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 international financial markets and Foreign Direct Investment’s (FDI) effect on local economies, I came across the concept of a Wellbeing Economy. I found that there exist many academic articles on the impact of FDI, but few that relate this academic field to conceptualising a Wellbeing Economy. This became the focus of my thesis research.  

My research question, ‘Are the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a comprehensive guideline to conceptualise a Wellbeing Economy?’, was derived from Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economistwhich presents a new economic model based on the principles of the UN’s SDGs.

In my opinion, this model exemplifies how we should think about shaping a new economic system that is based on human and ecological wellbeing.

The SDGs and the International Financial Market

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

One particular market 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.

The global Social Impact Investment market value in 2019 was estimated at $502 billionDoesn’t that sound promising? 

While this is impressive, the OECD estimates that a global market value of $4 – 5 trillion is needed to completely achieve the SDGs.

To increase the size of the social impact investment market in international financial markets, it is vital that we share data on existing funds that deliver both financial returns along with delivering on goals of a wellbeing economy: social justice on a healthy planet.

Case Study: The Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF)

My thesis research dove into the case study of the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), an investment portfolio provided by impact investor Triple Jump. The DGGF invests primarily in small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to improve total, female, and youth employment.

My quantitative analysis found that:

  1. 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.
  2. Not only that, but the DGGF also indirectly contributes to the achievement of other SDGs: creating jobs in the formal sector ensures a decent income for the local population, SDG 1, which supports 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 contribute 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 more research is needed, it is promising that we can help achieve multiple SDGs by injecting capital, either through loans or equity, into SMEs.

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…

The Global Impact Investment Network (GIIN) produced research that shows 73% of investors in the Social Impact Investment market recognize the SDGs as a tool to determine target impact objectives and evaluate their performance.

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

In Table 1, I present the distribution of target impact objectives among respondents (n = 294). Note here that these impact categories reflect the SDGs (which was not the case just a year before!); evidence that investors are becoming more determined to contribute to achieving the SDGs.

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 different investors can play in achieving the SDGs. As a result, I learned about their role in shifting international financial markets to human and ecological wellbeing-centred systems. I kept close contact with Triple Jump throughout writing my thesis, who provided me with the data. I had valuable conversations with social impact performance analysts at Oikocredit and FMO. I found many other organisations and initiatives 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.

WEAll Scotland is delighted to welcome three new trustees to our board: Gillian Harkness, Charlotte Millar, and Siri Pantzar.

Our board oversee the work that our dedicated team carry out, and they’re also active in representing the organisation and contributing to our activities, both in public and behind the scenes.

Read on to learn a bit about each of our new trustees!

Gillian Harkness

Gillian is a commercial, corporate and charities lawyer working with public and third sector clients, and with those private sector organisations interested in engaging with the public and third sectors (including as part of the wellbeing economy).  Gillian is passionate about the part that social enterprise and the wider third sector can play in shaping the economy and in “building back better”.

Charlotte Millar

Charlotte is a leader and strategist for systems change, with expertise in collaborative leadership, organisational development and coaching. She developed this expertise through co-founding the Finance Innovation Lab and the New Economy Organisers Network and growing them to scale. In both organisations, she led on strategy, culture, leadership development, diversity and inclusion and coaching. She was twice winner of NESTA’s New Radicals award and was recognised in 2019 as one of the UK’s 100 most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise.

Siri Pantzar

Siri is passionate about imagining a future that is not only adequate, safe and sustainable, but also fulfilling and exciting—for all of us—and then working towards that future. She is currently working with Climate Outreach, a climate change communications charity, as an Executive Assistant. Her background is in community charity work in Edinburgh, and she has supported several young charities in fundraising, systems development and governance, helping them acquire the necessary tools to work effectively towards their mission. Siri has a master’s degree in Global Environment, Politics and Society from the University of Edinburgh.

Want to learn more about the team and what we do? Check out the WEAll Scotland team page to find out more.

Active travel, green space, connected communities … these are not new ideas! 

Katherine Trebeck recently delivered the Sir Patrick Geddes Commemorative Lecture, for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) on the role of place and planning in creating a wellbeing economy.

She urged us to learn from planning pioneers, like Sir Patrick Geddes, and to find real life examples of planning that is bringing wellbeing economy to life at the local level.

Who was Sir Patrick Geddes?

Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) was a designer widely regarded as the founder of modern town planning, ecological planning and design and bioregionalism.

He believed the role of the designer was to:

  1. Ensure that the material development of the places that people inhabited, reflected their specific needs and;
  2. To transform culture through education

Sir Patrick Geddes’ Map of how to conceive of and relate to ‘place’

(From ‘Cities in Evolution’, Source)

He understood that we need to have knowledge of the ecological, social and cultural factors of a place, in order to plan that place to meet peoples’ needs: dignity, nature, connection, fairness and participation.

During the lecture, Katherine shared ‘7 Tips for Designing a Wellbeing Economy’ that Sir Patrick Geddes would have shared himself, if he were alive today:

  1. “See the whole”

“We need to look upstream… [to] see how things fit together… It’s about understanding the whole picture

2. Beyond the era of “squirrel millionaires”

3. Local Context Matters

4. Community Involvement. Always.

“A wellbeing economy is about people feeling connected and in control.” – Katherine Trebeck

5. Beyond examinations: better measures

6. “Magnificent failures” are necessary boldness

7. Follow your heart – and live life in line with your passions

How can we use these tips to plan a wellbeing economy?

Katherine pointed to signs of hope in participatory processes that involve the community in ‘building back better’. One such model is the doughnut economics model introduced by Kate Raworth.

During her recent talk on the ‘Wellbeing Economy and Doughnuts’ with the Scottish Communities Climate Action Network, Katherine introduced the Doughnut Economics Model, developed and popularised by Oxford economist (and WEAll Ambassador) Kate Raworth.

‘The Doughnut’ … Have you heard of it?

The ‘doughnut’ is a way of thinking about economics based on the priorities set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and balancing the needs of people and the environment.

The key aim is to ensure no one falls short on the essentials of life (in the doughnut’s hole) while also living with within ecological boundaries that aim to preserve the Earth’s resources (represented by the outside circle of the doughnut). 

The doughnut shape left in-between those two circles is the sweet spot – where everyone on the planet has a good social foundation and the Earth’s resources aren’t being overexploited.

Striking this balance is key to ‘building back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic.

(City) Life and the Doughnut

“Life is the underlying process that connects culture to nature.” – Sir Patrick Geddes

The Amsterdam City Doughnut takes the global concept of the Doughnut and turns it into a tool for transformative action, on the ground, in the city of Amsterdam. The tool asks:

Katherine discussed 4 interdependent questions used in the Amsterdam City Doughnut to help answer this question, to guide city planning:

Inspired by those who came before us and frameworks like the Doughnut, we have the tools to plan an economy that is designed to deliver social justice on a healthy planet – starting right at the community or city level.

Learn more about the Amsterdam City Doughnut, Amsterdam’s long-term vision and policymaking, the Amsterdam Donut Coalition and other global initiatives putting the Doughnut model into action: the Lake Erhai catchment in China, for the nations of South AfricaWales and the UK, and for a comparison of 150 countries.

You can learn more about Katherine’s work on her website and find her on Twitter.

Nested between the current core sectors of the economy: Government, For-Profit Business and Non-Profit Organisations, the newly evolving 4th Sector is a space for business to be a force for change. It leverages both business and profit to benefit people and the planet.

We are in dire need of innovative solutions to ensure we rebuild our economy better than it was before COVID-19.

Our new WEAll Member, 4th Sector, believes that in order to Build Back Better, we must harness the power and potential of the 4th sector to address our most pressing challenges, ranging from quality healthcare for all, to unemployment, education, digital access, housing, poverty, structural inequality, climate change, and more!

With this in mind, 4th Sector has launched a way for you to get involved in the development of a new economy: the Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon!

The Hackathon is designed to support governments to prioritise spending in service of the common good and spur the development of effective policy solutions that governments can deploy.

Over the next few weeks, 4th Sector, will be accepting new participants to ideate solutions that support a better economy – and thus, world.

There are a number of Policy Issue Areas, ranging from agriculture, to democracy, trade, transformation, and Youth. Check out the online platform, submit your policy and let’s move from ideas into action.

  • A number of solutions for a better economy have already been submitted, including:
  • Digital and connected technology to improve access to healthcare
  • Shifting mainstream investment practices towards an impact-centered model
  • Capacity building for careers in purpose-driven economy
  • Land mobilisation and livelihood initiatives through Tribal Leadership
  • Critical 21st-century digital literacy for all
  • New Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms to achieve the targets of Zero emissions
  • Investment into the creative economy to support artists

Join the 4th Sector community in the development of a better economy by signing up to participate in the ‘Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon’.

For more information on 4th sector, visit their website or find them on Twitter and Linkedin.

By: Nikita Asnani

اقتصاد الرفاهية (wellbeing economy)

اقتصاد السعادة (economy of happiness)

Arabic

I belong to the land of dates – no, not that kind, the edible ones…

This horse (shaped) peninsula, engulfed by the pearl-laden Arabian waters, refuses to slow down its speedy gait, be it in technology, science, commerce arts and culture. 

What could a ‘wellbeing economy’ possibly mean in the country that has already garnered global recognition for its feat in ranking first, globally, for the categories: ‘Availability of Quality Healthcare’, ‘Access to Mobile Phones’ and the ‘Feeling Safe’ Index?

Here are a few personal suggestions that might help accelerate the transition to a wellbeing economy:

1. Rethinking ‘Fast Streets’ 

The scorching heat and general dependency on private transport, as opposed to public transport, in most of the emirates, has led to almost every family owning one car, at the very least. 

Increasing connectivity and developing new, shared modes of transport are likely to dominate the landscape of urban mobility in a more sustainable Dubai. I am also of the opinion that encouraging walking and running to short distances, coupled with the usage of traditional dhows or abras (ferries), is likely to contribute to public health as well as economic development at the local level. 

2. Embracing Slow Fashion

‘Shop, till we drop’ is a popular slogan used to promote shopping festivals in Dubai. Do we know what the real impact we have, particularly as consumers, of fast fashion? Even if you question ‘who made my clothes, and how?’, you’ll often find condescending labels that read ‘100% organic’.

But, as we all know, multiple fast fashion brands are guilty of ‘greenwashing’. I believe it is high time we unmask the true impact of fast fashion in a country known, in part, for ‘great shopping’ – and pave the way for local brands selling regenerative fashion. 

3. Saying NO to plastic

The number of plastic bags being used on a daily basis in the UAE is staggering. Financial incentives to reduce the dependency single-use plastics along with behavioural change campaigns to switch to cloth bags (no, even paper is not good enough!) will go a long way in changing the face of the economy. 

4. Keeping the culture alive 

In a recent blog on www.greenfootprint.com, Abdul Rahman highlights how our ancestors heavily relied on date palms to meet their day to day needs, from construction of houses and boats to weaving brooms, food covers, mats, air fans, dates sachets, bedding, and so on. 

low angle photo of palm trees
Photo by Cassie Burt on Unsplash

“The scarcity of natural resources and harsh environment pushed people to live within their means. Despite the harsh environment, the uniqueness of the date palm lies in managing to grow fruit even during the summer season. It pushed them to be creative and work within their natural means. The date palm was definitely a more sustainable option since it is a biodegradable material.” 

(Abdul Rahman, 2020)

It seems to me that by revisiting our history, through storytelling in schools, for example, we can help the UAE honour our cultural heritage – while also contributing to improved environmental sustainability. 

“My wealth is the happiness of my people” 

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates)

People are, in the 21st century, what Oil was to the UAE, in the 18th Century. 

The UAE’s real wealth lies in its people, and a wellbeing economy would dig right where the real gold lies. 

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

In May, our monthly WEAll Talk featured Mariana Mirabile  asking the question, ‘what is blinding economists?’

She broke down the thinking behind current economic theories, like ‘economic growth is always good’.

Micro and macroeconomics

An interesting comparison she made is the microeconomic vs. macroeconomic thinking around marginal cost and benefit.

In microeconomic thinking, we ‘stop’ when the marginal cost meets the marginal benefit. For instance, if we’re trying to stay fit, we don’t eat an extra slice of pizza, because the cost of eating that slice of pizza will no longer benefit our bodies. Since it no longer makes sense for our goal, to eat that extra slice, we stop eating.

At the macroeconomic level, we don’t think this way. Instead, we always think that ‘more is better’. Take fishing for example: when does the marginal cost of fishing meet the marginal benefit? Why is it that we continue to fish, when doing so continues to deplete the fishing stock in the ocean?

Mariana argues that this is a main component of what makes economists ‘blind’.

‘More is better’ was not an issue in the past. It is today

In the past, we were too few people, with too few technologies, to harvest or pollute faster than the planet’s capacity to replenish itself and absorb our waste. We now face a different reality, we have harvested and polluted so much that ‘more’ may no longer be ‘better’.

Mainstream economic theory has not adapted and hinders us from asking fundamental questions

In mainstream economic theory, we assume that the economy is the ‘whole’ and the environment is an ‘input’ to it. If we instead saw the economy as a sub-system of the environment (which it is), we would realize that ‘more’ stuff means ‘less’ of ‘something else’, and that ‘something else’ is the environment, from which we depend on. Only at this point, with this change in perspective, the question of whether ‘more’ is ‘better’ becomes pertinent.

Changing the story

Stories determine our beliefs. And the beliefs that we hold are powerful: they inform policy, societal structures, and ultimately the results that we get. Questioning the foundations of our economic thinking (and of our thinking in general) is then the first step towards a wellbeing economy.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Listen to Mariana’s entire WEAll Talk, including a rich discussion at the end below.

WEAll Talks

WEAll Talks are a monthly event for our members and citizens. The events are topical and led by individuals in our network. We design the events to be a short presentation and then a content-based discussion. The topics cut across many areas of work our members may be involved in and we encourage both Members and Citizens to host. Join WEAll and find out more about these talks!

You can learn more about becoming a WEAll member here. And, don’t forget to join us on our Citizens platform.

Stay tuned for upcoming WEAll Talks in our Newsletter- sign up here.

By Isabel Nuesse

In his latest piece in The Star, “Time for an end to ‘white economics’”, Yannick Beaudoin reminded us that economics is a construct that was created by people and informed by the experiences and qualities of their cultures.

With an economic system founded on ‘white’ perspectives and patriarchal principles, it’s no wonder we’re seeing glaring racial disparities as the series of crises we face – environmental, social and economic- continue to progress. The algorithm is biased.

Facebook is undergoing a similar look at their own inherent biases in their algorithms. The social media giant has been under scrutiny for developing bias in its AI that disproportionately impacts minority groups. This news started the #StopHateForProfit movement.

Since, as Yannick points out, economics is a human construct – a code or a set of algorithms we program, we have the power to re-engineer them to pursue environmental and social wellbeing as the top priority in our economy.

And the same goes for the mandate of powerful companies like Facebook. The shift has already started. Companies like Cola-Cola, Disney, McDonald’s and Starbucks have boycotted advertising on Facebook to take a stand against these issues coming to light. Under this scrutiny, Facebook’s team says they are going to update their algorithm.

Yannick makes a clear call to action:

“We must demand and contribute to ending white economics so that new, generative and inclusive well-being economies can emerge… [We must] “innovate a well-being economics based on dignity, fairness, participation and nature.”

The “Founding Fathers” need to be “Founding Communities”

If we are to redefine our economics for the benefit of all, we must include more people with different cultures and experiences into our decision-making.

Despite the many ways we are seeing how the current economic system can be actively racist and is not serving the most marginalised communities, policymakers, aren’t quite taking the necessary steps to recalibrate the economic algorithm to serve everyone – as an economy should intend to do.

Creating Economic Recovery Policies that Reduce the Racial Wealth Divide

Arriving at a non-biased economic system will take work. The IPCC report, “White Supremacy is the Pre-existing Condition” outlines how policymakers can commit to closing the racial wealth divide. It begins with understanding the underrepresented communities that have been so heavily burdened by the crises.

Rich with new data and analytics, the report gives policymakers have better grounding to tackle an outdated system and offers eight tangible solutions to ensure the Economic Recovery Reduces the Racial Wealth Divide – and how to pay for this.

Emergency Measures

  1. Improved Racial Data Collection as Part of Emergency Investments
  2. A Racial Equity Audit as Part of Stimulus Oversight and Policy Development
  3. Income Support that Expands to Guaranteed Income
  4. Postal Banking

Emerging from Recession

  • Medicare for All- Universal Health Care Delinked from Employment
  • Expanding Inclusive Housing and Ownership
  • Federal Jobs Guarantee. With Living Wage
  • Baby Bonds

Paying for Policies using Tax Schemes:

The report outlines multiple tax schemes that can pay for a socially just recovery, including:

Upside Down Tax Subsidies and Taxing the Top (Millionaire Surtax, Financial Transaction Tax, Progressive Estate Tax, Wealth Tax, Tax Excessive CEO Pay and Shutting Down the Hidden Wealth System).

Our role

I propose that just as we’re seeing with Facebook, it’s now up to each of us to, effectively, ‘boycott’ our current economic system, in order to invest fully in the development of a new one. One that prioritises black and brown communities and our finite planet ahead of the financial profits of a few.

You think you can help us re-write the code?

WEAll Scotland response to the Programme for Government in Scotland
Lukas Hardt and Katherine Trebeck; 28 September 2020

Earlier this month, the Scottish government published its Programme for Government, setting out its plans until the election for the Scottish parliament next year and explicitly committing to building a wellbeing economy in Scotland; an economy that is “fairer, greener, more prosperous”.

We welcome that commitment. And lot of the measures go in a promising direction.

For example, the government recognises that rebuilding the economy after COVID needs to simultaneously contribute to climate change mitigation and other environmental goals. The promised investment in energy efficient buildings, green sectors, tree planting and peatland restoration is important and to be welcomed, even if it still falls short of the scale necessary.

There are nods to the importance of social enterprises, community wealth building and the 20-minute neighbourhood. Some money is provided for cycling infrastructure. The emerging Scottish National Investment Bank could be used to provide the long-term investment we need for a just and green transition. The Youth Guarantee could be a great way to provide meaningful, well-paid job opportunities (although it could also become another way to subsidise poverty wages). Adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law gives society real power to hold the government to account.

But, despite the promising direction, the Programme for Government doesn’t live up to the ambition of a wellbeing economy. Building a wellbeing economy is about transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet, the first time round. That last phrase is important, because the Programme for Government, and much of our social policy debate in Scotland, is still too much about cleaning up and redistributing after the fact.

What do we mean by that? Our current socio-economic model is failing because it tries to deliver good lives, but does so by taking the long way round. The approach can be described in three steps1:

  1. Get the economy to grow bigger, but don’t fret too much about the damage to people or the environment that this does.
  2. Second, sequester a chunk out of this economy via taxes.
  3. Third, channel some of this money into helping people and the planet to cope with step number 1.

The limits of this approach are clear – it implicitly concedes to damage and harm being done to people and planet by stage 1; such damage is now so great that actions in Step 3 cannot keep up, so people and planet are inadequately repaired; and in a world of finite resources and ever-more apparent limits to growth, the risks of step 1 are mounting.

Unfortunately, the main thrust of the Programme for Government seems largely confined to such a model. Step 1 policies include the £100 million “Green Jobs Fund” or the “Inward Investment Plan” aimed to boost GDP. Yes, the government is now putting a strong green slant on such policies, which is good, but fundamentally such policies are still about stimulating more growth within the current system. That won’t work.

On the other end, the government needs to spend heavily on Step 3 policies to patch up social inequalities and environmental damage.

Consider the high-profile announcement of a Scottish Child Payment and Child Winter Heating Assistance; or the Tenant’s Hardship Loan facility, which will help tenants, but is only shifting their debt from landlords to the government; or the £150 million of additional funding quietly earmarked for additional flood protection measures (and, while you’re at it, compare the latter amount to the Green Jobs Fund – telling isn’t it?). Such policies are good and important if we are to take care of people in the face of an economic system that generates inequality, financial insecurity and poverty and climate chaos.

But the real tragedy is that they are necessary in the first place.

Heralding redistribution as progress and patting ourselves on the back for helping people survive and cope with the current system is a sad reflection of how low our ambitions are.

A wellbeing economy is about attending to root causes – looking upstream. Designing the nature and configuration of the economy so it enables people to live good lives first time around rather than allowing so much damage to be done – often in some outdated and misguided pursuit of growth – and then thinking we’ve done well when we patch up that damage. A wellbeing economy agenda asks more of the economy. It starts from the premise we can no longer be content to patch and heal and repair – we need to construct the economic system in a way that delivers social justice on a healthy planet. From the outset.

Building a wellbeing economy requires changing the rules of the game and redesigning our institutions, our infrastructure and our laws. It means embracing the potential of pre-distribution rather than re-distribution and measuring our progress in a way that is better aligned with what is really needed. We already have lots of ideas on how to do this.

Some of what is needed is already being done in Scotland – just too tentatively. Take support for alternative business models that put people and planet before profits, such as worker-owned cooperatives or social enterprises. There are good steps towards community wealth building to keep wealth in the place where it is created and reform of land ownership rules (and that of other assets). The National Performance Framework is starting to broaden goals away from simply GDP growth – but hasn’t yet knocked GDP off its ill-deserved pedestal.

While the Scottish government’s powers are limited, it could use planning and procurement and business support much more proactively to cultivate the sort of business activities required for a wellbeing economy. Radical transformative action can be done in small steps. It is time that it takes its own rhetoric on the wellbeing economy seriously and initiates transformative change.


[1]Trebeck, K., and Williams, J., 2019. The economics of arrival: Ideas for a grown up economy. Policy Press, Bristol, p. 86

by Rabia Abrar

Over the years, I have committed to ‘do my part’ to help the world ‘fix’ the effects of inequality and the climate crisis.

I have joined passionate youth in supporting the work of vitally important organisations which address the downstream effects of inequality and the climate crisis: fundraising to build libraries or to create children’s bed kits, supporting community food drives, becoming a reducetarian and campaigning to share the ‘how to’ for individual climate action in a personal 100-Day challenge and in my work at Hubbub

And yet, I always held frustration about why these issues exist in the first place. Why do we need to redistribute income after poverty has reached crisis levels, why are we having to fund clean ups of oil spills and why are individuals expected to ‘consume responsibly’, when producers are not also mandated to produce responsibly? 

Joining the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) has helped articulate my long-held beliefs: business, politics and economic activity should exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing – a.k.a social justice on a healthy planet.

We should only pursue growth in those areas of the economy that contribute to collective wellbeing and shrink those areas of the economy that damage it. And this shift in the purpose and functioning of the economy requires systems change.

The Wellbeing Economy and A Healthy Planet

As Dr. Katherine Trebeck described in a recent interview with the Herald, 

“The wellbeing economy agenda … comes from a recognition that, if we don’t transform how the economy operates – who wins, who loses out of the economic system, how we price things, what we incentivise, how businesses operate, how we build our infrastructure – we won’t have a chance of delivering that goal: social justice on a healthy planet.

Crucially, a wellbeing economy will only ever have been achieved if we have delivered environmental sustainability, addressed climate breakdown and regenerated our environment.

That’s what today’s Global Climate Strike is about. In at least 3500 locations around the world, youth are striking as part of the Fridays for Future movement, to reinforce the urgency of the climate crisis even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and to demand more urgent action on the climate and ecological crisis by governments. Young people are taking action both online and in the streets where COVID-19 regulations allow.

Social Injustice Drives Environmental Breakdown

Katherine explains that, 

“the environmental crisis is [actually also] a social justice issue and the two of those are bound up in how we design our economics.” 

And further, much of our environmental breakdown is actually rooted in social injustice.

Fascinatingly, research shows that:

  1. High levels of inequality drive huge amounts of consumption and hence emissions, especially by the very wealthy
  2. Inequality actually undermines political mobilisation on these issues, which is why those countries that are less unequal are more likely to be more proactive on addressing environmental issues. 

Redesigning our Economy

“If we transform the economy towards a wellbeing economy, this will help us deliver on the social justice side of things and on the environment.”

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is a collective of organisations, alliances, movements and academics operating collaboratively across many different sectors to redesign the economic system – including place-based hubs, which are working with governments across the globe to test out new narratives, policies, ideas and models to make the wellbeing economy a reality in their own localities. 

This work is crucial, especially now, as we all discuss how to ‘Build Back Better’ beyond COVID.

As the brilliant (and terrifying) Metronome’s reprogrammed digital clock illustrates – we have a short window of time to make this economic systems change – and the clock is ticking.


But I agree with Katherine when she says:

“What keeps me optimistic is the young people … around the world who are so passionate, so articulate and so bright. Climate breakdown is something they don’t question because they’ve grown up knowing that it’s a reality . . . and so they’re rolling up their sleeves and being collaborative.” 

Want to get involved? 

Join the conversation and action around the Global Climate Strike or WEAll Youth network, a global movement of regional youth communities  collectively taking action towards a creating a wellbeing economy.

By: Kitty Forster, Assistant Psychologist & Researcher, Wales 

Statistics suggest 1 in 4 people experience mental health disorders and mental health issues are on the rise amongst younger generations. Our pace of life has evoked unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and depression in our modern societies, specifically in the younger generation. 

Various causes have been named as hypotheses for increased mental health issues; trauma, housing concerns, financial insecurity, working hours, poverty, social media, reduced connection to nature and communities.

There is enormous cost to society as a consequence of mental health issues; treatment costs, societal issues or missing workdays.  These expenses are projected to increase significantly.

The World Health Organisation calls for reduction in stigma in mental health, and greater focus on prevention strategies.

Mental Health issues on the rise among adolescents

Stressed economy, stressed society, stressed NHS

Paying the price – the cost of mental health care England 2026

Stigma around mental health costs UK economy

Mental health – the economic and social burden

Causes of mental health issues

Social media and mental health

Mental health and nature

Nature benefits mental health

Poverty and mental health

Mental health statistics – relationships and community

Mental health statistics – economic and social costs

World Health Organisation – Mental health action plan

Prevention of mental and behavioural disorders: implications for policy and practice

Cost-Effectiveness and Affordability of Interventions, Policies, and Platforms for the Prevention and Treatment of Mental, Neurological, and Substance Use Disorders

Prevention and mental health

Mental health and prevention taking local action

Preventative strategies for mental health

Mental Health Foundation – prevention review

Current provision

Thankfully, mental health has become less of a taboo in the last couple of decades, along with increased access to evidence-based therapies available on the NHS, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), as well as traditional psychotherapy.

In addition, Mindfulness and other stress-reduction techniques are being promoted in the mainstream. 

This is a valuable shift in perception and action.

NHS services for mental health

Mental health.org

Mental health issues increased significantly in young adults over last decade

Suggested improvements in a wellbeing economy

The NHS is facing a significant increase in costs for social care services for Looked After Children due to parents struggling, crisis mental health cases, physical health costs of drug and alcohol abuse and judicial services and rehabilitation.

The economic and social costs of crime

The real cost of a fair adult social care system

Fully funded social care

Looked after children – the silent crisis

Children’s social care

This spending is reductionist response to symptoms; rather than a holistic preventative approach, which would attempt to alleviate the prevalence of human suffering in the first place.

As well as providing mental health services for crisis cases, who are obviously prioritised on NHS waiting lists, there should be a greater allocation of funding for access to psychological services.  The irony is that preventative services could cost less than patching up the societal ills of an unsupported community further down the line. 

A wellbeing economy would be designed to prevent mental health issues, where possible, by providing dignity, connection and fairness to all.

Psychology, social care, mental health, education and childcare services are themes at the heart of a wellbeing economy and could be positively impacted by a change in public spending, focusing on valuable services for the psychological wellbeing of our communities. 

Mental Health

Mental health is a spectrum.  You’re not either totally well balanced or completely ‘insane’.  Everyone slides around on the spectrum according to their personal histories, current lifestyle choices and circumstances.  Our current society doesn’t seem to provide support until someone is further down the spectrum towards total mental health breakdown. 

There is a huge proportion of society who could be feeling more emotionally stable if given education about simple tools for wellbeing, and this decreases the chance that some of those people might slide towards the danger zone end of the spectrum. 

Psychology Services & Care in a Wellbeing Economy

Services for All

There are charities, Relate and Mind,  currently focusing on providing mental health services for less ‘crisis’ cases, when the NHS is unable to allocate support.

A wellbeing economy could advocate for greater access to psychological and wellbeing services available for all – to facilitate all citizens to access healthy coping strategies, psychological education and counselling support. 

I would envisage psychological educators, mindfulness teachers, parenting specialists, relationship counsellors, CBT therapists available for group sessions in all villages and community halls on a weekly drop-in basis. Clearly additional specialist one-on-one services would still be required, and these community sessions could signpost individuals to more intense support when needed; including support for domestic abuse, alcohol or drug issues, and referrals for cases requiring specialist one-on-one mental health intervention.

Psychological education

Psychological education could be provided on the following themes: how CBT works, how mindfulness works, the nature of healthy and unhealthy relationships, the psychological benefits of exercise/diet/sleep, the alternative coping mechanisms to try for stress, anxiety and depression. 

This would reduce the likelihood of maladaptive coping strategies or unhealthy behavioural patterns becoming habitual.  There are huge number of CBT resources available online, which are safe for the general public to use on a self-help basis after initial direction.

Self-help resources for mental health problems

CBT information leaflets and self-help guides

Additionally, the provision of wellbeing services such as Mindfulness and yoga classes available in each community centre on a regular basis would be helpful as a baseline measure to promote emotional wellbeing. The NHS now promote Mindfulness and endorse a specific online course Be Mindful.

A relatively new strand of research is demonstrating that the concept of Interoception – ‘the 8th sense’ – plays a huge role in people’s abilities to notice their own physiological bodily signals, that subsequently manifest as emotion.  The ability to notice your emotions as they arise is hugely advantageous in terms of emotional regulation, making positive behavioural choices and personal agency.  Interoceptive awareness can be enhanced with positive psychological benefits through meditation, mindfulness, yoga and other body-based contemplative practise (note: specialist interoceptive interventions are required for those with a history of trauma).

Mindfulness, Interoception, and the Body: A Contemporary Perspective

We’ve lost touch with our bodies

Interoception and Mental Health: A Roadmap

The interoception curriculum

If delivered at scale, these services could hugely benefit the wellbeing of society.  This increased emotional self-awareness and plethora of coping strategies could potentially alleviate a lot of unnecessary human suffering.

However, promoting these wellbeing services is not a panacea. These suggestions are certainly not sufficient to eradicate societal problems such as poverty, inadequate housing, poor social mobility and inter-generational trauma.  More systemic interventions are needed for the most disadvantaged members of society. Interventions for children are needed to help break the recurring dysfunctional patterns in disadvantaged parts of society, as well as adequate government funding for housing, education, health and childcare.

Services for families

These aforementioned psychological services could help support a healthier generation of adults in our society, and this vicariously would have a positive impact on their children too. A parent’s poor mental health understandably influences their children’s wellbeing. A parent who is more emotionally stable within themselves is likely to be more able to provide emotional co-regulation for their children, to scaffold these capacities for the future generations, as well as being positive role models.  Providing parents with the resources to manage their own emotions and help their child to develop emotional awareness is key.

Barnardos: resources to teach child mindfulness

Barnardos: improving your family’s calmness and mindfulness

NSPCC: mental health and parenting

Parental mental illness – the impact on children

In addition, a wellbeing economy could consider how to support families in whatever way suited their personal choices.  Either to enable greater financial support for child are services, if mothers chose to return to work; or to support mothers to stay at home to raise their children during the early years. 

Stay-at-home mothers

Parents decisions about returning to work and child caring responsibilities

Despite this being a personal choice for families, and hugely positive that it’s now socially acceptable to return to work, reportedly there is some judgement felt if women choose to remain at home with their young families.  Some women report to be made to feel they are not contributing to society; yet they are raising the next generation, our descendants!

This role in society should also be valued. Incentivising a quick return to the workplace and to pay for childcare may be entangled in an economic system that doesn’t have families’ wellbeing at heart.  Both options should be a financially viable choice for all families. At present women feel judged for returning to work and judged for staying at home!

Services for children

These broad themes within childcare services and the educational system could arguably have a greater impact on the wellbeing of our future as sociological culture evolves, than merely introducing new services for adults. A child growing up in a society where there is access to psychological education and wellbeing services as an accepted norm, has a greater chance of developing into a well-adjusted adult, with self-awareness and a repertoire of positive coping mechanisms to be resilient to life’s challenges.  The reformation of the Welsh curriculum to incorporate health and wellbeing is hugely encouraging. 

Welsh curriculum – Health and wellbeing

Mindfulness in schools

Putting health and wellbeing at the core of the new Welsh education curriculum

Statement of what matters – Welsh curriculum

Wales has an amazing opportunity to promote mental health awareness from an early age, whilst children are receptive to new concepts.  Some countries have ‘Interoceptive Awareness’ curriculums in mainstream schools, to teach children to notice their internal bodily signals and to learn to notice their emotions. 

Interoception in the Australian curriculum

Interoception – the 8th sense

In Personal, Health and Social Education subjects, there needs to be a greater focus on psychological education – techniques for managing anxiety, stress, depression; which could encompass CBT resources, breathing and meditation techniques and the benefits of physical exercise.  Children could also be taught about healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to negotiate difficult relationships they may encounter. 

Centre for psychology in schools and education

NSPCC – promoting healthy relationships

Should schools be teaching about healthy relationships

Mental health in schools – make it count

Launching our new guidance on preparing to teach about mental health and emotional wellbeing in PSHE

Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision

Relationships and Health education in schools

Healthy Relationships pack for Primary Schools

A film focusing on resilience in children cited a programme called ‘Miss Kendra’, developed to provide children with opportunities to express things that upset them, which they couldn’t safely express in day to day life. It was delivered in neighbourhoods with a propensity for a high proportion of Adverse Childhood Experiences (a significant predictor for both physical and mental health issues).

Other aspects of the film focused on how schools can teach children to have healthy expectations for how to be treated with respect and advocated mindfulness and meditation techniques to manage stress.  Some schools have incorporated Mindfulness and yoga into their provision.  

Resilience

Trauma informed schools

Miss Kendra

Scientific evidence for yoga and mindfulness in schools – how and why does it work?

Redefining success in schools

Mental health aside, in a broader sense, schools could have a huge impact on the wellbeing of subsequent generations if working in alliance with the Wellbeing Economy.  Moving away from a competitive indoctrination of children to try for the best grades academically and feel that they are less worthy if they don’t achieve this.

Schools should ideally have the freedom to value the range of skills in a group of children, to foster their individual strengths. Some may take the typical academic path, others may be more practical, mechanical, artistic, or a very caring and nurturing person who may end up being an excellent ‘keyworker’ in social care services.  Covid-19 really highlighted the inequality in our society – social and health care workers are not adequately valued or financially compensated for the vital services they deliver.  Building an Education system that incentivises and values equally all roles in society – and an economic system that financially compensates roles which are crucial for functioning communities – would create a more diverse range of jobs that are considered to be valuable and aspired to.

Our current achievement and wealth-based status system is elitist and damaging to the self-worth of the majority of working people.  We are led to believe that if we aren’t earning top wages, we haven’t achieved our potential.  There needs to be a radical shift in social values, which could start in schools; to promote a more diverse acquisition of interests in children, with the ultimate aim to support long-term wellbeing in society – rather than creating worker bees who will grind away at the cogs or our current economic system. 

Developing character skills in schools

Education in Wales – our national mission

Fromm: man is a cog in the vast economic machine

Matthew Taylor warns against ‘cog in a machine’ working culture

Education should teach children to have the confidence to voice their opinions, promote creativity,  promote and value positive personality characteristics, normalise emotional difficulties and provide time and space for children to indulge in the ‘being’ mode, rather than rushing them into the ‘doing’ mode of Western civilisation – with no time to develop towards their true potential.  Children should feel pride for whatever skills they’re blessed with and not only if they are built to win the rat race.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest speakers include:

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

Blog by Isabel Nuesse

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

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

Diminishing Marginal Returns

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

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

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

Watch her entire presentation here.

Demographics and COVID

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

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

Hope for the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about SEDA here.

By: Rabia Abrar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore some of his ground breaking work:  

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

Photo: HIROYUKI ITO / GETTY IMAGES

Global Ethical Finance Initiative – Ethical Finance 2020

Monday 5th – Thursday 8th October 2020

Virtual event

The premier event advocating finance for positive change.

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

Register for free here.

Topics that will be explored:

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

Confirmed speakers include:

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

More speakers are listed on ethicalfinance2020.com

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

Get the full details and register here.

By: Kitty Forster, Assistant Psychologist & Researcher, Wales 

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

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

Evolutionary Psychology and the Economic System

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

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

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

Empowering a New Reality

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

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

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

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

But First… Overcoming the Fear of Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Language of a Wellbeing Economy

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

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

Visual Imagery

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

Practical Framing

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

Framing what is ‘Socially Desirable’

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

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

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

What could this picture look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Policy Areas are:

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

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

1. Own our Workplaces:

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

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

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

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

2. Build Our Neighbourhoods

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

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

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

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

3. Finance Our Future

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

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

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

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

4. Restore our Planet

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

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

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

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

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

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