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By Aima Ahmed

People are the economy, so let’s put them at its heart

Increasing the wellbeing of people is a more worthwhile goal to pursue than economic growth. To truly move towards a wellbeing economy, we need to fundamentally change the way we think about people and the economy.

We live in a fast-paced, interconnected and sophisticated era with information available in real time at our fingertips, access to markets unbounded by geography and technology that has exponentially improved our lives.

This is the peak of civilisation and the productivity puzzle is indicative of that- we just don’t know what more to do to increase economic growth, so in a way, this is a success.

And yet the virus has brought everything to a halt and frenzy. Something that isn’t even visible to the eye has forced us to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.

It looks like the universe is trying to humble us and make us question our illusion of strength and blind reliance on current capitalist systems that increase inequality at unprecedented rates. Or maybe it’s just a reminder of the national and global socioeconomic inequalities that have exacerbated the way that people are able to cope with the consequences of the virus.

Why worry about the economy when people are dying?

Amidst this health crisis, people are worried about the economy and what its downturn means for them- it’s not an unfounded fear as interest rates are lower than they’ve been for a while (fiscal stimulus that predicts less public spending which is what happens during a recession), small businesses are at the brink of collapse (or have already) and a staggering number of people have applied for welfare in the UK compounded by the perils of being an indebted nation borrowing to consume.

So, fears of economic prospects aren’t much different in principal from fears of the pandemic effecting the health and wellbeing of people.

This is the case particularly for the socio-economically marginalised such as people belonging to Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, women and those that live in poverty as these are the people that are already disadvantaged by health, housing and labour market inequalities. Striking evidence of the disproportionate impact on BAME communities has called for the government in the UK to launch a review to investigate, which is welcome but it’s a shame that these inequalities have gotten to this point in the first place.

In developing countries, there is fear that hunger fuelled by poverty will cause further deaths as a result of social distancing and lockdown for example in Pakistan where the Prime Minister has called for support from global leaders to create a fiscal response.

This pandemic has brought the dark side of free markets to the forefront.

Now that the economy wheel has nearly stopped turning, we can see who actually keeps it moving- it’s the underpaid and undervalued ‘key workers’ that hold up society, not the workers in the finance sector that make up a greater proportion of GDP than the value they give to society.

This is the problem that emerges when we lose sight of what is important — in this case we’ve become obsessed with economic growth when we should be more focused on creating an economy that increases wellbeing.  After all, economic growth should only be seen as a means to achieve wellbeing. There has been an improvement in measuring wellbeing, but GDP is still the dominant measure of success, which can be misleading.

This misguided obsession has got us thinking of the economy as separate from people.

Now that austerity has been shamed and we know that Thatcherism was driven more by ideology than good economics, it’s time to shift the narrative from economic growth to an economy centred around the wellbeing of people as argued by Nobel prize winning economists Banerjee and Duflo in their book Good Economics for Hard Times.

We should aim for a wellbeing economy, no matter how messy and uncomfortable, as supported by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. The Alliance defines it as an economy where ‘humanity should determine economics, not the other way around’ and calls for the economy to deliver ‘an equitable distribution of wealth, health and wellbeing, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generation and other species.’

Economic growth may have been a good short-term goal post war in terms of rebuilding damaged economies, but times are different now and goals should evolve and follow Iceland, Scotland and New Zealand in creating a wellbeing economy.

The economy is the people.

It is the doctors and nurses on the frontline, it is the delivery drivers that distribute resources to where they are needed (more tangible than the invisible hand), it is the teachers that educate the next generation and it is the carers that provide childcare and elderly care.

But thanking these people is not enough, we need to do right by people by paying people for their work in proportion to the value that they add in society and in doing so, acknowledging how much good they do for our wellbeing.

The economy is also the people who are not key workers and are sitting at home unable to work given the lockdown, likely causing an inevitable contraction in GDP to stop the spread of the virus – so, we can see clearly than ever before that the economy is the people and that population health cannot and should not be separated from that.

The economy is also global.

Global inequalities mean that developing countries are more likely to suffer the consequences of this pandemic, even though the epicentre of the outbreak is the developed world. According to Oxfam, ‘More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid19 pandemic’.

This pandemic has revealed that we are interdependent as countries and institutions have come together to help each other mitigate the effects of this pandemic, which started in just one corner of the world.

The Home Office extending visas for medical staff  is an example that we as a human race are dependent on one another and that when one faction of society suffers, we all suffer.

Given the interconnection and interdependency, it is in the interest of the wellbeing of nations to work together to solve problems and this should not be forgotten when it is time to deal with the aftermath of this pandemic.

Now really isn’t the time for nationalistic responses to this global economic downturn, especially in terms of the support that poorer nations receive — global solidarity is needed to solve global problems. 

So, let this be a time of thinking and rethinking, learning and unlearning, designing and redesigning a society using economics that puts people at its heart.

An increased government role isn’t a bad thing, in fact it may be government failure to leave market forces to self-regulate through capitalism.

Current economic models facilitate inequality in ways that aren’t questioned enough in the mainstream. Government policy can build back better and nudge things in a better direction, one that includes people and questions the distribution of wealth and power through market forces, no matter how normalised they’ve become.

Build back better by calling greed what it is.

Financial services have been evolving over the decades and centuries with a profit maximising objective. A study shows, for example, that having a mortgage wasn’t always aspirational — it was seen as hanging a millstone around your neck with the debt being seen as a burden, regardless of the lifestyle that it facilitated.

The finance sector has facilitated private debt to sustain consumption even more today for example with car leasing and pay-day loans with interest rates that only feed the accumulation model of wealth generation.

Sure, this is a consumerism problem too. But making financial services more responsible through government intervention and rethinking the role of interest in the economy is a start to protecting people from the glorification of debt.

Build back better by adopting human centric business models.

Big businesses are talking more about social responsibility but according to Mariana Mazzucato, little seems to be changing in reality where only few companies put social responsibility at the core of the way they function.

Tick box exercises are not enough. Fundamental changes are needed in business models that aren’t afraid of an anti-accumulation of capital philosophy of business and an increased involvement of workers at every level.

Greater government control may actually be the answer, after all, corporate greed can’t be curtailed by mere good will.

Build back better by creating better narratives.

Underlining the failings of capitalism are the surrounding narratives that keep leaving people behind. For example, it is a government failure that people keep falling through the cracks of welfare so we should stop blaming people for being stuck in the poverty trap designed by giving too much power to market forces and arguably the welfare system itself.

A move towards a wellbeing economy should involve exploring a Universal Basic Income as is being done in Scotland. A study by the RSA shows that people receiving welfare are likely to benefit from a Basic Income by enabling them to have more power over their lives and to build a better and more self-reliant future for themselves.

Build back better globally, with compassion, responsibility and humility.

In the spirit of creating a wellbeing economy that puts people at its heart, there is hope that the fear, desperation and anxiety caused by this pandemic will make people understand what it’s like to live with economic insecurity, lack of opportunities and a constant feeling of uncertainty.

It is paramount to build back better through policy and narratives that are more compassionate towards refugees and economic migrants by acknowledging that people do not leave what they know for uncertainty without sufficient cause, desperation and hope of a better future in terms of wellbeing and finances.

If compassion is not enough to build back better globally then I hope that the studies that show that history matters in that countries are still suffering economic and political consequences of post-colonialism make a case for exercising humility in the global policy sphere along with the failing of the IMF.

So, let’s build back better by mitigating the socio-economic consequences of history in the face of colonial amnesia.

Capitalism can do better.

What does it really mean to reach the peak of civilisation when haven’t paid enough attention to how such progress for the few has left so many behind? And what are we building the economy for if it’s not for the people that actually make up the economy in the first place?

This pandemic is a chance for us to revaluate capitalism and rebuild a more inclusive world where we channel energy towards collaboration, socialism and understanding.

Let’s build back better.

 

 

 

WEAll’s Executive Chair Stewart Wallis OBE took part in a spirited and hugely popular online dialogue last week, organised by EcoCiv, on “The Next Economy“.

Stewart was joined on the impressive panel by: Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics and WEAll Ambassador), Marjorie Kelly (The Democracy Collaborative), David Korten (Living Economies Forum)  and Gunna Jung (Economic Advisor to Seoul Metropolitan Government)

They discussed the following questions:

“As the socio-economic effects of coronavirus worsen, the deep failures of our global economic order are being revealed. Is this the end of the neoliberal era? What will the economy look like after COVID-19? Can our next economy promote the overall well-being of people and the planet?”

Watch the event below or find it on YouTube here.

By Dirk Philipsen

Adam Smith had an elegant idea when addressing the notorious difficulty that humans face in trying to be smart, efficient and moral. In The Wealth of Nations (1776), he maintained that the baker bakes bread not out of benevolence, but out of self-interest. No doubt, public benefits can result when people pursue what comes easiest: self-interest.

And yet: the logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations. Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.

Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing, so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have. Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism. Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness. As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.

COVID-19 reveals a further irrational component: the people who do essential work – taking care of the sick; picking up our garbage; bringing us food; guaranteeing that we have access to water, electricity and WiFi – are often the very people who earn the least, without benefits or secure contracts. On the other hand, those who often have few identifiably useful skills – the pontificators and chief elbowing officers – continue to be the winners. Think about it: what’s the harm if the executive suites of private equity, corporate law and marketing firms closed down during quarantine? Unless your stock portfolio directly profits from their activities, the answer is likely: none. But it is those people who make millions – sometimes as much in an hour as healthcare workers or delivery personnel make in an entire year.

Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing.

Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people. But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious: every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment. How did I become a professor at an elite university? Some wit and hard work, one hopes. But mostly I credit my choice of good parents; being born at the right time and the right place; excellent public schools; fresh air, good food, fabulous friends; lots of people who continuously and reliably provide all the things that I can’t: healthcare, sanitation, electricity, free access to quality information. And, of course, as the scholar Robert H Frank at Cornell University so clearly demonstrated in his 2016 book on the myth of the meritocracy: pure and simple luck.

Commenting on how we track performance in modern economies – counting output not outcome, quantity not quality, prices not possibilities – the US senator Robert F Kennedy said in 1968 that we measure ‘everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’. His larger point: freedom, happiness, resilience – all are premised on a healthy public. They rely on our collective ability to benefit from things such as clean air, free speech, good public education. In short: we all rely on a healthy commons. And yet, the world’s most powerful metric, gross domestic product (GDP), counts none of it.

The term ‘commons’ came into widespread use, and is still studied by most college students today, thanks to an essay by a previously little-known American academic, Garrett Hardin, called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ (1968). His basic claim: common property such as public land or waterways will be spoiled if left to the use of individuals motivated by self-interest. One problem with his theory, as he later admitted himself: it was mostly wrong.

Our real problem, instead, might be called ‘the tragedy of the private’. From dust bowls in the 1930s to the escalating climate crisis today, from online misinformation to a failing public health infrastructure, it is the insatiable private that often despoils the common goods necessary for our collective survival and prosperity. Who, in this system based on the private, holds accountable the fossil fuel industry for pushing us to the brink of extinction? What happens to the land and mountaintops and oceans forever ravaged by violent extraction for private gain? What will we do when private wealth has finally destroyed our democracy?

The privately controlled corporate market has, in the precise words of the late economics writer Jonathan Rowe, ‘a fatal character flaw – namely, an incapacity to stop growing. No matter how much it grew yesterday it must continue to do so tomorrow, and then some; or else the machinery will collapse.’

To top off the items we rarely discuss: without massive public assistance, late-stage extractive capitalism, turbocharged by private interest and greed, would long be dead. The narrow kind of macroeconomic thinking currently dominating the halls of government and academia invokes a simpleminded teenager who variously berates and denounces his parents, only to come home, time and again, when he is out of ideas, money or support. Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Exxon – all would be bust without public bailouts and tax breaks and subsidies. Every time the private system works itself into a crisis, public funds bail it out – in the current crisis, to the tune of trillions of dollars. As others have noted, for more than a century, it’s a clever machine that privatises gains and socialises costs.

When private companies are back up and running, they don’t hold themselves accountable to the public who rescued them. As witnessed by activities since the 2008 bailouts at Wells Fargo, American Airlines and AIG, companies that have been rescued often go right back to milking the public.

By focusing on private market exchanges at the expense of the social good, policymakers and economists have taken an idea that is good under clearly defined and very limited circumstances and expanded it into a poisonous and blind ideology. Now is the time to assert the obvious: without a strong public, there can be no private. My health depends on public health. My freedom depends on social freedom. The economy is embedded in a healthy society with functional public services, not the other way around.

This moment of pain and collapse can serve as a wakeup call; a realisation that the public is our greatest good, not the private. Look outside the window to see: without a vibrant and stable public, life can quickly get poor, nasty, brutish and short.Aeon counter – do not remove

Dirk Philipsen is an economic historian and wellbeing economics advocate who teaches public policy and history at Duke University in North Carolina. He is also a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His most recent book is The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule the World and What to Do About It (2015).

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
Aeon counter – do not remove

Image: Firefighters applaud medical workers in Manhattan, New York, on 7 April 2020. Photo B A Van Sise/NurPhoto via Getty

Our friends at Cities CAN B have launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of five Extreme Collaboration guidebooks, sharing their rich experiences with a view to helping businesses and communities everywhere build back better after the pandemic.

Message from Cities CAN B:

“When we imagine  the end of this global quarantine, we are flooded with dreams of us emerging on the other side more empathetic, sustainable and supportive, connected with our interdependence and with the urge to care for our planet and our society.

Our experience, over the past 10 years, in building different collaborative ecosystems in multiple countries has shown us  how collaborating with those we see as “our peers” is easy but  this becomes increasingly difficult with those who are more distant to us – “the others”. If our goal is to be radically collaborative and accelerate the process of change in our communities, we must learn to transform ourselves.

It is for this reason we have embarked on the great adventure to initiate a global movement called CITIES CAN B, in which we strive to attract entire communities  (people, institutions and companies) to collaborate with each other, to take charge of the 17 Great Challenges of Humanity as set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

It is this goal of collaborating with everyone, no matter how distant we might feel to them, that we call “Extreme Collaboration”.

These five notebooks are the notes on everything we have learned  to date on “Extreme Collaboration” in CITIES CAN B, including sister projects in which we have participated, supported or simply admired.

We are hopeful these notes will be useful for citizens, mayors or foundations, who are mobilizing the changes these great challenges of humanity require. Additionally, these notes are designed for those entrepreneurs or large corporations that are committed to leading the changes the market and society are beginning to demand.

We are going to need help to finish them, translate them and print them!

And, to ensure anyone who needs them has access to them, the digital version of these notebooks will be distributed, free of charge, with a Creative Commons license in Spanish, English and Portuguese.

In the first notebook, we address why we believe it is better to work on these issues at the city-scale, while the remaining 4 focus on strategies we have developed to mobilize all participants to collaborate with each other, thus accelerating  the changes our society and our planet.

We set a fundraising goal to finish the books, translate and print them, but we want to triple that goal in order to expand the CITIES CAN B Global movement.

CITIES CAN B is a global movement co-led by Sistema B and Gulliver with the support of the BMW Foundation and B Lab Europe.

 Brief summary of CITIES CAN B:

In August 2015, Rio+B (RIO CAN B) the first city of the movement was officially launched, in November 2017, Santiago+B (STGO CAN B) and Mendoza+B (MZA CAN B) joined the movement, making it international. In August 2019 Cities CAN B launched a global call for proposals for new cities to join the movement, 14 cities from 10 countries sent proposals, demonstrating the potentiality of expansion of the project. At the end of 2019 an international executive committee selected the four most qualified proposals.

As of 2020 the project became global, with the four new selected cities now under development: Asunción+B (Paraguay), Edinburgh CAN B (Scotland), Córdoba+B (Argentina), and Barcelona+B (Spain). We hope more and more people and organizations around the world participate collaboratively in their local sustainable development, we count on your support to make it happen. We need to recognize personal and collective responsibility about our interdependence.

Reposted from the OECD Forum Network

By WEAll Ambassadors Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson on behalf of WEAll and the Equality Trust

The coronavirus pandemic is changing the lives of children across the world, with both predictable and unforeseeable short- and long-term effects on children’s development and lifelong well-being. Children are experiencing massive changes in daily routines and education, many in families that are experiencing losses of work, income and loved ones, and fear and anxiety about infection and life beyond the crisis.

In the past, child well-being policies almost inevitably focused on the most vulnerable children – those living in poverty, or in deprived neighbourhoods, those who were refugees, abused or neglected.  In the United Kingdom in recent years, we have had epidemics of knife crime, self-harm and mental illness but these were not accompanied by any policies focused on the underlying root causes of poverty – inequality and austerity. Instead, we saw an emphasis on parenting interventions, as if the wider context were too difficult to tackle. Now, the coronavirus crisis is shifting our perspective, bringing into sharp focus the pre-existing vulnerability of too many children to the politics, policies and practices that perpetuate inequality. We can see that some children are more vulnerable to the impacts of lockdown – school and nursery closures, sheltering in place and physical distancing. But children in some of the more unequal rich countries hardest hit by the pandemic, the United States and United Kingdom, were already less resilient than children in more equal countries, with worse health, well-being and educational attainment. By comparing children in more and less equal societies, we might be able to learn the lessons of how to look after all our children better.

The key to a holistic understanding of how we create population-wide child well-being is grasping the fact that economic inequality – disparities in wealth and income – affects all children within a society. Yes, the poor suffer more, and children living in poverty and deprivation experience a double detriment, and even more so in the current crisis. But there is growing evidence that the effects of living in a more unequal society are felt even among the children of the affluent, well-educated middle and upper classes.

Figure from: Bird P, Pickett KE, Graham H, et al.

“Income inequality and social gradients in children’s height: a comparison of cohort studies from five high-income countries”. BMJ Paediatrics Open 2019; 0:e000568. doi:10.1136/ bmjpo-2019-000568

In our books The Spirit Level (2009) and The Inner Level (2018), we present and interpret the robust and broad evidence of the effects of income inequality on the health and well-being of whole populations. For children, inequality leads to lower child well-being when measured by Unicef indices, as well as worse infant mortality, child obesity, bullying, child maltreatment, teenage pregnancies, educational attainment and social mobility. Indirectly, children are affected by the impact of inequality on parents’ mental and physical health, long working hours, high levels of debt, drug and alcohol abuse and problem gambling.

All of these problems stem from the way in which greater economic inequality increases the importance of social status, class and rank within a society; the way in which material differences create social distances between us. In less equal societies people trust one another less, participate less in civic and cultural life, feel less solidarity with others and suffer more from the day-to-day social comparisons as we experience ourselves through other people’s eyes. There is more anxiety about status, more depression and, on the flip side, more narcissism and self-enhancement as well.  Relationships within wider society and the public realm, in workplaces and schools, and within families are all corrupted by the invidious psychosocial damage caused by inequality. This picture is supported by a wealth of both quantitative and qualitative academic research, across many decades and many disciplines. Brought together, the data tell a coherent story about how desperately we need to reorient our societal goals towards well-being. Politicians tend to think that’s what they’re doing but so often they are clearly not.

Knowledge is the first step in creating change. The OECD’s recent report “Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children” (2019) will be part of changing the discourse and creating a framework in which to make well-being the primary aim of cross-sector policy making. Intervening to improve child well-being is challenging but we need to step up to the challenges and opportunities for change offered by the coronavirus and demand that policies address root causes and systems so that this generation of children can grow up healthy and resilient. There are many examples of good practice to learn from but one we know well is the Born in Bradford programme. In Bradford, a city in the north of England with high levels of deprivation and ill health, 10 years of collaborative work has created a research-ready, people-powered and data-linked test bed to co-produce, implement and evaluate early life interventions to promote well-being and reduce inequalities. Just as the coronavirus hit, we were building the ActEarly City Collaboratory to provide a whole system environment where the public, scientists, policy leaders and practitioners can work with each other to develop upstream preventive solutions for a healthier, fairer future for children.  Now, the focus has shifted to help the city respond to the immediate crisis and prepare for an inclusive recovery.  We hope that readers of this article will engage with the projects, track our progress and share their own good practices.

Read the OECD’s COVID-19 Policy Responses on Learning Remotely when Schools Close

We are sometimes asked whether the rich and the powerful simply don’t care about children. The answer is, of course, they do – but too often only about their own. That would be less worrying if they used the same schools and health services, but it is dangerous when they don’t. Now, more than ever, we need to foster cultures where we care for each other’s children as for our own, so that we create the policy environment to support all children during and following the coronavirus pandemic.

Finally, we need to listen to children as they tell us about their experiences and their hopes and fears for the future, and be guided by them in setting our priorities. John F. Kennedy said that, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see”. That is true, but we also need to be alive to the messages children, such as Greta Thunberg, are giving us – about how we have failed them in the past, in the time they could never see, how we are letting them down now as they live through this crisis. They can tell us what we need to do to build their opportunities and their resilience.

Photos: Shutterstock/Liderina and Photo: Shutterstock/Lolostock

WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead was recently interviewed by Social Value UK for their series “Social Value Always Matters”.

Katherine spoke about the current coronavirus pandemic and the urgent need for emergency recovery efforts to deliberately build back better and create wellbeing economies.

Watch it below or find it on the Social Value UK YouTube channel here.

Last week, Yannick Beaudoin spoke on Metro Morning in Toronto. He discusses the wellbeing economy and how we can #BuildBackBetter in the time of COVID19. Have a listen to his segment below.

 

Yannick is the General Director in Ontario and Northern Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation.

You can follow him on Twitter here: @ycbeau

Originally published by Open Democracy 

Written by: Amanda Janoo and Gemma Bone Dodds

_________

As world leaders scramble to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save millions of lives, we are increasingly hearing concerns regarding how social distancing and lockdown measures will impact the economy.

Governments and economic commentators fear a “stock market crash” and a “recession worse than 2009”, and are developing economic stimulus plans accordingly. But using GDP and stock market values as a barometer of economic health is misguided. The existing policy landscape is constrained by economic ideas and tools built for another time.

In this moment, our economic policies must be oriented towards meeting basic needs, promoting essential activities and facilitating a ‘Great Pause’ while we figure out to overcome this global pandemic. There is no longer an economic status quo available to us. What does this mean in practice?

1. The stock market is not a reflection of our economic reality

Stock market values are often used as a measure of economic vitality because they are meant to anticipate future monetary values. The problem of course is that no one knows what the future will look like. Therefore, now more than ever, the stock market has only the narrowest ability to reflect the real world and is therefore not a good guide for us in these times. If policy makers want to avoid a financial collapse, they should seriously consider shutting down the stock market for a period to limit run-away, anxiety-ridden trading. Or at least ensure that any Quantitative Easing or liquidity injections are based on a quid pro quo that cancels debts for businesses and citizens.

2. We will enter a recession – and that’s okay

When you hear policy markers fearing a recession, this means they are fearing that GDP will fall for at least two consecutive quarters. As the economist Frances Coppola has argued, “recession is the wrong word, because it implies this is bad. Better to call it ‘protective contraction’. We need a huge drop in GDP”.

If we learn one thing in all of this, it is that we are the economy. As we take a moment to stand still, the economy equally becomes more still. Our tendency to move, gather and work together are fundamental drivers of the economy. As millions stay at home to protect themselves and others, the economy will contract. Doing anything other than reducing economic activity right now would be putting our collective wellbeing in danger. GDP will drop during this time, and that’s okay.

And remember: just because the economy is not growing does not mean that we cannot ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met. Now more than ever we need to recognise that the economy is the system by which we provide for one another. A system that can and should provide for what our families and societies need most.

3. Economic policies for a ‘Great Pause’

During this period of crisis, we must abandon the old metrics of economic progress and listen to what people need. Economic policy responses must be swift and strategic and focus on meeting everyone’s basic needs and safeguarding essential parts of the economy. Combined, policies must enable a ‘Great Pause’: allowing us to bunker down, buy time, and keep ourselves and others safe while we focus on ensuring equitable access to health, food, housing, income, while enabling businesses (especially SMEs) to pause their operations until we have a handle on COVID-19.

Make no mistake, such policies will require significant public expenditures and we must implement strategies now to ensure that the economic costs are paid by those who are able to afford it. We cannot repeat the mistakes made following the 2009 economic recession and allow for governments to balance budgets through toxic austerity measures.

This is a unique moment for global solidarity, as only a globally coordinated response can combat this pandemic. Now is the time to go into offshore bank accounts, to close tax loopholes and to generate a global relief fund so that we do not allow this crisis to further consolidate wealth into the hands of the few. As we work to protect those closest to home, we must not forget that no country alone can combat a pandemic. We are all in this together.

4. Building back better

As we secure lives and livelihoods, we can take the opportunity of this ‘Great Pause’ to learn and reflect on what is truly important to us. And instead of rebuilding a broken system, we must consider the policies required to build back better so that our economy delivers social and ecological wellbeing.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the complete disruption of the economic status quo. We have known for some time that the 21st century obsession with growth creates extreme inequality and environmental degradation, but we haven’t yet found a way to create a path to something different.

This is a time to ask important questions – what is important to us when our very lives are under threat? What have we found that actually, we can live without? Where have we found meaning, and connection? What do we realise we have taken for granted and what can live without? What do we need our economy to deliver so that we can all live meaningful and fulfilling lives?

We have already seen how many of the workers who have been kept in poverty wages and economic precarity are actually the most critical for our collective wellbeing. Healthcare workers, farmers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers and caregivers have become the heroes of our day. Meanwhile, this moment of pause has brought increasing clarity to the things we value most, we now see how valuable (in every sense of the world) food, health, income security, education, mobility, access to nature, social connection and public services are to us.

This Great Pause gives us the time to consider how we can build an economy on these foundations. We must not return to business as usual, looking to financial markets and GDP growth figures for guidance. Economic policies must be oriented towards protecting and promoting the economic activities that are essential for social and environmental wellbeing. We have an opportunity to build back better.

The shape of the new economy is not a distant, dry set of policies. It is something we are living in and exploring right now. Let’s be present, move forward with compassion and explore the shape of things to come.

We invite interested people to engage in the conversation at WellbeingEconomy.org.