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Positive and empowering messaging around a Wellbeing Economy is incredibly important and a vital part of our work in catalysing the transition toward a different economic system. On January 20, Positive Money, NEON, PIRC and WEAll, hosted a webinar to present findings on the ‘how to’ of effective messaging around a Wellbeing Economy to a diverse audience. The discussion officially launched the new Wellbeing Economy Messaging guide, which you can find here.

Dora (NEON) introduced the guide and provided 4 key messaging tips from the guide: 

Relating to the first point, shared value is a key tenant to beginning conversations around changing our economic system. What values can we agree on that can underpin our economy? WEAll and its members created the 5 WEAll Needs that showcase the values we believe to represent a Wellbeing Economy:

Dora spoke about how it is key to ensure that people know that they are a part of the economy and can contribute to its development. Most people continue to believe that the economy = money. However, we are the economy and therefore, have the ability to change it.

A feature of the guide that is incredibly useful is a list of Messaging Do’s and Don’ts:

During the webinar, we discussed the importance of shared language. This list above provides the language that we suggest using in order to shape people’s understanding of a Wellbeing Economy and how people can contribute to its development.

After Dora’s presentation, we ended the call with a rich discussion with the audience; we’re sharing some of the key questions, comments, and resources discussed. Watch the webinar to learn the answers to the questions asked below. Questions that were not answered on the call, are answered in italic.  For privacy, we’ve removed last names.

From Robert : How do you deal with words like ‘capitalism’? Do you actively avoid them?

From Madis : Instead of capitalism, some suggest to use the term “growthism”, which sounds more neutral. What are your thoughts?

From Rhiannon : Can you give any more examples of that common ground starting point? What shared values should we lead with?

From JOANNA : How much does the word ‘wellbeing’ resonate with people? Is it understood what it means?

From jo : Absolutely don’t problematise, but if we are trying to say the economy as it is, harms people, many people will think ‘really?’ as they live very comfortable lifestyles. How do we persuade them this is not so?

From Morven (she/her) – Sustain : Question – what about communicating to people we know are quite opposed to our ideas? i.e. to national govt, or specific Tory politicians. When someone has ideological preconceptions, they will turn off to certain messaging but listen up when they hear things like ‘jobs creation’.

From Roger: GDP is a measure of income. How do we talk about GDP without addressing people’s incomes?

From Juliet (she/her): 

1. Can you share some do/donts on avoiding the elidiing the goals of a wellbeing economy with a wellness/yoga/healthy eating frame? 

2. Are there good ways of responding to the attack ‘but the economy does currently depend on growth?’

From Hayley : Have you explored any messaging with ‘ordinary people’ / people outside our ‘bubbles’?

From Bridget: ECG : How can we collaborate more between our networks to use case study examples of practical tools, models and approaches of what is working now in practice to create wellbeing economies locally and regionally?

From jack : Thanks so much for that Dora. How do we try to make this seem less radical/revolutionary and more common sense, given that we don’t hear much on this from the likes of Labour? 

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : I agree with Joanna on jargon

From Rhiannon : I think people can connect and understand the word wellbeing a lot more than other economic concepts

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Whose «  wellbeing » is the immédiate question.

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : And on top of if people understand ‘wellbeing economy’, do they see it as a legitimate and important goal or as an unrealistic ‘nice-to-have’?

ANSWER: It depends on the audience. It seems the reasons why a Wellbeing Economy is important are becoming ever clearer. Our current economy is incredibly fragile as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown. This is obvious to many. There are still the die-hards that are not going to accept a change in the system as they may be benefiting hugely from it. The WEGo partnership shows that there are a number of countries that are serious about undertaking efforts to shift towards a Wellbeing Economy, which is positive for the movement as a whole.

From Auska : Do you think this messaging should also translate into changes in visual communication and graphic design?

ANSWER: Absolutely. If you know of anyone that would be willing to do some of this work on a volunteer basis, please let Isabel know.

From James : On the “wellbeing economy” point being jargon… I suspect I’ll immediately turn people off with this one without a lot of further information.  “Get with the real world” 🙂

From Sally she/her : yes me too – ditto to Juliet’s question 1) re ensuring we don’t end up leading people to be thinking we’re talking about individual wellbeing/wellness

From Peter : The trick is to be short and snappy, and to realise that we are trying to put across what seems like incredibly complex issues for people, and questions such as ‘who’s going to pay for this?’ will almost inevitably surface.

From Mila P’s : true. one word has different meanings for different people. meeting people where they are at kind of mindset. And that comes to mind, who is the audience ?

From francine : I’ve read that Scot Gov is quite into the wellbeing economy, as are some other smaller country govs like new zealand and denmark…is your wellbeing economy promotion today all part of this same thing?

From Peter : I would urge that we all get acquainted with the basics – at least – of Modern Monetary Theory

From Jon : I like wellbeing as you can link it to people (the meaningful and fulfilling journey/ destination) and the planet (the outer ring of the doughnut). I agree with Rachel it is wide umbrella.

From francine  : In recent years, before wellbeing was linked to wellbeing economy, the word wellbeing has always been linked to mental health…

From Siddhartha (Medact) : I Organise healthcare workers to call for economic change. this guide is super helpful. we are working right now to call for financial support for people to self isolate. we are planning to also campaign on liveable incomes (wages and benefits) and secure housing as well. what advice would you have of communicating theses specific issues that fall under the need for a wellbeing economy

 From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Isn’t it about a whole social-political-system rather than  just ‘economy’.

ANSWER: Absolutely yes. One may argue that the economy IS the whole social-political system.

From martin: In relation to growth, is there anything to be gained from redefining what we commonly mean by “economic activity” to embrace activities that create wellbeing?

ANSWER: This is a great idea. When you think about it, ‘economic activity’ is rather vague. Curious what these activities could be defined as.. 

From Tabea : In Wales we have a “wellbeing of future generations act”, and “wellbeing goals” set in law – it does seem to resonate with the public as well as politicians (…although someone will always try and redefine it to suit themselves….)

From jack. : Talking about a fairer economy can work quite well as right? As fairness resonates with people. 

From Mila: There are at least 81 types of new economies, how does wellbeing economy collaborate either these others?

From Tamsyn (FrameWorks Institute) : @Jack: fairness is a tricky values frame. It can trigger zero sum thinking, or an evaluation of individual deservingness. We need to think beyond resonance, to ‘where does this particular value take people’?

From Lisa : @Tabea  – there is a Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) hub emerging in Wales and Wales is a member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership. More info on WEAll Cymru here if you’re interested in connecting with them https://wellbeingeconomy.org/cymru-wales. Email cymru@weall.org if you want the details

From Lisa : More info here on the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership https://wellbeingeconomy.org/wego

From Linda (Loving Earth Project): ONS has already done some work on GDP, which includes estimates of unpaid work.

From Isabel Nuesse (she/her) WEAll: GDP WEBINAR: https://t.co/vQKz3vWLaY

From francine H (Melrose) : I like the idea of new language and words. You gave a few examples – THIS gov rather than THE gov…words like fulfillment and meaningful lives…and the positive concept that everything human ddesigned can be redesigned. Could be useful to publish a whole list of ‘replacement’ words/ vocabulary that can quickly become mainstream and alter our way of thinking?

ANSWER: Yes. The start of this work is in the guide itself. Will note to continue as it’s useful  🙂

From Rachel Oliver : Positive Money’s The Tragedy of Growth report https://positivemoney.org/publications/tragedy-of-growth/

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : A system that dépends on growth is doomed to failure in a ‘spaceship earth’.

From Donald : This is all very well for academics and activists, but where exactly does the debate about wellbeing happen with ordinary people at the grassroots?

ANSWER: In short, it starts with small conversations amongst each other about what we want  to see in our futures. Back to shared values. What values do you have with your neighbor who may be of an opposing party. Can you agree on some? This begins to shift our framework away from just economy = money = good to economy = people flourishing = good.

From Lisa : A clear distinction is that the wellbeing economy is about shared, societal wellbeing rather than individual wellbeing

From Linda (Loving Earth Project) : Is the phrase « the common good’ a useful one?

From Peter : it often seems to me that current mainstream capitalist economics is based on a kind of quasi-religious concepts, like ‘balancing the books’, ‘staying on top of debt’, ‘living within your means’, etc. which lead to the ‘wrong conversation’. it’s finding the punchy messages that take us ‘through’ these quasi-religious concepts, and makes our points.

From Laura : Just a fyi as a small real life example or what works with current govt audiences, we tweaked the second sentence of this EDM on Carnegie’s report on Gross Domestic Wellbeing in order to get Tracy Crouch as a sponsor. Before it said something like: “gdp growth is a poor measure of progress”  as you’ll see it’s a bit softer now:  https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/57830/gross-domestic-wellbeing   (leaving aside the ridiculousness of EDMs as a format for communicating anything…)

From Juliet (she/her) : Great answers, thank you! Really love the ‘which bits of the garden’ metaphor

From Lisa  : @Donald – we’ve run some fantastic community sessions on a wellbeing economy in Scotland where people were very energised in design sessions for what a wellbeing economy would mean where they are. People know what is needed locally, you’re absolutely right that the conversation needs to be out of the bubble!

From Mila: if it’s not growth as measurement criteria, what about collaborating with the living system economy folks? Align economy to how it impacts all life forms , focussing on shared prosperity?

ANSWER: This is a part of the goal, yes. Shared prosperity, human flourishing, these are the terms to use to shift the metrics we use to measure ‘success’. 

From Bridget: ECG : Economy for the Common Good has the concept of the Common Good Product as an alternative to GDP ecogood.org

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : The PIRC guide is really great! It’s here https://publicinterest.org.uk/TestingGuide.pdf

From Peter : I think often an essential concept to get across is that a household/individual’s budget is not the same as a State/Governments’ budget.

From Laura : Not a very important Q, but wonder whether there are any good examples of business comms on wellbeing economy or closely related that we can also draw on? This springs to mind: https://www.imperative21.co/

From Tamsyn (FrameWorks Institute) : Here’s the framing the economy guide, if you haven’t seen it already: us, NEON, NEF & PIRC – https://neweconomics.org/uploads/files/Framing-the-Economy-NEON-NEF-FrameWorks-PIRC.pdf

From Hayley : Would love to connect with PIRC as they are also based in Wales

From David Thomas : Partly related and may be of some interest, we at Social Value International are supporting and championing a UK campaign called ‘How Do Companies Act’ looking to reform company law and regulation to better protect people and planet, and also looking to replicate this in other countries. www.howdocompaniesact.org

From Lisa  : Hi @Laura! Here’s the WEAll Business guide https://wellbeingeconomy.org/business-guide

From Mila : yes collaboration 🙂 .. there are already 81 new types of economies… why work in silos?

From Lisa Hough-Stewart : Bridget, let’s continue that conversation…the idea of having a shared international PR person perhaps across orgs could be very exciting (I’m comms lead at WEAll, just back from mat leave) – lisa@weall.org

From Mila : the only part of collaboration to may be mindful is about focussing on the best interest of the whole rather than the self-interest of one,like living systems naturally do .. ie trees in forests, bees, ants etc

From Paddy : If anyone would like to hear more from Anat Shenker-Osorio (who Dora mentioned earlier), she’s speaking later today: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anat-shenker-osorio-messaging-this-moment-tickets-136600789639?keep_tld=1

From Juliet (she/her) : +1 to checking out Anat Shenker-Osorio – this podcast is a great introduction to her work https://neweconomics.org/2019/10/weekly-economics-podcast-the-stories-that-broke-the-economy-and-the-stories-that-can-fix-it

From Isabel Nuesse (she/her) WEAll : https://docs.google.com/document/d/15kIla25zp5yc8kr6IYokj0GQ8S2VPBqfKzIdlYNssWE/edit

From safia : www.REALsustainability.org happy to network

From francine H (Melrose) : @david – great point – make it legal – in the same way as there’s a campaign to make ecocide illegal!

From Caroline she/her : feasta.org (Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) very happy to network too –  global focus, and some focus on Ireland too

From David : @Francine, thank you! Will look into the ecocide campaign!

From David, SCCAN : Such rich ideas – hopefully helping all our social justice and global justice and climate justice and racial justice movements to achieve engaging, ways of hooking citizens into a different narrative which looks forward to the future we all seek.  Great collaboration.  Thank you from someone involved in grassroots climate campaigns – look out for Transition – Bounce Forward Summit that Transition Network and ControlShift are running 3-20 March

From Alice, Equally Ours (she/her) : @Juliet and anyone else interested in checking out Anat Shenker-Osorio – she is doing this event online this evening that @Paddy is organising, signup is free 🙂 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anat-shenker-osorio-messaging-this-moment-tickets-136600789639?aff=ebdssbeac

From safia minney : Why not “New Economics” rather than Well being economy. 

ANSWER: A ‘new’ economy infers that this has never been done before. When in fact, these economies may exist in other cultures or have existed before our time. A Wellbeing Economy also embedded int he name, sets a clear focus.

How does adult development play into the internal narratives we hold? How can we shift those narratives?

Internal narratives are the stories we tell ourselves about the world. It’s our self-talk, the way we explain or attempt to think something through. By better understanding these narratives, we can see where to shift toward to change the structure of our thinking. 

 In this WEAll Citizens event, Jackie Thoms, co-founder of Fraendi.org, introduced ‘Adult Development’ as a lens through which people can shift their internal narratives. As a body of work, Adult Development has been researched over 40 years internationally, and is now entering more fully into discourse around organisational and leadership practices. This approach is not about defining what the narrative is or needs to be, but supports adults to perceive more and perceive differently, sensing into the deeper patterns of what may be true and potentially enabling shifts in epistemology.

Epistemology is the understanding of how we come to know that something is the reality. It is the understanding of or justification of knowledge claims or a systematic way of interrogating our own thinking, mental models or how we make sense of things.

Often crises support people to make developmental shifts, and we are living through such a crisis now, with the coronavirus pandemic. At this time, we need many more narratives to paint the richness of who we are as a society and to nudge ourselves in subtle and more obvious ways to develop. 

With a developmental view of who we are as humans we have the capacity to shift our narratives through different levels. Multiple descriptions and multiple stories illuminate what the problems are and the possibilities and paths forward. It’s not that we need to define or be given the new narratives, we need to be given the structures to support us to create many, many more stories. However, the scaffolding required to support people to develop more mature and complex ways of thinking is not integrated into our way of life. 

Most institutions in western cultures: educational, political, and organisational tend to foster reductionist thinking. Reductionist thinking doesn’t include the idea that things are moving and changing, and avoids conflict and dissonance: often the main motor for change. This leads to more static and stable thinking, which contributes to our difficulty in moving  beyond the status quo,even as we face the destruction of our ecologies and multiple significant crises. So although people are born with the capacity for complex thinking, it does not develop. Vanessa Andreotti in the Climate Change Sessions, (A school called Home, Nov 2020) goes further to say that we live in a self-infantalising society in western cultures and that “Children are born. Grown-ups are made.”

Another factor that is limiting, is the narrative of (neo-)liberalism from the 1800s which is dominant in most western cultures today. The focus on humanity being the destructive species we are currently, ignores and limits our capacities to be different. It continues the ideal of competition as a priority and downplays or dismisses interdependence and connectedness. 

The narrative that we can individually determine our health and wellbeing is being challenged through this lived experience that our health is interdependent on our neighbour, our community, the policies and response of governments across the world and much more.

Mark Langdon, a WEAll member in the session shared that in the book “Wilful Blindness”, Margaret Heffernan comments that competition makes us more likely to conform than to think autonomously.

Adult Development approaches have relevance for education, politics, organisations and are embedded in a broader movement to break out of our limiting narratives and sense making to re-story life on this planet. This is especially important today.

Here are some resources on Paths to perceive more and differently, informed by an Adult Development lens:

By: Isabel Nuesse

well-be·​ing | \ ˈwel-ˈbē-iŋ  \

Definition of well-being : the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous : WELFARE

It’s a tumultuous time in the United States. With an ever-divisive political arena, our sensitivities have the wheel and it’s much easier to stick to our corners, and talk amongst ourselves.The outcome of the upcoming federal election could further exacerbate political polarity. If this trend continues, I expect few will applaud the result. 

Writing this piece, I’m a little scared. I do not want to over-simplify, offer a blanket solution, cause offense or seem uninformed. I know I’m not alone in this. These worries are everywhere. Due to our lack of trust for the ‘other’, we’re losing our ability, or more specifically, our desire to communicate honestly with each other. 

Conversations on topical news stories can often end with the warning of, ‘don’t make this political’, because it’s almost guaranteed that one side will lash out at the other. Or, we spew ‘facts’ back and forth. But are we sitting with the complexity of these issues, thinking from other perspectives or challenging our own thinking? 

I see both the left and the right disengaging entirely. ‘You’re threatening to take away my abortion right?’ ‘You’re threatening to take away my guns?’ It’s a yes/no, a this/that, either/or. When in reality, it’s almost all grey. But are we willing to believe in the grey? It’s much easier to stick to our corners and hold a hard line.

A transition toward an economy centered on wellbeing may only be possible if people are willing to and capable of having patient conversations with one another. 

It’s true that sometimes patient conversations cannot be had, due to deep rooted histories of oppression. In this instance, my suggestion does not apply. 

I do believe however, many people are capable of having these conversations. But they’re hard, uncomfortable and can be extremely emotional. If we don’t start to shift more of the conversation to be inquiry-based, with a focus on the core issues, do we run a risk of escalated unrest?  

I found some hope in seeing this video the other day, of two candidates running for Governor in Utah.

It is not perfect. But, it’s somewhat refreshing to see the two sides trying to move beyond the hyperpolarization of our current political state. 

In my own life I’ve tried to facilitate some of these conversations. 7 months ago, I moved back in with my parents in a small town in  Massachusetts. Twice a week, I walk with a friend of my Mom’s: a ‘fiscally conservative’ voter, who is curious enough to engage me in conversations on current events. From police violence, racial justice, supreme court nominees, climate change and Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar salary, we cover it all. 

We can agree that local community resilience is paramount, that wealth inequality is an issue, that police often act above the law, that women are the future and that nearly all political parties can act immorally. While these agreements are not revolutionary, they are telling. 

These topics are complex. I can see from her perspective and have been forced to ask myself questions that I would not have thought of before. It can be refreshing to chat with her, because she is so hopeful about the future that it can sometimes dampen my worry.

Most importantly, these conversations have solidified the fact that we do have similar visions for the future.

Meaning, we can likely find common ground to work together towards a country we’re both proud to live in. 


My vision for a Wellbeing Economy in the US starts with us. Compromise is not impossible. And having compassion is important. One way to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy is to start in the community to better understand our neighbors, and to be open to question our individual perspectives. We have to remind ourselves that the ‘other’ isn’t evil. We can co-create an economy that meets the needs of all people. And we don’t need to be filtering our conversation to do that.

We make up the economy. You and me, all of us, together; the people

“An economy [is really, just] a term for the systems we build to produce and provide for one another.” 

At least, that’s how Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge & Policy Lead, puts it.

In the recent Decades for Courage Podcast, Amanda explained how 

“The economy is not something given, it’s not governed by some magical laws, it’s something that is made and remade all the time on the basis of our individual and collective decisions.”

However, we’re working under a model that doesn’t support – or share – that idea. 

Through the hour-long podcast, Amanda Janoo, Hunter Lovins and host, Dana Gulley, discuss the myths about our current capitalist, neoliberal system. And, provide a vision to move away from it.

Amanda urges us to reframe how we think about the purpose of the economy and to imagine different outcomes from this system. 

“We have the capacity and resources to build a system that ensures people have the things that are necessary for their own flourishing.” 

In the midst of this global pandemic, much talk is focused on getting the economy moving again, that we need to jumpstart it – as if the economy is a thing that we are here to service. 

Instead, we need to begin to think about the economy as something that we create, and it is in service of us

Flipping this narrative allows us to recognise our role in steering the economy for our collective wellbeing – and empowers us to take back control when it feels the global circumstances are leaving us powerless. 

This inspiring podcast gives hope for a better world. Both Amanda and Hunter share captivating anecdotes about current progress being made in the transition toward a Wellbeing Economy. 

Listen to the entire podcast here

You can follow Decades of Courage on Instagram and LinkedIn.

By: Kitty Forster, Assistant Psychologist & Researcher, Wales 

To use a very bold metaphor, the human race is at risk of becoming a parasitic killer of our host, planet Earth. We are taking more than is sustainable, from a finite resource. All parasites which kill their host, die out or have to evolve. 

We don’t have the option to evolve on a different host.

Evolutionary Psychology and the Economic System

Our brains have been structurally the same for 250,000 years, yet our lifestyles have changed radically. Our brains are out of date. We’ve created a puppet, the present economic system, that controls how we meet our basic needs. This isn’t working for people or planet.  

Although the architecture of our brains won’t evolve, our mental construct of capitalist economic system, which is only a couple of hundred years old, can! We don’t have to let it dictate the demise of people and planet. We have a choice: we can decide to ‘evolve’ consciously, a privilege only the human specifies has.

We are conscious co-creators in the evolution of life. We have free will. And we have choices. Consequently, our success is based on our choices, which are, in turn, totally dependent on our awareness. – Bruce H. Lipton

Empowering a New Reality

Shifting opinions towards being supportive of a Wellbeing Economy could be an opportunity for people to feel less apathetic, to regain some autonomy – even to feel empowered!

This relies on people making a conscious decision to accept a new economic system. To perceive that they are making autonomous choices, based on common sense, and contributing to the positive evolution of humanity, rather than blindly following destructive consumption patterns.  

Fascinatingly, interoceptive awareness is linked with personal agency. This implies that our agency (semantically related to ‘free will’) can be honed and improved, because interoceptive awareness can be increased via contemplative practise i.e. mindfulness, yoga, chi kung, meditation. 

We have the capacity to make decisions with more awareness, deliberately working on eradicating automatic and blind habitual behavioural patterns. To intentionally change the course of human history.

But First… Overcoming the Fear of Change

People fear the unknown and tend to dislike change, even if it’s for the better. This irrational tendency stems from the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls our fear response.

The amygdala may alert its owner to ‘danger’, when there is, in fact, no threat.

Humans tend to ‘pattern-match’ with similar situations to make sense of the world – and any kind of radical political revolution, like a shift to a new economic system, can have negative associations with civil unrest, maybe even on an unconscious level.

In the case of a wellbeing economy, this can lead to a population wary of the prospect of a change to the economic system.

Emotions, like fear, are constructed – they are a predictive coding model within the brain.

Just because you feel a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s a true interpretation of reality.

The Language of a Wellbeing Economy

Humans use language to deriving meaning and make sense of the world. So, to help counter humans’ natural distrust of change, the language used to describe a Wellbeing Economy needs to be carefully considered.

The language used needs to appeal to peoples’ emotions around their core needs – food, shelter, health and family – emphasising specific, concrete examples of people-centred policies and what a society within a wellbeing economy would look.

Visual Imagery

This emotional appeal can be supported by the use of statistics or visual imagery, to evoke feelings of injustice about the damage caused by the current economic system.

Practical Framing

It would be beneficial to describe the benefits of local systems in a way that sounds practical and realistic; avoid confirming any existing negative preconceptions about radical alternative solutions.  Ideally there would be both ‘left and right’ wing representatives for WEAll.

Framing what is ‘Socially Desirable’

It wasn’t very long ago that Western society shifted from being needs-based, to being based on desire-based consumption. This can be turned around.

Shifting opinions to support a more sustainable rate of consumption, a pillar of a wellbeing economy, would require making it socially desirable to hold sustainable value systems.

There are some interesting developments regarding social shaming for consumer decisions that affect the environment: ‘eco-shaming’.

What could this picture look like?

People of the future might gradually associate unnecessary abundance of materialist possession as socially shameful.  Neglecting to look after things, refusing to mend items, or upgrading possessions for no real reason could be seen as wasteful.

Only consuming what you need could become admirable, rather than being associated with being in poverty (failure) or mean with money (unkind). 

Excessive use of fossil fuels could be socially unacceptable and open you up to criticism and being shunned by peers – rather than being envied for a jet set lifestyle.

Coveting efficient and sustainable choices amongst peer relationships, rather than propagating judgement for getting a bus (‘peasant wagon’), the ostensible shame of buying from charity shops or having old-fashioned household items.

Psychology research provides a plethora of resources to help create public support for a wellbeing economy … and intentionally change the course of human history.

Kitty’s Bio: I have a Psychology Bsc and MRes in Psychology. I have worked in the children’s social care sector, the NHS and within the Psychology department at Bangor University. I like to consider the macro perspectives in mental health issues and consider how these could be addressed systemically for the wellbeing of our society.

As a part of WEAll’s narratives work, we are always looking to find new articulations of the vision of of a new economy – one that is designed with the purpose of delivering collective wellbeing. Last week, we discovered 5 inspiring projects presented by undergraduate UC Berkeley Civil and Environmental Engineering students in their ‘Design for Global Transformation’ course.

These students designed planetary-scale strategies for real-world transformation in the Nature-Based Solutions, Transportation, Food, Industry, Buildings and Energy sectors.

They drew inspiration from the Exponential Roadmap, which is highlights 36 solutions that can scale exponentially to halve Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030 worldwide.

In a beautifully artistic way, each presentation showcases a set of slide decks and StoryMaps to help communicate the essence of their strategies.

For example, in the Nature-Based Solutions presentation, the students show both the present state, the preferred state and the pathway to get there. They include extensive research to back their claims and in their StoryMaps have interactive tools so the user can do their own researching.

Each presentation specifically shares pathways to success with examples and aesthetically pleasing slides to match. To learn more and engage with their interactive StoryMaps, use this link.

Written by  Sandra Waddock, Boston College Carroll School of Management (cc) 2020

___________

In a powerful book published in 1986 called Images of Organisation, management scholar Gareth Morgan vividly demonstrated how the metaphors used to describe organisations shape perceptions of who these organisations are. Metaphors are one type of meme. Memes [in this case speaking of Meme’s beyond colloquial internet memes] are the basis on which the stories that we tell are built. In Morgan’s case, these stories are about organisations and indicate different perspectives about ‘how things work here’ and who ‘we’ are in that particular context.

Memes are, in the thinking of Susan Blackmore, who has written extensively about them, core units of cultures that when successful transfer readily from one person’s mind to others. Memes are ideas, phrases, words, images, symbols, metaphors, and brands that are at the heart of how we humans understand things. Memes are the units out of which we compose stories and narratives, for example, in Morgan’s case about organisations.

Memes are ideas, phrases, words, images, symbols, metaphors, and brands that are at the heart of how we humans understand things

Morgan’s book—and its different ‘stories’ about organisations—helped reshape thinking about organisations, particularly companies. In Morgan’s telling, organisations could be viewed as machines, living organisms, brains, cultures, political systems, psychic prisons, systems in flux and transformation, and instruments of domination, among others. Each of these perspectives tells a different story about the nature, purposes, and functioning of the enterprise. Each metaphor is based on a different core meme—core idea—that shapes understanding of the organisation, is easily identifiable, and resonates as at least somewhat appropriate with many people. The perspective—the story and its related memes—strongly influences attitudes towards a given enterprise—as well as practices, attitudes, and behaviors within it.

So it is with the narratives and stories that shape our lives. Really important and foundational stories in different contexts are what anthropologists call cultural mythologies. Stories and narratives are central to any human enterprise, whether it is a business organisation or whole economies, and indeed to what makes us human. These stories are the ones that tell people in those communities what it means to be part of that community; they are the ones that most people are familiar with and that really make one culture different from others. The memes on which such cultural mythologies are built shape and form attitudes, beliefs, and ultimately behaviors.

Today, particularly in the so-called developed world, we are living under what is sometimes called a meta-narrative or meta-story. Such metanarratives are like umbrellas in that they cover numerous aspects of the culture or system. In doing so, they provide a kind of roadmap to what it means to be part of this system, culture, or community. The dominant metanarrative in the world—at least before the Covid-19 pandemic hit—is that of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is the economic theory that tells us that the purpose of the corporation is to ‘maximise shareholder wealth’, that companies and economies should pursue continual and unending growth in profitability, markets, and market dominance. Neoliberalism also notes that what matters is intense competition in purportedly free markets and in a globalised world where trade is also supposed to be free. It tell us, in contrast to scientific evidence from biology, that humans are self-interested profit maximisers. It focuses whole economies on constant growth of financial wealth, often as measured in share prices on stock exchanges, rather than any other important human values.

The dominant metanarrative in the world—at least before the Covid-19 pandemic hit—is that of neoliberalism

Mantras associated with neoliberalism assert several important memes in the way of slogans. One is that ‘There is no such thing as society’, to use the words of Margaret Thatcher, one of the theory’s dominant proponents during the 1980s. The other, also from Thatcher, is TINA, the idea that ‘There is no alternative’ to capitalism, even to the extreme form of capitalism dominant in the world today. A third meme, stated by then US President Ronald Reagan involves reducing the power of government, ‘Keep government off our backs’, advocating for laissez-faire governments.

Such memes have consequences in real life. These ideas influence how companies behave—in cutthroat competitive fashion rather than more collaboratively or making decisions in the interests of short-term profitability rather than long-term strategic considerations. Companies sometimes seek ‘efficiency’ at whatever costs to workers, the natural environment, or local communities might be involved even if that means layoffs, pollution, clear cutting of forests, cruel animal husbandry practices, or other so-called “externalities”. The diminishment of governmental effectiveness since the 1980s is a direct result of these beliefs—with significant consequences that have become very apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic in some countries. Neoliberalism with its core memes is an important metanarrative—cultural mythology.

Once a myth like neoliberalism gets established, and it does so when key memes get repeated over and over by others (or replicated from mind to mind, as Susan Blackmore might say), it is very hard to change. The problem is that experts are educated in the context of field-specific paradigms that tell them how their field operates, how to do their work, and what is and is not important. Shifting paradigms—beliefs, attitudes, mindsets, and expertise—requires new education, insights, and an openness to new ways of thinking and doing research.

Shifting paradigms—beliefs, attitudes, mindsets, and expertise—requires new education, insights, and an openness to new ways of thinking and doing research.

The idea of creating wellbeing economies is meant to provide powerful, resonant counter-memes to today’s dominant narrative. Particularly in the context of the global pandemic now afflicting the world, the idea of wellbeing for all, where ‘all’ includes all of nature as well as well as all human beings, may well begin to resonate. Values associated with creating a wellbeing economy move away from financial wealth maximisation as the core purpose of economies towards fostering what gives life to our societies and the economies that support them, subordinating economies to the broader societies in which they operate. Some of the values associated with wellbeing economies (which might differ in different places) are, but share a common set of values (i.e., memes):

Societies and their economies are human creations that need to be designed to be: 

  • Based on relationships and connectedness to self, others, and nature.
  • Measured/evaluated by collective wellbeing without dignity violations[1] of humans or other living creatures.
  • Oriented towards life-giving/affirming design principles that recognize cyclicality, development into complexity without continual growth, and flourishing for all.
  • Recognized as human creations integrally connected to nature.

The question for WEAll and all organisations working to change our economic system, is how to bring these values—these new memes—into widespread and resonant being throughout society. What new stories can we tell? What new narratives can we develop? What are the powerful memes that will resound broadly and create activism and demand for wellbeing—not ‘wealth’ when wealth really only serves to create what the British art critic John Ruskin called call ‘illth’—the opposite of wealth, which in its original meaning has to do with wellbeing, health, and wholeness. That is the real wealth a wellbeing economy seeks.

 

For Further Reading

Blackmore, S. (2000). The meme machine. Vol. 25. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks.

Blackmore, Susan. (2000). The power of memes. Scientific American, 383(4): 64-73.

Summer, Claire (2020). Telling the Story of What WEAll Need. <https://wellbeingeconomy.org/telling-the-story-of-what-we-all-need-blog-by-claire-sommer>

[1] To use the framing of Donaldson & Walsh (2015).

Following discussions with WEAll Scotland, Sue Rule of Dunoon was motivated to write and share this beautiful new poem.

Journalist and author George Monbiot has delivered a compelling new TED Talk: “The new political story that could change everything”.

TED explains: “To get out of the mess we’re in, we need a new story that explains the present and guides the future, says author George Monbiot. Drawing on findings from psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, he offers a new vision for society built around our fundamental capacity for altruism and cooperation. This contagiously optimistic talk will make you rethink the possibilities for our shared future.”

Monbiot is talking about the need for a new narrative about our economic system: a core component of WEAll’s strategy for system change. You can find out more about our narratives work in the WEAll vision brochure.

View on TED website here.

Image from https://www.monbiot.com/about/