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

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

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

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

On a broader level, Katherine asked, 

“What kind of growth do we need?”

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

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

As she put it, 

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

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

How do we transition to a wellbeing economy?” 

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

She pointed to: 

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

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

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

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

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

Follow Katherine on her website and on Twitter.

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