Posts

By: Nikita Asnani

اقتصاد الرفاهية (wellbeing economy)

اقتصاد السعادة (economy of happiness)

Arabic

I belong to the land of dates – no, not that kind, the edible ones…

This horse (shaped) peninsula, engulfed by the pearl-laden Arabian waters, refuses to slow down its speedy gait, be it in technology, science, commerce arts and culture. 

What could a ‘wellbeing economy’ possibly mean in the country that has already garnered global recognition for its feat in ranking first, globally, for the categories: ‘Availability of Quality Healthcare’, ‘Access to Mobile Phones’ and the ‘Feeling Safe’ Index?

Here are a few personal suggestions that might help accelerate the transition to a wellbeing economy:

1. Rethinking ‘Fast Streets’ 

The scorching heat and general dependency on private transport, as opposed to public transport, in most of the emirates, has led to almost every family owning one car, at the very least. 

Increasing connectivity and developing new, shared modes of transport are likely to dominate the landscape of urban mobility in a more sustainable Dubai. I am also of the opinion that encouraging walking and running to short distances, coupled with the usage of traditional dhows or abras (ferries), is likely to contribute to public health as well as economic development at the local level. 

2. Embracing Slow Fashion

‘Shop, till we drop’ is a popular slogan used to promote shopping festivals in Dubai. Do we know what the real impact we have, particularly as consumers, of fast fashion? Even if you question ‘who made my clothes, and how?’, you’ll often find condescending labels that read ‘100% organic’.

But, as we all know, multiple fast fashion brands are guilty of ‘greenwashing’. I believe it is high time we unmask the true impact of fast fashion in a country known, in part, for ‘great shopping’ – and pave the way for local brands selling regenerative fashion. 

3. Saying NO to plastic

The number of plastic bags being used on a daily basis in the UAE is staggering. Financial incentives to reduce the dependency single-use plastics along with behavioural change campaigns to switch to cloth bags (no, even paper is not good enough!) will go a long way in changing the face of the economy. 

4. Keeping the culture alive 

In a recent blog on www.greenfootprint.com, Abdul Rahman highlights how our ancestors heavily relied on date palms to meet their day to day needs, from construction of houses and boats to weaving brooms, food covers, mats, air fans, dates sachets, bedding, and so on. 

low angle photo of palm trees
Photo by Cassie Burt on Unsplash

“The scarcity of natural resources and harsh environment pushed people to live within their means. Despite the harsh environment, the uniqueness of the date palm lies in managing to grow fruit even during the summer season. It pushed them to be creative and work within their natural means. The date palm was definitely a more sustainable option since it is a biodegradable material.” 

(Abdul Rahman, 2020)

It seems to me that by revisiting our history, through storytelling in schools, for example, we can help the UAE honour our cultural heritage – while also contributing to improved environmental sustainability. 

“My wealth is the happiness of my people” 

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates)

People are, in the 21st century, what Oil was to the UAE, in the 18th Century. 

The UAE’s real wealth lies in its people, and a wellbeing economy would dig right where the real gold lies. 

Nikita Asnani is a 19-year old student based in Dubai. She is passionate about design thinking and systems change for a circular economy. She joined WEAll because it offered her hope in the ability of young people to catalyse a new economic system, by harnessing the real power of people

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.

Our WEAll member, the Post Growth Institute, recently shared a fantastic article on how we can reprogram our economic operating system to ensure a sustainable future – by adopting an indigenous worldview.

The United Nations estimates that indigenous territories cover approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s landmass. This 20 percent landmass stewarded by indigenous peoples amazingly contains 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

The indigenous worldview has been marginalised for generations because it was seen as antiquated and unscientific and its ethics of respect for Mother Earth were in conflict with the Industrial worldview … But now, in this time of climate change and massive loss of biodiversity we understand that the indigenous worldview is neither unscientific nor antiquated, but is, in fact, a source of wisdom that we urgently need.

As the article explains, we can adjust or un-choose. Read about the two adjustments in our worldview that can help us work toward a more sustainable economy – and world.

This is an event report from the first in-person workshop of the ‘What’s the Story?’ project, held in London (UK) on Friday 6 March 2020.

‘What’s the Story?’ emerged as a collaborative effort instigated by WEAll and our members the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), and executed by The Spaceship Earth. Its goal is to create the space for new economy stories to spur the co-design of a wellbeing economy. The event in London on March 6 was the first ‘creative design sprint’ in this story crafting process.

By Anna Chrysopoulou

‘What’s the story?’ by Friday Future Love was an innovative, challenge-based experience to turn thinking into ideas with the participation of a diverse audience including artists, photographers, graphic designers, ad creatives, TV producers and marketers.

As outlined on the day, current issues such as climate and ecological emergency, and rising inequalities are linked by “old stories about our economy, which have given us absurd beliefs, deeply rooted on our culture, that demand unfit policies which sustain those stories”.

So, our economic system on its present form is a real Catch-22. It is urgent, therefore, to have a new approach by “creating new stories, that gives us good beliefs, so we demand proper policies and design a better economy for all life”.

It’s now time to reflect:

  • How do we relate to nature?
  • What is our economy’s priority?
  • How should we measure success?

These questions were thoroughly discussed by the attendees who all agreed on the importance of reconnecting with our natural environment, recognising that not only are humans part of nature, but nature is also part of us. It was suggested we should change the rewards mechanisms and find alternatives to our perception of success. For instance, success could be considered to reduce the use of materials, costs and time, to have a 6-hour working day, or achieve building a more local economy.

This discussion led to the next challenge: find new concepts and explore more deeply how these could be formed and communicated.

What would the outcome of this challenge be when creative people are in the same room? New stories, of course!

Imagine a new sci-fi series showing humans connecting with each other and nature by using a chip; a ‘Good Ancestor Fund’, where part of one’s salary could go to converting land into a forest for the benefit of future generations. Think of ‘reclaiming the bank holiday’ when families could spend time together planting trees; the introduction of a parallel pricing system showing the monetary worth of the true value of a product taking into consideration the loss of natural resources. An exhibition where the audience could look back on what went wrong in order to avoid the same actions in the future; a new myth where the tooth fairy does not replace the lost tooth with money, but the tooth has to be planted. Finally, think of a concept when we should ensure that everyone has enough of what is needed, or a dinner where guests represent a certain percentage of the population in terms of economic worth and meals are served proportionately.

All these ideas expressed by this brilliant audience lead to the conclusion that a gathering of like-minded individuals can create fantastic new stories, and Fridays are indeed for people and the planet!

What we talk about when we talk about a wellbeing economy

By Claire Sommer for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance

 

 

There’s a famous book of short stories by American author Raymond Carver called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Published in 1981, the book is an impressionistic whole created from 17 short stories about love.

The title captures the challenge of talking about something truly undefinable, by offering 17 stories with differing perspectives.

In the same way, our Wellbeing Economy Alliance community faces the challenge of describing a wellbeing economy and how to talk about it.

Earlier this year, Lisa Hough-Stewart and Katherine Trebeck asked for my help to distill key points from content developed by members into a simple set of high-level statements. These “anchor statements” are meant to help align our website and brochure, and create stronger pathways to all of our resources and content. 

We started with three key assumptions:

  1. We need simple, easier-to-understand language that helps people see themselves in our work, and want to know more. These points open the door for conversations and understanding.
  2. We need bullets that help us all succinctly articulate what a wellbeing economy means, to the greatest number of people – in short, easy-to-understand language. 
  3. The perspective we used is that WEALL says the What and our members create the How with campaigns, asks, and actions. WEAll supports our members.

The first draft turned into a fascinating conversation with members of the WEAll Narratives cluster via Slack, with members contributing suggestions and improvements from all over the world. It’s my pleasure to share just some of the wonderful contributions from the community below.

First, here are the five key points we landed on.

WEAll need…
  1.     Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
  2.     Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
  3.      Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
  4.     Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
  5.     Participation: Citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies

While quite simple, we believe that these points are a sturdy set of wheels to help convey the Wellbeing Economy Alliance members’ initiatives and scholarship to more people and where we wish to go together. As Chris Riedy wrote, “When we faithfully carry these principles through into actual policies and programs, we do end up with proposals that are very different to what we have now.”

The first quality of Dignity came to mind from Donna Hick’s 2011 book of the same name, and Michael Pirson’s application of dignity as a pillar of Humanistic Management. In Slack, Martin Oetting added another nuance by noting that “dignity” is the first article of the German constitution: “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.” 

The second point about how to include Nature, or the natural world, grew from contributions by Dan Feldman to help us remember to seat ourselves as inextricably part of Nature, rather than separate from human society. We hope that “We all need nature” does this in an intuitive way.

Connection came into the list as an improvement on the less inspiring “collaboration” and helped us raise up “belonging”-ness as essential to wellbeing.

In the last point, we thank Juliana Essen as well as others for helping Participation enter the conversation. “Participation signifies active engagement, and there’s lots of research, for example in the field of deliberative democracy, that talks about how to create truly participatory processes that value difference and negotiate power differentials,” she wrote. “That’s the kind of participation we want.”

Keeping ourselves to a handful of statements was a challenge. We hope the inclusion of “happiness” in the first point is flexible enough to embrace meaning-finding, art, and whatever else people may need to enjoy life. We invite your reflections and comments about these five points on Slack, to lisa@WellbeingEconomy.org, or me at claire.sommer@grli.org

 

The biggest story yet to be told – how we transform our economies
  • If advertisers were selling a more sustainable future to the mass public, how might they do it?
  • If film-makers, musicians, poets, and journalists were tasked with making a sustainable and just economy resonate with their audiences, how might they tell that story?
  • How can the vision of a new economy that protects people and restores the planet start to feel real, relevant and desirable to the average citizen?

Social and environmental crises have already started to take hold around the world. Yet there seems to be no public narrative that explains how we can fix our predicament. We lack a story of solutions. Two global networks working on economic transformation – the Green Economy Coalition and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) – have come together to build that new narrative. We and our partners recognise that before change can happen, we need a convincing and credible story of change.

Our ambition is to tell the story of transition to a better economy, a better environment, and a better future for everyone. We want to convene some of the best communicators out there and inspire them to tell this story: the biggest story yet to be told.

By “communicators”, we mean everyone from the commercial space (marketing, advertising, social media, public relations professionals), to the cultural space (film makers, script-writers, musicians, artists), to the media (journalists, bloggers, writers, photographers), and beyond.

Although both the Green Economy Coalition and WEAll are global in scope, we plan to first pilot an approach in the UK (more on that within the Terms of Reference). Defining key messages and audiences will be a key first step.

We know that our mission is bold and will take time and resources. But existing narratives are failing to inspire sufficient action, and time is short. We have some initial seed funding to kick-start our approach, and we will leverage further contributions from funders and industry as we get underway.

That’s where you come in.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for an exceptional person or organisation, based in the UK, to help us get this mission underway. You will know the media / marketing / comms world intimately, and are happy to draw on those contacts. You are:

  • Well connected in the ad / marketing / cultural space;
  • Skilled in developing compelling briefs that would appeal to comms professionals, businesses and industries;
  • Confident and experienced in convening and leading collaborative working sessions;
  • A bold and imaginative thinker able to take this idea as far as it can go;
  • Experienced in identifying the right audiences and executing delivery of campaigns.

Download the full Terms of Reference here for full details on the proposed project and how to apply.