From the Old Way to the New Way: how a wellbeing economy will respond to issues differently

The current economic system (the “old way”) responds to the common needs of humanity and the planet in ways that do not address the heart of problems and do not make life better for all. In fact, often problems are made worse or at best responses act as ‘sticking plasters’.

In a wellbeing economy (the “new way”), responses would be person-centred, positive and long-term. The exciting thing is – the new way is already emerging, with inspiring examples around the world showing us the way.

This table sets out indicative wellbeing economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives. It’s a work in progress and open to further contributions – please use the form at the bottom of this page to submit your suggestions. Thanks in advance for your ideas!


Issue area (alphabetical) OLD WAY: Current system response(s) NEW WAY: Indicative Wellbeing Economy response(s)
Beyond oil/transport/energy Exhaustion of remaining fossil fuel reserves seen as viable

No planning for livelihoods of workers in brown fields beyond fossil fuels

Tangible pathways of training, enterprise creation, income support for brown field workers

Relevant skills directed to circular economy and renewable energy

Citizens wealth fund The commons plundered by individual companies and people without comparable contribution to public revenues

Technological developments and intellectual property exploited by private owners without comparable recognition of the public investment in R&D that underpinned them

Use of the commons and benefits from technology contribute to citizens wealth fund
Climate crisis and communities Carbon capture and storage and emergency responses to ‘natural’ weather-related disasters

Low income communities most affected by climate crisis and bear most of the costs

Communities expected to increased their resilience

Circular economy

Community-based renewable energy generation

Climate crisis mitigated

Community empowerment Empowerment agenda without the powerful giving up power Subsidiarity


Attention paid to different styles of communication

Agendas set by communities, not just consultation on the details

Economics education Curricula confined to neo-classical approaches Pluralistic and heterodox curricula on offer

Dynamic macro modelling and systems perspective

Finance, including investments and access to capital Short term profit extracted to owners of capital as opposed to fair returns for workers and suppliers

‘Financial innovation’ confined to debt-based products

Finance directed to activities with high social and environmental benefits

Long term ‘investment as commitment’

System change funds

Food system Prices ignore environmental costs of production (including transport costs) and do not pay living wages to suppliers

Unhealthy addictive food cheaper than healthy food

Small-hold producers are price takers at the beck and call of large agricultural complexes


Locally grown, regenerative and cruelty free

Fair value share throughout supply chain

Homes and housing Rationed by price, uninsulated, used as investment devices by rentiers Co-housing

Sustainable design

Publicly and community-owned mixed with privately owned

In-work poverty and earnings inequality In-work tax credits to top up inadequate wages

Large gaps between highest paid and lowest paid

Workers owning the business so have a guaranteed share of the value created by their work

Wages determined by (or better reflect) social value

Low ratio between highest and lowest paid

Kindness and compassion Dismissed as unimportant or even non-existent due to prevailing belief in rational economic man Recognised as a fundamental aspect of being human and nurtured through the nature of work, design of public spaces, the nature of advertising and education, and narratives about human motivations
Materials cycle Linear: take, make, use, waste

Planned obsolesce

Prices unrelated to environmental costs


Extended producer responsibility

Prices of inputs and production reflect true and full cost

Local artisans delivering repair and remanufacture

Mental health in the workplace Reliance on individualised coping strategies without attending to the nature of work and causes of stress

Employees treated as ‘on-demand’ and disposable inputs and a cost to be minimised

Dominant culture of hierarchy and overwork

Healthier relationship with work: jobs designed to deliver autonomy, control and relatedness; sense of purpose; and sufficient and secure source of income and hours

Jobs designed with task rotation, ability to see a process through, reward reflecting effort

Natural capital accounting Ecosystem services ignored in corporate account keeping Use of ecosystem services appropriately counted (may not require assigning a monetary figure)

Recognition of the inherent value of nature, beyond the services it provides to human beings

Pollution Costs passed onto third parties

Clean up rather than prevention

Polluting the commons charged at true prices so that producer pays

Caps on emissions set according to science

Productivity Seen as key to economic growth

No heed paid to influence of power within an organisation nor if more production is sustainable

Resource productivity is a key consideration

Recognition that in some sectors (such as arts and care) labour productivity might lead to sub-optimal outcomes

Purpose of the economy Boils down to increasing per capita GDP Holistic measures of progress that encompass human and ecological wellbeing, including of future generations

Co-creation of these measures through wide public consultation

Social care for elderly Delivered by expensive, high intervention hospitals

Out of hospital provision outsourced on the basis of lowest price delivery

Community provision with sufficient resourcing

Delivered by well-paid professionals whose salary reflects the social value of the role or by families who have time to undertake this aspect of the core economy because of shorter working weeks

Work Acute specialization and atomization.

Workers treated as ’just in time inventory’ and a cost to be reduced.


Jobs designed to meet fundamental needs

Tasks shared, autonomy devolved, scope to follow through

Workers treated as human beings

Young people’s mental health Medicalisation and emphasis on the individual to be more resilient Young people enabled to thrive with their basic human needs (including autonomy and relatedness) met
Youth engagement Young people engaged because they are the ‘future’ on pre-determined agendas

Young people’s knowledge not recognised as valid or counting as much as older experts

Young people sincerely and authentically engaged because they are the ‘now’
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