analysis, I believe the following claims are the best way to describe the concepts, certifications and legal forms assessed:

  • Shareholder Primacy: Only Profit Matters
  • Shared Value: People and Planet, if it Helps Profit
  • Triple Bottom Line and BCorp: People and Planet without undermining Profit
  • Social Enterprise and Cooperatives: People and Planet before Profit

There are nuances missing and exceptions within each category. A business with a shareholder primacy structure may be majority controlled by an altruistic shareholder, who uses their power to ensure it behaves like a social enterprise. I don’t account for such optional benevolent use of power. In cooperatives, members (therefore power-holders) could be an already empowered stakeholder (e.g. consumer cooperatives in developed economies) or truly marginalised communities (e.g. low-income workers). My framework doesn’t draw such distinctions. Many BCorps or companies embracing Shared Value will go well beyond what the table implies about their structure. This will not do them justice.

But the framework does help draw key distinctions in comparing the minimum in structural design required by these concepts. The differences are meaningful.

We should all applaud the narrative shift (and positive impacts) all of these ideas are driving. Equally, we need to compare and contrast the ideas that profess to fundamentally transform the business world. I hope this table helps achieve this.

Note to reader: I conducted this analysis in my personal capacity through October 2020 (while on paternity leave). To remain credible, I left out the Fair Trade Enterprise model (the global network I lead as Chief Executive of WFTO – see relevant report here and a talk about it here). Other ideas and concepts were also left out, where they lack concrete enterprise design features relevant to this comparison (e.g. Stakeholder Capitalism, Conscious Capitalism) or are broader concepts that capture multiple ideas (e.g. Fourth Sector/For-Benefit).

Erinch Sahan is Chief Executive of the World Fair Trade Organization. He has spent over a decade on enterprise development, campaigning for responsible business, lecturing on sustainability and researching new business models. His career spans Oxfam, Procter & Gamble and the Australian Government. He holds degrees in law and business, and an honorary Doctorate.

Connect with Erinch on Twitter: @ErinchSahan and on LinkedIn

Faces of the Wellbeing Economy Movement is a series highlighting the many informed voices from different specialisms, sectors, demographics, and geographies in the Wellbeing Economy movement. This series will share diverse insights into why a Wellbeing Economy is a desirable and viable goal and the new ways of addressing societal issues, to show us how to get there. This supports WEAll’s mission to move beyond criticisms of the current economic system, towards purposeful action to build a Wellbeing Economy.

by: Rutger Hoesktra

Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the way we measure economic growth, has become the primary measure of success of societies. Countries that have a high GDP are considered important and governments that experience high economic growth are admired. As a result, there is a dominant narrative in society that “growth is good”.

But we have known for many decades that this narrative is flawed and that GDP is not a comprehensive measure of success. It does not measure important components of wellbeing such as health, education and social relationships. As far back as 1968, Robert Kennedy already proclaimed that GDP “measures everything….. except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Crucially, GDP also does not account for the growth in environmental degradation or growth in inequalities that are caused by growth in GDP.

To remedy this gap, many hundreds of alternatives for measuring economic success have been suggested: the Human Development Index, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Genuine Progress Indicator, Ecological Footprint, Happy Planet Index, Adjusted Net Savings, Comprehensive Wealth, and the Inclusive Wealth Index. Many brilliant scientists, thought leaders and important institutes have contributed to this impressive body of research, which is foundational to the creation of a Wellbeing Economy, an economy that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Yet, despite 50 years of understanding the drawbacks of  GDP and the introduction of hundreds of alternative ‘Beyond-GDP’ measures of economic success, it seems that the “growth is good” economic narrative is becoming stronger every day. But now,  more than ever before, we need our economy and society to focus on delivering wellbeing, sustainability, and equity. The election of Joe Biden, the introduction of climate targets in China and Europe, marches for racial justice and climate action are all signs of  the dire need and public demand to ‘Build Back Better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic. There has never been  a better time to replace the growth narrative. WEAll’s  new briefing paper describes a three-pronged strategy which should be adopted to do just that:

1) Harmonise. There are simply too many Beyond-GDP alternatives and new ones are being created every month. One of the most powerful features of GDP is that it is measured in the same way all over the world. The United Nations and OECD played a crucial role in developing a global economic accounting framework: the System of National Accounts, which allows for the global comparison of GDP. We need the United Nations and other international institutions to step up and help harmonise Beyond-GDP indicators to ensure there are consistent measures of success for the performance of a Wellbeing Economy.

2) Develop Policy Tools. Statistics help us to measure how things have developed in the past. But policy makers also need advice about their policy options in the future. Macro-economists have developed many tools to help inform difficult policy decisions, mainly focused on GDP growth. This community needs to create tools which show governments how to enhance wellbeing, sustainability and equity in their societies. A prime example of such a tool is New Zealand’s pioneering Wellbeing Budget that is designed expressly to prioritise the wellbeing of citizens.   

3) Change the Social Narrative. This strategy will only be successful if it manages to change societal discourse on economic success. Currently, our media plays a key role in spreading the “growth is good” economic narrative. The development of globally harmonised statistics and policy tools will help journalists and the general public to shift their belief on economic success to a narrative which values wellbeing, sustainability, and equity. If you would like to learn more about these ideas, download and share our new paper here and attend our upcoming webinar on November 20th at 9am EST/ 2pm UK. Register through the WEAll Citizens Platform here.

Download the Measuring the Wellbeing Economy Briefing Paper PDF

By Arhum Amer

Urdu is spoken as a first language by nearly 70 million people and as a second language by more than 100 million people, predominantly in Pakistan[i]. Urdu is a language full of beauty and grace, a language that seems to have been custom-built for literature, a language that adds meaning to prose and charm to poetry.

In this language, the literal translation of ‘wellbeing’ would be خیریت ‘khair-iyat’.

A ‘Wellbeing Economy’ would be referred to as خوشحال معیشت ‘khush-haal maeeshat’

Pakistan is a country with 212 million resilient citizens, 64% of whom are under the age of 30[ii][iii]. Our founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for a khush-haal maeeshat is echoed by our current Prime Minister, H.E Imran Khan’s platform for a “Naya Pakistan” (meaning “New Pakistan”): a welfare country based on democratic principles, freedom and respect for every religion and ethnicity, equality between poor and rich, safety for minority groups and the accountability of public office holders.       

To understand what a Wellbeing Economy, or khush-haal maeeshat, in Pakistan would look like, it is important that we understand the environment and challenges that grip Pakistan. Being a developing country, the reforms that we dream of may seem minuscule to a citizen of the West. However, I believe every state in the world is encountering similar or comparable issues, with varying intensities; each must be addressed to truly deliver khair-iyat, for all people.

Inequality

A high level of inequality prevails in the country, with around 24% of Pakistanis living below the poverty line[iv]. Many of the country’s financial challenges stem from recently overcoming a ‘War on Terror’, which resulted in $126B USD worth of losses over 17 years and from corruption, which remains Pakistan’s biggest systemic challenge.       

The Government’s Ehsaas Kafaalat programme will provide monthly cash stipends of Rs. 2,000 and bank accounts to Pakistan’s poorest women, as well as better access to smartphones, as a step towards digital inclusion. Such programmes must be expanded to all corners of Pakistan. No country can truly progress with such a large chunk of its population living under the poverty line.    

Education

Pakistan’s constitution obligates the state to provide free education to all children until the age of 16. However, due to the low standards of Government Institutes and the prevalence of child labour, students prefer private schools or choose to stay out of school. This has led to Pakistan having the second largest out-of-school youth population in the world[v]. I believe the students of the country deserve a forward-looking curriculum with compulsory extra-curricular activities. A Wellbeing Economy in Pakistan would encompass high quality state education and enrolment of girls in schools, in areas where they are deprived of education. 

Healthcare

In Pakistan, the double burden of malnutrition is becoming increasingly apparent, with almost one in three children underweight (28.9%), while 9.5% in the same age group are overweight[vi]. Meanwhile, overcrowded cities, unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, poor socioeconomic conditions, low health awareness and inadequate vaccination coverage have led to the rapid spread of communicable diseases, adding strain to the already overstretched medical facilities in the country.

Several government initiatives are underway to address these issues. For instance, the Poverty Alleviation Programme called Ehsaas Nashonuma, is a health and nutrition conditional cash transfer programme which aims to address stunting in children under 23 months of age as a pilot project in nine districts of the country. 

Pakistan has recently rolled out universal health insurance in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with plans to expand it to Punjab, the country’s most populous province. I believe that access to the same medical facilities, for the rich and poor, would be the height of healthcare reform in the country. 

Urban Development

With its urban population growing three percent per year, Pakistanis are flocking to cities faster than any other country in South Asia[vii]. Urbanisation has inflated Pakistan’s biggest cities so rapidly that they struggle to deliver public services and create productive jobs. A disparity exists in the development of Pakistani cities: a few having 21st century facilities, others lacking basic necessities. Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, got its first metro train line just a couple of weeks ago, in addition to its existing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The newly functional Orange Line Metro in Lahore, 250,000 people are expected to travel on it everyday. Wikimedia Commons

However, Karachi which is the country’s financial hub and largest city, has no public transit system or Emergency Response System. The city, with an estimated nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $164 billion USD[viii], was brought to its knees in the recent monsoon rains, due to the lack of a drainage system and planned development. 

Approximately 3 feet of water can be seen on the roads of Karachi’s most expensive residential area, after torrential rains paralysed the city.

In my opinion, the way forward has to involve empowering local governments, so they can collect taxes and spend it on the specific needs of the city. Sustainable expansion of cities should be based on long-term master plans and urban development projects should focus on supporting pedestrians and cyclists, rather than only facilitating car transport. The Clean Green City Index is a helpful tool to support this development.

Climate Resilience 

Pakistan is the fifth most climate-vulnerable nation in the world[ix]. Over the past 20 years, Pakistan is estimated to have lost nearly 10,000 lives and $4 billion USD in financial losses due to climate-related disasters[x]. My vision of a Wellbeing Economy in Pakistan involves one where the country is not constantly at risk from climate catastrophes. 

Pakistan has recently launched several initiatives to create a ‘green Pakistan’ and protect our national parks and forest reserves, including “Clean Green Pakistan” and the “Protected Areas Initiative”. The “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” initiative aims to plant billions of trees across the country over the next three years, in addition to the one billion trees already planted in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The use of plastic bags has also been banned in major cities (the implementation of this ban is a different story…). 

In addition to its progress to date, my vision for a climate-friendly and climate resilient Pakistan is one that moves toward affordable and clean energy, builds green cities and emphasises recycling, water conservation, responsible consumption and production models. An important step towards this vision involves a public awareness campaign about the possible catastrophic impacts of climate change on our glaciers and water tables – and how this would impact Pakistani lives. Climate change is not just an environmental challenge, but an issue impacting our economy, human health, agriculture, and ecosystem. 

Justice

While millions of legal cases remain pending in the courts of Pakistan, religious intolerance, lack of human rights and women’s safety have become a cause for concern. My vision for a Wellbeing Economy is in line with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision:

“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”

“You are free. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

I believe that a khush-haal maeeshat in Pakistan would see policies being made to protect the vulnerable, to create an environment that supports accountability and merit, and to serve the common person instead of a handful of the wealthy. No one would be above the law. To deliver on this vision and improve law-and-order in the country, better policing, use of forensic sciences, and accountability of public office holders is needed. Punishments for harassment and rape cases must be stricter and proper prosecution of such cases must be carried out to restore safety of women in the country. An entry test along the lines of the LSATs should be introduced to ensure that our legal community consists of the brightest minds in the country. The introduction of a Witness Protection Program is also critical, especially in criminal cases, in line with the model of the U.S Witness Security Program (WITSEC). 

The Way Forward

Pakistan faces challenges on multiple fronts, from the economy to governance and education to health services. Yet, there are plenty of things I love about my country and my hope for Pakistan’s bright future, despite its problems, never dies out.  

The fact that the WHO has praised Pakistan for its brilliant handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that Pakistan has achieved its SDG 13 (Climate Action) goal a decade ahead of the deadline, are testaments to the fact that, no matter how mammoth the challenge, having competent public office holders making decisions for the khair-iyat of the people, can be done – and pays off.  

While we may seem off course in some ways:

“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that [we] cannot achieve.”

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Arhum is a student of Chartered Accountancy and currently works as an audit associate at PwC Pakistan. His long-term goals include working for the betterment of the country.

References

WEAll is pleased to announce the launch of the first official US-based WEAll Hub: WEAll California. 

On November 12th, the Institute for Ecological Civilization (EcoCiv) and WEAll will gather online with a broad group of organizational leaders and policy makers, to officially launch the hub. 

This virtual event will bring together participants from across the state, including representatives from the Santa Monica-based Civil Wellbeing Partners, sustainability experts from Los Angeles city government, Bay Area non-profit directors and religious leaders, community foundation representatives from Humboldt County in Northern California, individuals working in the Sierra Nevada region and central valley, and a number of city economic development leaders. 

The goal of this broad representation is to encourage a holistic approach to envisioning and planning for improved wellbeing in California.

The bulk of the event will be facilitated conversations about what ‘wellbeing’ means in California, identifying key policy initiatives needed at the state and local level, and discussing next steps. Our goal is to leave with a set of clear priorities to galvanize efforts in California, going into 2021. 

Discussions will be divided into three parts: 1) visioning, 2) backcasting, and 3) road mapping. Using online collaboration tools, participants will share major components of their vision for wellbeing in California. 

What does wellbeing mean? What does it include? How do we want the California economy to look, ideally? How can an emerging new economy look beyond growth alone to focus on the wellbeing of people and the planet?

If we look backward from this shared vision, what first steps already exist or should exist? 

The backcasting section will include short reports from representative organizations on work they are already engaged in around the state, including ideas for how such work could be scaled and where roadblocks are present.

After the reports, we will break into smaller groups to continue identifying policy changes that could be helpful for the short and long-term as well as areas that deserve a longer-term focus.

In the last section, we will begin to build a roadmap toward an economy focused on wellbeing in California from the existing work and priority areas already identified. And finally, we will end by talking about concrete next steps for the California hub as we approach 2021.


If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to the WEAll California hub team through EcoCiv here and learn more on the WEAll California Page here.

We asked Meg Thomas, Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem, to tell us about the work being done at Includem and how it relates to the wellbeing economy. Read her guest blog below.

At Includem, we work 24/7, 365 days a year, to support families when they need it the most. We provide intensive, bespoke support to young people and families in challenging circumstances, building solid relationships of trust to help young people realise their full potential.

For many of the young people and families we support, entrenched poverty is the most common and persistent issue they face. This has of course been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our families report regular issues affording the basics, telling us they struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, and cover the costs of internet access. Social security payments are too low, wages are often insufficient, and the cost of living is too high. This in turn has caused a deterioration in mental health.

That is why discussions of a wellbeing economy are so greatly welcomed – a shift towards a social understanding of the economy beyond the narrow parameters of GDP could provide a vital framework (and impetus) for policies that end poverty and give families such as those we support a strong and reliable financial foundation.

To develop a wellbeing economy, it is crucial that the voices of those at the margins of society – who face the sharpest consequences of current economic policy – are at its heart. The increased emphasis on lived experience in policy development across Scotland gives us reason to be hopeful this can happen.

Initiatives such as Get Heard Scotland enable those affected by poverty to have their voices heard on the policies and decisions that impact their lives; Youth Justice Voices has given young people with care and justice experience a direct route to shape national policy and practice; and The Promise has put those with experience of the care system it is set to transform, front and centre.

At Includem, we too have focussed on amplifying the voices of our young people and families, conducting research on Digital Access and Poverty to highlight the key issues they face, as well as ensuring young people’s lived experience shapes our policy submissions to the Scottish Government.

But while progress is being made in Scotland, there are significant engagement barriers that must be dismantled to ensure marginalised voices are fully and authentically involved at all stages and in all areas of policymaking, service design and delivery.

Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society.

A key obstacle is digital exclusion, an issue that has become particularly prominent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without access to equipment, the finances for broadband costs and electricity, or sufficient digital literacy and confidence, many families are unjustly excluded from fully participating in society. Their voices are lost in the process. It is imperative that children, young people, and families can participate in decisions that affect them, and digital access is a crucial pillar in ensuring these rights are upheld.

From our experience of delivering intensive family support services, we also know that both stigma and a distrust of statutory services can prevent young people and families from engaging – particularly as families in poverty are 10 times more likely to have their children on the child protection register and to come into care.

Regrettably, this is rarely considered in discussions of tackling poverty and centring the voices of lived experience. I was particularly struck by Dr Calum Webb’s piece on Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality where he remarks on reviewing thirteen of the top selling and topcited books on the topic of inequality, injustice, and its consequences, including four of the highest cited books on the public health consequences of inequality, only to discover none of these books had a dedicated chapter about child protection or social work.

Despite the fact that families in poverty are more likely to receive state intervention, the most deprived local authorities in England “have seen the greatest cuts to their preventative spending, fuelling more disruptive and damaging forms of intervention.”  I would argue that true preventative spending addresses the underlying causes of poverty, not the behaviours resulting from it. 

Fundamentally, parents should not fear being separated from their children because of poverty – a structural inequality which current economic and social policies perpetuate.

I am Australian. I had an aunt who was from Australia’s First Nation. She was one of Australia’s Stolen Generation where children were forcibly removed from their families solely due to race. If current practices continue, we risk having another stolen generation, this time due to poverty.

It is vital that young people and families are given the space to be open and honest about their experiences and struggles without fear or likelihood of consequences. If we do not urgently create such an environment, they will continue to be afraid of speaking out, go unheard by decision-makers, and their voices lost.

As a society, our collective mission must be to ensure that those who are most marginalised have their voices both heard and acted upon. Ultimately, all children, young people, and families should be able to exert their right to be heard. Only then can we truly shape a wellbeing economy for all. 

Meg Thomas is the Head of Policy, Participation, and Projects at Includem.

References

Bywaters, P., Scourfield, J., Jones, C., Sparks, T., Elliott, M., Hooper, J., McCarten, C., Shapira, M., Bunting, L., Daniel, B (2018) Child welfare inequalities in the four nations of the UK
https://pure.hud.ac.uk/en/publications/child-welfare-inequalities-in-the-four-nations-of-the-uk

Includem (2020) Poverty and the Impact of Coronavirus on Young People and Families in Scotland
https://www.includem.org/resources/Poverty-and-the-Impact-of-Coronavirus-on-Young-People-and-Families—Includem—Oct-2020.pdf

Includem (2020) Staying Connected: Assessing digital inclusion during the coronavirus pandemic
https://www.includem.org/resources/staying-connected-includem-digital-inclusion-report-may-2020.pdf

The Poverty Alliance Get Heard Scotland
https://www.povertyalliance.org/get-involved/get-heard-scotland/

The Promise
https://www.thepromise.scot/

Staf and The Children’s and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) Youth Justice Voices
https://www.staf.scot/blogs/blogs/category/youth-justice-voices Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
https://socstudiesresearch.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/child-protection-and-removal-the-hidden-inequality/

Webb, C (2020) Child protection and removal: the hidden inequality
https://socstudiesresearch.wordpress.com/2020/10/26/child-protection-and-removal-the-hidden-inequality/


For further information on Includem’s policy and research work, including government consultation submissions, please see: https://www.includem.org/about-policy-research/

WEAll is developing a Policy Design Guide that is to be launched in January. In support of this, we hosted an event on November 5th to galvanize interest. Amanda Janoo led the discussion and in her presentation, she outlined the goals of the Guide and how it can be used by Policymakers around the globe. In particular, the Guide addresses the need for case studies that show how to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy. 

After her short presentation, participants broke into breakout rooms to discuss the following questions:

Discuss your experiences designing policies to build a just and sustainable economy. What has worked and what hasn’t? 

How could a global policymakers network and/or WEAll support governments to build a Wellbeing Economy? What would you hope to gain from a network such as this?  

Some of the interesting questions that were raised are detailed below. 

What is a Wellbeing Economy?

  • Definitions: What are the different definitions of wellbeing? How do we make these understood by global audiences?
  • Clarity: What is the definition of a Wellbeing Economy? How we get there is still unclear. The goals feel too general and are disconnected from what is happening on the ground. How can we provide better clarity? 
  • Communication: Clear messaging around a Wellbeing Economy is important. How do you get more buy-in from colleagues? Some expressed the misconceptions around having to give something up to make progress on social or environmental issues. Do people have to choose between the economy and the environment? One suggestion for developing widespread understanding of a Wellbeing Economy was creating a forum for communication with people e.g. hosting Citizen Assemblies, as done in Scotland, for example. 
  • Education: There must be a student-led movement and shift in school curriculums to educate about a need for a Wellbeing Economy and the necessary transitions to achieve it. In addition, there must be a shift in understanding that economic policy, environmental policy and social policy are not ‘separate’; these distinctions are unhelpful and efforts must be connected to each other to deliver desired wellbeing outcomes.

Data & Evidence

  • Evidence: Many people want to make the transition, but more measurements, case studies, research, indicators are needed.
  • Indicators and data: For the countries that have access to data on wellbeing indicators, questions lie in how to prioritise, how to apply the data and how to share it across various sectors of the economy. For those countries that don’t have access to the internet or systems to collect sound data, how can governments make informed decisions?

Involving Stakeholders

  • Participation: How do we bring people along with us on the journey towards a Wellbeing Economy? How can we engage them throughout the policy design process? 
  • Diversity:. How do we ensure that we’re representing all communities? One comment suggested that the SDGs ignoring racial inequality as a core issue. We cannot achieve the SDGs without first tackling issues around race and racism. 
  • Aligning Institutions: Most government departments still work in silos. How do we align government efforts to recognise and address the interconnections between social, environmental and economic dimensions? How can we illustrate these synergies? 

Considerations for Prioritising Wellbeing 

  • Adaptation: How can we adapt frameworks such as the SDGs or the OECD Wellbeing Framework to our national context? How can we select and prioritise the wellbeing goals that suit our unique context, challenges and culture? 
  • Money: This is still the dominant bottom line in policy: allocate budgets to help the economy grow first and foremost, and people and planet as secondary considerations . If we are to shift  toward a Wellbeing Economy, what kind of investment strategy would we need to address this issue? 
  • Women: If we don’t lift up and empower women globally, how are we going to improve wellbeing? One interesting point was raised around finding out what women actually need. For example, a rural electrification project may want to support women, but is that the solution that is actually going to lift women out of poverty? How do we focus our efforts to address root causes?

Where do we go from here?

There are a lot of questions around transitioning to a Wellbeing Economy that need answers. These answers  will not come from WEAll alone, but from all of us, as a collective. Together, we can share our knowledge and experience, connect the theoretical with the practical, identify the most useful indicators, and simplify language so that others may understand the vision of a Wellbeing Economy. 

Please let us know if you are interested in joining a network of policymakers from around the globe to support and co-create Wellbeing Economy  practices,by filling out this form. 

By: Isabel Nuesse

Founded on ideals of white superiority, rooted in colonial behavior, rich due to the exploitation and oppression of indigenous and black communities; this is the story of the US that has been avoided for the last 250 years. 

With the performative slogan, ‘United We Trust’, we endeavor to pursue unity without acknowledging the hurt of so many.

We are in need of deep repair and healing. And only through that repair, can we consider rebuilding to a Wellbeing Economy in the US.

In their episode, ‘Confrontation’, the hosts of the podcast, Invisibilia, explain that the first step is to air our grievances with each other, confronting the issues. We must allow people to speak their truths, without repercussions.

“There is a need for people to be in your face and hear the situation. We’ve got to be able to address it. But I think at the same time, there has to be a meaningful, and purposeful conversation behind it. If I’m just going to make you mad without doing the bonding and the education and growth, all I’ve done is make you mad.”

Invisibilia “Confrontation”, NPR

They emphasize that once the feelings are expressed, the repair can begin through meaningful conversation to support that bonding, education and growth. This starts with acknowledging what people are asking for. 

To build a Wellbeing Economy there must be belief that most humans want similar outcomes, that common ground can be found. 

A Wellbeing Economy is one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet by addressing five universal needs.

Katherine Trebeck speaks of this in a recent interview: “people around the world consider the same core issues important. Think fresh air, clean rivers, financial security, and strong relationships”

This idea is echoed in a quote from Theodore R. Johnson,

“Even amid all the division broadcast across traditional and social media, most of us want similar things from our society. We want to be treated equally. We want to be included and respected in our communities. We want our institutions and systems to be fair and just. And if the government derives its power from our consent, then we have the ability to make our country more unified if we are willing to focus on what we have in common so we can work through the areas where we differ.”

Theodore R. Johnson

If we can agree that we share common needs, we can begin to answer the how. How does a country, state, or town begin to deliver on those needs?

In a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation webinar, “Reimagined in America” Katherine Trebeck and Lisa Parson, a member of the Wellbeing Project in Santa Monica, California discuss a practical example of where in the US we are learning how to build a Wellbeing Economy. A part of Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project is an open-source wellbeing survey, which provides a better understanding of who residents are, how they are doing, and their concerns. This provides inputs into a Wellbeing Index for the city.

Katherine explains why this is important,

“The conversations and the deliberative nature of that is important. To tell residents that their voices matter in this. Particularly for the most marginalized communities. These efforts take a long time, but if you just start, then things can happen.”

WEAll recently published a paper which sets out a path to rebuild to a Wellbeing Economy in the US. The paper stresses that the path to rebuild our economy is founded on the principles of economic freedom, security, resilience, justice and leadership – and that it can be done. The questions we must answer are; are willing to go there, to dig deep, to be vulnerable, to forgive, to repair, to heal and to ultimately change? 

The confrontations needed have just begun and we’re a long way away. But I have hope.

Building a Wellbeing Economy is a process which requires many steps. And as Lisa Parson, who is creating Santa Monica’s Wellbeing survey and Index, says: “You just have to start.”

Andrea Somma Genta

1973 to 2020

It is with sadness, but also love and admiration that we put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, to be precise) to share some thoughts about our friend, and partner in working to change the world, Andrea Somma Genta.

Andrea passed away recently, peacefully and with her loved ones surrounding her. She leaves behind a quite extraordinary legacy – and friends around the world who will miss her dearly.

Andrea was one of WEAll’s inaugural ambassadorial appointments. 

WEAll Gathering in Málaga

Andrea had a strong understanding of the need for economic system change. She channelled this through her work at the Omina Foundation, which started championing sustainable fashion, and quickly evolved into championing regeneration and wellbeing, as necessary economic mindsets for the change needed.

Andrea’s vision adopted and promoted the principles of a circular economy and ecological urbanism. She was committed to identifying, or where necessary, creating pathways of climate action to avert the most pressing consequences of climate change. 

Andrea opening the 2018 Omina Summit in San Jose

She was a great connector – often literally putting people’s hands together. And she stood out because of the often unusual combination of elegance and glamour with warmth, humour and cheekiness. Andrea didn’t see hierarchies or status – she saw people’s hearts, their intentions, the sparkle in their eye.

She brought together fashion designers with trade ministers, economic activists with first ladies, diplomats with surfers who are cleaning up the oceans. Her charms resulted from a rare combination of culture, courage, and determination. She could convince the most dogged sceptics and create the most unusual of alliances – this is what made her so extraordinary and so influential. 

We will surely and sorely miss her. But for those of us who collaborated with her and were touched by her magical gifts, we have inherited a responsibility to carry on with her legacy.

Let the energy of her passing become energy for our thriving. 

– Alvaro Cedeno and Katherine Trebeck

by Amanda Janoo

Tomorrow is the US election. The stakes are high. Our country is currently experiencing a pandemic, social unrest and whether we like to acknowledge it or not, an environmental crisis. As millions of Americans are thrust into poverty and COVID-19 cases soar, we urgently need bold recovery strategies that can protect and promote the areas of life most vital for our wellbeing.

The other day my best friend Johanna reached out, because she was confused by news headlines that announced “record growth” of the US economy in recent months.

“Does this mean that our economy is actually doing really well?”, she asked.

Initially, I thought about explaining how growth rates are misleading because they are highest when you start with lower numbers (as this record growth was only possible due to a record decline) or about the delayed impacts of government stimulus.

Instead, I just asked, “Do you think the economy’s doing well?” Johanna responded by saying, “I don’t think so… but I don’t know a lot about the economy”.

This is not the first time I’ve had this kind of conversation in the US. The word “economy” has a unique power here. Every policy or program can be justified or discredited by its impact on “the economy”. We keep talking about the effects of COVID-19 on our economy and the need to “get the economy going again”, as if we are not a part of it. We have bought into a narrative of the economy as some abstract overlord that we’re meant to promote above all else, without having clarity on what it actually is and how it relates to our lived realities.

To be clear, we are the economy. It is simply a word for the way that we produce and provide for one another. So, the question is not, “how is the economy doing”? The question is, “how are we doing?  

In looking at the current state of affairs in the US, we’re not doing great. In my small town of Vermont, a lot of people, including Johanna, have become unemployed during the pandemic. Most of my family and friends here are struggling to make ends meet, as we head into winter and wait anxiously for the federal government to come to an agreement on another stimulus package. This makes news stories of booming billionaires and soaring stocks feel that much more raw.

In looking towards the months ahead, the US government will have to step up. The economic recovery strategies that we implement have the potential to be transformative. Now more than ever, we need to make sure we are providing one another with the things we need most.

If we focus on the areas of life most important for our wellbeing, we can rebuild a more just, equitable and sustainable economy.

With this vision in mind, WEAll developed a short briefing paper which outlines ‘5 principles to help guide US recovery efforts towards a wellbeing economy’:

1)    Economic Freedom

We have allowed our economy to become increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer corporations, limiting our avenues for economic self-determination and empowerment. We must revitalize democracy and allow people to have a say, over the shape and form of our recovery efforts. We must rebuild by providing communities and states with the resources and autonomy required to effectively respond to the unique needs of their people. In order to expand our economic freedoms, we must uplift our voices, while decentralizing wealth and power, so that each contribute to rebuilding an economy that works for us all.

2)    Economic Security

History shows that protecting livelihoods is the most powerful action a government can take, to prevent a spiraling economic depression and social collapse. As the richest country in history, the United States has the wealth and capacity to ensure that no individual falls into poverty during the COVID-19 crisis. The $600-a-week unemployment support was critical for Johanna and many other families in my community. We need to expand such income support programs to all Americans and prioritize affording every American foundational services, such as medical care.  

3)    Economic Resilience

This pandemic has illustrated just how fragile our current systems are. Resilience can only come when we begin to prioritize balance over growth. We must ensure that our recovery efforts actively regenerate our natural environment, promote community vitality, and prevent future crisis and shocks. Our future stimulus should not put another $500 billion into big business; instead, it should rebalance our economy by promoting small businesses, social enterprises and circular economy initiatives that are vital for a resilient and adaptive economy.

4)     Economic Justice

Our economy has been built on centuries of subjugation, exploitation, and exclusion. We have an opportunity to heal the wounds of this historic injustice. Now more than then ever, we need to ensure that the weight of this recovery does not fall on those who are already struggling the most. We can reduce inequalities and rebuild an economy that promotes fairness, equity, and social justice at its core, by reallocating spending away from incarceration and the police, towards Wellbeing Economy initiatives, such as student debt forgiveness.

Now is the time to live up to our proclamation that “all persons are created equal and have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. 

5)    Economic Leadership

The United States has been a major driver of the economic globalization that now binds our world together. We must not retreat within ourselves at this critical moment. Now is the time for the US to be a leader in supporting global environmental and economic development initiatives, and promoting long overdue initiatives, such as closing offshore bank accounts and tax loopholes. We can respond to this crisis by joining other visionary leaders to reform our global economic system in the interest of peace and prosperity for all.

In the full briefing paper, we ground these bold principles in concrete policy proposals, illustrating that a different economic system is not only possible, but also achievable through strategic action. However, we recognize that this list of policy proposals is far from exhaustive. Across the country, visionary thinkers, organizations, communities, and activists are promoting policy reforms to build a more just and sustainable future, which we are committed to supporting.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, feels especially relevant now:

Our strategy should be not only to confront empires, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe…

Remember this: We be many, and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Arundhati Roy

On this day before our election, I hope we can remember that “we are many” and we, collectively, are the economy. And since we live in a democracy, we get to make the rules. People like my friend Johanna should feel that they do “know about the economy”, because we know our own needs.

The votes we cast tomorrow are important, not only at the federal level, but at the local and state level as well. Now is the time to move beyond outdated economic thinking and implement bold economic recovery measures to heal historic injustices, rebalance power, and regenerate our natural world.

Now is the time to build a Wellbeing Economy in America.

Download the 5 Principles Briefing Paper PDF

By: Isabel Nuesse

well-be·​ing | \ ˈwel-ˈbē-iŋ  \

Definition of well-being : the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous : WELFARE

It’s a tumultuous time in the United States. With an ever-divisive political arena, our sensitivities have the wheel and it’s much easier to stick to our corners, and talk amongst ourselves.The outcome of the upcoming federal election could further exacerbate political polarity. If this trend continues, I expect few will applaud the result. 

Writing this piece, I’m a little scared. I do not want to over-simplify, offer a blanket solution, cause offense or seem uninformed. I know I’m not alone in this. These worries are everywhere. Due to our lack of trust for the ‘other’, we’re losing our ability, or more specifically, our desire to communicate honestly with each other. 

Conversations on topical news stories can often end with the warning of, ‘don’t make this political’, because it’s almost guaranteed that one side will lash out at the other. Or, we spew ‘facts’ back and forth. But are we sitting with the complexity of these issues, thinking from other perspectives or challenging our own thinking? 

I see both the left and the right disengaging entirely. ‘You’re threatening to take away my abortion right?’ ‘You’re threatening to take away my guns?’ It’s a yes/no, a this/that, either/or. When in reality, it’s almost all grey. But are we willing to believe in the grey? It’s much easier to stick to our corners and hold a hard line.

A transition toward an economy centered on wellbeing may only be possible if people are willing to and capable of having patient conversations with one another. 

It’s true that sometimes patient conversations cannot be had, due to deep rooted histories of oppression. In this instance, my suggestion does not apply. 

I do believe however, many people are capable of having these conversations. But they’re hard, uncomfortable and can be extremely emotional. If we don’t start to shift more of the conversation to be inquiry-based, with a focus on the core issues, do we run a risk of escalated unrest?  

I found some hope in seeing this video the other day, of two candidates running for Governor in Utah.

It is not perfect. But, it’s somewhat refreshing to see the two sides trying to move beyond the hyperpolarization of our current political state. 

In my own life I’ve tried to facilitate some of these conversations. 7 months ago, I moved back in with my parents in a small town in  Massachusetts. Twice a week, I walk with a friend of my Mom’s: a ‘fiscally conservative’ voter, who is curious enough to engage me in conversations on current events. From police violence, racial justice, supreme court nominees, climate change and Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar salary, we cover it all. 

We can agree that local community resilience is paramount, that wealth inequality is an issue, that police often act above the law, that women are the future and that nearly all political parties can act immorally. While these agreements are not revolutionary, they are telling. 

These topics are complex. I can see from her perspective and have been forced to ask myself questions that I would not have thought of before. It can be refreshing to chat with her, because she is so hopeful about the future that it can sometimes dampen my worry.

Most importantly, these conversations have solidified the fact that we do have similar visions for the future.

Meaning, we can likely find common ground to work together towards a country we’re both proud to live in. 


My vision for a Wellbeing Economy in the US starts with us. Compromise is not impossible. And having compassion is important. One way to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy is to start in the community to better understand our neighbors, and to be open to question our individual perspectives. We have to remind ourselves that the ‘other’ isn’t evil. We can co-create an economy that meets the needs of all people. And we don’t need to be filtering our conversation to do that.

On Wednesday, 28th October, Holyrood and the RSA held their online conference, “Scotland: The Recovery”. Chaired by WEAll Scotland trustee Sarah Deas, the event provided an opportunity for the public, private, and third sectors to gather and discuss how Scotland can move forward and build a post-pandemic society that works for everyone.

After initial remarks from Sarah, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister, opened the event by sharing her aspirations for a wellbeing economy. Acknowledging that economic policy should be “a means, not an end”, the First Minister called for the people of Scotland to work together to deliver an economy that places “wellbeing alongside wealth”—not just as an afterthought, but as a vital part of Scotland’s post-pandemic economy.

Also speaking by video address was Rt. Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, UK Government. The Minister also emphasised his commitment for a green recovery.

In other words, now is the moment for a wellbeing economy.

Throughout the day, there were numerous discussions, panels, and guest speakers (including WEAll’s Advocacy and Influencing Lead, Katherine Trebeck). The dominant theme was everyone’s shared commitment to taking wellbeing economy ideas and discussing how best to turn them into permanent, lasting reforms.

Sarah explained the shared vision of a wellbeing economy in her opening remarks:

“With nations across the world taking unprecedented steps to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook for the global economy and society is bleak, with many challenges ahead. It’s also widely acknowledged that climate change poses a major threat, placing further crises on the horizon. So, as we seek to build back better, we must do so in a manner that builds resilience and addresses what’s not working in the current economic paradigm.

“It requires us to ask fundamental questions and explore ‘radical’ solutions. How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

How do we design a recovery that doesn’t embed inequality? How do we move to a regenerative economy, rather than one that is ecologically destructive?

“In other words, how do we build a ‘wellbeing economy’, transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet—the first time round.

“This requires us to consider questions like, what kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

“It’s recognised that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the root causes of societal problems—leading to ‘upstream’ preventative measures—rather than focusing mainly on ‘downstream’ measures, which involve cleaning up and redistributing after the fact. Whilst the latter are also important in the short term, we won’t escape the downward spiral by patching up after the event. Instead, we need upstream systems change.

“As a founding member of the WEGo partnership, alongside Iceland and New Zealand, Scotland is already at the forefront of global efforts to build a new, inclusive economy focused on societal and environmental wellbeing. 

“So how do we do it? Today’s Holyrood event, in partnership with the RSA, brings together policymakers and thought leaders to explore that key question.”

As the conference came to an end, the closing keynote came from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture, The Scottish Government. She spoke to Holyrood back in August about Scotland’s desire “to create a strong, resilient wellbeing economy”, and the need is just as prevalent today.

There’s still lots of work to do, but it truly is promising to see the wave of support for economic systems change that benefits everyone—including the key workers on whom we’ve relied so greatly this year.

Now is the moment to make it happen.

Last month, Katherine Trebeck went on a virtual tour in Holland. With over 15 gigs and several media interviews, it was a busy week of influencing stakeholders to transition to a Wellbeing Economy. 

While speaking of the urgent need to build an economy that prioritises environmental and social wellbeing, she stressed the why, how and what of the transition.

“We have all this growth, but people aren’t satisfied with their lives. We’re in an unsafe, unevenly shared economic system that is doing so much damage.” 

Katherine explains the dangers of ‘growth’ as the predominant driver of our economic thinking. While growth-based initiatives in the past have encouraged greater social progress, we are now seeing diminishing returns from growth. In her book, Economics of Arrival, she points that many countries have in fact arrived. What these countries have is enough. Now those countries must re-focus: less on growing, and more on providing decent livelihoods for all of their people.

On a broader level, Katherine asked, 

“What kind of growth do we need?”

She asked her audiences to think about what an economy may need more or less of. 

For example, we need more community gardens, renewable energy, worker-owned cooperatives and less oil tankers, and jobs that overwork and underpay their employees. 

As she put it, 

“We urgently need to have a more sophisticated conversation about what we need more of less of and what goals we have for our economy.”

Instead of growing for growth’s sake, we need to look closer at the indicators that increase human and ecological wellbeing. To replace GDP as the indicator, and instead, find a suite of measures of success that come from conversations with communities to reflect their needs.

How do we transition to a wellbeing economy?” 

For the answer, Katherine suggested stakeholders first look around at where they see these initiatives in action – and to learn from them, replicate them and use them to illustrate to governments that transitioning to a Wellbeing Economy is possible.

She pointed to: 

  • The Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership offers examples of countries that are developing new indicators and looking beyond GDP as measures of economic success. 
  • Businesses that are redirecting investment toward businesses beyond just the financial bottom line, who are pushing for employee ownership and are redefining their purpose to better reflect their values. This includes examples highlighted in WEAll’s Business of Wellbeing Guide, like the Dutch chocolate brand, Tony’s Chocolonely, which is working to make 100% slave free the norm in chocolate.
  • The pioneering implementation of Kate Raworth’s Doughnut framework at the city level in Amsterdam

These are existing solutions and answers to replace the existing economic system. 

Ultimately, her talks in Holland addressed the many stakeholders that need to be involved in the transition toward a Wellbeing Economy. It will take all of us to make this transition – and must be driven by a new idea for the purpose of the economy. 

We should not be in service to the economy. The economy should be in service to us; to life, to the environment. 

To learn more from Katherine Trebeck, watch her talks here: 

Follow Katherine on her website and on Twitter.

We make up the economy. You and me, all of us, together; the people

“An economy [is really, just] a term for the systems we build to produce and provide for one another.” 

At least, that’s how Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge & Policy Lead, puts it.

In the recent Decades for Courage Podcast, Amanda explained how 

“The economy is not something given, it’s not governed by some magical laws, it’s something that is made and remade all the time on the basis of our individual and collective decisions.”

However, we’re working under a model that doesn’t support – or share – that idea. 

Through the hour-long podcast, Amanda Janoo, Hunter Lovins and host, Dana Gulley, discuss the myths about our current capitalist, neoliberal system. And, provide a vision to move away from it.

Amanda urges us to reframe how we think about the purpose of the economy and to imagine different outcomes from this system. 

“We have the capacity and resources to build a system that ensures people have the things that are necessary for their own flourishing.” 

In the midst of this global pandemic, much talk is focused on getting the economy moving again, that we need to jumpstart it – as if the economy is a thing that we are here to service. 

Instead, we need to begin to think about the economy as something that we create, and it is in service of us

Flipping this narrative allows us to recognise our role in steering the economy for our collective wellbeing – and empowers us to take back control when it feels the global circumstances are leaving us powerless. 

This inspiring podcast gives hope for a better world. Both Amanda and Hunter share captivating anecdotes about current progress being made in the transition toward a Wellbeing Economy. 

Listen to the entire podcast here

You can follow Decades of Courage on Instagram and LinkedIn.

We asked Stephanie Mander, Senior Project Officer at Nourish Scotland and Co-ordinator of Scottish Food Coalition, to speak to WEAll about food insecurity and how it relates to Scotland’s wellbeing – both before and during the pandemic. Here’s what she had to say:


We’re fortunate to live in Scotland, a country where the leadership not only recognises the shortcomings of GDP as the measure of a country’s economic progress, but also actively seeks to position national success as directly tied to the wellbeing of the population.

Earlier this year, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “Scotland is redefining what it means to be a successful nation by focusing on the broader wellbeing of the population as well as the GDP of the country. The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing… Putting wellbeing at the heart of our approach means we can focus on a wider set of measures which reflect on things like the health and happiness of citizens.”

This is an inspiring vision, and in line with the goals of the Scottish Food Coalition[1] – who would love nothing more than to see the health and happiness of Scotland’s citizens be the impetus behind the governance of our food system. Access to a healthy, sustainable diet is a human right, and that right is not being realised by too many in Scotland. We’ve been pushing for a proper look at the food system, and a bit of oomph behind the political will to address the many challenges it is facing – i.e. diet-related illnesses, food waste, climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity, neglect for workers’ rights and poor animal welfare.

Unfortunately, oomph has seldom characterised the Government’s work in this area. They have persisted with taking a siloed approach, trying to address these interconnected challenges in isolation. This has led to different Government departments creating separate and sometimes contradictory strategies according to disparate policy goals. Scottish Government has recognised that we need a more coherent, and joined-up approach, yet despite multiple commitments to a Bill to reform the food system (the Good Food Nation Bill), there have been years of delays, back-tracking, and watered-down policy commitments. Pressure from our Coalition, opposition parties, the public and many other stakeholders in the food system helped to bring the Bill back to the table.

The Bill was finally due to be introduced in Spring 2020 when the Government, understandably, took the decision to prioritise bills essential to coping with the pandemic. However, there remains a cruel irony that COVID-19 led to a delay in a Bill, which – as a result of the outbreak’s impact on our food system – is now needed more than ever.

Jobs: Food workers have suffered during this pandemic; those in the hospitality sector have taken a huge economic hit, with a higher proportion of furloughed staff (and expected redundancies) than any other profession. Additionally, they face great risk; workers in the food production and retail sectors have suffered some of the highest death rates from COVID-19.[2] Even before the pandemic, people working in the food and drink industry are amongst the most likely to face insecure employment; in-work poverty with zero-hours contracts is pervasive across the food sector.

Health: Diet-related illness have been definitively linked with vulnerability to COVID-19 – people with type 2 diabetes are 81% more likely to die from it. Obese people are 150% more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and severely obese people over 300% more likely. Even before the pandemic, poor diet was responsible for one in seven deaths in the UK – 90,000 a year – almost as fatal as smoking, which is responsible for 95,000 deaths a year.[3]

Food insecurity: In April 2020, the Food Foundation reported that in mid-April 2020, over 600,000 adults in Scotland were facing food insecurity.[4] This means that around 14% of the adult Scottish population are either skipping meals, having one meal a day, or being unable to eat for a whole day.[5]  Prior to the pandemic, Scotland was seeing rising numbers of food insecurity:  between April 2018 & September 2019, food banks in Scotland were giving out more than 1000 emergency food parcels on average every day.[6]

If current patterns continue, Trussell Trust has warned this could go up to food banks giving out six emergency food parcels per minute.[7] COVID–19 has not only worsened food security for those on low incomes; it has also created new vulnerabilities for people with previously secure incomes. 

While arguments around resilience in our food chain hit new heights on the political agenda following this year’s well-publicised supply issues, the need for a new approach has never been more apparent.

The Scottish Government has prioritised wellbeing throughout its navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic – demonstrated by the £120 million investment to support people facing barriers to accessing food. But the underlying issues facing the food system existed before the pandemic; they are deeply entrenched. Stronger policy levers are desperately needed to galvanise systemic change.

However, this crisis has also shown what a new system could look like. We’ve seen some great stories of adaptation, and a renewed appreciation in the positive offerings of the food system. The pervasive disruption has jolted consumers into shifting their attitudes – with many thinking beyond their weekly supermarket shop. The pandemic has spurred a surge in demand for food boxes, community deliveries from local producers, and a perceived move to healthier and more sustainable buying. People are thinking more about where their food comes from.

We’ve been having conversations with people from across Scotland and hearing their thoughts on what the pandemic has revealed about our food system.

“Before COVID-19, Beach House Café in Portobello was a café we liked to visit. Since COVID-19, it has become our main grocery shop. A shop that knows our name, will flex to our diaries and work commitments and has shown us great care, energy, and commitment throughout. They are a shining example of what COVID-19 has taught me: cherish our local food producers, businesses, and organisations, as they truly are key workers that deliver so much more than our cupboard basics.”

We’ve seen communities come together, recognising that food is about more than calories – it’s about mental as well as physical wellbeing:

“I was so grateful for fresh fruit and some food each week from Blackhill’s growing group. I was having panic attacks at the thought of having to go to the shops…. standing 2 metres apart for 30/40 minutes just to get into the shop was pretty stressful for me. I am able to face shops a bit easier now. The friendly faces and chats from the folk delivering these food packages was also so appreciated.”

“What COVID-19 has taught me is that growing your own food is as good for your mental health as it is for your physical health…  and with Brexit looming, increasingly my allotment has also signified food security.”

But there remains a recognition of the disconnect between the food system and the wellbeing of the population:

Stirling is surrounded by farmland. Farmland is a 10-minute walk away from anywhere in the city centre – yet despite great need, we were unable to source Stirling-grown fruit or vegetables throughout all of lockdown.”

Frustratingly, there is not enough time before the next Scottish election to introduce the Good Food Nation Bill. But COVID-19 has shown us beyond a doubt that reform is needed.

The Scottish Food Coalition will continue to call for the introduction of the Good Food Nation Bill, with human rights at its heart.

More people are at the sharp end of systemic inequalities and inadequacies in our food system and the shortcomings in its governance. They should not have to continue to bear this burden. Legislators must learn lessons from COVID-19 that they have consistently failed to learn before this crisis. The Government must act now to ensure we realise our human right to food.

All we are saying is: give wellbeing a chance.


[1] The Scottish Food Coalitionis an alliance of small-scale farmers and growers, academics, workers’ unions, and charities focused on the environment, health, poverty, and animal welfare. The coalition has over 35 members including RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland, STUC, UNISON Scotland, Unite, Nourish Scotland, Trussell Trust, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, Obesity Action Scotland, Scottish Care and Leith Crops in Pots. http://www.foodcoalition.scot

[2] https://www.nationalfoodstrategy.org/partone/

[3] ibid

[4] https://foodfoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Report_COVID19FoodInsecurity-final.pdf

[5] ibid

[6] https://news.stv.tv/scotland/crisis-warning-as-1000-food-parcels-handed-out-every-day?top

[7] https://www.bigissue.com/latest/foodbanks-could-give-out-six-food-parcels-every-minute-this-winter/

by Rutger de Roo van Alderwerelt

In exploring topics for my MSc thesis in Financial Economics, I came across the concept of a Wellbeing Economy. With my primary academic focus on the economic impact of foreign direct investment (FDI) in international financial markets, I found few academic articles that relate this field to conceptualising a Wellbeing Economy. This offered a valuable research opportunity with a relatively untouched academic focus for my thesis.

In my preliminary research about economic wellbeing, I was inspired by a book by Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. She illustrates a comprehensive economic model based on the principles of the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It exemplifies new economic thought that is based on human and ecological wellbeing, which could translate into a Wellbeing economy.

Based on this model, I derived my research question: “Are the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals a comprehensive guideline to conceptualise a Wellbeing Economy?”, relating it to the academic field of FDI’s economic impact in international financial markets.

The SDGs and the International Financial Market

FDI is highlighted by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a significant driver of the achievability of the SDGs.

One particular source of FDI that has been on the rise since 2007 is the social impact investment market. Investors in this market invest their capital, primarily in developing countries and emerging markets, with the aim of generating positive social and environmental impact, along with financial returns. In theory, the existence of this investor sentiment could capture the principles of social justice on a healthy planet in international financial markets. 

In practice, the existence of this investor sentiment is illustrated by the global social impact investment market value of $502 billion in 2019. While this is promising, the OECD estimates that a global market value of $4 – 5 trillion is needed to completely achieve the SDGs.

To further increase the size of the social impact investment market in international financial markets, I propose and discuss the following vital objectives in my research:

  1. Sharing data and conducting case studies on existing impact investment portfolios,
  1. Develop and promote reliable methodologies in impact measurement and analysis.

Case Study: The Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF)

My thesis research dove into the investment portfolio of the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), which is managed by impact investor, Triple Jump. They invest in small to medium enterprises (SMEs), to improve local economic conditions and create employment opportunities among several demographics; total, female and youth employment. 

My quantitative analysis found that:

  • Over time, the  DGGF has become increasingly effective in positively affecting all three employment objectives in local economies, directly contributing to SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth.
  • There may also be indirect effects on the achievement of other SDGs: creating jobs in the formal sector should ensure a decent income for the local population, SDG 1, which may support reduction in hunger, SDG 2 and access to better healthcare and clean water/sanitation, SDG 3 and SDG 6. Furthermore, creating jobs for younger generations and the female population contributes to reduced inequalities, SDG 5 and SDG 10.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Disability | United Nations Enable

The interconnectedness of the SDGs is ever more apparent.

While my case study contributes to the first objective, more research is needed on the spill-over effects to other SDGs. It is promising that we could help achieve multiple SDGs by providing capital to SMEs in developing countries.

My research has made me a firm believer that the social impact investment market will set an example for the whole international financial market. Financial return can be efficiently and effectively combined with social and environmental returns.

Well on our way…

In addition to the insights derived from my own case – study, there are a number of international networks that frequently publish reports on the developments in the social impact investment market. Their objective is to enhance the development of a more unified framework to measure and analyse impact, relating to my proposed second objective

The Global Impact Investment Network (GIIN) shows 73% of investors in the social impact investment market recognize the SDGs as a tool to determine target impact objectives and to evaluate their performance. More specifically, in their most recent impact investor survey, as can be seen from Table 1 below, the target impact categories reflect the UN SDGs (which was not the case in the same survey, one year before!). 

Overall, this is evidence that investors in the social impact investment market are becoming more determined to achieve the UN SDGs.

Impact CategoryPercentage Targeted
Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG 8)71%
No Poverty (SDG 1)62%
Good Health and Wellbeing (SDG 3)59%
Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10)58%
Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7)57%
Gender Equality (SDG 5)56%
Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11)55%
Climate Action (SDG 13)54%
Table 1: Target Impact Categories, 2019 GIIN Annual Impact Investor Survey

As long as this trend continues, international financial markets can increasingly support the transition to a wellbeing economy.

More about Rutger: 

Due to my experience as a part-time intern at the Dutch Development Bank (FMO), I had the privilege to learn first-hand what role FDI can play in achieving the SDGs. As a result, I learned about the active role that impact investors play in shifting international financial markets to human and ecological wellbeing-centred systems.

Throughout writing my thesis, I kept close contact with social impact performance analysts at Triple Jump, FMO and Oikocredit. I also found many other organisations, in the Netherlands and beyond, making it their life’s work to transform our economic system. 

I am glad to be given the opportunity to write this blog to give you, perhaps new, perspectives on sectors and markets committed to transforming the global economic system based on principles of human and ecological wellbeing.

If you are interested to learn more about my research and findings or for a full list of sources on the topic of UN SDG integration into the social impact investment market, please contact me via LinkedIn or E-mail.

By Rebecca Humphries, Senior Public Affairs Officer at WWF European Policy Office

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most experienced independent conservation organisations, with over five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF’s global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment.

Before it’s even over, 2020 is already a year like no other. It has been marred by an unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting people’s health, livelihoods, and social connections, with no end currently in sight.

Governments across the world have adopted measures to address the economic fallout of the crisis. In the EU, leaders have subscribed to calls for a ‘green recovery’ – but already there are signs that short-term economic interests are being prioritised over longer term considerations of environmental and social sustainability. This crisis has arrived at a time where we are facing an ecological crisis without precedent: runaway climate change and biodiversity loss are driving us towards a sixth mass extinction.

The wrong choices could have catastrophic implications for future generations: propping up destructive sectors such as fossil fuel energy or intensive agriculture with public funding could lock in investments for decades to come, making it all the more difficult to tackle the ecological crisis we’re facing.

That’s why WWF believes that now is the time for a paradigm shift, to take the EU on a different trajectory. Our new report ‘Towards an EU Wellbeing Economy – a fairer, more sustainable Europe post Covid-19’ calls on EU leaders to rethink what to prioritise and how to measure progress. With GDP growth as the only basis for political decision-making, policy-makers will inevitably miss what their citizens value most, such as our quality of life, wellbeing, health, and the health of our natural world. GDP growth fails to account for social inequalities and neglects the many benefits of thriving nature and a healthy society – new indicators that measure these important aspects would help leaders to better value our societies’ and our planet’s wellbeing.

There are already promising first signs of a paradigm shift: last year, EU Member States supported calls for ‘the economy of wellbeing’, tentatively following in the footsteps of countries such as New-Zealand, Iceland, Scotland and Wales, which are already working on implementing a wellbeing economy by integrating alternative measures into their decision-making, budgetary processes and economic policies. Just last month, the European Commission recognised that the health crisis had ‘reignited the debate on what kind of economic growth is desirable, what actually matters for human wellbeing in a world of finite resources and on the need for new metrics to measure progress beyond GDP growth’.

Now, we must ensure that the EU goes beyond words on paper. With this report, WWF is calling for a new framework for measuring progress, built on a shared commitment across the EU to shift to a wellbeing economy. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), already provide a comprehensive, integrated and universal framework that aims to leave no one behind and to achieve prosperity for people and planet. By stepping up its efforts to fully implement the SDGs, the EU now has an opportunity to achieve this shift and deliver on its promises of a green, just, and socially inclusive recovery.