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By Katherine Trebeck, Wellbeing Economy Alliance

In one of the most artificial surroundings it is possible to imagine – a purpose-built conference zone near Incheon in South Korea – three thousand people gathered to explore the future of wellbeing. This was the 6th wellbeing forum hosted by the OECD’s statistics unit, a team that has been at the forefront of measuring quality of life for over a decade.

Discussions ranged from how data can help in the post-truth era to resilience and social protection. Nobel laureates, royalty, heads of international agencies joined with statisticians, civil servants, and academics to debate and learn from each other about the state of play in measurement and the implications for policy making.

And amongst it all, WEAll was making its presence felt.

Wellbeing Economy Governments

WEAll was able to join the launch of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative. WEGo is something the WEAll team initiated (pre-dating the official formation of WEAll) and has been supporting for some time. Seeing it ‘go live’ was an important juncture for the wellbeing economy agenda and WEAll’s role in it.

WEGo is a partnership of national and regional governments, led by Scotland and joined by the likes of New Zealand and Iceland. It will promote sharing of expertise and best practice in designing an economy in service of collective. Its participants are civil servants and ministers who recognise that ‘development’ in the 21st century is a matter of delivering human and ecological wellbeing: wellbeing for people and planet.

The stated objectives of WEGo are:

  • COLLABORATE in pursuit of innovative policy approaches to create wellbeing economies – sharing what works and what doesn’t to inform policymaking for change.
  • PROGRESS toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in line with Goal 17, fostering partnership and cooperation to identify approaches to delivering wellbeing.
  • ADDRESS the pressing economic, social and environmental challenges of our time.

The primary mechanism to advance these goals is a Policy Lab through which government officials will share relevant experience and expertise. Agenda items will include: protecting the natural world, addressing child poverty, undertaking wellbeing budgeting, utilising predictive analytics, and shaping government performance frameworks. In 2019 WEGo’s first Policy Lab will take place and an inaugural gathering of Senior Officials and Ministers from member states is planned to discuss progress in creating wellbeing economies.

Gary Gillespie, the Chief Economist for the Scottish Government, whose office is the secretariat for WEGo, described it as ‘bringing the economic lens back in’ to the wellbeing agenda. Bennedikt Arnason of the Icelandic government spoke of WEGo as the ‘ideal platform to contribute, to share and promote policy making for greater wellbeing’. Professor Joseph Stiglitz described WEGo as a ‘fascinating and important initiative of these governments: putting wellbeing into practice’.

Professor Stiglitz also spoke of the importance of persisting – and this has been the story of getting WEGo to where it is now. It has been a bumpy road as political changes altered governmental priorities (and government personnel). But while WEGo is still a small, fledging project, it has potential to shift the conversation about how economies are designed, how they work, and what they deliver. WEAll will be there cheering it on and helping input to its activities.

WEAll on the main stage

The conference also provided the chance to introduce WEAll into conversations about governance and whole-of-government policy frameworks – I moderated a session on the latter and joined a roundtable on the former and also spoke at an event hosted by the University of Melbourne exploring the importance of community participation in development of beyond-GDP indices and how to bring the lessons of these indices into political decision making.

From Incheon into action

The OECD is playing an important role in upping the ante on wellbeing. In part by hosting these (massive!) global conferences every few years where the big names and rock stars of the wellbeing measurement movement join researchers and people working on translating the ideas and evidence into better government decisions. But, also by ensuring that the statistics and measurements are available, that the frameworks for thinking about operationalising the agenda are shared, and by reinforcing the importance of a broad-based understanding of wellbeing that takes account of people’s circumstances (including future generations), not simply how they report they are feeling.

This matters – the OECD is a large and influential agency. Its reports are read by governments, its assessments of respective country’s performance spurs debate, and its policy recommendations are keenly attended to. Many of the speeches and discussions at the conference wouldn’t have been unfamiliar in WEAll members’ calls. And that gives cause to hope that the momentum and drive to build a wellbeing economy is building in many quarters and (dare we hope?) heading into the mainstream.

 

 

WEAll Knowledge and Policy Lead Katherine is a special guest on the latest podcast from The Rescope Project, talking about the need to build a wellbeing economy, and her forthcoming book ‘The Economics of Arrival: ideas for a grown up economy’.

Listen here, or check it out on Rescope Radio.

https://soundcloud.com/rescoperadio/029-launching-the-wellbeing-economy-alliance-with-research-director-dr-katherine-trebeck?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=twitter

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck is to be a subject of the forthcoming documentary film “Wellbeing Economies”, which focuses on the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) project.

The film will showcase wellbeing economies as a new political and economic vision for our world. A new dedicated website and particularly the blog section provides a look behind the scenes and invites readers to join the film makers on their journey making this film. The About page introduces the team behind the project. If you want to stay updated about what they’re doing, you can sign up to their newsletter here.

Trailer

 

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck writes for CUSP on “Making transformation tangible”.

Excerpt:

“The vision underpinning so much of this work is not far away. You hear it if you take the time to listen to what people identify as most important in their lives. You read it in certain texts of the world’s religions and development scholarship. You see it if you look at brain scans or reflect on the findings of psychologists and epidemiologists about human stress and flourishing. It flows from what Tim Jackson often refers to as what makes us ‘innately human’.

Essentially, the messages from these diverse quarters point to the need for a ‘wellbeing economy’: an economy in service of human and ecological wellbeing. It is about meeting the needs of all. It recognises that the economy is embedded in society and the rest of nature rather than nature and society being in service of the economy. A wellbeing economy is about more than tweaking and fixing the harm caused by the current model.”

Read the full blog here

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck has published a new blog for Transformations Forum, “Teaming up to transform the economy”.

Excerpt:

“A nice vision perhaps, but changing an economic system is extraordinarily challenging.

Fortunately, many are rolling up their sleeves and creating projects, policies, and programmes that illustrate a wellbeing economy: from businesses with a social or environmental mission to new ways of local decision making; from pushing for policies that seek to open up space for experimentation to projects that epitomise – even in microcosm – that things can be done differently.

But how can all these initiatives add up to sometime more systemic? Can they ever be more than the sum of their parts?”

Read the full blog here.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck has written a chapter for a new ebook by Open Democracy, available free here. Edited by Laurie Macfarlane, “New Thinking for the British Economy” brings together leading thinkers to outline the broad pillars of a new economic agenda, and the type of policies that are needed to get us there. As well as more traditional policy areas such as trade, finance, housing and industrial policy, the book explores a range of areas that are not typically considered to be within the sphere of economic policy but which nonetheless play a critical role shaping our political economy – such as the media, our care systems, racial inequalities and our constitutional arrangements.

Katherine’s chapter – “Building a Wellbeing Economy” – explains that GDP is a wholly inadequate measure of progress for the twenty-first century: the narrow pursuit of growth-at-all-costs is failing to meet human needs and destroying the planet. Repurposing the economy away from GDP towards outcomes that align economic success with the delivery of human and ecological wellbeing is therefore an essential step towards an economy that works for people and planet.

Download the ebook for free now.

 

WEAll Policy and Knowledge lead Katherine appears on the latest Politics Galore! podcast, talking wellbeing economies, and a little bit of Scottish politics.

Wondering what WEAll is all about, and what we’re hoping to achieve?

Amp team members Katherine and Lisa wrote a piece for the Transforming Capitalism Lab, part of our member The Presencing Institute.

Read it here and join the discussion.

Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Policy and Knowledge lead, sat down with Brazilian media outlet “This is not the truth” to explore the need for a wellbeing economy and how we can get there.