Posts

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 Izabela Ivanova Velikova

Визии за Благополучната Икономика в България

“Visions for the Wellbeing Economy in Bulgaria”

Bulgarian (sounds like /vizii/ /za/ /blagopoluchnata/ /ikonomika/ /v/ /bulgaria/)

Благополучна

“Wellbeing”

Bulgarian (sounds like /blagopoluchna/)

Being a country with a 14 century history, Bulgaria has gone through many transformations, which inevitably had their impact on the way that it is now. By the early 20th century, Bulgaria declared its independence after more than five centuries of rule under the Ottoman Empire. Thereafter, it remained isolated for nearly half of the century, because it was under communist rule.

It is not surprising that the transition from communism to democracy, which happened only 30 years ago, has had its impact on the current state of the Bulgarian economy, as well as on other support systems in the country.

Right now, Bulgaria is considered to be the poorest country in the European Union and quality of life is very low. Along with that, other big challenges that Bulgaria faces, are organised crime and corruption.

Is a Wellbeing Economy possible in Bulgaria?

The concept of a Wellbeing Economy is a system that works for the people, rather than a system that people have to work for. In that sense, the effective transition from the current economy to a Wellbeing Economy in Bulgaria would be a really slow and hard process.

But I do not think that it is impossible.

As Bulgarians, we often joke that due to the Ottoman Empire slavery, Bulgaria is 500 years behind, compared to the rest of the world. As sarcastic as this is, I do find the positive side to it. It is not a secret that the state of the economy and all of the country’s current societal and economical problems are a product of unhealthy stereotypes and habits adopted during the “dark times” of our recent history. All of this has led to constant chaos and inconvenience, in which it is really easy for the ones on the top of the hierarchy in Bulgaria to resort to power abuse, without ever thinking about the wellbeing of the society that they are responsible for.

The word to describe such a dynamic is unstable. In my opinion though, the positive dimensions of that word can really easily overcome the negative ones, if the society manages to get into the right mindset to do it. ‘Unstable’ means to have room for many new and unexpected opportunities. ‘Unstable’ means that if you have enough will and creativity, you can build the base of the world you want to live in.

‘Unstable’ means that society now has more power than ever, as the instability gives room to the hustle, and the hustle brings people together.

The need for a better future is stronger than ever during these times, when people can’t seem to see the way through. A Wellbeing Economy may be the way for Bulgaria. 

How?

Firstly, education. I have lived in Bulgaria for 19 years and not once have I been told about a Wellbeing Economy. I believe that if more young people get informed about this concept, they will easily be intrigued, would want to participate in the process towards a Wellbeing Economy and establish the daily habits needed for it. Bringing up the topic in educational institutions is key, because as you know… we (the youth) are the future!

Next, networking between all small businesses. This requires a shift in the worldview of the society – from a constant desire for individual profits to the understanding of the importance of mutual wellbeing.

Keeping the culture alive is also an important part of the process towards a Wellbeing Economy. Patriotism is a really big part of Bulgarian cultural values, and creates a strong sense of community.  I believe that if channeled properly, this feeling could be the ultimate way of creating the base of a Wellbeing Economy, because at the end of the day, this idea is based on the understanding that if you want to be happy and to be doing good, those around you must too, and that you can be an active part of making this happen.

Green agricultural development. One of the most important factors for building a Wellbeing Economy in Bulgaria is that people should learn how to take care and take healthy advantage of the country’s many natural resources. Bulgaria has numerous hectares of fertile agricultural fields, which are simply not being used. A big reason for that is the fact that most people move to the big cities and develop themselves in the technical and business fields, looking for a better quality of life. This inevitably leads to overpopulation in the cities (with all it’s consequences, like extreme air pollution), while the countryside remains unpopulated and undeveloped, but with huge agricultural potential. If used properly, those fertile fields could become the long waited salvation of the country, and also a pretty promising base for the creation of a Wellbeing Economy.

For its natives, Bulgaria seems like the worst country to live in right now and not many people are able to see the potential that it has. Well, I see it. I believe that there is a way out of every vicious circle, if you have the will to keep pushing in the opposite direction.

In this sense, a Wellbeing Economy is the only systemic ‘circle’ I want to see in my country in a few years from now.

Therefore, as a future Project and Change Manager, I am willing to put in as much effort as needed, to see my country get there. 

My name is Izabela Velikova and I am a first year student in The Netherlands. I study the program Global Project and Change Management at Windesheim Honours College, which I believe will help me reach my life goal – to make the world a better place. I grew interested in the idea of Wellbeing Economy when I found out about WEAll Youth and I really believe that it is the ultimate way of development and I can’t wait to see the world getting there.

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

By: Avwerosuoghene Onobrakpeya for Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH)

A multi-diverse country, made up of over 200 million citizens, and about 250 ethnic groups, where more than 500 languages are spoken. This is Nigeria.

And so, we have coined many ways of describing ‘wellbeing’. To mention just a few:

The Yorubas call it Alafia, Omakpupo is what the Urhobos say, Tivs say Mlu u dedoo, it is Odimma in Igbo, and Lafiya describes wellbeing in Hausa.

Still, even with the differing beautiful translations of wellbeing, the message remains the same and we all want the same thing – a Wellbeing Economy. An economy where the health and Alafia of people and the planet come first. So, what will a Wellbeing Economy look like in Nigeria?

A Wellbeing Economy can be described as ‘yôu-yôu u uma’ in Tiv

My vision of a Wellbeing Economy in Nigeria cannot be attained while Nigeria’s two main problems of health and insecurity exist. 

“The groundwork for all happiness is good health”

Leigh Hunt
Mothers have their babies vaccinated at the Primary Health Care Maraba, in Karu, Nigeria on June 19, 2018.
Photo © Dominic Chavez/GFF

Good health is paramount to accomplish the wellness of people. When good health institutions are not put in place, healthcare is going to suffer greatly. This is the situation in Nigeria today. The two foremost health problems are inadequate health institutions and hospital negligence. In recent years, there have been thousands of deaths in Nigerian hospitals, for reasons such as a nonexistent healthcare database to verify health insurance, which leads to treatment refusal; no wrenches to turn on oxygen cylinders; and unqualified personnel who are handling care. All being forms of negligence. 

Thousands of health institutions litter Nigeria, but they are mostly unequipped, either in manpower or equipment. Industrial strike actions by medical personnel are a norm. These healthcare practitioners constantly demand better working conditions and better pay. How can the people be cared for, when the healthcare professionals lack the facilities to handle care? How can the health of the people be achieved when healthcare workers themselves are not well cared for?

Rather than invest in Nigeria’s health sector, most government officers are ‘medical tourists’, globetrotting in search of good healthcare for themselves, which the people back in Nigeria are deprived of. It is sad that government officials have experienced the true definition of working health systems, yet refuse to work towards it in Nigeria. 

Thankfully, progress has been made in recent years.

Firstly, in some states like, Delta state, free medical care for pregnant women and children aged 0 to 5 has been introduced. Additionally, healthcare used to be very difficult to access, because it was unaffordable. In recent times, the government, as well as private firms, have implemented insurance schemes, making healthcare more accessible. The current health insurance scheme implemented by the Nigerian government covers employees at government parastatals, their spouses, and their dependents between the ages of 0 to 18 years. Today, most private employers give their employees comprehensive health insurance. Most private educational institutions also provide insurance for students. During my secondary school education, I was actually a recipient of the Salus Trust health insurance scheme, paid for alongside my school fees.

Though many in Nigeria own health insurance today, there are more without this privilege.

Those in the rural areas, the average Nigerian working at a small establishment, the jobless, the students. Health insurance remains a luxury. It is no wonder that pharmacies, rather than hospitals, are the first stop whenever most Nigerians are sick.

Still, more has to be done. A yôu-yôu u uma cannot be achieved if the people are unhealthy. I envision a Nigeria where access to good healthcare will not be a luxury, a Nigeria where people are not reluctant to get care for their health, because it would rip a hole in their pockets. I dream of a Nigeria where hospitals will not be considered death traps. To achieve this, there has to be:

  • Greater investment in health.
  • Employment of more healthcare professionals.
  • Higher pay and benefits for healthcare workers.
  • A facelift of existing healthcare infrastructure, with facilities made suitable for patients, and medical technologies provided.
  • Health campaigns, to educate the public on health issues and subsequently, aid prevention.

“The safety and security of the citizens of a country is so important. If the citizens are unsafe, the nation cannot move forward”

Tonye Cole
Peaceful End SARS Protests at Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, Nigeria. October 2020.
Source: Twitter

A yôu-yôu u uma in Nigeria is kept at bay by the insecurity that persists. Insurgency, banditry, terrorism, cattle rustling, police brutality, these are the insecurity issues that plague our everyday lives in Nigeria. In October 2020, police brutality by a particular unit of the Nigerian Police Force, Special Anti-robbery Response Squad (SARS) birthed the End SARS movement. Nigerian youths were exhausted by the wanton killings by SARS and with one voice, rose to say, “Enough is Enough!” Peaceful protests took place in states across Nigeria, as we called for not just the removal of SARS, but also the overhaul of the Nigerian Police system and justice for the lives lost. Unfortunately, even during these peaceful protests, the protesters were still victims of police brutality. Our security, our safety, our peace of mind, this is part of our alafia, our wellbeing, and when they are lacking, we are miles away from being a yôu-yôu u uma

Some efforts are being made by state governments to curb insecurity. Currently, there exists local policing in states across Nigeria, such as Amotekun in western Nigeria. Local vigilante groups also work in conjunction with police. This has helped beef up security a bit, although we are still lacking in many areas.

My vision is that Nigerian youths will be able to walk the streets without being profiled as criminals, just because of their appearance or their gadgets. I hope we can walk the streets without fear of a stray bullet. I hope to not be greeted with images of deaths and attacks whenever I watch the local news. This can be accomplished by: 

  • A total overhaul of the police system.
  • Routine mental health assessments of cadets and those in the police force.
  • Investigation of police brutality cases and punishment of the guilty.
  • Development of a criminal database, to make policing easier.
  • Increased pay and provision of benefits for security officers.

The image of a Wellbeing Economy that I have every morning when I wake, is of a Nigeria with healthy and safe people. We need to improve our health systems and uproot insecurity. Healthy people equate to happy people and this is the only way we can achieve a yôu-yôu u uma.

References

Avwerosuo is a blogger at Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH). She is currently using her voice to speak against, discuss and enlighten about gender-based violence, health inequalities, women’s health and planetary health. She hopes to contribute to creating a safer and better Nigeria for youths like her.

You can connect with Avwerosuo on LinkedIn and read more of her work at the SOGH blog.

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

By: Anna Chrysopoulou

Κοινωνική ευημερία: collective wellbeing

(sounds like /kee-no-nee-kee/ /e-vee-me-ree-ah/)

Οικονομία της ευτυχίας: Wellbeing Economy  

(sounds like /oy-kon-o-me-ah/  /tis/ / ef-tee-hee-ahs/)

Greece is a country with several linguistic terms to define the concept of ‘wellbeing’: ευημερία (e-vee-me-ree-ah), ευ ζην (ev zeen), and ευδαιμονία (ev-de-mo-nee-ah).

The latter, especially, appears extensively in Greek ethics and political philosophy from ancient times, through the work of the philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Yet, thousands of years later, it seems that the idea of collective wellbeing has lost its centrality in determining politics and social norms in Greece, at least until recently. 

After the 2008 Financial Crisis, economic terms such as growth, national debt, and interest rates, began to appear daily in our national media and everyday conversations. We were suddenly bombarded with questions around,

‘What is driving the economy? What is good for our GDP? How can we accelerate economic growth?

In the meantime, income inequalities were growing, with the middle- and low-income households being massively affected by tax increases and deep wage cuts. At the same time, an increasing number of people were living under the poverty line, and environmental degradation was being justified as an unavoidable way to bring investments back into the country. 

However, during these years of austerity and instability, examples of communities and initiatives have served as inspiration when envisioning a Wellbeing Economy in Greece. 

There are myriad ways of describing what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in my country, but here are some first thoughts on where we could start. 

1. Put wellbeing back into the heart of politics

We use the term Wellbeing Economy to describe an economy that serves people and communities, first and foremost. Since the Financial Crisis, the narrative around what the economy means for Greece has changed significantly (and deliberately, if I dare say). We started focusing on economic growth as being the ultimate goal that we ought to achieve, if we want to improve our living standards. It was all about growth per se. The idea of the economy became utterly disconnected from what really matters: the people. Instead of bringing back economic growth, why don’t we make the shift, and bring collective wellbeing back in our daily conversations, our society, and our politics?

2. Embrace togetherness

Greece is a country that has suffered from division throughout our history. Yet, we have recently experienced an encouraging rise of community groups, collectives, and movements focusing on helping those in need and, most importantly, caring about others. From local communities in the islands supporting refugees (with the limited means they had) to food collectives* helping the homeless and people who were affected by the Financial Crisis, there has been a change in getting together to look after each other. If we want to transition towards a Wellbeing Economy, we need to start by recognising that we can have different perspectives, and still respect and care about others in our communities.

* A food collective is an initiative in which groups of people gather in public spaces (even on the street) to cook and offer food (and always company!) to those in need: usually the homeless, the unemployed, refugees etc. In some cases, they even deliver cooked meals. It is always a hot cooked meal, so this is not the same as food banks. It is an act of solidarity with those that often cannot afford food. Find out more about the work of grassroots groups, such as the Mano Aperta, here.

3. Protect our natural spaces

It is certainly not the first time that you will have read about the country’s natural beauty, with its crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches. Our seas and natural environment have attracted attention and resulted in the tourism sector growing over the last decades. It is time, however, to change our perception of our natural resources. In a Wellbeing Economy, we will respect and protect our nature by divesting from fossil fuels, not allowing oil drilling in areas with vulnerable species, and taking preventative measures against forest fires, to mention a few. 

4. Take action against racism

Greece is a country where, in 2012, a neo-fascist group, Golden Dawn, was democratically elected and won 18 parliamentary seats. Thankfully, Greece is also the country that last month, sentenced the group’s lawmakers for operating a criminal organisation under the guise of a political party, with thousands on the streets celebrating this decision. Being non-racist is not enough in a Wellbeing Economy. We need to ensure that we will not allow these ideas and actions to find fertile ground again. If we want to move towards a Wellbeing Economy, we need to reflect on how we must be actively anti-racist

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”

Socrates

We might still be quite far away from having a Wellbeing Economy in Greece. However, the vision – and the hope – for one is being built in communities and small groups who dare to challenge the way things are currently, and who work towards an economy that is all about social justice on a healthy planet. 

Anna is the Advocacy Coordinator in the WEAll global amplification team, and also coordinates operations and projects for WEAll Scotland. She is passionate about political ecology and practices that place people and the environment ahead of profit.

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

By: Christopher Boyce

I’d been writing about wellbeing for years. In fact, I’d published loads on the subject; an ‘expert’ you might say. Yet, the really curious thing was that when I thought about my own life, how I spent my time (mostly working), whether I had neighbours I could rely upon (eerily quiet stairwells), my health (OK, but I needed much more fresh air), I didn’t feel very content with how things had turned out. Sure, I did well at “the job”, achieved a lot and got paid more than enough. But those things don’t really matter all that much – much as my own research into understanding the links between money and happiness kept telling me.

When it came to wellbeing, I knew a lot and I could talk a good talk, but behind all of that, I wasn’t living the way I needed to feel fulfilled. In a society that cares more for profit than people, that is a difficult thing for any of us to do. 

My decision to quit my comfortable but not very happy life, and head out into the world on my bicycle, wasn’t an easy one. Sadly, making choices that fulfil us on a deeper level is rarely made easy. I was hoping that my bicycle would take me to places where they were finding other ways to live, that didn’t involve growing the economy ever larger. This was a journey that from top to tail, was centred around wellbeing – how I travelled, where I went, and who I encountered. Eventually, I was hoping that the end point of my journey would be when my bicycle and I would reach Bhutan, the country famous for its use of happiness to guide its national policy.

In the end, I cycled a good way up most of the Americas (from Argentina to Canada), before journeying to Bhutan via South East Asia – 25 countries and 20,000 km of pedalling. 

A huge chunk of my journey was spent in Latin America. Nearly 10 months – far longer than I had anticipated, yet the places I passed through there, were so inspiring and inviting.

Day 23: In Uruguay – fresh but nervous about the long road ahead.

In terms of how much people laugh and smile throughout the day, it is in Latin American countries where this is the highest in the world. The wellbeing they have is relational – that is, their wellbeing is grounded in relationships and the community – rather than in continuous, and often endless, achievement. Their wealth resides in their connections with one another and on countless occasions I was extended the most touching hospitality. It is an innate human need to give, and Latin Americans certainly haven’t lost the art of doing that. In the materialistic profit-orientated mainstream economy, there is such an extreme focus on getting and taking, often at the expense of others, that our wellbeing inevitably suffers.

Day 80: Up in the Andes. It was a simple, humble life that often had me touching the divine and feeling deeply fulfilled.
Day 134: Ecuador. Passing the Southern hemisphere into the Northern hemisphere.

The country that stands out the most in Latin America from a wellbeing perspective, is Costa Rica. Having heard so much about Costa Rica over the years, it was a joy to be there on my bicycle. It is uncanny that Costa Rica outperforms the United States on life expectancy (81.0 versus 79.1 years), democracy (a full democracy versus a flawed democracy), and population life evaluation (7.1 out of 10 versus 6.9). This is all despite having an average income more than three times smaller than in the United States. 

Day 247: A happy little village in Guatemala. Happiness the relational way.

During my time there, I met with Costa Rican government officials. They told me that their way of life has come about because Costa Rica made crucial policy decisions – high investment in health and education in the 50s/60s, as well as environmental protections in the 80s. What I loved about Costa Rica is that there is a national pride in living a simple, yet happy, relational lifestyle – they refer to it as the “pura vida”. I remember with fondness camping for days on end, watching the waves crash on beaches, and getting a taste of that “pura vida” for myself – no rushing, just being.

Another stand out country on my journey was Canada. Their national index of wellbeing is pushing the frontiers of going beyond measures of GDP – as the director of the index explained to me, when I met up with him. Not only was their index developed with citizen consultation, but it also has direct links to policy and is useful at the local and regional level. 

I was surprised I got as far as Canada. It wasn’t an easy journey and had been deeply challenging in places – from a dog bite in South America early in the journey, to crushing loneliness in North America – and in all honesty, by the time I reached Canada, I was ready to give up on Bhutan and come home.

As much as the journey was centred around arriving in that curious country, I’d long figured out that my own happiness wasn’t dependent upon me arriving there.

My personal process on this journey led to me letting go of achievement and being more present and compassionate in my approach to life, much like how the most inspiring people I met on my journey lived. They tended to be the happiest people I met too.

It was in Canada that lots of people I didn’t know started becoming interested in this journey of mine. It seemed that because I’d gotten this far, others thought I could genuinely make it to Bhutan. I got a new lease of life and I journeyed on through to Asia. It was in India where I was my happiest by far.

Day 500: Many curious and friendly souls in India.

Not only was I, after 18 months of cycling, excitably close to Bhutan, but I was well looked after by the countless people I met there. And I still can’t forget the happiness I felt two weeks earlier, when I was in neighbouring Sikkim, looking at mountains that might well have been Bhutanese mountains.

Day 508: Bhutanese Mountains. Finally arrived and feeling happy.

In Bhutan, it is dekyid that policymakers are trying to preserve and protect. Dekyid translates to happiness in English, but it means much more than that. It actually is more akin to peace and tranquillity. And in Bhutan, they aren’t ready to sacrifice it for the sake of a bigger economy. Though it has to be said that as a subsistence economy, there would perhaps be some benefits to economic growth there.

Yet, Bhutan is growing its economy in a way that is aligned with their own unique values. Such development takes time, but it is necessary. 

Day 511: Finally at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan on International Day of Happiness, 20th March 2019.

There is a lot to learn from countries like Costa Rica, Canada, and Bhutan. They’re not perfect, no country is. But, the stand out features are that they are cultivating ways of life that haven’t been prescribed by the globalisation agenda. By the time I arrived in Bhutan, I had so much I wanted to incorporate into my life when I returned home. I couldn’t wait to get more involved in wellbeing conversations. In fact, when I set out for Bhutan, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance didn’t exist. But I’d watched as it gathered steam whilst I was away, and I couldn’t wait to come back and be a part of it.

Even though I quit a respectable job to take what was quite an absurd journey, people seem to value what I have to say a little more than before. It is one thing to research wellbeing, but quite another to live and breathe it. 

Christopher Boyce is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Stirling Management School, University of Stirling and a member of the World Wellbeing Panel. His research has explored how the economy contributes to individual and national happiness and wellbeing. Three years ago, he left academia to go on his cycling pilgrimage to Bhutan and is currently writing a book based on that journey, tentatively titled, ‘A Journey for Happiness’.

You can listen to Christopher speaking about his journey on BBC’s Fixing the World podcast: A Happier Planet.

Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @drhappyboyce; his website and sign up for book updates here.

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

by: Sandra Waddock

There is a lot of talk today about bouncing ‘back’ or returning to what passed for normal before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world and everyone’s lives. But there is a huge problem with that idea. 

By the nature of complexity and wicked problems in social systems, complex systems simply cannot return to prior states once change has been triggered. 

Despite many calls to ‘bring back’ the system as it was, and efforts by governments and business leaders to do so, many economic, work, educational, and social systems have already changed in unpredictable ways that make a complete return to pre-pandemic conditions unlikely. 

Something else important is happening, too. The pandemic has raised awareness that the economic drivers that shaped the prior ‘normal’ have created many problems—including existential crises like climate change, species extinction, and inequality. Some observers have even laid the COVID-19 pandemic at the feet of overly aggressive exploitation of nature. 

So the real question is, what will our economic and social systems look like after the pandemic if we can indeed do what WEAll suggests and ‘build back better’ or ‘bounce beyond’ today’s economics? 

Today’s dominant economic drivers include beliefs, or what the late systems theorist Donella Meadows called mindsets, that form an economic paradigm. That paradigm— neoliberalism —has been used to justify growing inequality, ignorance of environmental impacts, and a drive towards ‘efficiency’ that justifies layoffs, abusive conditions in many companies’ global supply chains, and cutthroat competition. The most vocal proponent of this flawed set of beliefs was the late Milton Friedman

Neoliberalism claims that markets are and need to be ‘free’, that people are self-interested profit maximisers—and so are companies. That the best governments are the ones that exert the least regulatory or legal influence on the powers of business. That endless growth is the goal of economies and companies. That companies’ only social responsibility is to maximise profits for one group of stakeholders—the shareholders, as Friedman put it in a famous and influential, yet problematic, New York Times article in 1970

Neoliberalism’s flawed and problematic orthodoxy (a generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice) remains deeply embedded in both business practice and governmental focus on flawed measures like GDP. The thing is, as my recent paper ‘Reframing and Transforming Economics around Life’ (published in Sustainability) argues, what the world really needs now is not another attempt at reforming the current framing, but a completely new economic orthodoxy.

The world needs an economics that favors life in all its aspects. One that fosters wellbeing for all humans, as well as non-humans. That economics needs to be built on powerful precepts— ‘memes’ or core building blocks of culture—that resonate broadly yet are considerably more holistic than those of neoliberalism.

Such memes support today’s new / next economies initiatives—such as Amsterdam’s recent adoption of Raworth’s ‘doughnut economics’and other wellbeing economies.

My paper argues for six synthesised precepts or building blocks, for Wellbeing Economics, drawn from a wide range of literatures. 

1. Stewardship of the Whole

Stewardship of the whole is foundational. Simply put, this means that leaders, governments, communities, businesses, and other institutions and, indeed, all of us, have shared responsibility for ensuring that the ‘whole’ system, including the planet itself, is healthy and supporting all of life for the foreseeable future. Living systems, including communities, organisations, and Earth itself, are healthy when all of their parts work together productively—when the ‘whole’ is considered, not just the parts. 

2. Co-creating Collective Value

Economic activity can be positive or negative (think the clear cutting of forests). This is why the focus of today’s economics on the growth of money as the sole way of assessing wellbeing is incredibly narrow-minded. Many other values, though perhaps not as readily measured as monetary outcomes, are important to humans, including health, relationships, community, meaningful work, and belonging, among others. Thus, another precept that underpins health, life, and wellbeing is co-creating collective value. Scholars Donaldson and Walsh argue that generating collective value should be the core purpose of businesses. Many important societal values that lend ‘life’ to human systems can be included in such a metric, as the Genuine Progress Indicator demonstrates. 

3. Cosmopolitan-localist Governance

Another core precept is cosmopolitan-localist governance. Given today’s technologically connected world, it is possible to create local governance systems in which citizens can have voice, input, and impact, and connect those to the global system. Cosmo-local governance, as it is sometimes called, relies on this connectivity, while decentralising decision making as much as possible, and allowing for communities to create and share ideas, knowledge, skills, technology, culture, and ecologically sustainable resources. 

4. Regeneration, Reciprocity, and Circularity

Cosmo-localism is complimented by an approach to production of goods and services that emphasises regeneration, reciprocity, and circularity. The idea here is to produce goods and services in alignment with the natural environment’s capacity to regenerate them, to operate in accord with nature’s own principles, in which exchanges are reciprocally balanced as inputs and outputs, and avoid toxic by-products (or products). Circularity avoids the take-make-waste approach too often used today, and instead adopts the idea of ‘waste equals food’, as some ecologists put it— which suggests that what is waste for one part of the system, needs to be reused as ‘food’ (inputs) in another part. 

5. Relationship and Connectedness

In contrast to neoliberalism’s strong bent towards individualism and individual responsibility, economics for all of liferecognises the idea of relationship and connectedness as foundational to what it means to be human—and what it means to exist in a complex world where physicists tell us, everything is connected. Human beings thrive in the context of relationship—and indeed, cannot survive on their own. The South African principle of Ubuntu, the idea that ‘I am because we are’, and the Lakota principle of Mitikuye Oyasin, or the idea that ‘all are related’ (sometimes translated as ‘All my relations’) reflect the core principle of relationships and connectedness. 

6. Equitable Markets and Trade

Since we are all connected, equitable markets and trade needs to replace the flawed idea of free markets and trade—because how we treat each other in markets and trading situations matters. Equitable or fair markets/trade offer fair and fully costed products and services, with all costs internalised, because otherwise, they are absorbed by and harm societies and the natural environment. It also means producing goods and services that are actually needed by customers and recognising the importance of good—and participative—governance over their fairness. 

There’s much more that could be said about each of these principles. 

The key idea here is that to make progress towards a Wellbeing Economy, many more progressive initiatives need to come to agreement about what the core ideas are, that would drive such an economy. 

My paper is intended as a start on that conversation, though by no means is it the end point. 

Dr. Sandra Waddock is the Galligan Chair of Strategy, Carroll School Scholar of Corporate Responsibility and Professor of Management at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Sandra has published well over 100 articles on corporate citizenship, sustainable enterprise, difference making, wisdom, stewardship of the future, responsibility management systems, corporate responsibility, management education, and related topics. Her research interests are in the area of macro-system change, intellectual shamanism, stewardship of the future, wisdom, corporate responsibility, management education, and multi-sector collaboration. 

Connect with Sandra on her website, blog and on Twitter: @SandraWaddock and @IntellectShaman

Faces of the Wellbeing Economy Movement is a series highlighting the many informed voices from different specialisms, sectors, demographics, and geographies in the Wellbeing Economy movement. This series will share diverse insights into why a Wellbeing Economy is a desirable and viable goal and the new ways of addressing societal issues, to show us how to get there. This supports WEAll’s mission to move beyond criticisms of the current economic system, towards purposeful action to build a Wellbeing Economy.

By Arhum Amer

Urdu is spoken as a first language by nearly 70 million people and as a second language by more than 100 million people, predominantly in Pakistan[i]. Urdu is a language full of beauty and grace, a language that seems to have been custom-built for literature, a language that adds meaning to prose and charm to poetry.

In this language, the literal translation of ‘wellbeing’ would be خیریت ‘khair-iyat’.

A ‘Wellbeing Economy’ would be referred to as خوشحال معیشت ‘khush-haal maeeshat’

Pakistan is a country with 212 million resilient citizens, 64% of whom are under the age of 30[ii][iii]. Our founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision for a khush-haal maeeshat is echoed by our current Prime Minister, H.E Imran Khan’s platform for a “Naya Pakistan” (meaning “New Pakistan”): a welfare country based on democratic principles, freedom and respect for every religion and ethnicity, equality between poor and rich, safety for minority groups and the accountability of public office holders.       

To understand what a Wellbeing Economy, or khush-haal maeeshat, in Pakistan would look like, it is important that we understand the environment and challenges that grip Pakistan. Being a developing country, the reforms that we dream of may seem minuscule to a citizen of the West. However, I believe every state in the world is encountering similar or comparable issues, with varying intensities; each must be addressed to truly deliver khair-iyat, for all people.

Inequality

A high level of inequality prevails in the country, with around 24% of Pakistanis living below the poverty line[iv]. Many of the country’s financial challenges stem from recently overcoming a ‘War on Terror’, which resulted in $126B USD worth of losses over 17 years and from corruption, which remains Pakistan’s biggest systemic challenge.       

The Government’s Ehsaas Kafaalat programme will provide monthly cash stipends of Rs. 2,000 and bank accounts to Pakistan’s poorest women, as well as better access to smartphones, as a step towards digital inclusion. Such programmes must be expanded to all corners of Pakistan. No country can truly progress with such a large chunk of its population living under the poverty line.    

Education

Pakistan’s constitution obligates the state to provide free education to all children until the age of 16. However, due to the low standards of Government Institutes and the prevalence of child labour, students prefer private schools or choose to stay out of school. This has led to Pakistan having the second largest out-of-school youth population in the world[v]. I believe the students of the country deserve a forward-looking curriculum with compulsory extra-curricular activities. A Wellbeing Economy in Pakistan would encompass high quality state education and enrolment of girls in schools, in areas where they are deprived of education. 

Healthcare

In Pakistan, the double burden of malnutrition is becoming increasingly apparent, with almost one in three children underweight (28.9%), while 9.5% in the same age group are overweight[vi]. Meanwhile, overcrowded cities, unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation, poor socioeconomic conditions, low health awareness and inadequate vaccination coverage have led to the rapid spread of communicable diseases, adding strain to the already overstretched medical facilities in the country.

Several government initiatives are underway to address these issues. For instance, the Poverty Alleviation Programme called Ehsaas Nashonuma, is a health and nutrition conditional cash transfer programme which aims to address stunting in children under 23 months of age as a pilot project in nine districts of the country. 

Pakistan has recently rolled out universal health insurance in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with plans to expand it to Punjab, the country’s most populous province. I believe that access to the same medical facilities, for the rich and poor, would be the height of healthcare reform in the country. 

Urban Development

With its urban population growing three percent per year, Pakistanis are flocking to cities faster than any other country in South Asia[vii]. Urbanisation has inflated Pakistan’s biggest cities so rapidly that they struggle to deliver public services and create productive jobs. A disparity exists in the development of Pakistani cities: a few having 21st century facilities, others lacking basic necessities. Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, got its first metro train line just a couple of weeks ago, in addition to its existing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The newly functional Orange Line Metro in Lahore, 250,000 people are expected to travel on it everyday. Wikimedia Commons

However, Karachi which is the country’s financial hub and largest city, has no public transit system or Emergency Response System. The city, with an estimated nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $164 billion USD[viii], was brought to its knees in the recent monsoon rains, due to the lack of a drainage system and planned development. 

Approximately 3 feet of water can be seen on the roads of Karachi’s most expensive residential area, after torrential rains paralysed the city.

In my opinion, the way forward has to involve empowering local governments, so they can collect taxes and spend it on the specific needs of the city. Sustainable expansion of cities should be based on long-term master plans and urban development projects should focus on supporting pedestrians and cyclists, rather than only facilitating car transport. The Clean Green City Index is a helpful tool to support this development.

Climate Resilience 

Pakistan is the fifth most climate-vulnerable nation in the world[ix]. Over the past 20 years, Pakistan is estimated to have lost nearly 10,000 lives and $4 billion USD in financial losses due to climate-related disasters[x]. My vision of a Wellbeing Economy in Pakistan involves one where the country is not constantly at risk from climate catastrophes. 

Pakistan has recently launched several initiatives to create a ‘green Pakistan’ and protect our national parks and forest reserves, including “Clean Green Pakistan” and the “Protected Areas Initiative”. The “10 Billion Tree Tsunami” initiative aims to plant billions of trees across the country over the next three years, in addition to the one billion trees already planted in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The use of plastic bags has also been banned in major cities (the implementation of this ban is a different story…). 

In addition to its progress to date, my vision for a climate-friendly and climate resilient Pakistan is one that moves toward affordable and clean energy, builds green cities and emphasises recycling, water conservation, responsible consumption and production models. An important step towards this vision involves a public awareness campaign about the possible catastrophic impacts of climate change on our glaciers and water tables – and how this would impact Pakistani lives. Climate change is not just an environmental challenge, but an issue impacting our economy, human health, agriculture, and ecosystem. 

Justice

While millions of legal cases remain pending in the courts of Pakistan, religious intolerance, lack of human rights and women’s safety have become a cause for concern. My vision for a Wellbeing Economy is in line with Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision:

“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”

“You are free. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

I believe that a khush-haal maeeshat in Pakistan would see policies being made to protect the vulnerable, to create an environment that supports accountability and merit, and to serve the common person instead of a handful of the wealthy. No one would be above the law. To deliver on this vision and improve law-and-order in the country, better policing, use of forensic sciences, and accountability of public office holders is needed. Punishments for harassment and rape cases must be stricter and proper prosecution of such cases must be carried out to restore safety of women in the country. An entry test along the lines of the LSATs should be introduced to ensure that our legal community consists of the brightest minds in the country. The introduction of a Witness Protection Program is also critical, especially in criminal cases, in line with the model of the U.S Witness Security Program (WITSEC). 

The Way Forward

Pakistan faces challenges on multiple fronts, from the economy to governance and education to health services. Yet, there are plenty of things I love about my country and my hope for Pakistan’s bright future, despite its problems, never dies out.  

The fact that the WHO has praised Pakistan for its brilliant handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and that Pakistan has achieved its SDG 13 (Climate Action) goal a decade ahead of the deadline, are testaments to the fact that, no matter how mammoth the challenge, having competent public office holders making decisions for the khair-iyat of the people, can be done – and pays off.  

While we may seem off course in some ways:

“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that [we] cannot achieve.”

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Arhum is a student of Chartered Accountancy and currently works as an audit associate at PwC Pakistan. His long-term goals include working for the betterment of the country.

References

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.

by: Xola Keswa

Impilo econo kuqala kwesimosomnoto – Wellbeing economy 

Zulu

South Africa is a country that many greats, including Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Steve Biko, Mariam Makeba, Trevor Noah, and Mahatma Gandhi, have called home.

People will tell very different stories of their experiences in our beautiful country, depending on when they were born and which time period they lived through. As is no secret, the country wasn’t always like it is today. South Africa comes out of a difficult time of suffering and pain: apartheid, a legal form of discrimination, loomed on our streets for about fifty years, following 300 years of colonisation. These hard times ushered in new visions of what South Africa could be, if given the opportunity. 

The Rainbow Nation

The new vision was one of equality before the law and the upholding of human rights: the right to life, right to dignity and the right to freedoms that any person can be all which they desire.

In our African traditions and customs, we call this word humanity (the foundation for wellbeing) in a different way. We call it by the name “Ubuntu”, meaning “I am because we are”.

Desmond Tutu was one of the first people to mention Ubuntu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which then further introduced it to the world. After his release from prison, South Africa began to embrace a spirit of togetherness inspired by Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation and its democracy. After he was elected as the first president of our democratic South Africa, Madiba, as many call him, chose peace and reconciliation instead of bloodshed and civil war, which could have easily been the story of South Africa, like many of our African countries which experienced a similar situation.

Inspired by these leaders, the spirit of Ubuntu and togetherness have shaped our new vision and narrative of a post-apartheid South Africa: the Rainbow Nation

Visions of Wellbeing from the ‘Born Frees’

At the age of 26, I’d say I’m one year short of being what we call ‘a born free’. In South Africa, children who were born in 1994, who are about 25 years or younger, are referred to as ‘born frees’. They did not experience apartheid; they have only heard about it in the news or in their history books or in the stories told by their parents or grandparents.

These are the young ones who belong to the united, post-apartheid South Africa, which we have come call our Rainbow Nation.

It is this Rainbow Nation and the spirit of Ubuntu that I’d like to focus on, as a gateway to an economy of togetherness as opposed to separateness. 

The Time of COVID-19: Ubuntu in Action

In 2020, the country was faced with a challenge some thought was on too big a scale for South Africa to tackle, given our young democracy. 

As COVID-19 approached us, many feared for the worst to happen, as people were pushed to the brink of survival. Many people who were already on the breadline saw that same bread disappear at the table. Many people lost their jobs as the country geared for lockdown level 5 (meaning nobody could be walking around in the streets): everyone was told to stay home. What was our country to do, as 30% of youth were unemployed and those who did have a job lost them? Many people left cities and towns to get away to the countryside, fearing an insurrection.

This country did no such thing; instead people and government came together and thought of exactly the opposite.

The country responded as if they asked themselves, ‘What Madiba would do?’

In March, our government started a new foundation called the ‘Solidarity Fund’, intended to support communities with food aid, medical and financial relief, as well as to support the country with the spirit of togetherness during these difficult times. It is also investing funds into wellbeing, health and ending gender-based violence. In response to the crisis, all the major South African business firms and wealthy families in South Africa started donating to this Solidarity Fund. 

At the same time, citizens also took action as lockdown rules tightened and the need for basic food and shelter became apparent. In Cape Town, a local initiative was created by a group of Captonians’ who saw a need for solidarity instead of segregation, from a Facebook group called ‘Cape Town’. A self-organising system of community action networks were created in every major town or suburb in the city of Cape Town metropolitan area. Each community organised its own volunteers from the neighbourhood, to help in fundraising for the less fortunate in the cities’ peripheries. 

As the world knows, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world, where the rich live like those in Europe and the US, while the majority, the indigenous people, can barely afford to stay above the poverty line.

Through these community action networks in Cape Town, we witnessed a major redistribution of resources from the ‘haves’ to the ‘have nots’.

Like a wave of a magic wand, people began distributing food aid and blankets for the homeless and assisting in finding shelters in churches etc. What stood out for me, by far, was the partnering of affluent suburbs and townships called the ‘Cape Flats’. As the nation started to form an understanding of a common threat to us all, we put our differences aside to deal with the virus together. 

I have seen the vision of building towards a Wellbeing Economy being put into practice – slowly though, as negative minds still exist and push back against the current communal wave. For example, many municipalities went against their rate payers by calling them out for engaging in community action networks. But this hasn’t stopped the spirit of togetherness spreading into the country to major cities like Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth city in the Eastern Cape. 

For the first time in my life (aside from winning the Rugby World Cup, of course), I felt proudly South African. I am actually seeing my country, our Rainbow Nation, put aside the past and “build back better” through the idea of solidarity – Ubuntu.

My Vision of a Wellbeing Economy

The idea of solidarity as a response to the COVID-19 is definitely part of my vision for a new economy. Putting human beings and communities first, before anything else and actually mobilising funds and resources to do so via the Solidarity Fund. 

To me it is obvious that whenever our country is pushed into a corner, we will return to the spirit of togetherness inspired by our past leaders and Desmond Tutu’s philosophy of Ubuntu. It helped to end apartheid and it is building our strength in the face of the coronavirus. 

This spirit of finding strength in diversity and bringing together different resources and skills, is South Africa’s best hope of coming out of any mess we find ourselves in and fostering the wellbeing of all people, regardless of colour or creed.

The cooperation around South Africa’s progressive Solidarity Fund demonstrate this spirit – and can be the foundation for a Wellbeing Economy in South Africa. 

There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.