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.

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

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.

by: Xola Keswa

Impilo econo kuqala kwesimosomnoto – Wellbeing economy 

Zulu

South Africa is a country that many greats, including Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Steve Biko, Mariam Makeba, Trevor Noah, and Mahatma Gandhi, have called home.

People will tell very different stories of their experiences in our beautiful country, depending on when they were born and which time period they lived through. As is no secret, the country wasn’t always like it is today. South Africa comes out of a difficult time of suffering and pain: apartheid, a legal form of discrimination, loomed on our streets for about fifty years, following 300 years of colonisation. These hard times ushered in new visions of what South Africa could be, if given the opportunity. 

The Rainbow Nation

The new vision was one of equality before the law and the upholding of human rights: the right to life, right to dignity and the right to freedoms that any person can be all which they desire.

In our African traditions and customs, we call this word humanity (the foundation for wellbeing) in a different way. We call it by the name “Ubuntu”, meaning “I am because we are”.

Desmond Tutu was one of the first people to mention Ubuntu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which then further introduced it to the world. After his release from prison, South Africa began to embrace a spirit of togetherness inspired by Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation and its democracy. After he was elected as the first president of our democratic South Africa, Madiba, as many call him, chose peace and reconciliation instead of bloodshed and civil war, which could have easily been the story of South Africa, like many of our African countries which experienced a similar situation.

Inspired by these leaders, the spirit of Ubuntu and togetherness have shaped our new vision and narrative of a post-apartheid South Africa: the Rainbow Nation

Visions of Wellbeing from the ‘Born Frees’

At the age of 26, I’d say I’m one year short of being what we call ‘a born free’. In South Africa, children who were born in 1994, who are about 25 years or younger, are referred to as ‘born frees’. They did not experience apartheid; they have only heard about it in the news or in their history books or in the stories told by their parents or grandparents.

These are the young ones who belong to the united, post-apartheid South Africa, which we have come call our Rainbow Nation.

It is this Rainbow Nation and the spirit of Ubuntu that I’d like to focus on, as a gateway to an economy of togetherness as opposed to separateness. 

The Time of COVID-19: Ubuntu in Action

In 2020, the country was faced with a challenge some thought was on too big a scale for South Africa to tackle, given our young democracy. 

As COVID-19 approached us, many feared for the worst to happen, as people were pushed to the brink of survival. Many people who were already on the breadline saw that same bread disappear at the table. Many people lost their jobs as the country geared for lockdown level 5 (meaning nobody could be walking around in the streets): everyone was told to stay home. What was our country to do, as 30% of youth were unemployed and those who did have a job lost them? Many people left cities and towns to get away to the countryside, fearing an insurrection.

This country did no such thing; instead people and government came together and thought of exactly the opposite.

The country responded as if they asked themselves, ‘What Madiba would do?’

In March, our government started a new foundation called the ‘Solidarity Fund’, intended to support communities with food aid, medical and financial relief, as well as to support the country with the spirit of togetherness during these difficult times. It is also investing funds into wellbeing, health and ending gender-based violence. In response to the crisis, all the major South African business firms and wealthy families in South Africa started donating to this Solidarity Fund. 

At the same time, citizens also took action as lockdown rules tightened and the need for basic food and shelter became apparent. In Cape Town, a local initiative was created by a group of Captonians’ who saw a need for solidarity instead of segregation, from a Facebook group called ‘Cape Town’. A self-organising system of community action networks were created in every major town or suburb in the city of Cape Town metropolitan area. Each community organised its own volunteers from the neighbourhood, to help in fundraising for the less fortunate in the cities’ peripheries. 

As the world knows, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world, where the rich live like those in Europe and the US, while the majority, the indigenous people, can barely afford to stay above the poverty line.

Through these community action networks in Cape Town, we witnessed a major redistribution of resources from the ‘haves’ to the ‘have nots’.

Like a wave of a magic wand, people began distributing food aid and blankets for the homeless and assisting in finding shelters in churches etc. What stood out for me, by far, was the partnering of affluent suburbs and townships called the ‘Cape Flats’. As the nation started to form an understanding of a common threat to us all, we put our differences aside to deal with the virus together. 

I have seen the vision of building towards a Wellbeing Economy being put into practice – slowly though, as negative minds still exist and push back against the current communal wave. For example, many municipalities went against their rate payers by calling them out for engaging in community action networks. But this hasn’t stopped the spirit of togetherness spreading into the country to major cities like Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth city in the Eastern Cape. 

For the first time in my life (aside from winning the Rugby World Cup, of course), I felt proudly South African. I am actually seeing my country, our Rainbow Nation, put aside the past and “build back better” through the idea of solidarity – Ubuntu.

My Vision of a Wellbeing Economy

The idea of solidarity as a response to the COVID-19 is definitely part of my vision for a new economy. Putting human beings and communities first, before anything else and actually mobilising funds and resources to do so via the Solidarity Fund. 

To me it is obvious that whenever our country is pushed into a corner, we will return to the spirit of togetherness inspired by our past leaders and Desmond Tutu’s philosophy of Ubuntu. It helped to end apartheid and it is building our strength in the face of the coronavirus. 

This spirit of finding strength in diversity and bringing together different resources and skills, is South Africa’s best hope of coming out of any mess we find ourselves in and fostering the wellbeing of all people, regardless of colour or creed.

The cooperation around South Africa’s progressive Solidarity Fund demonstrate this spirit – and can be the foundation for a Wellbeing Economy in South Africa. 

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

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.

by Beth Cloughton and Anna Murphy

It’s been over a year since WEAll Read was created – so Anna and I thought we’d get together for a (virtual) debrief…

B: Hi Anna. Thinking about a ‘Wellbeing Economy’, can you tell me what your definition and/or approach to this term is? 

A: Of course. A Wellbeing Economy is about putting social and ecological wellbeing at the core of our society and its measure of success. It means moving from measuring ‘success’ of a business or society – any institution or organization – by profits or GDP, to metrics which better encapsulate the things we care about, like human health and fulfilment (‘wellbeing’), and a stable planet with beautiful nature. 

“The current economic system is not ‘broken’ as it’s often labelled: it does what it was built to do, which is to drive profit over and above anything else”. 

Building a Wellbeing Economy is about going back to the drawing board, reflecting on what we want our society to look like, and building systems to make that vision a reality. 

What about you, what’s your approach?

B: For me, a Wellbeing Economy is a critical approach to our current economic systems. Be it the production & consumption economy, attention economy, moral and political economy – a Wellbeing Economy is a way to imagine something different to the dominant view. It is about prioritising people over profits for the 1%, it is about levelling the extreme disparity in wealth accumulation, and valuing ‘wellbeing’ more than capital. It is returning to balance with the environment, each other and ourselves.

Bearing this in mind, Anna what do you think are some of the key challenges to building a Wellbeing Economy?

A: I struggle not to get overwhelmed by the scale of the environmental challenge we face. If collectively, we make no further changes compared to those in 2015 at the Paris Agreement, we will reach 3.7 degrees warming by 2100. If we don’t fulfil even these insufficient commitments (which is where we’re currently at), we can expect warming of 4-5 degrees. 

A world 5 degrees warmer can support only one billion people. Never mind ‘wellbeing’ – that is a catastrophe. 

The challenge is that to transition at the speed and depth required of the planet, the process will have to be fair – which requires certain groups of people and countries to give up huge power and privilege. We need leadership and collaboration at an unprecedented scale, and I don’t see politicians with that foresight, courage or competence. One particularly relevant misconception is the belief that current levels of incremental change are enough.

Another more tangible challenge is that the economics field was not designed to be accessible – there’s so much unnecessary jargon. Yet we are expected to be informed enough to vote. 

The WEAll Read book club is about breaking down barriers to economic ideas, and about getting the message out there that thinking about, debating and criticising economics is for everybody.

What’s the WEAll Read Glasgow book club like?

B: The WEAll Read Glasgow book club is still in its first year and is experimental with what we do. We have read a broad range of books that aren’t necessarily considered classic economic texts; we have included podcasts, collections of essays and journaling. The space at WEAll Read Glasgow is open, relaxed and conversational. I see the space as welcoming and accessible to lots of people, especially those who may be new to some ideas around a Wellbeing Economy. 

A: This feels like a good point to bring up the intersections of a Wellbeing Economy. How do you feel a Wellbeing Economy, and even the WEAll Read book club, addresses different intersections?

B: A Wellbeing Economy is necessarily dealing with the complex intersections of people. Capitalism, and particularly its neoliberal form, homogenises and hierarchises people into ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ based on capital output. 

A Wellbeing Economy approach has to acknowledge power, history, inequality and paths to justice for a genuinely different system to occur. 

We can’t talk about environmental justice without talking about racial justice, nor can we speak about gender equality without speaking about unpaid labor, trans-equality and food systems. The climate emergency affects people in myriad ways that are experienced based on both your global, local and identity position. Talking purely about an economic model in terms of input/output is void of both reality and justice. 

Thinking personally, Anna, would you say any changes have come about in your personal life from being more a part of a Wellbeing Economy space?

A: I’ve built deep friendships – I now have both friends and connections with whom to relentlessly chat about these ideas, and that’s been empowering and uplifting. I’ve deeply questioned assumptions I hadn’t realised I held. Last, it’s created a space to dream – reading The Economics of Arrival by Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams and learning about the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership was so inspiring. So there’s been the realisation that there are people out there with the courage to pursue the perceived impossible. That’s exactly what we need.

What about you?

B: I would say that joining the WEAll Read book club has enabled me to carve out space each month to discuss difficult topics and ideas with the support of others. It has led me to recognise the scope of change a Wellbeing Economy has, especially in relation to how intersectionality must be at the core of this work.

If you want to get more involved in WEAll and WEAll book clubs:

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.

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

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

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