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New WEAll Briefing paper published today:

‘With your support we kept going, what else were we to do?’ Linwood as a microcosm of the beginnings of a wellbeing economy (click to download PDF)

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Advocacy and Influencing lead with Kirsty Flannigan and Jim Boyle

For any new idea to be supported, let alone adopted, it needs to be visualised.

Sometimes that is via story telling that offers a coherent and compelling narrative. Sometimes that will be by seeing the idea played out in practice and getting a sense of what it looks and feels like.

Ideally, it will be both.

This applies to the diverse movement working to build a wellbeing economy: we need to work upwards from practical experience and outwards from conversations that open up people’s sense of the possibility that the economy can operate for, rather than against, humanity.

Rarely though (under the current economic system), is it possible to see the richness of an idea embodied in so many dimensions in one place. Fortunately, in Linwood, a town of just over ten thousand people on the outskirts of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, efforts to build what can be described as a wellbeing economy can be seen in action.

The Linwood story encompasses not just what a wellbeing economy might entail, but also why such a new economic model needs to be built, in Linwood and beyond.

In many ways, the story of Linwood reflects the story of the global economy. It has powerful actors in the form of corporate and institutional protagonists. And it has those who suffer from an economic model misaligned with what people need: local families who just want to get on with their lives and buy produce locally, play football on local pitches, share a cup of coffee together in a local cafe, and feel that the economy with which they interact is working for them.

The characters in Linwood’s story include heroic women fighting against an impersonal bureaucracy. It has heartache and triumphs, and its long history is still ongoing with the possibility of another instalment just around the corner.

Rather than telling the story of Linwood in a chronological sense, its story of the last few decades is set out here via challenges and objectives that will be familiar to those in the wellbeing economy movement around the world:

  • Deep systemic causes beyond the manifest symptoms
  • Local perseverance in resisting an imposed and inappropriate agenda, but so often coming up against power and system intransigence
  • The cultivation of business models that are designed for social benefit
  • Bottom up economic development; and
  • A bold new vision for how the economy can operate.

Together, the story of Linwood provides hope that a wellbeing economy can be built in the face of system resistance, by a few determined people with their eyes set on an economy that works for them.

Download the full paper here.

Image: Linwood CDT

A pioneering new book “Sustainable Wellbeing Futures: A Research and Action Agenda for Ecological Economics” is soon to be published, outlining the various dimensions of a wellbeing economy and setting out a research and action plan for change.

Throughout February and March, WEAll is highlighting some of the book’s ideas by sharing short abstracts from each chapter. It is due to be published in May 2020 – find out more and order a copy here.

 

Creating Positive Futures for Humanity on Earth
By Robert Costanza, Elizabeth M. B. Doran, Tatiana Gladkikh, Ida Kubiszewski, Valerie Luzadis, and Eric Zencey

We cannot predict the future, but we can design and help create the future we want.  To do this we need to better understand how cultures evolve and change and how to overcome societal addictions and roadblocks to positive change.  Creating a shared vision is a critical step in this process. Goal setting, envisioning and scenario planning are important tools that have been used to guide and enable transitions in businesses, communities, and individuals. On the world stage, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important step toward creating a shared vision of a positive future for all countries on Earth. This chapter discusses these theories, tools, and processes and how they have been used to create alternative futures to motivate and guide major transitions.  It then proposes a research and action agenda to enable better understanding of cultural evolution, how to direct it toward desired goals, and how to create a shared vision of the goal  – a world of sustainable wellbeing we all want.

 

Work, Labour, and Regenerative Production

By Kaitlin Kish and Stephen Quilley

In this chapter, we revisit Marxist critiques of deskilling and alienation and review recent work in relation to the ontology of the labour process and the possibility of more meaningful work in an Ecological Economics (EE) context. The movements and phenomena that we survey include: the re-emergence of the arts and crafts sensibility in the form of the ‘maker’ movement; the sharing economy; ‘regenerative’ economies; new forms of bartering, gifting and trading facilitated by information and communication technologies; a new significance attaching to residual and seemingly anachronistic guilds; and emerging traditions associated with new forms of work. On this basis of we review potentially fertile areas for future EE research, demarcating in the process a number of significant themes including: making as a hobby and leisure activity, a vocation, an occupation and a career; making as a dimension of transformative education; automation versus/or integrated with fabrication by hand; the issues of hand/brain re-integration and de-alienation; the connection between making and patterns of place and reconnection with local biosphere; the connections between this kind of radical political economy on the one hand and restoration ecology and indigenous studies on the other; and the tension between the prospective regenerative economy (repair and reuse) and the tendency towards increased ephemeralization. On this basis we explore possibilities for a simultaneous contraction, expansion and innovation in the roles of municipal and regional governments in facilitating the emergence of a vibrant and more embedded reMaker economy.

 

Ecological economics can help create the future that most people want – a future that is prosperous, just, equitable and sustainable.

Ecological economics (EE) is a transdiscipline. While it is difficult to categorise ecological economics in the same way one would a normal academic discipline, it can be characterised in general by its goals, worldview, and methodology.  The overarching goal is sustainable wellbeing of both humans and the rest of nature, with three broad sub-goals of sustainable scale, fair distribution, and efficient allocation of resources.

An exploration of what ecological economics is and why we need it more than ever, is the opening chapter of a pioneering new book “Sustainable Wellbeing Futures: A Research and Action Agenda for Ecological Economics.” Authored by the book’s editors Robert Costanza, Jon D. Erickson, Joshua Farley, and Ida Kubiszewski, the article sets out how the ecological economics worldview includes an interdependent, co-evolving, complex whole system perspective of economies embedded in societies embedded in the rest of nature.

In the foreword to the book, Professor Jacqueline McGlade reflects on the wellbeing economy movement and where it must go next:

“The first global political manifestation of a shift towards wellbeing economies becoming mainstream emerged in 2018, with the decision by the leaders of Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand, to form the Wellbeing Economies Group. Their goal is to implement economic policies with the objective of delivering the collective wellbeing of their nations, looking at how happy the population is, not just how wealthy it is, creating fair work that is well-paid and based on worthwhile and fulfilling work, and which values a transition to longer term sustainability.

Sustainable Wellbeing Futures provides the robust and well-articulated body of knowledge that these national endeavours will need.

The ideas that Sustainable Wellbeing Futures brings to life have been borne out of thousands of hours of discussions about the multiple aspects of wellbeing and ecological economics. Shortcomings have been probed and examined and answers found. The importance of this book is that it provides solutions and examples of how we – as individuals, organisations, governments – can work together to turn the tide against the destructive changes in our world. These examples should give us hope and inspiration. We should also take encouragement from the volume itself; it is heartening to see so many leading researchers and thinkers working together to provide a coherent, multidisciplinary voice, stating loud and clear what is happening and how we can deliver our future wellbeing.”

This forward-thinking book lays out an alternative approach that places the sustainable wellbeing of humans and the rest of nature as the overarching goal. Each of the book’s chapters, written by a diverse collection of scholars and practitioners, outlines a research and action agenda for how this future can look and possible actions for its realisation.

Over the coming weeks, WEAll will be highlighting some of these ideas by sharing short abstracts from each chapter. It is due to be published in May 2020 – find out more and order a copy here.

 

 

 

A new WEAll Ideas paper has been published today, setting out what a wellbeing economy is in a variety of styles.

Compiled by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Katherine Trebeck, Claire Sommer and Stewart Wallis, this ten-page PDF document aims to make wellbeing economy concepts accessible and clear to all readers.

All the material contained in the short paper has emerged from conversations and discussions with people in the WEAll family and beyond. Much of it is synthesised from their reports, papers and vision documents. There are too many minds and ideas to acknowledge them all individually, but their work is vital in informing understanding of a wellbeing economy.

Download the paper “What is a wellbeing economy?” here

What are WEAll Ideas papers?

Little Summaries of Big Issues

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance seeks to make the economy more humane and more sustainable. With over 100 affiliated groups across the world, we are as broad as the current model is narrow – diverse in our experience, expertise, focus, strategy, and our spheres of influence.

We agree that not only do we need to collaborate to have the impact we need – ‘togetherness above agreement’ – we also share a sense of what a wellbeing economy is. Different parts of the movement will emphasise different elements and add more details as their experience, knowledge, and focus allows – but they will do so from a common sense of what a wellbeing economy is all about.

The ‘WEAll Ideas: Little Summaries of Big Issues’ paper series is an attempt to share some of that sense in different formats that are useful for different audiences.

The content in this paper is drawn from the wellbeing economy community in its broadest sense. Our founding members contributed to the goals/fundamentals/building blocks – themselves drawing on processes of engagement, dialogue and discussion with their networks. People from all over the world have added to the Old Way Vs New Way matrix. And WEAll’s communications group has helped draft the everyday explanation.

 

At the end of 2017, Auchrannie resort on the island of Arran in Scotland became the first Scottish resort to transition to a model of employee ownership. A trust now owns 100% of the company’s shares on behalf of its 160 employees.

The co-founder, and Managing Director since 2010, Linda Johnston said of the employees in relation to the transfer:

“They realise that what each of them does will affect the future success of the business and that this is directly linked to their own success, so they have already become more engaged in making the business better and understand the power and influence each and every one of them now has on their own future.”

 

New targets for the business

New efficiency targets for the business, agreed by the ‘new owners’, created the conditions to become a Real Living Wage Accredited Employer in April of 2018.

While the efficiency targets helped boost profitability, paving the way for the introduction of the Real Living Wage, there was also a recognition that the introduction of the wage would in and of itself support further financial benefits. These included lower staff recruitment costs (due to higher retention), greater productivity and increased occupancy from an improved reputation.

Linda Johnston, MD of Auchrannie resort

“Employee ownership will give the whole Auchrannie team a stake in the continued growth of the business. All of us will work together to build a more efficient, sustainable and profitable business.”
explains Linda Johnston

 

Since the acquisition of a 16-room guest house in 1988 by Linda and her late husband Iain, the resort has become home to two 4-star hotels, 30 5-star self-catering lodges, 14 luxury ‘Retreats’, two leisure clubs, 3 restaurants, children’s playbarn, a destination spa and outdoor adventure company.

 

Ownership transfer as an exit strategy

The ownership transfer was born of a desire for an exit strategy by the Johnston family (sole owners of the resort) that would allow the business to continue to flourish as well as upholding the ethos of the company, maintaining and motivating the team plus continuing the community’s access to the facilities of the resort.

“We are confident that the collective efforts of our fantastic team will continue to strengthen Auchrannie’s customer care and community focus as well as improving the sustainability of the business going forward.”
adds Linda Johnston, MD and former owner of the resort

Crucially, the transfer arrangements were designed for it to be affordable to the business to be able to reinvest in the future as well as financially reward the employees after the transfer. The previous shareholders will be paid out of the profits of the business over the next 25 years.

  • This is an extract from the forthcoming ‘The Business of Wellbeing – Alternatives to Business as Usual’ Guide, launching in January 2020. For more extracts, please click here
  • To stay informed of the release of each extract, please sign up to our newsletter here.

 

No founder will ever forget the day their business legally came to life. The birth of this new entity comes with a great sense of responsibility. Many business owners feel a great deal of emotional attachment to their creation as it unfolds, develops and grows. 

Ownership and governance play a crucial role in business as we attempt to transition towards a wellbeing economy. Holding on to what is most important can require reimagining what it means to own something. Here are 3 important elements to consider: 

  1. Decision making
  2. Growing pains
  3. The Social and the Environmental

How can ownership support effective decision making?

Recent research has shown that more than two thirds of employees are not fully engaged in their work, affecting motivation, commitment and ultimately also productivity.

James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3

“Collaborative endeavours will be more effective if people affected by decisions are involved in making them, or at least that they are able to influence decisions that affect them, on the basis of sound reasons for doing so.”
 James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3

 

According to a recent McKinsey survey, we spend about 37% of our work time on decision making.

Decision making, made in the absence of an understanding of the full picture, can affect the level of agility to respond to a changing environment (changing market demands, risk factors, regulations etc.). 

In commonly used ownership structures, influence and business information are mostly centralised to a few decision-makers. As a result, employees, customers, and affected communities and the planet are often left out of decision-making processes.

“Management hierarchies centralize decision making. While this is effective in some contexts, collaborative endeavours are more likely to succeed if you shift responsibility for significant elements of decision making close to where value is created.”
 James Priest, Co-developer of Sociocracy 3.0, LearnS3

 

Ultimately, ownership should not be a roadblock to productivity. It should enable it by delegating governance to those affected.

How can ownership affect our trajectory?

Many companies started out life in response to a social need – sometimes influenced by their founders’ religious beliefs. The UK confectionery Cadbury’s was begun by a Quaker. The Spanish cooperative Mondragon by a Catholic priest. The UK retailer Marks and Spencer by an impoverished Jewish boy from Belarussia. These organizations, like many others, have struggled through organisational growth and change of ownership to stay true to, and serve, their initial purpose. 

An ownership and governance structure that supports affected key stakeholders to have a voice in decision-making can help organisations to stay true to their mission. 

Katherine Trebeck, author of The Economics of Arrival

“Investor demands on business can take away from a business’s original mission. Without ownership and governance models designed to protect the interests of all stakeholders, there is a risk that actions focussing on the short-term will prevail.”
says Dr. Katherine Trebeck, author of ‘The Economics of Arrival’

 

As companies grow, they often start to be viewed as commodities, controllable by the highest bidder. Business-as-usual governance models are designed to maximise shareholder influence and often ignore stakeholder interests.

 

Martin Rich, FutureFit

“Listed companies are owned by nobody because they’re ostensibly owned by everybody, the result is a lack of responsibility.”
Martin Rich, FutureFit

 

This means economic interests and short-term profit gains can often overrule organisational values and principles, social and environmental concerns and even the long-term success of the business.

Even Patagonia, often held up as the poster child of sustainability, is wrestling with these questions as they head north of the $1bn mark in annual sales. They are beginning to question whether their scale is a hindrance to being truly regenerative.

Hunter Lovins, President of Natural Capitalism Solutions

“Scale is a real problem for change.”
Hunter Lovins, President, Natural Capital Solutions

 

As a business grows and occupies a new role in the market, there is a need to evolve to a model of stewardship. This means influence is delegated to a range of stakeholders to ensure informed decisions can be made by those affected.

 

Who’s responsible for the social and the environmental?

Traditionally, consideration of social and the environmental impacts was an afterthought for businesses, once the business of the economic i.e. financial had been taken care of. That has begun to change with statements from various business groupings that profit maximisation will no longer be the sole focus for their business.

Patrick Andrews, Co-Founder of Human Organising Co.

As a general rule, ownership brings responsibility. So it’s something of an anomaly that the owners of companies have no legal responsibility for their actions. If you own a share in a company that breaks the law, pollutes the environment or even kills someone, you can’t be touched. Is this not strange? 
Comments Patrick Andrews, Co-Founder of Human Organising Co.

 

However, saying it and actually doing it are two very different things. One way to help ensure we move from words to action is by bringing other voices into the governance model. Check out our first case study – Riversimple for such an example. Another is employee ownership, a model discussed in our second case study, that of Auchrannie Resort.

A landmark new briefing from the European Environment Agency published this week has revealed that consumption of clothing, footwear and household textiles in the European Union (EU) uses annually about 1.3 tonnes of raw materials and more than 100 cubic metres of water per person.

The report recommends that a wide-scale change towards circular economy in textiles production and consumption is needed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, resource use and pressures on nature.

The EEA briefing ‘Textiles in Europe’s circular economy’ presents the latest evidence on environmental and climate impacts from the consumption of textile products ranging from clothing and footwear to carpets and furniture in the EU. The briefing is based on a technical report by the EEA’s European Topic Centre on Waste and Materials in a Green Economy (ETC/WMGE).

According to the EEA study, the production and handling of clothing, footwear and household textiles that were sold in the EU in 2017 used an estimated 1.3 tonnes of primary raw materials and 104 cubic metres of water per EU person. About 85 % of these materials and 92 % of the water were used in other regions of the world.

For water consumption and the use of primary raw materials, clothing, footwear and household textiles represent the fourth highest consumption category in the EU, after food, housing and transport. The same product group causes the second highest pressure on land use (after food), and also a considerable amount of chemical and water pollution, including plastic microfibres released through washing, as well as various negative social impacts.

The EEA briefing also shows that the production of clothing, footwear and household textiles for Europeans caused an estimated 654 kg of CO2 equivalent emissions per EU capita, making textiles the fifth largest source of CO2 emissions linked to private consumption. About three quarters of these emissions took place outside of the EU.

Circular economy policies and principles, such as eco-design and reusing, hold potential to mitigate the environmental and climate impacts of textile production and consumption, the EEA briefing states. Current EU policies require Member States to collect textiles separately by 2025 and ensure that waste collected separately is not incinerated or landfilled.

According to the EEA, circular business models in textiles — such as leasing, sharing, and take-back and resale — need to be scaled up with the support of policies addressing materials and design, production and distribution, use and reuse, collection and recycling. This can include policies such as sustainable production and product policies, eco design and durability standards,  green public procurement, safe and sustainable materials, waste prevention and  extended producer responsibility, and labelling and standards.

Download the report here

By Samantha Kagan

Those who follow the development and proliferation of wellbeing economics are likely already aware that earlier this year, New Zealand became the first country to reorient its national budget and decision-making framework to centre on wellbeing expansion, rather than on GDP growth. The shift was momentous, and it was executed with the intent from the Government of improving its service to citizens. Minister of Finance Hon Grant Robertson claimed in his speech introducing the new approach that “The things that New Zealanders valued were not being sufficiently valued by the Government”, and this was leading to outcomes undesired by citizens.[1] However, he relayed confidence that implementing the new wellbeing framework would rectify previous missteps and improve outcomes delivered by government. The new approach was well-intentioned, but little evidence existed to support the notion that citizens are more satisfied with a government that pursues wellbeing expansion over one that focuses on GDP growth. I conducted a study to investigate this assumption, and I found evidence that the Minister, in fact, was correct: in New Zealand, citizens are more likely to regard the government highly when wellbeing expands, rather than when GDP grows.

I came to this conclusion using two complementary methods of analysis. First, I examined correlations between GDP and satisfaction with the government’s performance, then between wellbeing and the same measure. I found a tendency for government satisfaction to move more closely with wellbeing factors than it does with GDP level or GDP growth rate. Next, I distributed surveys to New Zealanders that pitted hypothetical policies against one another and asked participants to indicate which option they would support. One policy would grow GDP, while the other would expand wellbeing, and results showed a preference for the latter.

The findings of my study are encouraging, as they suggest leaders in New Zealand acted rationally by shifting government priorities to focus on wellbeing. The objective for adopting this scheme was to improve satisfaction among citizens, and it appears that the strategy was well-calculated. According to Adam Smith, the value of any government is judged in proportion to the extent that it makes citizens happy.[2] Leaders in New Zealand improved their performance in this sense and have good reason to claim victory.

In other nations where government satisfaction is a concern, leaders would be sensible to consider launching a response like New Zealand’s. In Iceland and Scotland, such action is already underway, as each country’s government has introduced a plan to comprehensively restructure its framework.[3] In Britain, although the proposal is yet to be approved, individual policymakers are pushing for wellbeing to take precedence over GDP in government decision making.[4] Examples set by these countries and findings like those in this study should motivate policymakers to contemplate pivoting toward wellbeing to earn more satisfied citizens.

While improving contentment of citizens is itself a valuable objective, the findings of my study also have important implications for policy options available to legislators. Traditionally, policymakers are bound by the paramount goal of GDP expansion. If an otherwise sensible policy appears to threaten growth, it is usually denounced for precisely that reason. This study suggests when a policy is generally constructive, the fact that it may hurt growth should not lead to its automatic dismissal, and if the policy will enhance wellbeing, then it should be given serious consideration. In response to issues like the climate crisis or worsening mental health conditions, the most effective solutions may not be those most conducive to growth. They may even diminish GDP. This study, however, suggests that the public would prefer policies that sacrifice growth in the name of wellbeing, rather than forego wellbeing to consistently safeguard growth. Therefore, policymakers should feel encouraged to maintain a level of indifference toward GDP while observing wellbeing as the primary measure of their legislative success. A new range of policies will become available to them, and citizens will likely become more satisfied as a result.

Samantha Kagan from LSE with a distinction in Inequalities and Social Science. This blog summarises the findings of her dissertation: “Satisfied citizens: how GDP growth and wellbeing expansion relate to government satisfaction”

[1] Robertson, G. (2019) ‘Budget Speech’. New Zealand Government. Available at: https://www.budget.govt.nz/budget/pdfs/speech/b19-speech.pdf (Accessed: 25 June 2019).

[2] Smith, A. (1976) The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Oxford University Press.

[3] WEGo: Wellbeing Economy Governments (2019). Available at: http://wellbeingeconomygovs.org/ (Accessed: 7 July 2019).

[4] Partington, R. (2019) ‘Wellbeing should replace growth as “main aim of UK spending”’, The Guardian, 24 May. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/24/wellbeing-should-replace-growth-as-main-aim-of-uk-spending (Accessed: 7 August 2019).

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Ideas can change the world. And misplaced ones can hold back progress. Myths and half truths about economics influence decision making across government and in business, and there are fundamental flaws in how economics is invariably taught.

To build an alternative and underpin the transition to a wellbeing economy, we need a strong and coherent knowledge and evidence base. Much is already known about what policies and ways of doing things need to change to change the world. But the theoretical base is disparate and would-be practitioners lack useful guidelines for implementation. The knowledge is scattered and often inaccessible.

So, what’s WEAll doing?

WEAll – via the Knowledge and Policy cluster – is helping bring together and promote wellbeing economy theory and practice.

We’ve been producing a diverse suite of knowledge products accessible to all sorts of practitioners, policy makers, and interested individuals.

We’ve gathered some of the most exciting and well-regarded thinkers on aspects of a wellbeing economy in a WEAll Research Fellows Network. Their work explores all corners of a wellbeing economy. They will contribute to the various publications WEAll is curating. Their expertise will be drawn on to help practitioners and politicians seeking to create a wellbeing economy.

We’re developing plans for an online interactive library. Interested people will be able to find their way to the most useful material for their interests, needs, and level of awareness.

We’re commissioning synthesis of the current state of the knowledge base in various areas of a wellbeing economy in our series ‘WEAll Ideas: Little Summaries of Big Issues’.

We’ve outlined how the wellbeing economy would deal with and respond to a range of issues, topics and challenges (and how this differs to the response of the current system). This provides an ‘at a glance’ insight into a wellbeing economy (see wellbeingeconomy.org/oldwaynewway).

We’ve published dozens of blogs, authored papers and articles for a range of outlets and even some books. We’ve also given media interviews; recorded many podcasts; and given presentations in many different countries to a range of audiences. You can see these featured in the WEAll news updates.

We’ve been active in policy influencing – speaking at All Party Parliamentary Groups and holding meetings with civil servants and members of parliament.

Leadership built on ideas

And of course WEAll instigated the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership that was the ‘big idea’ at the centre of Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland’s 2019 TED talk. We have ongoing liaison with the civil servants leading this work and are supporting the engagement of additional members.

Without the ideas, energy, guidance, expertise of our members, this work would be slow going. Instead it has momentum and ambitious plans.

With your help, we can build on our strong start and sustain this work to build solid roots for the wellbeing economy movement.

 

Right now, WEAll is running our #WEAllGive fundraising drive so we can keep broadening the movement and developing the knowledge required to drive change.

Donate today to help make it happen.