By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead
I write this as I finally get a coffee after a long but exhilarating morning. Actually, a long but exhilarating few years.
This morning a few of us from the WEAll family were sitting in the house that Adam Smith used to live in.
We were there to see the kick off of the first Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) policy lab: Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand coming together to collaborate on wellbeing economy policies.
WEGo is about governments rolling up their sleeves, linking arms, and walking together down a path that sees national success as being defined by the quality of life of citizens rather than the growth rate of a country’s GDP. As the Chief Economist of the Scottish Government said, WEGo is about driving the wellbeing agenda in economic, social, and environmental policy making.
WEAll has been supporting (and sometimes agitating) for this project for many years (even before WEAll was officially formed).
So, sitting back with a coffee after this morning, after these years, and reflecting on the potential of this little project is a nice moment.
We heard the First Minister of Scotland quote Adam Smith and declare that a nation’s success shouldn’t be measured by its gold or silver: that growth is only of value if it makes people’s lives better – it is not an end in itself.
We heard the Prime Minister of Iceland – Katrin Jakobsdottir – say she is personally committed to collaborating with other governments on this agenda and that Iceland is excited by the WEGo project because it is “time to think differently about growth”.
Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes “this event will be the first of many…[because] there is much to gain from working with other countries”.
The governmental engagement in the project is underscored by the support of the OECD – Carrie Exton from their Statistics Directorate described WEGo as “a fantastic project”.
But beyond this, in the context of global divisions, dangerous populism, alienation, Katrin Jakobsdottir looks at WEGo and sees a “light in the darkness” – backed by Nicola Sturgeon who recognised that “if there is ever a right time for such an initiative, it is now…we should seize this [collaboration] with both hands: [this agenda] is the most important overarching thing in my government, because it affects everything”.
Hard to imagine a stronger endorsement for a project rich with potential. It might even be a game changer – setting a new tone for governmental cooperation, leadership, new norms in definitions of success, and working together to deal with the challenges facing today’s world.
Fuelled by coffee, working with such extraordinary and open minded leaders, WEAll might just achieve this wellbeing economy we so urgently need.