FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

WEAll is the leading global collaboration that brings together organisations, individuals and governments to transform the economic system into one that prioritises human and environmental wellbeing.

WEAll is a global collaboration of almost 200 organisations, alliances, movements and individuals working together to transform the economic system into one that delivers on 5 core needs for ecological and human wellbeing: dignity, connection, nature, fairness and participation.

WEAll’s vision is economic system change to a Wellbeing Economy. The goal for WEAll, shared by all of our members, is transformation of the PURPOSE of the economic system. We believe this vision is bold, vital and entirely possible.

WEAll’s mission is to catalyse systems change toward a Wellbeing Economy by bringing together actors working in their own areas and form a powerful movement for changing society.

A crucial role for WEAll as an organisation is providing the connective tissue between the different elements of the movement for a Wellbeing Economy. WEAll’s Values: vital that collaboration and togetherness define our destination and also how we get there. The transformation required calls for an entirely different way of being within human society: a shift from “us vs them” to “WE All”.

WEAll has 3 streams of work: creating powerbases, strong and coherent knowledge & policy evidence base and positive and empowering narratives. All three of these approaches reinforce one another.

Evidence from successful system change shows that it is necessary to combine all the three of these approaches simultaneously. A Wellbeing Economy movement is needed to drive change at all levels of the economic system, to influence societal values and norms, and above all to inspire a sense that change is both necessary and possible.

The 5 pillars of WEAll’s mission to catalyse systems change toward a Wellbeing Economy relate to each of these three approaches:

Creating Powerbases

[A Wellbeing Economy movement must operate at all levels, across sectors and across geographies. Collaboration is more important than competition. Yet cross-sector coordination is poor and there is too much disagreement within sectors about policy prescriptions rather than building on agreement around goals, values and principles.] 

  1. Create spaces to convene and connect stakeholders from different focus areas and geographies.
  • WEAll aims to bring together all the organisations, movements, alliances, individuals and governments that are working on making the different facets of a Wellbeing Economy, real.
  1. Facilitate cooperation & collaboration between WEAll members.
  • We want to build a movement across society that has the confidence, knowledge and connectivity needed to challenge the dominant economic paradigm.
  • Focused on commonalities of shared values, goals and principles, rather than on policy differences

Building a Coherent Knowledge & Policy Evidence Base

[The Wellbeing Economy theoretical base is disparate and relatively hard to access; knowledge gaps remain; and synthesis is urgently needed to make it more coherent and accessible. Similarly, the evidence base of what works in practice needs to be galvanised and proactively disseminated. There is also a need to explore and demonstrate the effectiveness of Wellbeing Economy approaches on a large scale.]

  1. Synthesise and share existing visions and the ‘what & how to’ of creating a Wellbeing Economy in an accessible way, to help audiences understand and feel that it is achievable.
  • We already know a lot about how a Wellbeing Economy might work and how we can get there, but this knowledge is scattered across different sectors and different types of knowledge (e.g. academic research, practical experience of organisations working on the ground)
  • WEAll aims to synthesise this existing knowledge and knowledge base and make it more accessible to all those who need it

Building & Sharing Positive and Inspiring Narratives

[Most of the focus is still on what is wrong rather than the creation and dissemination of positive new narratives about how we want to live together. More work has been done on positive new narratives recently, but little of this has been trialled in practice and it’s not yet making a significant difference.]

  1. Shift the narrative beyond criticisms of the current system towards one that establishes a Wellbeing Economy as a desirable and viable goal, thus inspiring action towards achieving this vision.
  • WEAll works to create positive and empowering new narratives by bringing together voices from across the world, from different organisations and different contexts
  1. Amplify Wellbeing Economy ideas and relevant work from the WEAll network, across different specialisms, sectors, demographics and geographies.
  • We work on amplifying all the amazing work that is done by the WEAll members, by sharing their stories, synthesising knowledge and maximise our voice by sharing our communication channels
  • ‘What is needed’ has been clear to many groups and academics, and to large numbers of citizens for some time. ‘How to make it happen’ is the key issue. All the evidence from successful system change is that individual policies and great exemplars are not enough.  What is vital is a critical mass of people and organisations coming together to form a dynamic movement to influence and inspire. This way collective impact is substantially multiplied. WEAll’s role is to help catalyse this multiplication process. 
  • Many of the component parts of the new economic system already exist, but they are fragmented, under-resourced and fragile. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) was created to address this issue: it is a global collaboration pooling the resources and brainpower of over 150 organisations and movements to work toward the vision of economic systems change.
  • The shift toward a Wellbeing Economy is a collective undertaking – and requires a cross-sectoral movement to create systemic change. Join over 150 organisations in the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), in our collective efforts to Build Back Better to a Wellbeing Economy.
  • WEAll links all levels of the movement within the system – micro (individual), policy regime and macro level. ‘You can describe us as the arrows connecting the players between and within the layers of the economic system.’
  • Our work will help to innovate, test and scale solutions to shift our economic system. Already happening with WEGo governments, our place-based hubs and through the work of almost 200 member organisations worldwide.

A focus on narrative change is key. System change is a long-term process, and narrative change is no easy task. The ultimate goal is to shift cultural models – to make a Wellbeing Economy common sense, the way the free market economy is now. The current economic story obscures the vision at the centre of a Wellbeing Economy that is, in fact, widely shared. Ask people, anywhere in the world, what really matters most to them and the answer is not great material riches, but family, friends, security, a sense of meaning and a good environment. To bring these goals and priorities to the fore, WEAll is working with partners around the world to create and communicate new common narratives that speak to people’s innate values and principles. Our intervention point is public discourse, but like ripples in a pond, this shift will produce tangible impact through behaviour change, activism, advocacy, and policy in support of a Wellbeing Economy.

  • The world’s only living laboratory at scale, of governments implementing wellbeing economic policies.
  • A space to co-create and adopt Wellbeing Economy policies.
  • WEGo members are committed to testing an alternative vision of development, demonstrating what is possible.
  • A space to collaboratively learn how to do policymaking in a world of inequality and environmental breakdown.
  • An alternative to the G7.
  • Moving wellbeing from theory into practice.
  • A space to heighten collaboration on Wellbeing Economy policies / agenda.
  • An innovative cooperation enhancing collective wellbeing though economic policy making.
  • WEAll’s funding comes from a variety of sources – some foundations (the biggest of which is from Partners for the New Economy), donations from individuals, and some of our members provide a ‘fee’ if they are able when they join.
  • In the beginning, we received a sum of money from a large company who were keen to work with us on their own transformation – unfortunately due to reasons internal to the company, that programme of work didn’t eventuate.
  • Many of us give our time for free, and volunteer. We could not do our work without the energy, support and time of our members and Ambassadors who help us via writing for us, spreading the word, and collaborating with each other to build momentum towards a Wellbeing Economy.
  • Learn more on the WEAll website and follow us social media
  • Join WEAll’s membership as an organisational or individual member, and participate in our working groups.
  • Join the WEAll Citizens platform and connect with like-minded people in your local or around a topic you are interested in
  • Join a hub. We have multiple active local hubs across the world, working on issues specific to that area – visit the WEAll website for more details. These involve businesses, government and civil society.
  • Volunteer with WEAll, one of our hubs or member organisations
  • Read up about a Wellbeing Economy. A good place to start is the WEAll resources page
  • Talk about it to your friends and colleagues – help people ask more questions about the economy and see the possibility of change
  • Be generous with your time, skills and resources
  • Vote for a party that is committed to a Wellbeing Economy
  • Write to your MP/MSP and demand them to prioritise wellbeing over GDP
  • Think about your shopping, investing, work lives and any changes you can make there
  • Become a volunteer for WEAll (or one of our member organisations
  • The fact that the [female-led] economies that focused on wellbeing policies have handled the COVID-19 crisis better than others.
  • The countless amazing projects that are taking part all over the world to make the Wellbeing Economy reality and all the fantastic people who are behind them
  • Young people – e.g. WEAll Youth, Fridays for Future
  • The increasing openness of policy makers and senior business managers to our ideas
  • Increasingly people are seeing the reality that the economy is a sub-set of society and both are a subset of nature and that a Wellbeing Economy is one which respects them both
  • People are recognising that fulfillment comes from collective activities, from relationships, not from lonely consumerism
  • While people and cultures differ, across them all, there are innate needs common to us all – for competence, autonomy and relatedness. And an economy built on these will be better for everyone.
  • A Wellbeing Economy delivers social justice on a healthy planet. It prioritises meeting our needs before our wants. And this includes human and planetary health: access to nature, true participation, connection within communities, fairness through our institutions and dignity for all people.
  • Putting wellbeing at the heart of economy – including for policy, business and community. This involves taking a different approach and thinking beyond GDP and wealth in terms of ‘money in our pockets’ – about defining real success and progress in society as the meeting of every human’s needs – including mental and physical health of humans.
  • Building a Wellbeing Economy is about transforming our economic system so that it delivers social justice on a healthy planet, the first time around rather than addressing societal issues after they take place. The Wellbeing Economy agenda is not focused on one single domestic context – the goal of delivering social justice on a healthy planet is a global one.
  • 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.
  • An economy system that leaves no one behind. In it, we construct production and consumption systems around people instead of exploitation. It would create equality and ecosystems that thrive. In this economy, value extracted from the environment and all labour would be redistributed to all those who created it, and not just a few.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is one that is in service of people, meaning that it meets the key needs of society. It would be regenerative for the planet rather than extractive and would provide dignity and fairness for all people. In this economy, people would be active contributors rather than passive consumers.
  • A Wellbeing Economy would be purpose built to deliver for the diversity of what people value, within planetary boundaries and in a way that is regenerative for the planet.
  • Our current system currently is solely focused on growing profit and growth. A Wellbeing Economy would reframe growth to consider what kind of growth, growth in what parts of the economy, what benefits it delivers and for whom. The ancillary benefits of the current economy to people, including happiness, would be the core purpose of a Wellbeing Economy.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is focused on the growth of flourishing of all people and the planet. It has more of a focus on financial wealth as a ‘means’ to deliver wellbeing, rather than a focus on financial wealth as the ‘end’ to achieve.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is one that serves people and planet, rather than people and planet serving the economy. It does more than ‘move money around’, but delivers good lives to people, which includes dignity, participation, nature, community and fairness.
  • A Wellbeing Economy provides a new orientation for the goals of an economy and metrics to measure its success. This includes subjective wellbeing but also concrete measures, such as quality of nature, access to health care.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is one that serves people and planet. It doesn’t focus on growth in economic terms – but instead, growth in human wellbeing, flourishing, environmental quality, which are more important than just money.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is designed with a different purpose: it starts with the idea that the economy should serve people and communities, first and foremost.
  • A different economic system which priorities the wellbeing of people and the planet. At the moment, we are chasing economic growth – that is destroying the planet without delivering what we really need as humans. A Wellbeing Economy is aimed at changing this and delivering what we need, the first time around.
  • It is an alternative to the current economic system, which measures environment and social impact of our economic activities in a way that we’re not currently doing – and in doing so, allows all activity to support the real needs of people and planet. Our current system only measures financial indicators – GDP – that don’t measure what people really need – the provision of dignity, nature, connection, fairness and participation for all people.
  • Currently, our economy is using people and planet to create growth, and in the process, driving ill health and the impacts of climate change. A Wellbeing Economy would turn that on its head – making the economy serve people and planet.
  • Delivers social justice on a healthy planet
  • An economy that delivers for people and for planet.
  • An economy designed with a different purpose: that of collective wellbeing.
  • An economy designed to deliver social justice and environmental health.
  • Allowing humanity to determine economics, rather than the other way around.
  • The economy is subset of society and we’re a subset of nature. A Wellbeing Economy would serve both.
  • A system in which every person is sufficiently provided for, in ways that promote human flourishing and are in harmony with our natural environment.
  • An economy that puts measures of human and planetary wellbeing at the heart of how it values itself.

This idea is not new – in fact, has been discussed for a long time – including in the US (50 years ago, Robert Kennedy talked about how GDP doesn’t measure anything that makes life worth living).

The shared vision for a better way of doing things can be found across a surprising range of texts and backgrounds: it is embedded in the scripts of many religions.

It is contained in worldviews of First Nations communities. It can be read in the scholarship of development experts and in research findings about what makes people content.

This vision echoes in evidence from psychology about human needs and from neuroscience about what makes our brains react, and, perhaps most importantly, can be heard loud and clear in deliberative conversations with people all over the world about what really matters to them in their lives.

Boils down to providing 5 core human needs: dignity, participation, fairness, nature and connection.

In 1937, Simon Kuznets, an economist at the National Bureau of Economic Research, presents the original formulation of gross domestic product in a report to the U.S. Congress. He argued to include household work in the measurement of GDP – but ultimately, the informal sector was excluded. He also argued to exclude military spending from GDP, as it did not add value – but it is included today.

So even GDP is not used in the way it was initially intended!

Build Back Better from COVID-19 … to a Wellbeing Economy 

The recovery from COVID-19 is a rare chance to markedly accelerate the repurposing of government away from the prioritisation of economic growth and towards goals of wellbeing and sustainability, ending inequality and environmental destruction. This is a time for system change.

The Wellbeing Economy movement has never been timelier. We have a historic opportunity. We can make the transition – and governments have already started to do so. Example: Living Minimum Income in Spain

We’re speaking a lot right now about ‘Building Back Better’ after the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Better” is the most important of the three words; it is crucial to be specific about what we must build back better to.

The pandemic has highlighted the problems created by our current economic system – including rampant inequality, which has made lower income communities more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.

We cannot build back better if we try to return the current system. Can we really call returning to a system that is unhealthy, a recovery?

When speaking of Building Back Better, it is important to highlight that we’re Building Back Better to a Wellbeing Economy.

Post –COVID-19 – we should be striving to build an economy that delivers the 5 core needs: dignity, connection, nature, participation, fairness

This idea flips the current economic system on its head — By reorienting goals and expectations for business, politics and society, we can build a Wellbeing Economy that serves people and planet.

A Wellbeing Economy will put people at the centre of a new economic purpose and close the gulf between the economy and democratic control.

It will deliver good lives for people first time around, rather than requiring so much effort to patch things up. It will not harm people and the environment, and so will avoid having to deliver expensive down-stream intervention to fix the damage caused by an economic model fixated on growth.

This would avoid making the same mistakes – and instead of pursuing growth after its become unsafe – it focus on sharing and cherishing the fruits of growth

Problems are an opportunity – motivation to make necessary changes

People know things need to change (Edelman Trust Barometer 2020):

  • A majority in every developed market believe we won’t be better off in 5 years
  • Over ½ (globally) believe capitalism is doing more harm than good
  • Growing sense of inequity & unfairness: institutions increasingly serve interests of few

People want change

A May 2020 YouGov poll commissioned for Positive Money found that the 60% (the majority) of people in the UK want the government to focus on investing in the health and wellbeing of UK citizens instead of economic growth after the pandemic has subsided

Their call comes as a YouGov poll shows that 31% of people want to see big changes in the way the economy is run coming out of the crisis, with a further 28% wanting to see moderate changes and only 6% of people wanting to see no changes.

COVID-19 has highlighted interesting things – making us question what is important:

  1. Many are conscious of how little value their work creates
  2. Working from home has allowed people to spend more time with families instead of commuting etc, and creating their own schedule

Call to action

  • More political will / pressure / support from people is needed to make a Wellbeing Economy work.
  • We need to just start – at all levels of government, business and communities need to be involved in the decision making.
  • Start with the pain points – what are people struggling with? Especially threat multipliers (intersect with other issues to contribute to security problems), like climate change
  • A Wellbeing Economy would deliver good lives for people the first time around, and thus avoid having to deliver expensive down-stream interventions to fix the societal and environmental damage caused by growth-focused economies.
  • It would deliver an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generations and other species.
  • In a true Wellbeing Economy approach, business, politics and economic activity would exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing. All strands of society – government, businesses and communities would be working collaboratively to deliver on this goal.
  • In a Wellbeing Economy, we would only pursue growth in those areas of the economy that contribute to collective wellbeing and shrink those areas of the economy that damage it.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is an economy which isn’t content to ask policy and government and charities to fix and heal and clean up, but which says the economy must be designed in a way that gets things right the first time around. A Wellbeing Economy would do more of the ‘heavy lifting’ by regenerating the planet and delivering for communities rather than extracting from them. This would be done through mechanisms such as pre-distribution and full cost accounting.

Wellbeing economic policy aims to boost activities and behaviours through the use of a variety of coherent policy instruments that support the wellbeing of people and planet, while discouraging those that undermine it.

An economy for the 21st century should deliver an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generations and other species.

More specifically it should deliver on five goals (the WEAll needs):

  1. Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
  2. Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
  3. Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
  4. Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
  5. Participation: Citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies

A Wellbeing Economy would factor in the ‘irrationality’ of what makes people happy and what they value doing in their leisure time. (which is not factored into our current ‘rational economic man’ model)

This aligns with the NHS guidance on the 5 Steps to Mental Wellbeing:

  1. Connect with other people
  2. Be physically active
  3. Learn new skills
  4. Give to others ? this source of wellbeing is not recognised by traditional economics
  5. Pay attention to the present moment

A Wellbeing Economy approach will have a different impact on a variety of issue areas, ranging from the climate crisis to the food and justice system.

In a Wellbeing Economy (the “new way”), responses would be person-centred, positive and long-term and geared towards environmental protection and regeneration.

Our ‘Old Way to New Way’ table sets out:

  1. Wellbeing Economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives.
  2. The impacts that a Wellbeing Economy would have in different areas (e.g. education, food system, etc)

You can use this chart to pick an area or multiple areas you’d want to describe, in the context of your chosen country / region.

Key differences include people having more time, consuming less stuff, caring for people, repairing things instead of buying and throwing away, restoring nature rather than digging out fossil fuels. They will be doing different kinds of activities – travelling more by bike and doing more meaningful work.

We can maintain a capitalist model in some area, but still promote other models alongside it. i.e. having Cooperative companies along with profit seeking companies.

Every time we do not make a necessary change, we are deciding to continue on a harmful, costly and destructive path.

  • There is not one silver bullet: this is a complex effort of changing an entrenched system
  • Change will have to happen on a lot of levels, in many areas and the important thing is that it happens together
  • But if forced to pick one thing: changing the purpose of the economy is one of the highest order leverage points to make change.
  • If we do this – a lot of the other shifts will be within our reach. A huge portion of policy is designed around the current purpose of our economy: driving GDP growth. If we change the purpose and goal – we can change the outcomes of our economic system.
    • The opposite of efficiency is robustness
  • A big part of that change is believing that a different system is possible and that we have the power to make it a reality.
  • That means that conversations like this are vital!
    • The historical definition of an economy was ‘household’. Would be good to return to purpose of the economy to serve the needs of people and households
    • Our current conversation is all about growing money – but not about what the money is used for! (includes cleaning up after riots etc). Increased GDP does not necessarily mean society is doing better.

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 people’s real needs.

The rules of our current system are designed by people, that means they can also be changed by people.

However, the rules that keep our current system on its destructive path are deeply entrenched in our legal and political systems, our societal norms and expectations and the stories we tell each other about the world. Of course, there are many powerful people and organisations that benefit from the rules as they are and who will resist change.

Changing these deeply entrenched rules will therefore require a large effort. Lots of people need to come together, organise and demand change, across all areas of society.

  • Governments need to change the laws in order to facilitate the changes that are needed. The WEGo partnership is showing how this can be done at the state level. WEAll Hubs are showing how this can be done at regional and local levels.
  • Businesses that prioritise wellbeing over profit need to come together to pressure governments to change the rules in their favour and to convince customers to follow their values
  • Trade unions need to lobby employers and governments to prioritise wellbeing, especially with regard to good work
  • NGOs working on one of the many facets of the Wellbeing Economy need to collaborate based on their shared values
  • Motivated citizens can spread the word and work for change across all areas of their lives, talking to friends and colleagues, voting for parties that support a Wellbeing Economy, taking part in demonstrations, buying from social enterprises, taking action within their communities etc.

All of these are interdependent, and we need to create a dynamic where all of these avenues reinforce each other.

It’s Already Happening

The good news is:

1 – Governments have already taken unprecented steps in response to the COVID-19 crisis

2 – There is a lot of precedence of different wellbeing approaches – and there are already countless people and organisations working on doing exactly that.

  • Such projects and changes demonstrate the feasibility and desirability of doing things differently. They prove change towards a Wellbeing Economy isn’t a step into the unknown.
  • Because there’s precedence – it’s now about cohering and scaling these approaches!
  • The important thing is that all of them work together. Bringing all of these organisations and people together is the mission of WEAll. Communities must be involved in making important decisions that impact their lives.
  • In working together, we can innovate, especially in how we measure and monetise our economy
  • The first step is having a collective vision of what we want.

By working with those who have power.

  • Power comes in many different shapes and forms. The world has often been changed by a group of committed individuals, by social movements and by visionaries.
  • There are many leaders in business, society, government and institutions around the world who believe in the Wellbeing Economy vision and recognise that change is needed. Our work is to foster this powerbase and support them to act from where they sit.
  • Often starting conversations by connecting on a human level rather than on areas of disagreement can mean the conversation doesn’t slip into opposing “sides” and can thus be more constructive.
  • For those who might be blocking change, we need to find ways around them. – by working with those who do want to change and showing what is possible and desirable. Thomas Khun, the systems thinker, advises not to waste time with reactionaries who won’t change.
  • We need to come together, get organised, get all the organisations and people on board who are already working on this, make our voice heard and put pressure on those powerful people until they have no choice than to listen and join the conversation
  • Most people inherently and intuitively support the changes towards a Wellbeing Economy, because, by definition, it provides a better life for many
  • One of the main reasons that prevents people from voting for such changes is that it is either seen as impossible (too expensive, against human nature, naïve, utopian) or that it is not offered on the ballot box
  • We need to build a movement that raises awareness of what is possible and that forces politicians to put such changes on the menu, that’s what WEAll is doing.
  • But we need your help – so having conversations with your friends and families and colleagues is important to open up the conversation.

A Wellbeing Economy is about re-designing the economic system so that it delivers wellbeing the first time round, rather than cleaning up the mess and redistributing after the fact (e.g. less pollution in the first place so less need to clean it up, more equally distributed wealth and income so less redistribution is necessary)

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy.

  • The principles for designing a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere but the shape, institutions and activities that get us there can be very diverse and will look different in different places.
  • This applies both across different countries but also across different communities within countries i.e. Scotland.

The design of a Wellbeing Economy should be:

Purposeful

Every part of the economy is designed to serve people and communities first and achieve the goals of the well-being economy

  • Governments: goal of growing GDP is replaced by more meaningful measures of progress, capturing the multiple dimensions of wellbeing (see above)
  • Businesses: priority of businesses is to serve all its stakeholders, including its employees, its customers, the community it operates in and the natural world (compared to short-term profit maximisation for shareholders in current system)
  • People: are enabled to experience meaning and purpose through good jobs, community engagement, relationships and nature experiences, without the need for status-driven material consumption

Regenerative 

  • On balance, the economy regenerates natural ecosystems rather than degrading them. Regenerative activities, such as tree planting and ecological farming methods are prioritised
  • The most harmful activities, such as the extraction and burning fossil fuels, emission of toxic wastes or drainage of peatlands are largely eliminated
  • The economy is powered by renewable energy sources of which Scotland has plenty
  • Re-use and repair of durable goods is the norm (compared to planned obsolescence in current system)
  • Production of material goods follows circular principles, products are designed for total recycling, scarce materials are re-used again and gain

Fair and redistributive 

  • New wealth and income that is produced is fairly shared between those that put in the work in creating it, in whatever capacity
  • Businesses and other organisations are organised democratically so that all workers have a say about the adequate pay and working conditions of different positions in the organisation
  • ‘Unearned’ income from economic rents and incomes earned by distant shareholders is strongly reduced
  • Any unfair inequalities in income and wealth that remain despite these changes are redistributed using progressive tax systems and the closure of tax havens

Secure and stable 

  • Everybody has everything they need to live a secure and dignified life and participate in their community
  • This is ensured through universal provision of basic essential services complemented by necessary individual measures of social support, financed through progressive redistribution of wealth
  • The financial system is set up to support long-term businesses and projects that support the common good in the real world rather than the pursuit of short-term profits and financial speculation

Collaborative 

  • People have the ability to actively participate in decision-making processes that affect them across different areas, i.e. in the workplace, in their neighbourhood and local governments, at the level of national and international government
  • Values of cooperation for the common good are guiding principles for interactions between businesses and other organisations in economic production (compared to competition in the current system)
  • Collective, deliberative management of the commons to make sure that the benefits are fairly distributed

Creative 

  • Creative energies and innovation are directed towards things that benefit the common good, rather than private profits for a few

Unlike GDP, alternatives would not count the costs of spending on failure demand and pseudo satisfiers as progress.

There are many frameworks from other movements that measure different aspects of society i.e. Happy Planet index, Humankind Index, SDGs.

Examples of different measurement frameworks in action:

  • New Zealand (part of WEGo) introduced its first Wellbeing Economy budget
  • Santa Monica has a wellbeing index
  • Bhutan uses the Gross National Happiness (GNH) measure
  • The UK’s Social Value Act, which measures the social value of public services.

Once we know how effective an activity is at driving holistic metrics, we can then focus on how to scale it for wider benefit.

There isn’t ONE Wellbeing framework that applies everywhere – it should be a reflection of the society, values, context, needs.

The framework of a Wellbeing Economy vs. Doughnut Economics

The Doughnut Economics model is an example of a Wellbeing Economy framework — it is a brilliant visual / conceptual way to show relationship between important environmental and social considerations and to measure it.  It is resonating with higher income countries that have overshot boundaries without meeting basic needs of society.

Quite similar to other Wellbeing Economy frameworks – but the visual representation makes it easier to understand relative to other wellbeing indices or other metrics.

The Doughnut is part of the whole Wellbeing Economy movement we’re bringing together. WEAll has been working with Kate since the very beginning.

It is part of the picture of wellbeing frameworks, but not the whole picture. The information it presents is necessary but not sufficient – there is more to a wellbeing economy than just that.

  • The Doughnut doesn’t cover the human dimensions outside of economics —> the 5 WEAll needs — fairness, justice, participation, nature and participation

AND

  • Does not address restoring / regenerating. the planet (it only covers staying within planetary boundaries)

The space in the middle has to be a lot more than just ’that’s the place to be’ — we have to translate that into what that actually means for human lives and the planet

The Doughnut also doesn’t do the heavy lifting on next steps — why WEAll’s policy papers & the work of WEAll members is important. This is why the Doughnut is beautifully complementary to the work of WEAll’s network. Our network has a number of solution providers that can slot into the conversation after we start the discussion that the Doughnut starts, on problems that exist. They can bring the knowledge gifts of WEAll to complement the work of the Doughnut.  Getting groups together to create Hubs can support Doughnut’s work — making a Wellbeing Economy a reality!

We know that the work of our hubs and the Doughnut being put into practice is current disconnected. They are not competing, so we intend to collaborate.

In summary:

  • Doughnut shows your limits and your minimums: “how do you get into that Doughnut space and how do you live there”
  • This is complementary to WEAll’s work: Need to bring in different actors to help us figure out how to do this
  • The Doughnut provides us interesting information that opens the door to many different solutions

Bringing about a Wellbeing Economy will require a different type of policymaking – one that looks at policy packages or ‘super policies’, which address multiple domains, to effectively shift the economic system.

This policy design process should be:

  1. Goal-oriented: The economy is not a means-and-ends in and of itself. It is a system to promote human and ecological wellbeing. Policy makers consistently reflect and align policies and processes to achieve the priority wellbeing goals determined by their communities.
  2. Participatory/Co-creative: Policy is developed through open, co-creative and transparent processes. Diverse communities are able to meaningfully engage and contribute throughout the policy design process.
  3. Context-Appropriate: There are no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Economic strategies and policies are based on local values, culture, context and objectives.
  4. Iterative: Policy processes encourage continuous learning and experimentation to find innovative policy solutions that suit the context.
  5. Holistic: The economy is interconnected with other policy areas and integral to social, environmental and spiritual dimensions of life.
  6. Evidence-based: Processes are informed through the systematic use of qualitative and quantitative evidence.
  7. Positive framing/Strength-based: Policy is focused on achieving the positive aspirations of society rather than purely mitigating negative outcomes.

Multi-dimensional: We live in complex systems and therefore must consider negative and positive inter-relationships between dimensions/interventions at every step of the process.

There is lots of work to do in a Wellbeing Economy, but it will look different from today.

  • The way we value different kinds of work is currently completely unaligned with our moral and internal values, as the COVID crisis has shown.
  • Why is it that value people’s hard work in unnecessary jobs (e.g. finance) so much more highly than the work done by people caring for others and doing other essential work?

In a Wellbeing Economy, we would not prioritise the creation of jobs for jobs sake, but the creation of meaningful work. In our current system, the majority of people feel that their job should not or need not exist (‘bullshit jobs’). We should focus on working for the direct benefit of human and ecological wellbeing and creating more time for leisure.

  • For example, more work is required for providing better public services (care, education), retrofitting homes or restoring natural habitats

In a Wellbeing Economy, everybody’s needs will be met whether they are in paid work or not. Such an approach is important to support different kinds of work:

It means nobody will need to do a low-quality, low-paid job just to pay the bills

What will work look like in a Wellbeing Economy?

  • Work will be better quality, better paid and better shared, to reduce extremes of overwork and lack of work.
  • Shorter work weeks / hours: With technological progress, we can now produce our necessities with much less labour than at any time in the past – even Winston Churchill thought that our society would evolve to 4-day (or less) weeks.
  • In a Wellbeing Economy, people will be less dependent on others for work. For example, they would be encouraged and supported to start their own activities and to collaborate with others in worker-owned cooperatives.
  • Work would support people’s lives and protecting the environment

Yes, capitalism has produced progress in many areas.

But at a high cost, since it has been based on exploitation of the planet and people. This is something we cannot sustain:

  •  We are using more from the planet than can be regenerated, meaning that we cannot sustain humanity in the future if we continue on this way.
  • Massive inequality, as it grows, will cause more disruption.

If our current system worked, then we wouldn’t be facing the multiple crises of climate crisis, the effects of which we’re seeing today – bushfires across the US and Australia or our public services being so under resourced. This has happened because we’ve prioritised growth over investing in the systems that protect people.

One of these crises is massive inequalities, with much of the benefits of the system going to the few at the top. Meanwhile, we still have many people in poverty who don’t have the means to fulfil their basic needs.

  • In the UK alone, we see staggering inequality: 4 million children are living in poverty and there are soaring rates of use of food banks, mental health issues and so on

Alongside that, the massive material consumption in high income countries has driven us past safe planetary boundaries.

The price of capitalism has been high, especially for the environment. We need to find another way to do it.

There is a lot of evidence of the benefits when growth has been well invested in collective institutions.

The premise of a Wellbeing Economy is that we know we cannot achieve wellbeing ‘by magic’ – leaving it to market mechanisms. For 100 years, we have left the ‘invisible hand’ / people to pursue individual happiness – and it hasn’t worked. We are facing huge inequalities, the climate crisis, conflicts on many things.

Myths of successful capitalism

  • China is not fully capitalist – it is state planned; doesn’t follow markets
  • Many countries in Africa are market driven – but have done poorly

There is nowhere that capitalism has played out as in theory.

A focus on economic growth isn’t working

  • A focus on ‘growth’, in its current definition, is quite simply not working. That’s why we see widening economic inequalities; increasing levels of insecurity, despair and loneliness; and the emergence of coping mechanisms that turn people inwards or against each other – all while trust in institutions withers away.
  • In the last 40 years, humanity as a whole has gone from using one planet’s worth of natural resources each year, to using one and a half, and is on course to using three planets worth by 2050.
  • We don’t think it is enough to just add modifiers like ‘inclusive’ or ‘green’. We have to change the aim to actively designing and creating economic wellbeing.

Can we really say that our economy is performing, if inequalities are rising?

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.

We are agnostic to growth

  • In a true Wellbeing Economy approach, business, politics and economic activity would exist solely to deliver collective wellbeing – while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.
  • Being agnostic to growth means that we are not against growth in GDP per se, but we are against the idea that GDP growth should be the top priority and treating it as the end goal rather than the means to achieve specific objectives.

There are multiple issues with the GDP measure.

The first is that it doesn’t take into account inequality or distribution of wealth. This explains why the ‘richest countries’ also have the biggest wealth disparities, environmental issues and mental health crises.

GDP provides a very narrow view of economic success. This is an algorithm for how quickly we can turn natural resources and people’s efforts into money. We can do much better than this.

GDP does not measure what matters most to people.

Robert Kennedy said: GDP ‘measures everything except that which is worthwhile’. GDP ‘counts air pollution and cigarette advertising … the loss of our natural wonder… nuclear warheads… Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.’ 

An example is that we count profits from deforestation in GDP, when it doesn’t put any value on living forests, which manufacture an essential condition for life: oxygen.

In chasing growth in GDP as our only goal, we often create a mess in other important areas: carbon footprints, air and water quality, increasing rates of anxiety, suicide and depression etc

On the other hand, wellbeing economics would encompass and measure everything that matters to people: our environment – natural and built, health – mental and physical, participation, trust in institutions, the work we do, the lifestyles we live, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and so on.

Measures of success in a Wellbeing Economy would taking into consideration environmental and social impact, along with economic impact of decisions, and not just over the short-term but also the long-term.

This could be integrated into cost-benefit analyses. An example is the investment in an electric bus network in a city, which might be ‘expensive’ but would create multiple benefits for health and environment – better air quality, lower carbon footprint, cheaper cost – which snowball with time.

If factoring in different kinds of benefits in decision-making, we would prioritise those actions that have wider benefits for people and planet.

The economy is not abstract: it is a thing that measures how we produce and provide things. It has a big impact on our lives – we need to be conscious of this.

We often think of the economy as fixed / unchangeable – it’s not. It’s been created by humans and can be recreated to prioritise different things.

We often think of the economy as a ‘spreadsheet in the sky’. We’ve created the rules around flows of money and growth of these flows and are hope that it will improve people’s lives.

A Wellbeing Economy would make people’s lives the first consideration or goal of the economy. A spreadsheet counting flows of money may or may not be part of that.

The market was designed with a certain logic / algorithm. This needs to be regulated and maintained – it is a political project. By changing the goals of our policies, we can change the design of our economy.

Our three key messages to combat this idea that there is no alternative to the current economic system:

  1. Thousands of alternatives exist
  2. It’s in our power to design economies differently
  3. Economies should have human & environmental wellbeing as their goal

We recognise that achieving a Wellbeing Economy is a massive challenge. The current ideas and rules driving our destructive economy are deeply embedded and there are powerful vested interests working against the goals of a Wellbeing Economy.

However, it is also naïve to think that the economic model we currently have (or had before COVID-19) is one we can possibly continue with, because it damages the planet and harms people around the world.

  • Many people fear the loss of their jobs, insecurity in old age and the destruction of their dreams and cultural norms.
  • Our home is on the brink of the 6th mass extinction with the prospect of catastrophic climate breakdown getting closer and closer.  In the last 40 years, humanity as a whole has gone from using one planet’s worth of natural resources each year to using one and a half and is on course to using three planets worth by 2050. Scientists say that we have less than 10 years to prevent irreparable damage to planet.

[Use Stats for # of people homeless, obese, cannot access healthcare, specific to the region]

  • Research done at the University of Leeds found that ‘No country in the world currently meets the basic needs of its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use’. 
  • The research quantifies the national resource use associated with achieving a good life for over 150 countries. It shows that meeting the basic needs of all people on the planet would result in humanity transgressing multiple environmental limits, based on current relationships between resource use and human well-being.
  • Large extent of change needed – and no country is there yet.

And despite this, we’re in a system which assumes that just because growth-based systems have worked at SOME times in SOME places, that it is automatically the right model for the future. And that’s dangerous for 3 reasons…

  • Diminishing marginal returns – After a certain threshold, we see diminishing returns (to better lives) from additional income
  • Failure demand – much of the growth recorded as GDP is actually defensive, reactive spending (‘cleaning up’ after problems created i.e. tax credits for low wage earners)
  • Pseudo satisfiers (we use consumerism to satisfy our very natural human need for social connection; this will never satisfy our needs, perpetuating the issue)

We don’t just want to create an alternative, we have to. It is no longer a choice.

We are facing multiple significant crises, the immediate impact of the COVID-19 as well as the already existing challenges of climate breakdown, poverty and inequality.

History has shown that such moments of crisis can be used to leverage changes that seemed unimaginable before, whether for good or for bad.

  • After the 2008 financial crisis, inequality grew, and climate emissions spiralled. We want to see this moment seized for the common good, not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The response to this crisis will set the tone until the next one.
  • Positive change has happened before in the past, against all odds, and we can make it happen again. Examples: women’s right to vote, the new deal, the introduction of the NHS

There is nothing inherent in human nature that would prevent a Wellbeing Economy. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the large amounts of compassion that is there in people.

There are already many examples of a Wellbeing Economy in action, at different scales around the world.

[use examples from specific region / country / area of economy or higher-level examples like WEGo, Costa Rica, etc ? see examples document]

This includes new uses of money, re-localisation and shorter supply chains.

These examples may not be perfect or happening at scale currently, but they show that a different approach is possible.

50 years ago, Robert Kennedy spoke about how GDP measures nothing that makes life worth living. Our needs are not simply monetary or material. We require dignity, participation, connection, nature, and fairness.

A focus on growth has contributed to current success. However, this sole focus has its downsides, including impacts on health that the system doesn’t account for. High pressure work environments and long work-hours drive burn out and mental health issues. That is actually a greater risk to the success of an economy – we can’t burn out all of our workforce!

Studies show that healthier workers and shorter work weeks actually result in better performance.

And at a higher level, companies that take a triple bottom line approach, looking after their employees, communities and the planet along with profit generation, actually outperform those companies that don’t.

We can’t afford not to. Currently governments spend a lot of money and energy on fixing the harm done by our growth-driven economic system. The costs of this ‘failure demand’ are enormous. For example, poverty in the UK alone, costs £78 billion every year. Such measures could be avoided in a Wellbeing Economy, which attends to their root causes. Examples:

  • Redistributing after the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has opened up
  • Cleaning up after floods and storms caused by climate change
  • Providing respiratory medicines after peoples’ asthma is exacerbated by pollution
  • Not properly preparing for a pandemic (although it has been a top concern of health officials for many years) has led to an estimated 500x more expense, not to mention immense personal tragedies.

A Wellbeing Economy is about a wholesale transformation of the way we work and live.

    • Some aspects of this transformation will need more money from the government (better public services, guaranteeing social security)
  • Other aspects of this transformation will save the government money 

It is not money, but the people, skills and resources that we have that determine what we can afford. We are wealthy in that regard, we have plenty of good people with lots of different skills, and a wealth of renewable resources. We are just currently wasting these resources on lots of things we don’t really need (massive estates for the rich, more clothes and other stuff than we will ever be able to wear or use, nuclear submarines, treating avoidable harm).

For a Wellbeing Economy we do not need to produce and consume more, we just have to distribute our production and income more fairly to ensure that those who don’t have enough get what they need.

Scotland is also very unequal – the top 1% have as much wealth as the poorest 50% [Scottish Gov figures] – finding ways to share wealth better is part of a Wellbeing Economy agenda.

A Wellbeing Economy is not against wealth creation. In a Wellbeing Economy, people would still be free to work hard and earn wealth and be rewarded for their efforts. The focus is organising the economy, so it is fairer and there are not such huge inequalities created by the system. In this way, everyone benefits from the economy and not just a few people.

We’re seeing during COVID-19 that some are experiencing an astronomical increase in wealth while others are facing insecurity and poverty at increasing rates. This is unfair.

This is not only ethically dangerous, but also socially and politically dangerous. Inequality is often a driver of violence and societal instability.

A Wellbeing Economy is not against business. The question is more, how wealthy do we let organisations or individuals be? For example, Jeff Bezos is the wealthiest person who has ever lived. Has he truly earned that level of wealth at the expense of others?

An economy that makes this possible and deems this fair, while people working in the same company are struggling, needs to be re-examined. We seem to have lost a sense of ‘what is enough?’ After a certain point, there are diminishing returns to increasing wealth. If it’s not actually adding extra value to the wealthy or if it is hurting their mental health, it would be better off to redistribute so everyone has enough to survive.

We care about the wellbeing of all people, including the rich! All surveys show that excessive wealth creation isn’t necessarily benefiting the mental health or happiness of the ultrarich. In fact, ultrarich people score lower on wellbeing ? extremely unhappy. A Wellbeing Economy would balance this.

Example: China’s Easterlin paradox: experienced economic growth, but stagnant levels of happiness / life satisfaction over the same period. [this is not just a ‘western’ problem]

Total Wealth Focus 

Up until the 70s/80s, we had more of a planned economy; only recently have we ceded power to businesses, who now get to decide the impact on lives and the environment. A Wellbeing Economy would take back power for people to meet their needs.

It is focused on meeting the needs of society, which are not just material; it takes a ‘total wealth focus’, which includes the environment and social equity. Our current system makes people very unhealthy and unhappy, except the super-rich. And studies even show that the wealthiest individuals also tend to suffer from unhappiness and mental health issues.

The original meaning of ‘WEALTH’

‘Wealth’ comes from the old English ‘weal’, which means ‘THE CONDITIONS OF WELLBEING’. Weal is in turn related to the older word ‘wel’, meaning ‘in a state of good fortune, welfare, or happiness’.

By 1430 it seems to have settled around the idea of riches and prosperity, leaving behind the older meanings of wider wellbeing and health.

We’ve got almost 600 years of language to contend with, but we are trying to reclaim the original meaning of the word. It’s urgent, in fact, that we do so.

In fact, we say “WEAll”, and it is short for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – which looks a lot like that old word ‘weal’ – a beautiful coincidence.

There are problems with philanthropy – including the fact that just a few people are guiding the agenda and where these funds are flowing.

Inherently, there are personal interests and / or biases that come along with that, if it is actually done. So even if philanthropy has helped improve problems, problems still exist, because not all people are better off.

It might not actually reach everyone who needs it, which further exacerbates the cycle of poverty.

It is also unreliable because it is voluntary – what if a wealthy person does not choose to donate money? [10% of wealth is currently held in offshore bank accounts]

A Wellbeing Economy would allow all of us to collectively decide how money is spent / how decisions that impact all of us, are made. This is more democratic and equitable – inclusive of especially racialised communities, who have historically been excluded from the conversation.

We all get a vote on what’s best for us all.

First of all – We also must get away from the battle lines drawn before a lot of us were even born, because it is not serving us. 

  • The old communist/capitalist argument only serves to distract us from the reality and the nuance of a hugely diverse global economy which cannot be placed into one of two simplistic and outdated categories.
  • Examples: Is China, with the second largest economy, a communist country? Is Russia capitalist? Are the UK and US capitalist, after they rescued the finance sector from their self-made destruction? – No – it is not as simple as that.

Secondly – a Wellbeing Economy is not communism

  • A Wellbeing Economy is very different from the centralised, state-run communism practiced last century in a range of countries, and it is very different from an unrestrained free-market capitalism.
  • A Wellbeing Economy will constitute a very diverse and decentralised system, where a mix of conventional enterprises, worker-owned cooperatives, NGOs, public corporations and government agencies who will work together to provide the goods and services needed
  • That some people think any system other than the current one is communism is an indication of how steeped we are in the “there is no alternative” mindset.

We don’t want the government to decide everything ? it is about localisation i.e. small businesses embedded in communities vs. mega corporations

Weighted terms and labels that carry baggage, like communism or socialism, aren’t helpful for a productive discussion. We need to focus on what’s important to us.

  • There is a range of what socialism looks like – including Nordic countries, which enjoy high qualities of life
  • They also reflect ‘white economics’, ideas based on one cultural history. Creating a Wellbeing Economy is about letting go of this centralised way of creating our economic system – and would involve taking into account diversity of people to define what the economic system should be for.

The current economic system is out of balance. Any system that is out of balance is not healthy.

A Wellbeing Economy is not about pushing state control; it is about creating vehicles to meet our needs in a balanced way.

Would we want to privatise everything? Would we want to privatise the army? It makes sense that certain things would be best handled at different levels.

What to do when GDP stops growing? (which we cannot sustain exponentially, anyway)

Invest in what we want to see growth in, for collective wellbeing!

Consider this: Is the goal of government to be responsible to its people or for growing GDP?

What we need for a good quality of life and collective wellbeing is security, comfort, social connections, a healthy environment and a feeling of belonging in our communities.

Global surveys show that:

In a majority of markets, less than half of the mass population trust their institutions to do what is right and that a majority of people agree it is time for a new system.

  • 56% of respondents believe that capitalism in its current form is doing more harm than good.
  • 57% of respondents believe that governments only serve the interests of the few.

In the UK, a YouGov poll found in May 2020 that:

  • A majority of people would like ministers to prioritise health and wellbeing over GDP during COVID-19 crisis.
  • A majority of people are in favour of the introduction of a universal basic income and a government job guarantee.

What to grow & what to reduce for wellbeing:

People talk about growth in terms of rates. But, it’s not just the rates of growth that matter – the direction and composition of growth are also important to look at. This applies for the macro economy as well as for businesses.

The real questions around growth should be:

  • What sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing?
  • What sort of economy can enable the lives people want to live?
  • What are the things we want to grow, and which are the ones we want to reduce?

We do need growth in certain things.

We want to grow meaningful work, clean water, mental health, trees and community trust. We want more girls riding their bikes to school. Many of these things are not captured by GDP but are vital for our wellbeing.

We want to reduce activities that damage our wellbeing, for example activities that lead to climate breakdown (e.g. oil production, financial speculation), activities that deliberately make us unhappy (e.g. advertising). Many of these activities actually increase GDP, even though they are harmful for our wellbeing.

Example: Japan: over the last 10 years, has increased social indicators without growing GDP – example of steady state economics.

Begs the question: what is success? – longer & better lives, educational access and attainment, etc

There will always be contentious issues – but also in a GDP-based economic systemExample: Utah saw rapid growth; enjoyed their quality of life due to access to nature. Since GDP growth risked this, they implemented policy to protect the land, mountains and create more trails, to facilitate this access to nature, vs. continued growth.

You might get this impression when watching TV adverts, but this is not how we see wellbeing. For us wellbeing is about the ability of everyone to lead a good life, not only the privileged, which means social and economic security, strong and lively communities, good working conditions and time for our friends and family.

Achieving wellbeing cannot only be the responsibility of individuals by taking care of themselves, instead a Wellbeing Economy will require wider systemic changes that create the opportunities for everyone to flourish, no matter where they live or who they are. These things are currently lacking for many people, especially those on lower incomes.

Having basic needs met would open up space for people to do things they love and create / innovate, especially in the arts. (more ‘great novels’, Rivers Cuomo: expect that UBI would have a new ‘Beatles’ every year etc)

99.8% scientists agree that climate change is real – and we’re already seeing its effects of it today – ranging from forest fires in Australia and the US, to the melting of polar ice caps and sea level rises driving flooding.

You may want to dispute the concept, but we cannot argue with the very tangible, real life effects we are seeing that endanger human life on the planet.

A Wellbeing Economy will be very different from the current system, but we don’t think it is useful to define ourselves by being against “capitalism”, a concept that has very different meaning for very different people – for example:

  • Some people think about it as being about markets
  • Others think about it in terms of ownership and power.

In a Wellbeing Economy there will be markets, but less imbalances of power and ownership of economic activities.

We believe that a Wellbeing Economy includes:

  • a stronger role for workers in business ownership
  • cooperative business models
  • increased collaborative governance of common resources
  • a strong role for the state in providing essential services and ensuring high and adequate minimum standards for all.

WEAll is advocating a wholesale system change – but we need to identify those spaces where we can start to make progress towards another system.

No.

1 – A core part of a Wellbeing Economy approach would focus on eliminating poverty by pre-distributing and redistributing wealth. That way, everyone has a decent baseline to build upon.

2 – The Wellbeing Economy movement asks us to look at ‘wealth’ in a broader sense. Instead of thinking of wealth solely in terms of ‘money in our pockets’ – we would define real success and progress in society as the meeting of every human’s needs – including mental and physical health of humans, today and for future generations.

True wealth cannot be measured – but key indicators of wealth would include ‘clean air to breathe’ or the free time from work to be present to watch your child’s first steps.

A Wellbeing Economy would allow us to choose whatever we want to do in our lives; we would have the access (to services etc), the ability (financially, having a say in decisions affecting you etc) and the time to do it.

3 – We already make personal choices that prioritise our wellbeing over making extra money. A Wellbeing Economy would prioritise delivering how people want to live at the macro level. For example:

  • We take sabbaticals, parental leave and weekends because we value our free / leisure time and space for our mental health
  • While we might make less money by making these choices, we are happier for it.

4 – Innovation and creativity may benefit from less of a focus on making money, because people are free to create rather than worry about making money from their work / art

  • More creative solutions to existing problems
  • More and better music, art ? gift economy

The problems created by the current economic system are impacting your life and those of your loved ones, right now.

Take for example the growing mental health crisis in developed countries. Our current system isn’t set up to tackle these problems – or to prevent them in the first place.

We need an economy that factors in issues like supporting mental health, rather than cleaning up the mess once it’s been created.

A Wellbeing Economy would focus on creating a system that makes sure everyone and the planet flourishes. We cannot survive without a habitable planet. This is one core reason. We are also social creatures and need stability – forced migration, wars, tensions are not conducive to a good quality of life.

People would be able to express their full capabilities, meaning that we all benefit: better and more art, more innovation, etc

What matters most
Palliative nurse Bronnie Ware found that at the end of peoples’ lives, they wished:

  • That they had had the courage to be true to themselves
  • That they hadn’t worked so hard
  • That they’d expressed their feelings more
  • That they had stayed in touch with their friends
  • And that they’d let themselves be happier

So from this a picture emerges of what we all need and what the economy should deliver – not just flows of money, but more intangible things

Even if macroeconomic system seems intangible, it is very much tied to your life. Changing the purpose of our economy would change policies and incentives for businesses, and this will trickle down to impact all of our lives.

For example, if the government taxed companies a small additional amount and redistributed this money to low income areas, people would be economically empowered and have access to the resources they need to reach their full potential.

Think of all the people who don’t achieve things because they don’t have the money — if everyone had access to good books, pitches to play on, etc — the world would be better off in many different areas.

General Quality of life 

  • Sports: Wellbeing economics could help countries to perform better in the Olympics or the World Cup, because more people could access the field of sports, have more green spaces or facilities to practice, so teams would have access to the very best talent in their countries, not just from wealthier groups.
  • Leisure time: Currently, most of our leisure time is consumerist, focused on shopping and spending money. In a Wellbeing Economy, work would be structured to allow for more leisure time and public spaces would be set up to improve access to leisure activities that are good for mental and physical health, like cycling and sports.

Improved prospects for the future: jobs, healthcare, planet

WEAll believes that businesses have an important role in building a Wellbeing Economy. In a Wellbeing Economy, the role of business will extend beyond the pursuit of short-term profit and will include the care of their workers and of the environment.

Especially mainstream business sectors will remain important; it is HOW they operate that will often need to be different.

A purpose-driven mindset redefines success from being the ‘best IN the world’ to ‘best FOR the world’.

At present, businesses with a social or environmental purpose are often given a harder route to success than destructive, selfish businesses. We think that should change. We believe that it is important to support such businesses & work with them to change the wider rules of the system so that responsible businesses can flourish, and irresponsible businesses are weeded out. 

Government’s ALREADY tell business what to prioritise. A Wellbeing Economy approach would simply reorient the set of goals to be prioritised in the economy. We would need to decide together, as a collective, what those goals should be.

However, we also see that there are businesses that disregard their responsibilities pursuing short-term profits at the expense of the health of their workers and the environment. These businesses flout the rules, avoid paying their taxes and lobby governments in order to weaken worker’s rights and environmental protection measures. By breaking the rules such businesses make it even harder for responsible businesses to thrive. We are not afraid to call out any business practices that we do not find acceptable or in line with a Wellbeing Economy.

This does not mean more bureaucracy that hinders innovation. There is good evidence that companies with a purpose outperform peers, when looking long-term. Working with businesses would involve helping them understand how a shift would make a positive impact on society as well as their own profitability. A commitment to the triple bottom line is profitable and also delivers positive impacts for people – employees, community stakeholders and is regenerative for the environment.

Often, the key change is to the governance and ownership of the business that enables a wider suite of stakeholders and interests to be considered in decision making. Governments should be actively incentivising companies to act in a more responsible way.

Many businesses already recognise their responsibility to their employees, to society and the planet and use commercial viability for social and environmental goals– from BCorps to social enterprises, cooperatives, Economy for the Common Good Companies and Community Interest Companies. An example of such a business is Ben & Jerry’s.

Scottish examples of responsible businesses are:

  • Locavore is a social enterprise in Glasgow which exists to help build a more sustainable local food system which is better for our local economy, the environment and our communities.
  • Jerba Camper Vans is an employee-owned company producing and selling/renting campervans. It is owned and run by people who actually use campervans.
  • There is an emerging local mutual banking movement growing in the UK.
  • Ethical banks are Credit Unions, Triodos, Abundance Generation and Ecology Building Society. These show that even finance and banking can be made socially and ecologically regenerative.

Doing good is also good business. Many studies show that purpose-driven organisations outperform profit maximisation businesses.

There is no one single solution to the challenges we face, but there are solutions. The first step requires us to build individual and collective awareness of how current business operations impact and potentially damage local communities and the environment.

Every business will navigate a different path, including assessing different aspects of their business, from ownership and governance models to workplace participation, product / service innovation and stakeholder relationships.

For example:

  • Incorporating stakeholder voices into business governance model could include employee ownership – a model that is gaining increasing attention in Scotland.
  • There is a wealth of intelligence within organisations. Businesses should create a culture where employees feel safe to help explore these questions of how the business can create a more positive impact on the environment and society.
  • Using circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste
  • Creating local supply chains to increase resilience (preventing disruption in times of crisis), while enabling community wealth building.

WEAll published a guide of Alternatives for Business as Usual aimed at helping businesses navigate issues and find inspiration. It includes a self-assessment tool and details of partnerships that can offer support.  We have also launched a “Build Business Back Better” Pledge.

Businesses are part of the solution and transition to a Wellbeing Economy ? We want all businesses to participate and transition quickly.

There are certain businesses that are actively hurting the planet and people, which are being supported by the government with subsidies etc.

  • 6% of GDP goes to fossil fuel companies to extract fossil fuels – it makes no sense!

We would look to end this artificial support and create rules that minimise the damage that companies are allowed to create. This would support them to shift their business models to those that are more regenerative.

  • Businesses can still make profit! It’s about how those profits are used – to support their employees and communities and the environment.
  • Research also shows that purpose led businesses outperform purely profit driven businesses
    • This is in part because by putting people’s interests first, they add more value to people, meaning people want to buy from them, growing their profits.

WEAll believes that businesses have an important role in building a Wellbeing Economy. In a Wellbeing Economy, the role of business will extend beyond the pursuit of short-term profit and will include the care of their workers and of the environment.

Especially mainstream business sectors will remain important; it is HOW they operate that will often need to be different.

At present, businesses with a social or environmental purpose are often given a harder route to success than destructive, selfish businesses. We think that should change. We believe that it is important to support such businesses & work with them to change the wider rules of the system so that responsible businesses can flourish, and irresponsible businesses are weeded out. 

However, we also see that there are businesses that disregard their responsibilities pursuing short-term profits at the expense of the health of their workers and the environment. These businesses flout the rules, avoid paying their taxes and lobby governments in order to weaken worker’s rights and environmental protection measures. By breaking the rules such businesses make it even harder for responsible businesses to thrive. We are not afraid to call out any business practices that we do not find acceptable or in line with a Wellbeing Economy.

This does not mean more bureaucracy that hinders innovation. 

It just means that businesses adopt the goal of supporting the wellbeing of people and planet, along with financial goals.

They would upgrade their decision making to include ‘the Seventh Generation Principle’.

There is good evidence that companies with a purpose outperform peers, when looking long-term. Working with businesses would involve helping them understand how a shift would make a positive impact on society as well as their own profitability. A commitment to the triple bottom line is profitable and also delivers positive impacts for people – employees, community stakeholders and is regenerative for the environment.

Often, the key change is to the governance and ownership of the business that enables a wider suite of stakeholders and interests to be considered in decision making. Governments should be actively incentivising companies to act in a more responsible way.

Many businesses already recognise their responsibility to their employees, to society and the planet and use commercial viability for social and environmental goals– from BCorps to social enterprises, cooperatives, Economy for the Common Good Companies and Community Interest Companies. An example of such a business is Ben & Jerry’s.

Scottish examples of responsible businesses are:

  • Locavore is a social enterprise in Glasgow which exists to help build a more sustainable local food system which is better for our local economy, the environment and our communities.
  • Jerba Camper Vans is an employee-owned company producing and selling/renting campervans. It is owned and run by people who actually use campervans.
  • There is an emerging local mutual banking movement growing in the UK.
  • Ethical banks are Credit Unions, Triodos, Abundance Generation and Ecology Building Society. These show that even finance and banking can be made socially and ecologically regenerative.

WEAll published a guide to Alternatives for Business as Usual aimed at businesses and we have also launched a “Build Business Back Better” Pledge.

As we saw with the 2008 Financial Crisis, our current banking system is problematic, doesn’t serve everyone and presents risks to all of society.

Before the crisis, we saw the ‘privatisation of profits’, meaning only some people benefited from financial gains. When the crisis hit, we saw the ‘socialisation of losses’, meaning that we, as an entire society, shared the losses.

We need to reconfigure the banking system to include more diversification, to avoid the systemic collapse experienced in many countries, like the UK, where there is only one type of bank, which collapsed.

The German banking system is a good example, as it’s got a split between cooperative banks, state owned and commercial banks, ensuring that if one sector of the banking system crashes, the whole system doesn’t.

We would want more state involvement in sector, to incentivise responsible investment that is in the interest of all, for the long-term. 

Investment management companies also have a role to play. The world’s largest one, BlackRock, sent a letter of all CEOs of companies in its portfolios to report on the climate risk of their business or risk the loss of investment. This is a large motivator for change in business.

Members of the WEAll network are / have access to examples of positive initiatives/organisations taking a wellbeing approach. 

Examples of positive initiatives/organisations in Scotland:

  • The Scottish government’s National Performance Framework uses a range of different indicators to assess how well the country is doing (for example including indicators on the environment, fair work, health or human rights)
  • North Ayrshire Council has a Community Wealth Building strategy to encourage local institutions to spend more locally to build and keep wealth in the community
  • Jerba Camper Vans is an employee-owned company producing and selling/renting campervans. It is owned and run by people who actually use campervans.
  • LOVE (Life Opportunities Valuing Everyone) is a group of organisations providing social services on care and learning. Charitable services in one part of the group are financed by commercial activities in other parts of the group.

Linwood Community Development Trust successfully regenerated a small town that used to rely on employment in one factory which closed in the 1980s. The trust successfully stimulated local development in line with what the people there are actually want and need, now running projects such as a grocery shop or a choir, building a large community centre with football pitch, café and theatre

As we saw with the 2008 Financial Crisis, our current banking system is problematic, doesn’t serve everyone and presents risks to all of society.

Before the crisis, we saw the ‘privatisation of profits’, meaning only some people benefited from financial gains. When the crisis hit, we saw the ‘socialisation of losses’, meaning that we, as an entire society, shared the losses.

We need to reconfigure the banking system to include more diversification, to avoid the systemic collapse experienced in many countries, like the UK, where there is only one type of bank, which collapsed.

The German banking system is a good example, as it’s got a split between cooperative banks, state owned and commercial banks, ensuring that if one sector of the banking system crashes, the whole system doesn’t.

We would want more state involvement in sector, to incentivise responsible investment that is in the interest of all, for the long-term. 

Investment management companies also have a role to play. The world’s largest one, BlackRock, sent a letter of all CEOs of companies in its portfolios to report on the climate risk of their business or risk the loss of investment. This is a large motivator for change in business.

Firstly, good lives in retirement needn’t be defined by economic wealth; we have other important human needs that our pensions should help us achieve i.e. dignity, nature, connection, fairness and participation.

Secondly, globally, it is rare to have a pension. Even in high-income countries, many people don’t live to pension age due to economic inequalities that translate to health inequalities, meaning that this ‘security’ doesn’t actually extend to all people.

Thirdly, the current pensions system in many countries is very dysfunctional and unsustainable, relying on savings in the stock market and financial speculation. This focus on financial assets will not ensure that we can actually meet the needs of everyone in 50 years’ time.

When we receive our pensions, we should be able to do so in a healthy and thriving planet and community. We need a more long-term view on investments in society that genuinely build the capacity of meeting our needs in the long-term future.

The only way to ensure that everybody will be able to live well in retirement is to invest in those real infrastructures, technologies and nature restoration that will build the capacity to meet our needs in the long-term future under uncertain circumstances.

To have good lives in retirement, we don’t need financial growth – we can achieve this through redistribution. We would move beyond a limited-liability shareholder model to more democratic models i.e. co-ops etc.

Our investments in our pensions should not destroy the future we are supposedly saving for / A pension only matters in a habitable world. What good is a higher pension in a dead environment?

We cannot understand our current economic system and create a Wellbeing Economy without understanding where we have come from – colonialism and racism – and how great and structurally embedded injustice is.

  • Global trade is still largely stuck in patterns of exploitation that mirror colonial patterns of production. Whilst this largely benefits old colonial powers, it continues to harm all economies for example through tax havens and the ability of the rich to hide their wealth from us all.

Justice needs to be at the heart of the Wellbeing Economy, everybody needs to have the ability to flourish, but currently many people are denied this ability because of their gender or their skin colour (and disability status, religion, sexual orientation etc – there are so many inequalities that blight our society).

It is not possible to build a Wellbeing Economy without addressing these injustices head-on. Some of the root causes of racial injustice and gender inequality are how the economy is configured, where wealth has come from, how it is hoarded. We know economic transformation isn’t the only change needed but is a big part of the urgent priority of addressing racial and gender inequalities.

  • For example, an important part of Wellbeing Economy agenda is the recognition of the unpaid and unrecognised care work that is mostly done by women. The global economy has been said to stand on the shoulders of black women.
  • A Wellbeing Economy is about ensuring that those who have been marginalised have a leading role in the economic transformation: bringing their voices to the fore, supporting structural changes that prevent women and POC from being able to live the lives they want….

A Wellbeing Economy supports people doing work that is not recognised or paid, such as informal care work.

Our current thinking misses / does not put an economic value on the vital role of unpaid role of care, domestic work, and motherhood / social reproduction in families and communities in supporting the market economy. This disadvantages women – and the economy as a whole.

Not supporting a Wellbeing Economy approach that would value this work would be a serious blind spot for a country looking to advance the gender equality discussion.

  • We also know we must all always keep learning and listening…

Resources to learn more can be found here, including Katherine Trebeck’s webinar for the Women’s Budget Group

It depends– it will look different based on the priorities and histories of each country.

Every society is different; knowing the priorities of a particular place will allow for a Wellbeing Economy to be design based on its priorities as a starting point.

e.g. Scotland – land reform regulation to change how land is used. Currently, a great deal of concentration of land ownership, where it is not put to optimal use. i.e. Highlands are used for shooting Grouse.

The Wellbeing Economy agenda is about social justice on a healthy planet, and that’s a global goal.

A key feature of Wellbeing Economy is that it prioritises collective wellbeing outcomes over GDP growth. This is the same everywhere, but it would take different shapes in different countries.

In many poorer countries, increasing the provision of basic material needs, energy infrastructure, health services, etc., might well register as an increase in GDP, even if this is not the goal per se. But it is always important how GDP is created and who gets the benefits.

  • The returns to growth in terms of social development measures tail off at relatively low levels of economic development, so pursuing growth beyond this point becomes harmful, as things enter the terrain of uneconomic growth.

The current global economic system severely disadvantages many poorer nations, with many of them being exploited for their resources and cheap labour, paying large sums of interest to richer countries and losing tax revenues to the tax dodging of multinational corporations

A Wellbeing Economy will be reformed to remove this exploitation by reorganising global economic institutions, such as the IMF the World Bank or the World Trade organisations, forgiving unfair debt and closing tax havens

  • The global north needs to make ecological room (literally!) for the majority world, the global north needs to support leapfrogging (in the broadest sense of the term) via tech transfer, decent trade, and reparations
  • At the same time the Wellbeing Economy movement has so much to learn from communities in the global south who are able to achieve much greater happiness with far less environmental impact. There’s no correlation between GDP/cap and wisdom!

WEAll is only 2 years old, but we know we need to do more to work with our friends and colleagues in the Global South.

The term wellbeing isn’t only relevant in the Global North. People in developing countries have the same basic needs as people in the West: dignity, nature, connection, fairness and participation. A Wellbeing Economy would deliver on these basic needs, as its first priority. What exactly this looks like in each specific country or region will depend on the specific culture and conditions of that country or region.

The idea behind a Wellbeing Economy is not a foreign or new concept to developing countries. For example, India has a long-standing cooperative movement, which focuses on benefiting all communities involved in its production. India’s Amul milk brand is the world’s largest milk cooperative company in world.

Currently developing countries are focusing on ‘catching up’ to the GDP of developed countries, with the aim of increasing the wellbeing of their people.

There are diminishing returns to wellbeing gains from GDP growth. And we’ve seen the damage that a purely growth-focus can create, especially in terms of environmental externalities that developing countries have had to deal with!

Learning from the mistakes of the West, a Wellbeing Economy would deliver on good lives for all people in developing countries, the first time around, instead of letting runaway GDP growth cause a decline in wellbeing figures.

The global north has to lead the way on this agenda, since they are the ones that have created growth that pushes past ecological boundaries.

  • Creating a Wellbeing Economy is a wholesale transformation of our economic system
  • To get there we need a good understanding of the monetary system, how government spending is financed and how this affects the wider economy
  • MMT has made important contributions in this regard and has stimulated a healthy debate
  • The content of the matter is debated, and I am not an expert on the matter, so I will leave it there
  • Members of WEAll do have expertise in this area – I can connect you or refer you to their resources.

In a Wellbeing Economy everybody needs to have social security that is sufficient for a good life, independent of their circumstances

A UBI is one way to achieve this.

  • It would allow people to reject jobs with low wages or bad working conditions, it would give people more free time to care for others or do voluntary work.
  • It needs to be set high enough to change the balance of power in workplaces and be universal enough to reach those who need it most, including people who may not have citizenship status.
  • It could be financed by taxing unearned income from wealth and economic rents or by taxing luxury consumption

However, there are also other options to ensure basics, which we support

  • universal basic services (such as health, education, housing).
  • A job guarantee

These different solutions to ensure social security all have different advantages and drawbacks and we need a wider societal discussion on which one would suit best

When asked whether you support a specific party or whether you support the program policy of a specific party, you can say:

    • We work on issues and policies, without being party political. We don’t support parties, but we do support good policies. We are a charitable organisation, so not party affiliated. We would work with any party to progress the Wellbeing Economy agenda.
    • All political parties should be striving for social justice on a healthy planet. A Wellbeing Economy is about systems change and not party politics. It is a vision and a non-partisan approach. No single party has all the answers. We think good ideas come from all kinds of places and want to see cross party support for this agenda. We also know that all parties are capable of policies that undermine this agenda.
    • The Governments that are part of WEGo include parties from across the political spectrum. Katrin Jakobsdottir in Iceland is a Green, but in a coalition with a range of parties. Jacinda Ardern is Labour, but in coalition with NZ First. Even the SNP presents a broad tent of different movements.
    • Try to avoid the fray. Step back and try to navigate the debate into the structural issues at play. Phrases to guide would be:
  • “what seems important here is how x meets y” 
  • “whilst the debate is important, to make progress what we need to do is look to address the root causes of x”