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Blog by Isabel Nuesse

Busy as ever, Katherine Trebeck, WEAll’s Influencing and Advocacy Lead, has been speaking on panels, podcasts, webinars and academic lectures to encourage stakeholders to take a hard look at the feasibility of building back better to a wellbeing economy.

In Scotland, she continues to work alongside the WEAll Scotland Hub to influence the Scottish Government to move beyond GDP, to adopt wellbeing economic policies and serve as an example for the rest of the world.

Diminishing Marginal Returns

On August 28th, Katherine Trebeck spoke at the SURF Festival, opening with a few major issues in the current system, which are underpinned by our dependence on growth and GDP.

Those countries that have ‘arrived’ (i.e. have the capacity to provide decent living for their residents) experience diminishing marginal returns of growth i.e. where growth is no longer improving our quality of life. Instead, growth is driving failure demand: public spending on patching up the damage created in the pursuit of more growth.

An example of this reactive and avoidable spending is in the ‘guard labour’ industry, which is thriving because widening inequalities has made people afraid of one another. Meanwhile, individually, we are spending on pseudo satisfiers to fulfill our need of belonging – something that our economic and social system should be enabling.

Watch her entire presentation here.

Demographics and COVID

Most recently, Katherine spoke to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in Scottish Parliament. She begins by speaking about what demographics in our economy are most affected by the COVID pandemic.

She cites research which concludes that Black and Minority communities have shouldered more risk during the pandemic, as have women. Women were already more likely to feature in front-line sectors or service-based sectors of the economy. In addition to this increased exposure, as a result of the pandemic, women have also had to take on additional burdens of childcare and domestic work.

Hope for the future

However, Katherine also sheds light on positive developments, like the now mainstream questions around the necessity of business travel. She also mentioned the enormous increase of the gift economy. That has kept communities and families going, even though this is not accounted for in the GDP measurement.

Watch the full video of Katherine and the other prominent speakers discuss Building Back Better in Scotland post COVID-19.  

Today, 22 June 2020, the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery published its report, ‘Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland’.

As an organisation whose purpose is to support the creation of a wellbeing economy in Scotland we are excited to see the prominence given to this goal in the report’s title.

Our initial sense is that there are parts to praise and unfortunately parts that fall short in recognising the type of transformation that could truly transform Scotland into a wellbeing economy.

We welcome the ‘four pillars’ approach laid out in the report, which gives business, people, community, and the environment balanced priority. This is an important step to designing a wellbeing economy, although a true wellbeing economy approach goes one step further to say that business and economic activity must be designed to serve people and planet, not thrive alongside them. After all, what is the benefit of an economy if it does not directly serve the people who sustain it?  We would also add that conflating business with the economy in the four pillars seems to miss the vital role of unpaid role of care and social reproduction in families and communities in supporting the market economy. This would be a serious blind spot for a country where the gender equality discussion is better than in other localities.

We are also concerned at the extent to which a desire for ‘growth’ still features prominently in the report’s language. What kind of growth? And for whom? Simply adding ‘inclusive’ and ‘sustainable’ modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

Indeed, the answers are the crux of what separates a traditional, growth-driven system from a true wellbeing economy. A wellbeing economy is one that is purposed and designed explicitly for human and ecological wellbeing – economic activity in service of these higher order goals.

In the report’s foreword, Benny Higgins (who led the group tasked with compiling the report’s recommendations) states: ‘Scotland had the ambition to become a robust, wellbeing economy. That is one that generates strong economic growth… and that does so with an unequivocal focus on climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality’. We disagree that a wellbeing economy is about generating “strong economic growth” – a wellbeing economy would ask: ‘what sort of growth – and for whom – is needed for collective wellbeing?’ It is about the economy (and growth where necessary) being in service of delivering collective wellbeing.

For example, we welcome the emphasis on conditionality in business support and recommendations such as a jobs guarantee: the post-covid economy cannot be one where businesses get away with social and environmental harm while young people see their future ebbing away.

Recognition that a wellbeing economy attends to climate change, fair work, diversity, and equality is promising to hear. The report rightly gives prominent focus to green recovery tests, and to circular economy principles.

Again though – and crucially – to truly initiate a wellbeing economy, the restructure must be designed to enable people and planet to flourish while being agnostic to economic growth, not dependent on it.

The Advisory Group’s report is a good starting point, and we welcome the embrace of the ‘wellbeing economy’ concept. The conversation can’t end here – not least when creating a wellbeing economy requires substantial economic transformation. We look forward to continuing the conversation with Government, businesses, and the wider public as we all move into this new era of economic recovery. Scotland has an opportunity to lead the world in truly putting collective wellbeing at the heart of economic policy making and creating an economy that delivers for people and planet first time around.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop declared in Parliament yesterday that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”

Speaking about plans to get the Scottish economy moving again after the covid-19 lockdown, Hyslop was clear that business as usual should not be the default:

“We must be brave and bold and rethink the world of work,” she said as she outlines the three steps required to restart Scotland’s economy in 14 separate sectors, stressing that it must be done safely and will involve…

  • Measures to suppress the virus
  • Guidance that supports fair and safe workplaces
  • The right structures for workplace regulation

Encouragingly, she went on to say that we “need a revolution in economic thinking that stimulates and values cooperative sharing of risk and reward, to rethink what value is”.

While touching on workers’ rights, remote working and a green recovery, Ms Hyslop added that “collective endeavour” should replace “old thinking on battling over wealth distribution, which has never properly delivered”.

See more coverage on BBC News.

Scotland is one of four members of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, alongside New Zealand, Iceland and Wales. Find out more about this initiative here and about WEAll Scotland – the dedicated Scottish hub of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance – here.

The Welsh Government has announced its official membership of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

In a statement by Jane Hutt, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, the government said:

“Covid-19 has dramatically changed our lives and will have a lasting and profound effect on all of us, on our economy, on our public services and on our communities. We cannot go back to business as normal, and need to plan for a Wales, shaped by the virus, that is more prosperous, more equal and greener, rooted in our commitment to social-economic and environmental justice. Last week, we joined the Well-being Economy Government (WEGo) Network and will be working with Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand – who all have a shared ambition to deliver and improve well-being through their economic approach.”

Alongside Finland, Wales has already participated in WEGo policy forums with the founding members Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand.

Jane Hutt went on to talk about the country’s pioneering Wellbeing of Future Generations Act:

“The Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, with its seven well-being goals, provides a long term vision of Wales, agreed by the Senedd back in 2015, puts us on a strong footing to guide us in these unchartered water. Thinking about the long term, involving people, joining up policies and delivery of services, collaborating across all sectors, and focusing on prevention is crucial in working more effectively with people, communities and each other to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change. In the First Minister’s statement on the Framework to Lead Wales out of the Coronavirus Pandemic  the Future Generations Act is part of the principles by which we will examine proposed measures to ease the current restrictions, grounded in both scientific evidence and wider impact.”

If you’re based in Wales and would like to get involved with helping promote and build a wellbeing economy there, we can connect you to the team setting up the brand new WEAll Cymru hub. Get in touch at info@wellbeingeconomy.org mentioning Wales in the subject line.

Read the full statement and find out more about the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act here.

Find out more about the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership here.

 

 

To coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the publication of the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the Carnegie UK Trust is publishing a series of blogs which outline the approach taken to measuring and improving wellbeing by different governments, organisations and initiatives around the world.

 

 


By Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Scottish Government

Delivering wellbeing to the people of Scotland is embedded at the centre of Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) and is key to the Scottish Government’s approach to the economy, which seeks to deliver wellbeing through sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The goal and objective of all economic policy should be collective wellbeing. This broader approach is at the very heart of our Economic Strategy, published in 2015, which gives equal importance to tackling inequality as economic competitiveness.

A key limitation of traditional measures of the economy, most notably GDP, is that they are limited in what they can tell us about the distribution of income and wealth across society, the components of economic growth and whether that growth is sustainable for future generations.  Traditional measures of economic performance do not capture many of the drivers of wellbeing and the things that matter to people – for example health, living standards, quality of environment, security of employment, civic engagement and so on.

Sustainable and inclusive economic growth enables us to look beyond simple headline measures to consider outcomes across a broader range of performance criteria to allow for a more rounded assessment of the quality of our economic system and the distribution of economic opportunities across Scotland’s people and places.

Scotland, by putting wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, is on a journey and we have significant roads still to travel. There are other countries taking a similar approach to tackling some of the big defining challenges that the world currently faces. We know we can learn from international organisations and countries across the world, and share with them our experiences, which is why in 2018 Scotland and partners established the Wellbeing Economy Governments group, or WEGo as it is known.

In WEGo, the Scottish Government is working alongside Iceland and New Zealand – and in the coming year we expect to be joined by one or two new members – to promote sharing of expertise and transferable policy practices among governments who have a shared ambition of deepening their understanding of delivering wellbeing through their economic approach. Our countries have a lot of similarities but also face lots of different challenges. WEGo provides a forum to exchange ideas on our shared priorities and aims to move the idea of wellbeing economy from theory into practice.

A key activity of the group is the Economic Policy Labs, and the first of these were held in Edinburgh in May 2019. One of the areas discussed there was wellbeing budgeting. New Zealand published their first wellbeing budget in that month and their experience, and what we have learnt through our group, has informed activities both here in Scotland and in Iceland. Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir has set out that a wellbeing budget is being developed in Iceland. Here in Scotland, the budget that I presented to Parliament in February 2020 put wellbeing and fairness at its heart, prioritising actions that have the greatest impact on improving lives across Scotland now, and creating the conditions that are required to ensure wellbeing for future generations.

As Cabinet Secretary for Finance, I am keen to continue, both to collaborate with like-minded countries and to develop our own wellbeing budgeting approach for Scotland. Delivering the outcomes set out in the NPF should be at the centre of how we allocate and spend resources.

But building a wellbeing economy is not the role of government alone. Whilst governments should show leadership – and I believe the Scottish Government is already doing that, see the TED talk given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in July 2019 – individuals, businesses and organisations across our society have a big role to play. We are committed to working with all those seeking to advance the concept and the reality of a wellbeing economy, both now and in the years ahead.

Finally, as we see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally and how it is changing people’s lives, what they value, how they work and interact with each other, a wellbeing economy framing with strong public services seems so obvious. Out of this crisis we will hopefully see a greater emergence of this approach in economies across the world.

Reposted from Carnegie UK Trust website

The government of Canberra in Australia has introduced a new 12-point wellbeing framework in order to “make Canberra an even more liveable city where our entire community can thrive.”

This encouraging step towards building a wellbeing economy is based on a broad understanding of wellbeing. The official government website act.gov.au/wellbeing explains the plans as follows:

“Definitions of wellbeing are typically broad and diverse, encompassing a wide range of areas that impact on an individual’s quality of life. Generally, having the opportunity and ability to lead lives of personal and community value – with qualities such as good health, time to enjoy the things in life that matter, in an environment that promotes personal growth – are at the heart of wellbeing.

When talking about individual wellbeing, we often speak to a person’s physical and mental health, the strength of connections they share with people around them, or their financial position. More expansive indicators of wellbeing can be a person’s relationship to their surroundings, such as their safety, their capacity to enjoy and live in harmony with the natural and built environment, or their ability to be mobile in their community. These aspects of wellbeing are not independent of each other. They operate together and influence one another, creating complex relationships that are in turn shaped by an individual’s lived experience.

Our vitality as a city is the result of the various lived experiences across the community. Ultimately, feeling healthy and happy will mean different things to different people. Capturing all these aspects of a person’s lived experience can be inherently complex. Before attempting to measure the wellbeing of our community, we have spoken with and heard from thousands of Canberrans about what they feel is most important to their own, their family’s, and their community’s quality of life.”

Wellbeing flower

Find out more on the ACT government website here.

WEAll was honoured to be part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth at the UK Parliament this week.

Chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas, and convened by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, the APPG provides a platform for cross-party dialogue on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.

This session was the group’s AGM and it had a special focus on Wellbeing Economics. Professor Tim Jackson, a WEAll Ambassador, had prepared this briefing paper on tackling growth dependency.

The paper sets out a three-fold strategy for moving beyond GDP by: changing the way we measure success; building a consistent policy framework for a ‘wellbeing economy’; and addressing the ‘growth dependency’ of the economy.

In particular, the briefing recommends:

  • a determined effort to develop new measures of societal wellbeing and sustainable prosperity;
  • the full integration of these measures into central and local government decision-making processes;
  • the alignment of regulatory, fiscal and monetary policy with the aims of achieving a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy;
  • the establishment of a formal inquiry into reducing the ‘growth dependency’ of the UK economy;
  • the development of a long-term, precautionary ‘post-growth’ strategy for the UK.

A packed room of MPs and peers from all political parties was addressed first by Peter Schmidt, rapporteur to the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) recent ‘own initiative opinion’ on The sustainable economy we need, then by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Communications and Mobilisation lead at WEAll.

Lisa focused her remarks on the need for new economic narratives, and the role of policy makers in helping shape those narratives. Explaining the work of WEAll and its members, she also gave details of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (WEGo) which has Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand collaborating towards their shared goal of promoting economies based on wellbeing.

A robust and positive discussion followed the presentations, with clear interest in wellbeing economy ideas from all attendees and encouraging suggestions for driving the agenda forward at UK level.

Caroline Lucas has raised an Early Day Motion in Parliament in support of the findings on the EESC opinion, and the principles of a wellbeing economy. It is garnering support with more MPs across the political spectrum – you can view the motion here, and if you live in the UK, share it with your MP asking them to support it.

Reposted from OpenDemocracy 

By Katherine Trebeck

Back in the 1800s, scholars in the field of economics cast an envious glance at their colleagues in science.

They envied physics, with its laws of gravity. They looked with green-eyes at those studying chemistry, with its elements and atoms. And they longingly admired their biologist chums with their categorisations and evolutionary adaptation.

Now more than a century on, as we begin the third decade of the third millennium, economics no longer seems to take heed of science, let alone defer to scientific realities.

It is (invariably mainstream) economists with their contentions and blind spots that drive so much policy making, not scientists with their evidence-based models and forecasts.

The tables have well and truly turned. And nowhere is this so sorely – and painfully – acute as in Australia in the summer of 2019 and 2020.

Bushfires rage across the country, fuelled by record heat, and are now surging through acres of parched land dryer than ever after the worst drought in a generation.

In response, the Australian Prime Minister has held fast to a vision that a growing economy is the only option. He told a national TV station that “What we won’t do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching [green] targets which are being sought”.

What Morrison is effectively asserting is that the economy matters more than the science – in fact, that a certain model of the economy matters more, one in which the sole purpose of the environment is as an input to production and where it is assumed that growth will translate to benefits for all. This positions the economy at the top of the food chain, dropping crumbs to communities and extracting from the planet rather than something that is dependent on society which operates as a sub-set of the natural world.

Believing that the economy’s pre-eminence warrants downplaying all other concerns is a mindset that dismisses reams of scientific evidence and warnings. It turns a blinkered eye to why communities are being told to take shelter on beaches, why the Australian Navy is being brought in to rescue them and why a toddler was given a medal to posthumously honour his firefighter father who was killed with two other volunteer ‘firies’ (as us Aussies affectionately term them) when a tree fell on their vehicle.

What is happening in Australia is unprecedented.

It is what scientists have warned would happen.

It is going to be the new normal.

Perhaps most importantly, it is the loudest wake up call mother nature could send humanity to tell us that the wounds we have inflicted on her are taking an untenable toll.

Many times in the past I have heard those advocating for a new economic model say that when a ‘crisis’ comes, the movement for a more humane economy needs to be ready with ideas and visions, as that is when these ideas will finally get traction. That tactic always jarred – it seemed a rather privileged perspective that ignored or discounted that for many years many people around the world have already been suffering from the impacts of an economic model that treated people and planet as inputs to production. But, admittedly, such ostensible lack of solidarity or empathy may have come with some real politik. It recognises – perhaps implicitly – power imbalances.

And many of those impacted by the Australian fires are powerful. Many are wealthy. Many are people who have benefited from the growth-ist economic model because they are perched at the top of the pile. The coast houses of bankers, doctors, and property developers have been destroyed. New Year’s Eve parties have been moved from balconies with their harbour views indoors to escape the smoke. Corporate sponsored cricket matches have been called off because visibility got too bad. Yes, these are the folk with the resources to cope and recover, but maybe they’ll help nudge the balance of the conversation.

While Australia continues to burn, we can hope that what most Australians have been recognising will finally be heeded: that this monstrous cry for help from the planet is what flips back the agenda, so that economics returns to its deference to, and awe of, science. That scientific and natural laws will trump dubious dreams of trickle down. That now that wealthy and powerful people are also being hit by nature’s fury, they will join the ranks of frontline communities around the world and lend their voices and resources to mobilising for the transition that countries like Australia need to make towards an economy that respects the planet and priorities social justice and a healthy environment.

Building this new economic model doesn’t need to be disruptive – it can and must be just. There are ways and resources to protect livelihoods and, even better, to ensure that those most shafted by the current economic model are first served. But no longer can it be dismissed as ‘reckless’ to protect one sector – coal – at the cost of so many houses, lungs, biodiversity and precious wildlife.

Here’s hoping that 2020 is the year that new alliances come together to recognise that this crisis is one that hurts us all, and that a more humane economy that is gentler on the planet is one that will be good for everyone.

Minister of Social Affairs and Health in Finland, Pirkko Mattila, has set out new plans for prioritising “The Economy of Wellbeing” as a means to taking a holistic approach to tackle future challenges.

Read the full article on Open Access Government here.