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WEAll is developing a Policy Design Guide that is to be launched in January. In support of this, we hosted an event on November 5th to galvanize interest. Amanda Janoo led the discussion and in her presentation, she outlined the goals of the Guide and how it can be used by Policymakers around the globe. In particular, the Guide addresses the need for case studies that show how to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy. 

After her short presentation, participants broke into breakout rooms to discuss the following questions:

Discuss your experiences designing policies to build a just and sustainable economy. What has worked and what hasn’t? 

How could a global policymakers network and/or WEAll support governments to build a Wellbeing Economy? What would you hope to gain from a network such as this?  

Some of the interesting questions that were raised are detailed below. 

What is a Wellbeing Economy?

  • Definitions: What are the different definitions of wellbeing? How do we make these understood by global audiences?
  • Clarity: What is the definition of a Wellbeing Economy? How we get there is still unclear. The goals feel too general and are disconnected from what is happening on the ground. How can we provide better clarity? 
  • Communication: Clear messaging around a Wellbeing Economy is important. How do you get more buy-in from colleagues? Some expressed the misconceptions around having to give something up to make progress on social or environmental issues. Do people have to choose between the economy and the environment? One suggestion for developing widespread understanding of a Wellbeing Economy was creating a forum for communication with people e.g. hosting Citizen Assemblies, as done in Scotland, for example. 
  • Education: There must be a student-led movement and shift in school curriculums to educate about a need for a Wellbeing Economy and the necessary transitions to achieve it. In addition, there must be a shift in understanding that economic policy, environmental policy and social policy are not ‘separate’; these distinctions are unhelpful and efforts must be connected to each other to deliver desired wellbeing outcomes.

Data & Evidence

  • Evidence: Many people want to make the transition, but more measurements, case studies, research, indicators are needed.
  • Indicators and data: For the countries that have access to data on wellbeing indicators, questions lie in how to prioritise, how to apply the data and how to share it across various sectors of the economy. For those countries that don’t have access to the internet or systems to collect sound data, how can governments make informed decisions?

Involving Stakeholders

  • Participation: How do we bring people along with us on the journey towards a Wellbeing Economy? How can we engage them throughout the policy design process? 
  • Diversity:. How do we ensure that we’re representing all communities? One comment suggested that the SDGs ignoring racial inequality as a core issue. We cannot achieve the SDGs without first tackling issues around race and racism. 
  • Aligning Institutions: Most government departments still work in silos. How do we align government efforts to recognise and address the interconnections between social, environmental and economic dimensions? How can we illustrate these synergies? 

Considerations for Prioritising Wellbeing 

  • Adaptation: How can we adapt frameworks such as the SDGs or the OECD Wellbeing Framework to our national context? How can we select and prioritise the wellbeing goals that suit our unique context, challenges and culture? 
  • Money: This is still the dominant bottom line in policy: allocate budgets to help the economy grow first and foremost, and people and planet as secondary considerations . If we are to shift  toward a Wellbeing Economy, what kind of investment strategy would we need to address this issue? 
  • Women: If we don’t lift up and empower women globally, how are we going to improve wellbeing? One interesting point was raised around finding out what women actually need. For example, a rural electrification project may want to support women, but is that the solution that is actually going to lift women out of poverty? How do we focus our efforts to address root causes?

Where do we go from here?

There are a lot of questions around transitioning to a Wellbeing Economy that need answers. These answers  will not come from WEAll alone, but from all of us, as a collective. Together, we can share our knowledge and experience, connect the theoretical with the practical, identify the most useful indicators, and simplify language so that others may understand the vision of a Wellbeing Economy. 

Please let us know if you are interested in joining a network of policymakers from around the globe to support and co-create Wellbeing Economy  practices,by filling out this form. 

Nested between the current core sectors of the economy: Government, For-Profit Business and Non-Profit Organisations, the newly evolving 4th Sector is a space for business to be a force for change. It leverages both business and profit to benefit people and the planet.

We are in dire need of innovative solutions to ensure we rebuild our economy better than it was before COVID-19.

Our new WEAll Member, 4th Sector, believes that in order to Build Back Better, we must harness the power and potential of the 4th sector to address our most pressing challenges, ranging from quality healthcare for all, to unemployment, education, digital access, housing, poverty, structural inequality, climate change, and more!

With this in mind, 4th Sector has launched a way for you to get involved in the development of a new economy: the Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon!

The Hackathon is designed to support governments to prioritise spending in service of the common good and spur the development of effective policy solutions that governments can deploy.

Over the next few weeks, 4th Sector, will be accepting new participants to ideate solutions that support a better economy – and thus, world.

There are a number of Policy Issue Areas, ranging from agriculture, to democracy, trade, transformation, and Youth. Check out the online platform, submit your policy and let’s move from ideas into action.

  • A number of solutions for a better economy have already been submitted, including:
  • Digital and connected technology to improve access to healthcare
  • Shifting mainstream investment practices towards an impact-centered model
  • Capacity building for careers in purpose-driven economy
  • Land mobilisation and livelihood initiatives through Tribal Leadership
  • Critical 21st-century digital literacy for all
  • New Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms to achieve the targets of Zero emissions
  • Investment into the creative economy to support artists

Join the 4th Sector community in the development of a better economy by signing up to participate in the ‘Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon’.

For more information on 4th sector, visit their website or find them on Twitter and Linkedin.

By Isabel Nuesse

In his latest piece in The Star, “Time for an end to ‘white economics’”, Yannick Beaudoin reminded us that economics is a construct that was created by people and informed by the experiences and qualities of their cultures.

With an economic system founded on ‘white’ perspectives and patriarchal principles, it’s no wonder we’re seeing glaring racial disparities as the series of crises we face – environmental, social and economic- continue to progress. The algorithm is biased.

Facebook is undergoing a similar look at their own inherent biases in their algorithms. The social media giant has been under scrutiny for developing bias in its AI that disproportionately impacts minority groups. This news started the #StopHateForProfit movement.

Since, as Yannick points out, economics is a human construct – a code or a set of algorithms we program, we have the power to re-engineer them to pursue environmental and social wellbeing as the top priority in our economy.

And the same goes for the mandate of powerful companies like Facebook. The shift has already started. Companies like Cola-Cola, Disney, McDonald’s and Starbucks have boycotted advertising on Facebook to take a stand against these issues coming to light. Under this scrutiny, Facebook’s team says they are going to update their algorithm.

Yannick makes a clear call to action:

“We must demand and contribute to ending white economics so that new, generative and inclusive well-being economies can emerge… [We must] “innovate a well-being economics based on dignity, fairness, participation and nature.”

The “Founding Fathers” need to be “Founding Communities”

If we are to redefine our economics for the benefit of all, we must include more people with different cultures and experiences into our decision-making.

Despite the many ways we are seeing how the current economic system can be actively racist and is not serving the most marginalised communities, policymakers, aren’t quite taking the necessary steps to recalibrate the economic algorithm to serve everyone – as an economy should intend to do.

Creating Economic Recovery Policies that Reduce the Racial Wealth Divide

Arriving at a non-biased economic system will take work. The IPCC report, “White Supremacy is the Pre-existing Condition” outlines how policymakers can commit to closing the racial wealth divide. It begins with understanding the underrepresented communities that have been so heavily burdened by the crises.

Rich with new data and analytics, the report gives policymakers have better grounding to tackle an outdated system and offers eight tangible solutions to ensure the Economic Recovery Reduces the Racial Wealth Divide – and how to pay for this.

Emergency Measures

  1. Improved Racial Data Collection as Part of Emergency Investments
  2. A Racial Equity Audit as Part of Stimulus Oversight and Policy Development
  3. Income Support that Expands to Guaranteed Income
  4. Postal Banking

Emerging from Recession

  • Medicare for All- Universal Health Care Delinked from Employment
  • Expanding Inclusive Housing and Ownership
  • Federal Jobs Guarantee. With Living Wage
  • Baby Bonds

Paying for Policies using Tax Schemes:

The report outlines multiple tax schemes that can pay for a socially just recovery, including:

Upside Down Tax Subsidies and Taxing the Top (Millionaire Surtax, Financial Transaction Tax, Progressive Estate Tax, Wealth Tax, Tax Excessive CEO Pay and Shutting Down the Hidden Wealth System).

Our role

I propose that just as we’re seeing with Facebook, it’s now up to each of us to, effectively, ‘boycott’ our current economic system, in order to invest fully in the development of a new one. One that prioritises black and brown communities and our finite planet ahead of the financial profits of a few.

You think you can help us re-write the code?

Pathways to a People’s Economy, a project of New Economy Coalition (NEC), is a movement to build a people’s economy. NEC understands the time for a new system, changing the rules, giving communities control is now. And, they see a pathway forward. 

Through a four-part policy proposal, Pathways to a People’s Economy sets a vision for policies that will bring about change toward an economy that values people ahead of profit and sees the dignity in all life.

The Policy Areas are:

  1. Own our Workplaces
  2. Build our Neighbourhoods
  3. Finance our Futures
  4. Restore our Planet

In each policy area on NEC’s website, they clearly outline the pathway to economic systems change, including specific policy proposals and explanations as to why they propose such ideas. Each section includes cases studies that support their proposals of bringing this economy to life. We have briefly outlined those proposals here:

1. Own our Workplaces:

Vision: a world where there is no difference between “worker” and “owner”.

This proposal sees worker-owned cooperatives as a way to build community wealth and control. Some suggestions for policymakers are to:

  • Invest in local financial support for worker cooperatives, including revolving loan funds, loan guarantees and grant programs for both worker cooperative businesses and the technical assistance providers to serve them.
  • Give workers the right of first refusal to buy businesses that are put up for sale or threatened with closure.

Cooperatives are a solution that meets the needs of the business sector in communities, while also ensuring that wealth stays within the communities, to support the owners that reside in them. It also ensures that businesses do not close if issues arise with ownership. It shares accountability and ensures community prosperity.

2. Build Our Neighbourhoods

Vision: a world in which safe and quality homes are a human right—where our housing system and policies are rooted in community, participation, equity and anti-displacement.

Similar to cooperative business models, NEC advocates for housing cooperatives, land trusts and resident-owned communities. They suggest policymakers can reach these goals if they:

  • Make 50% of publicly owned vacant land available to community-owned/ democratically controlled housing at nominal or below-market prices.
  • Require building, rehabbing, or funding of community owned / democratically controlled housing in exchange for public subsidies and/or land use accommodations provided to for-profit developer.
  • Prioritise and expand public subsidies available to enable deeper affordability and prioritise permanently affordable, community-controlled developments.

By providing a variety of ownership options in the housing sector, these solutions remove predatory landlords and give security to historically insecure communities by reducing gentrification and homelessness.

3. Finance Our Future

Vision: a world in which the financial systems puts people over profits.

This means tighter regulations on private banks and Wall Street, divesting from extractive and predatory industries and expanding public banking and community-owned capital. NEC suggests policymakers undertake the following strategies:

  • Limit the size and power of banks
  • Create and strengthen those banks, community capital vehicles and financial institutions that prioritise the communities they serve.

In rethinking how money flows in our economy, we have the opportunity to create a system that fuels a regenerative economy and invests in visionary institutions that meet the needs of communities and planet.

4. Restore our Planet

Vision: a world where regenerative economies ensure that both people and the planet are thriving.

In order to prevent complete climate collapse, we must restore air, water and soil quality, meet the needs of communities and protect the most vulnerable populations from the crisis that already exists. NEC suggests policymakers act quickly and embrace the following:

  • Restore Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination
  • Divest from climate destruction and reinvest in climate resiliency
  • Build regenerative agriculture systems

It’s imperative that we move away from dependence on fossil fuels for jobs and energy, towards climate resilience and restoration.

These policy areas are just a preview of the expansive resource that NEC has developed.

Do check out NEC’s People’s Economy site and follow them on socials Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

The use of the term, ‘Wellbeing Economy’ has been increasing with Scotland being an official member and organiser of the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership, WEGo.

On Thursday 27th August, 75+ economic development practitioners gathered at a Consultation hosted by the Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS) and WEAll, to exchange ideas about how Scotland can further develop wellbeing economy policies and discuss the practical implementation of a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland.

Dr Robert Pollock, Managing Director, Regional Development Solutions and EDAS Board Member and Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead, introduced WEAll’s Policy Design Guidebook. The Guidebook aims to support policymakers looking to introduce wellbeing economy policies in their respective spheres, with a focus on the ‘how to’: presenting specific policymaking principles and processes to turn ideas into actions.

WEAll Scotland’s Gemma Bone Dodds, set the stage for the discussion of actualising a wellbeing economy in Scotland, by presenting the wellbeing economy policies that already exist in Scotland and where there are potential gaps. Breakout groups then explored possible next steps to move Scotland beyond a Wellbeing Economy framework and vision, and toward policy implementation.

Gary Gillespie, Chief Economic Adviser from the Scottish Government, closed by discussing the WEGo partnership and Scotland’s development of their national performance framework.

Get Involved

The input from the Consultation supports a participatory process that is vital to the Guidebook‘s creation. If you are a policy maker interested in reviewing or supporting with the guides development please contact Amanda Janoo, WEAll’s Knowledge and Policy Lead.

Submit a ‘Wellbeing Economy Case Study

As the Wellbeing Economy space is new, policies supporting the health of people and planet are often not recognised as “wellbeing economy policies”. In order to inspire policy makers on their journey to creating wellbeing economy policies, WEAll is looking for case studies from around the world — especially from the Global South –that are examples of wellbeing economy processes (e.g. participatory policy processes) and outcomes (e.g. bold wellbeing policies). Please share relevant case studies here by August 31st, 2020.

By Isabel Nuesse

This past month, I represented WEAll at an online ActionAble event on the topic of ‘Homelessness in the UK’. The webinar included two other speakers, Lisa-Marie Bowles from LB Camden and Shane Cole from Feed Up Warm Up,

Lisa-Marie spoke about current actions taking place in Camden on housing during the time of COVID. Shane reflected on his own experience with homelessness, his continued healing and inspiration for Feed Up Warm Up.

During the event, I spoke to homelessness from a wellbeing economy perspective. From this lens, homelessness should not be viewed as an individual’s personal failing, but rather as a failing of our economic system. In a wellbeing economy, human and ecological wellbeing are prioritised, and can be resolved together. For example, a wellbeing economy envisions community-owned, eco-friendly housing as a potential solution to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, without causing harm to our environment.

Following the presentations, over 30 participants from across the UK broke into working groups to discuss concrete ways that governments, businesses, NGOs and communities could end homelessness and ensure quality housing for all. This following list of tangible policies to tackle homelessness was generated under 10 minutes.

Our main takeaway?

We already have the solutions.
Now we need to make those solutions ActionAble.

 

Government Intervention

  • Government to purchase buildings in cities that can provide social housing.
  • Put pressure on the government to disclose where the money that is supposed to support individuals experiencing homelessness, is actually being diverted to the appropriate causes.
  • Provide government and non-profit services as a package offered under a single banner, as opposed to disjointed efforts from government and non-profits. This would allow interventions to ensure there are no gaps in service.
  • Ease regulations that require individuals to have an address to access basic services.
  • Simply give people homes.
  • Require new buildings to have a certain space for social housing / reduced rent.
  • Government to commission housing specifically for those who are housing insecure.
  • Give tax relief to organisations that are willing to help secure housing for individuals in their communities.
  • Require those that have a second home to give up their space for those without housing.
  • Tax by total land owned instead of by the location or square footage of the home.
  • Signpost empty houses and allow people to sleep there.

 

Business/NGO Intervention

  • Keep emergency beds in hotels and hostels to support those who are housing insecure.
  • Target organisations and companies to share their spaces with those that are experiencing homelessness.
  • Incite collaboration amongst non-profits to holistically support those that are experiencing homelessness, as opposed to working in silos.
  • Build ‘Airbnb for the Homeless’ i.e. empty bedrooms could be shown online, and homeless individuals could ‘book a room’ for the night.

 

Community-Based Approach

  • Partner elderly folks experiencing unstable housing and loneliness, together.
  • Create a nation-wide campaign to destigmatise homelessness.
  • Build shelters in every town and community.
  • Provide specialist support for those experiencing homelessness, to ensure they are well cared for and safe.
  • Scrap the law (in the UK) that prohibits people from receiving services from outside their boroughs.

 

If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please comment on the blog below to start a conversation.

 

We’d like to continue to develop this thinking as part of our work with government bodies who are working on building back better to a wellbeing economy.

 

This month, the UK House of Lord’s COVID-19 Committee launched its first inquiry on Life Beyond COVID. The Committee is interested in the long-term impact of the pandemic on people’s daily lives as well as on society as a whole.

In its first inquiry, the Committee is inviting people to share their hopes and fears about what the pandemic might mean in the long-term for our home and working lives, and for how we function as a society – what might it mean for social cohesion, for (in)equality, for our environment or for arts and culture?

If your organisation is interested in engaging in some direct policy impact, make a submission (including stories/ material on lived experience) to inform the Life Beyond COVID initiative.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 31 August.

If you have any questions or would like any further information, contact Alex McMillan: mcmillana@parliament.uk

By: Lisa Boll, ZOE Institute for future-fit economies

ZOE, the Institute for Sustainable Economies, is a non-profit think & do tank. Together with politics, science and civil society, ZOE develops trend-setting impulses for the fundamental questions of a sustainable economy.

COVID-19 has revealed the deep-rooted vulnerabilities of our current socio-economic system. “Business as usual” cannot guarantee sustainable prosperity on a healthy planet for all citizens. Relaunching the economy with the usual tools and policies won’t create the just transition we need.

This is a crucial moment to steer economic transformation towards structural resilience: enabling economies to be in a stronger position to absorb and recover from future shocks. It’s time to implement new policies that are fit for a just future. This means a shift away from structural dependence on the ‘growth paradigm’ and the use of GDP as the ultimate measure of success for policy decisions.

To tackle this challenge, today, the ZOE Institute has launched a new interactive website that offers a toolbox for ‘future-fit’ policymaking – which leads towards a sustainable, wellbeing economy.

Background Information: in-depth knowledge on different growth dependencies & strategies to overcome GDP-reliant economic frameworks, based on Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics.

Interactive Policy Database: The website features a state of the art, open-access policy database for sustainable prosperity, with over 200 transformative policies in the realm of employment & income, the environment, money & finance, and many more.

Users simply selected specific goals and objectives, and the interactive database displays relevant policy strategies for each topic, giving users concrete tools to work for a just and sustainable future for all.

Evidence-based Argumentation Strategy: Along with the policy database, the website features an interactive reflection game, which helps policymakers enhance arguments in favour of progressive policymaking, based on insights from scientific studies.

Visit www.sustainable-prosperity.eu to explore the vast interactive, open-access policy database and join a network of progressive thinkers across Europe.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text] By Katherine Trebeck (WEAll) and Peter Kelly (The Poverty Alliance)

First published by Bella Caledonia

 

 

This year started with masks and it is likely to end with masks.

As Scottish people woke up on Hogmanay morning, Australians were going to bed to the latest news of the bushfires spreading across the east coast of the country, taking people’s homes, wildlife and acres and acres of native vegetation with them.

In Australia’s capital city, Canberra, the rolling hills surrounding it meant smoke from nearby blazes settled in the city streets, endangering the lungs of locals. Many went out to buy masks and the ones of apparently high enough spec to filter out the carcinogenetic particles quickly sold out.

And now multiple governments are telling their citizens that wearing masks is part of the steps they need to take to control the transmission of covid-19, part of the so-called ‘new normal’ we’re all going to have to fall into step with.

And as lockdown measures are slowly, hesitantly wound back, attention is being turned to how economies can recover from one of the biggest kicks in the guts it is possible to imagine: workers and customers being told to stay home.

The stakes are high – people have lost jobs, businesses are no longer viable, and personal and government debts have stacked up. Emergency measures cannot continue indefinitely – in due course the direction is going to have to be set for the post-covid economy.

What covid-19 revealed was that the economy of pre-covid days was one that stood on the shoulders of an army of low paid workers eking out a livelihood in very precarious work. The early stages of lockdown revealed that what kept communities ticking over was the foundational economy, local supply chains, and the generosity and kindness of neighbours helping each other get by.

What will ensure Scotland builds back better? Certainly not reverting business as usual – in fact, that will be impossible, what is more likely is a more toxic economic model than the one of pre-covid days. So instead, what is necessary is a proactive, concerted effort to use all the levers the Scottish government has to create a wellbeing economy: one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Scotland has already created of the mechanisms that can enable this – they’ve just been underutilised. Now is the time to breathe life into them, doubling down on the timid steps already being taken rather than ditching them with a misplaced deference to old way of doing things which didn’t require too much prodding to be revealed as inadequate.

Here are some examples:

  • Conditionality needs to be the name of the game in government support for businesses. Some businesses merit public funds because they are the sort of enterprises that can play a part in building a wellbeing economy. Some won’t and thus don’t. No business that is unable to demonstrate its relevance to the wellbeing economy agenda should be in line for public funds. But in making that real, fortunately the Scottish Government has a Business Pledge, sitting on the shelf quietly that could be bolstered and used as a lens through which to evaluate the requests for help. The work of Scottish Enterprise constitutes another nascent move that needs more oomph: nurturing more inclusive business models into existence and the 2019 shift in strategy to making ‘job-related grants contingent on fair work practices, including job security and payment of the real living wage’.
    *
  • But in contrast to businesses, all people merit public support when the chips are down. So reskilling is needed to help people reposition themselves in a profoundly changed economic landscape. But not just reskilling but providing a backstop so people don’t slip too far as they step into the new reality, via robust social protection. Making permanent the improved resources made available through the Scottish Welfare Fund would be positive, but significantly increasing Child Benefit using Scotland’s scope to top up reserved benefits would provide the cushion that many families have been lacking in recent weeks.
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  • Communities know what needs to be done: how their localities need to change and what sort of economy will be in service of that. So perhaps the best role of a post-covid state is to underwrite community-led solutions? Again, there are the glimmers of existing practice to build on – not least in the form of the Climate Challenge Fund. Ramping up such initiatives will ensure the activities that emerge as lockdown is lifted are those aligned with sustainability and community need.
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  • Jobs themselves need to be redesigned – to deliver decent pay (it beggars belief that two in five care workers did not earn the real Living Wage as the corona crisis set in) and to distribute the available paid work more fairly across people who want it. The Scottish Government can encourage this through support for those firms that embrace employing more people rather than working fewer staff harder. For example, business rates could be recalibrated, subsidies and procurement could be better aligned with certain business practices, and basic bread and butter encouragement of necessary practices all matter.
    *
  • Covid-19 and the economic disruption it has brought is no reason to put dealing with environmental breakdown on the backburner – in fact, it makes the need even more stark if the likes of Covid-32 and Covid-97 are to be kept at bay. Again, Scotland has the beginnings to build on: ambitious climate targets and the work of the Just Transition Commission to map a way to support communities while powering down those industries incompatible with a low carbon economy. The very existence of Zero Waste Scotland is something to celebrate – a post-covid economy needs to be a circular one. The just transition agenda needs to be at the heart of economic and social policy making as Scotland seeks ways to move into a new economic era without people being left on the wayside.
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  • Other mechanisms that offer the means to bring about the sort of changes needed, were they just to be drawn on with more vigour, include the Sustainable Procurement duty, the Community Empowerment Act, and the community wealth building efforts. Community wealth building in particular, when combined with the efforts to bolster the population of inclusive business models flagged above, constitutes an important way to ‘get the economy to do more of the heavy lifting’ – or predistribute – resources in a way that is fairer than current circumstances allow.
    *
  • The Citizens Assemblies – for example on Scotland’s future and on climate change – are examples of the sort of robust, deliberative mechanisms to distil and develop the views of people in Scotland. With the First Minister talking of having an ‘adult conversation’ about responding to covid-19, the test will be the extent to which they feed into policy decisions and become a core part of decision making strategy.

The goal of a wellbeing economy has been set in the National Performance Framework, the creation of WEGo, the First Minister’s TED talk, and the rhetoric about the February budget being a wellbeing budget (a dubious claim, but the sentiment counts for something).

If the NPF can be used more concertedly to guide the objectives of policy making and accountability of policy making, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

If the learnings from others can be harnessed via WEGo and if the bold statements in the First Minister’s TED talk create space for civil servants wanting to be part of the transformation necessary, then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And if next year’s budget truly is a wellbeing budget – featuring long term goals, cross-departmental collaboration, with an outcome focus and attending to root causes of wellbeing deficits – then the economy coming out of covid will begin to be one that could be described as a wellbeing economy.

And that brings us to the task force set up to guide the government on economic recovery post-covid. Others have raised an eyebrow at its composition and lack of unusual suspects (and, dare we point out, the lack of expertise on addressing poverty and ways to bolster Scotland’s renewable sector, let alone an economic system change expert). This is surely an own-goal – diversity will enable better ideas. But not wanting to judge it prematurely, its merit will depend on the extent to which it discards outdated recipes, recognises the dual goals of social justice and sustainability and that the best initiatives deliver on both fronts to deliver collective wellbeing for current and future generations.

Scotland has the talk and the templates for building a wellbeing economy. There are tentative moves in the direction of what is necessary. Now is not the time to turn away from them. Now is the time to breathe life into them, roll them out, scale them out and up in order to build back better.

Katherine photo credit: Martin Oetting

Peter photo credit: Maverick photo agency[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Originally published by Open Democracy 

Written by: Amanda Janoo and Gemma Bone Dodds

_________

As world leaders scramble to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save millions of lives, we are increasingly hearing concerns regarding how social distancing and lockdown measures will impact the economy.

Governments and economic commentators fear a “stock market crash” and a “recession worse than 2009”, and are developing economic stimulus plans accordingly. But using GDP and stock market values as a barometer of economic health is misguided. The existing policy landscape is constrained by economic ideas and tools built for another time.

In this moment, our economic policies must be oriented towards meeting basic needs, promoting essential activities and facilitating a ‘Great Pause’ while we figure out to overcome this global pandemic. There is no longer an economic status quo available to us. What does this mean in practice?

1. The stock market is not a reflection of our economic reality

Stock market values are often used as a measure of economic vitality because they are meant to anticipate future monetary values. The problem of course is that no one knows what the future will look like. Therefore, now more than ever, the stock market has only the narrowest ability to reflect the real world and is therefore not a good guide for us in these times. If policy makers want to avoid a financial collapse, they should seriously consider shutting down the stock market for a period to limit run-away, anxiety-ridden trading. Or at least ensure that any Quantitative Easing or liquidity injections are based on a quid pro quo that cancels debts for businesses and citizens.

2. We will enter a recession – and that’s okay

When you hear policy markers fearing a recession, this means they are fearing that GDP will fall for at least two consecutive quarters. As the economist Frances Coppola has argued, “recession is the wrong word, because it implies this is bad. Better to call it ‘protective contraction’. We need a huge drop in GDP”.

If we learn one thing in all of this, it is that we are the economy. As we take a moment to stand still, the economy equally becomes more still. Our tendency to move, gather and work together are fundamental drivers of the economy. As millions stay at home to protect themselves and others, the economy will contract. Doing anything other than reducing economic activity right now would be putting our collective wellbeing in danger. GDP will drop during this time, and that’s okay.

And remember: just because the economy is not growing does not mean that we cannot ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met. Now more than ever we need to recognise that the economy is the system by which we provide for one another. A system that can and should provide for what our families and societies need most.

3. Economic policies for a ‘Great Pause’

During this period of crisis, we must abandon the old metrics of economic progress and listen to what people need. Economic policy responses must be swift and strategic and focus on meeting everyone’s basic needs and safeguarding essential parts of the economy. Combined, policies must enable a ‘Great Pause’: allowing us to bunker down, buy time, and keep ourselves and others safe while we focus on ensuring equitable access to health, food, housing, income, while enabling businesses (especially SMEs) to pause their operations until we have a handle on COVID-19.

Make no mistake, such policies will require significant public expenditures and we must implement strategies now to ensure that the economic costs are paid by those who are able to afford it. We cannot repeat the mistakes made following the 2009 economic recession and allow for governments to balance budgets through toxic austerity measures.

This is a unique moment for global solidarity, as only a globally coordinated response can combat this pandemic. Now is the time to go into offshore bank accounts, to close tax loopholes and to generate a global relief fund so that we do not allow this crisis to further consolidate wealth into the hands of the few. As we work to protect those closest to home, we must not forget that no country alone can combat a pandemic. We are all in this together.

4. Building back better

As we secure lives and livelihoods, we can take the opportunity of this ‘Great Pause’ to learn and reflect on what is truly important to us. And instead of rebuilding a broken system, we must consider the policies required to build back better so that our economy delivers social and ecological wellbeing.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the complete disruption of the economic status quo. We have known for some time that the 21st century obsession with growth creates extreme inequality and environmental degradation, but we haven’t yet found a way to create a path to something different.

This is a time to ask important questions – what is important to us when our very lives are under threat? What have we found that actually, we can live without? Where have we found meaning, and connection? What do we realise we have taken for granted and what can live without? What do we need our economy to deliver so that we can all live meaningful and fulfilling lives?

We have already seen how many of the workers who have been kept in poverty wages and economic precarity are actually the most critical for our collective wellbeing. Healthcare workers, farmers, grocery clerks, delivery drivers and caregivers have become the heroes of our day. Meanwhile, this moment of pause has brought increasing clarity to the things we value most, we now see how valuable (in every sense of the world) food, health, income security, education, mobility, access to nature, social connection and public services are to us.

This Great Pause gives us the time to consider how we can build an economy on these foundations. We must not return to business as usual, looking to financial markets and GDP growth figures for guidance. Economic policies must be oriented towards protecting and promoting the economic activities that are essential for social and environmental wellbeing. We have an opportunity to build back better.

The shape of the new economy is not a distant, dry set of policies. It is something we are living in and exploring right now. Let’s be present, move forward with compassion and explore the shape of things to come.

We invite interested people to engage in the conversation at WellbeingEconomy.org.

The government of Canberra in Australia has introduced a new 12-point wellbeing framework in order to “make Canberra an even more liveable city where our entire community can thrive.”

This encouraging step towards building a wellbeing economy is based on a broad understanding of wellbeing. The official government website act.gov.au/wellbeing explains the plans as follows:

“Definitions of wellbeing are typically broad and diverse, encompassing a wide range of areas that impact on an individual’s quality of life. Generally, having the opportunity and ability to lead lives of personal and community value – with qualities such as good health, time to enjoy the things in life that matter, in an environment that promotes personal growth – are at the heart of wellbeing.

When talking about individual wellbeing, we often speak to a person’s physical and mental health, the strength of connections they share with people around them, or their financial position. More expansive indicators of wellbeing can be a person’s relationship to their surroundings, such as their safety, their capacity to enjoy and live in harmony with the natural and built environment, or their ability to be mobile in their community. These aspects of wellbeing are not independent of each other. They operate together and influence one another, creating complex relationships that are in turn shaped by an individual’s lived experience.

Our vitality as a city is the result of the various lived experiences across the community. Ultimately, feeling healthy and happy will mean different things to different people. Capturing all these aspects of a person’s lived experience can be inherently complex. Before attempting to measure the wellbeing of our community, we have spoken with and heard from thousands of Canberrans about what they feel is most important to their own, their family’s, and their community’s quality of life.”

Wellbeing flower

Find out more on the ACT government website here.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) today overwhelmingly adopted an ‘own-initiative opinion’ on the sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that Europe needs. It calls on the EU ‘for a new vision of prosperity’, developed in close collaboration with WEAll Ambassador and CUSP director Tim Jackson as Expert to the Rapporteur.

See more from the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP)

Wellbeing economy language and ideas are central to the opinion, which called for a ‘new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values’.

Professor  Tim Jackson has worked closely with the EESC over the last year to help craft the opinion. He was appointed by the Committee as expert to the rapporteur early last year and took a lead role on drafting (and re-drafting) the opinion in the intervening months.

“I’m absolutely delighted by today’s vote,” said Prof Jackson. “It lays the foundations for a far-reaching transformation of Europe’s economic vision for the future.”

The Committee highlighted that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting ‘a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth’ and proposed the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress.

Its detailed proposals include a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules, an end to perverse subsidies and action ‘to address hyper-consumerism’ across Europe. It also proposed the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU.

What does the ‘opinion’ call for?

  • The EESC underlines that the European Union (EU) has fully committed itself to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To guarantee their proper implementation the EU urgently needs to develop the foundations for a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy that works for everyone.
  • The vision of social progress only relying on the pursuit of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ignores important elements of individual and social wellbeing and fails to account properly for environmental and social considerations.
  • The EESC calls for the EU to propose a new vision of prosperity for people and planet based on the principles of environmental sustainability, the right to a decent life and the protection of social values. The economy is an enabler for this vision.
  • The wellbeing economy should protect ecosystems, conserve biodiversity and deliver a just transition to a climate neutral way of life across the EU and foster sustainable entrepreneurship. Educational systems across the EU will play a key role in promoting such concepts across society, thus inscribing in them the way of thinking of the decision-makers and leaders of tomorrow.
  • To achieve this goal, the EESC recognises the need to support the fundamental changes that have already begun to emerge in the nature of enterprise, the organisation of work, the role of investment and the structure of the money system.
  • The EESC highlights that building the wellbeing economy must start by adopting a precautionary approach in which macroeconomic stability does not depend on GDP growth. It proposes the development of new indicators of economic performance and social progress beyond GDP.
  • The EESC proposes the adoption of a Living Standards Framework and the introduction of a Wellbeing Budget for the EU, modelled on approaches already adopted elsewhere.
  • The EESC calls for an end to perverse subsidies and for the alignment of all public sector spending across the EU and its Member States with the goal of achieving climate neutrality.
  • The EESC calls for a European Green and Social Deal to deliver the large-scale investment needed for a just transition to a climate neutral economy and to provide quality jobs in every community.
  • The EESC calls on the Commission and the Member States to carry out green fiscal reform to help align taxation, subsidies and pre-distributive policies with the goal of achieving a just transition to a wellbeing economy, in particular by enforcing existing legislation.
  • The EESC proposes a review of the growth dependency of the EU Member States and a strategy to focus on sustainable and inclusive wellbeing in the EU economy. It also recommends a review of the EU’s fiscal and monetary rules to ensure they are fit for purpose in achieving the transition to a climate-neutral economy.
  • The EESC calls for all existing EU policy and budgetary/financial frameworks and tools (such as the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Semester and Better Regulation) to be urgently aligned with a just transition to a wellbeing economy.
  • The EESC proposes the adaptation of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Annual Growth Survey to ensure that the wellbeing economy is fully consistent with the SDGs and the European Pillar of Social Rights.

See the full text and find out more here

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was a featured guest speaker at the latest session of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, on Saturday 18 January.

The Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland (the Assembly) is a group of 100 citizens from across Scotland that are broadly representative of the country and are coming together to address the following three questions:

  • What kind of country are we seeking to build?
  • How best can we overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century, including those arising from Brexit?
  • What further work should be carried out to give us the information we need to make informed choices about the future of the country?

The session on Saturday was the Assembly’s fourth meeting, and it focused on sustainability – applying economic, social and environmental lenses to Scotland’s sustainability challenges.

Katherine was invited to address the Assembly and outline the vision of a wellbeing economy, the role of growth and WEAll’s ideas for Scotland’s future.

You can watch the whole session on the Assembly’s Facebook page here (or below) – Katherine’s contribution starts at 30:53.

Session four of weekend 3 – Sustainability: environmental, economic and social lenses. We're LIVE at 14:45.

Posted by Citizens' Assembly of Scotland on Saturday, January 18, 2020

Reposted from OpenDemocracy 

By Katherine Trebeck

Back in the 1800s, scholars in the field of economics cast an envious glance at their colleagues in science.

They envied physics, with its laws of gravity. They looked with green-eyes at those studying chemistry, with its elements and atoms. And they longingly admired their biologist chums with their categorisations and evolutionary adaptation.

Now more than a century on, as we begin the third decade of the third millennium, economics no longer seems to take heed of science, let alone defer to scientific realities.

It is (invariably mainstream) economists with their contentions and blind spots that drive so much policy making, not scientists with their evidence-based models and forecasts.

The tables have well and truly turned. And nowhere is this so sorely – and painfully – acute as in Australia in the summer of 2019 and 2020.

Bushfires rage across the country, fuelled by record heat, and are now surging through acres of parched land dryer than ever after the worst drought in a generation.

In response, the Australian Prime Minister has held fast to a vision that a growing economy is the only option. He told a national TV station that “What we won’t do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching [green] targets which are being sought”.

What Morrison is effectively asserting is that the economy matters more than the science – in fact, that a certain model of the economy matters more, one in which the sole purpose of the environment is as an input to production and where it is assumed that growth will translate to benefits for all. This positions the economy at the top of the food chain, dropping crumbs to communities and extracting from the planet rather than something that is dependent on society which operates as a sub-set of the natural world.

Believing that the economy’s pre-eminence warrants downplaying all other concerns is a mindset that dismisses reams of scientific evidence and warnings. It turns a blinkered eye to why communities are being told to take shelter on beaches, why the Australian Navy is being brought in to rescue them and why a toddler was given a medal to posthumously honour his firefighter father who was killed with two other volunteer ‘firies’ (as us Aussies affectionately term them) when a tree fell on their vehicle.

What is happening in Australia is unprecedented.

It is what scientists have warned would happen.

It is going to be the new normal.

Perhaps most importantly, it is the loudest wake up call mother nature could send humanity to tell us that the wounds we have inflicted on her are taking an untenable toll.

Many times in the past I have heard those advocating for a new economic model say that when a ‘crisis’ comes, the movement for a more humane economy needs to be ready with ideas and visions, as that is when these ideas will finally get traction. That tactic always jarred – it seemed a rather privileged perspective that ignored or discounted that for many years many people around the world have already been suffering from the impacts of an economic model that treated people and planet as inputs to production. But, admittedly, such ostensible lack of solidarity or empathy may have come with some real politik. It recognises – perhaps implicitly – power imbalances.

And many of those impacted by the Australian fires are powerful. Many are wealthy. Many are people who have benefited from the growth-ist economic model because they are perched at the top of the pile. The coast houses of bankers, doctors, and property developers have been destroyed. New Year’s Eve parties have been moved from balconies with their harbour views indoors to escape the smoke. Corporate sponsored cricket matches have been called off because visibility got too bad. Yes, these are the folk with the resources to cope and recover, but maybe they’ll help nudge the balance of the conversation.

While Australia continues to burn, we can hope that what most Australians have been recognising will finally be heeded: that this monstrous cry for help from the planet is what flips back the agenda, so that economics returns to its deference to, and awe of, science. That scientific and natural laws will trump dubious dreams of trickle down. That now that wealthy and powerful people are also being hit by nature’s fury, they will join the ranks of frontline communities around the world and lend their voices and resources to mobilising for the transition that countries like Australia need to make towards an economy that respects the planet and priorities social justice and a healthy environment.

Building this new economic model doesn’t need to be disruptive – it can and must be just. There are ways and resources to protect livelihoods and, even better, to ensure that those most shafted by the current economic model are first served. But no longer can it be dismissed as ‘reckless’ to protect one sector – coal – at the cost of so many houses, lungs, biodiversity and precious wildlife.

Here’s hoping that 2020 is the year that new alliances come together to recognise that this crisis is one that hurts us all, and that a more humane economy that is gentler on the planet is one that will be good for everyone.

By Jussi Ahokas

Finland took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union this autumn (from 1 July to 31 December). The timing of Finland’s third EU Presidency has been very interesting. The European Parliament election took place in May and during the autumn the construction of the new European Commission has been under way. The future choices of Europe and the next steps for policies of the European Union have been widely discussed. Hence, more room than usual has been opened for envisioning and reflection – what should be the desirable future path for the whole continent and the union of European nation states?

As the chair of the Council Finland has tried to seize the opportunity by bringing new initiatives to the European policy discussions. Most importantly, Finnish Ministry of Social affairs and Health introduced the Economy of Wellbeing policy approach that emphasises the fact that increasing the wellbeing of people creates positive outcomes for the economy. This in turn allows new investments to increase wellbeing, inclusion and participation. Thus, the Economy of Wellbeing presents the positive cumulative causation, or the virtuous circle, which will lead to the improving people’s capabilities to live good lives.

During the autumn many interesting events under the theme of Economy of Wellbeing have been organized. The high-level conference of Economy of Wellbeing in September in Helsinki brought together politicians, civil servants, researchers and civil society actors from different European countries. Economy of Wellbeing as a new policy approach was enthusiastically welcomed and almost all discussants seemed to be inspired by the concept. Later in October the EU council adopted conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing which also portrayed the European wide interest on the new policy approach.

The civil society actors had important role in the high-level conference raising also somewhat critical voices on the current situation in Europe and the policy efforts of the EU. For example, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and the Social Platform – European NGOs that organized their own events in Helsinki earlier in that week – reminded the participants that the guiding idea and policy goal of Economy of Wellbeing should be people’s wellbeing and that economy is only a tool for making this happen.

From the perspective of SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health the message of EAPN and the Social Platform was of great importance. Indeed, in Finland SOSTE introduced the concept of Wellbeing Economy already in 2012 and slowly it has drawn more general attention in Finnish society. Before the EU presidency SOSTE was in close dialogue with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and it can be argued that the initiative of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe has its roots in civil society. This is a very good example of the power that NGOs and civil society can have in developing new visions and approaches that could change policies in the EU in the long-term.

The critical stance of NGOs – that the wellbeing of the people should always be the primary policy goal – has much importance, because the Economy of Wellbeing approach presented by the Ministry is also concerned over the “wellbeing” of the economy. There is a risk of “business as usual” being legitimised by the argument that besides the wellbeing of the people, we also need economic growth and sustainable public finances to achieve our goals. Hence, in time of an economic crises even austerity measures could be legitimised with Economy of Wellbeing approach.

Another important critique is the lack of – or at least too small – role for ecological and environmental perspectives. It is impossible to deny that at the time of climate crisis (and other ecological crises) the wellbeing of our planet is the most important policy issue and by neglecting it, we are not able to secure the wellbeing of people in our societies.

Therefore, it is very important that civil society actors continue to battle over the concept of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe. In the best scenario the initiative will bring us more policy space to build an actual Wellbeing Economy. An economic and social model that puts the wellbeing of all people and our planet first.

Mr. Jussi Ahokas is Chief Economist for SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health – SOSTE is a member of WEAll

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

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

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

So, what’s WEAll doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership built on ideas

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

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

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

 

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

Donate today to help make it happen.

The OECD has convening power. It has influencing power. And it has the power of its policy advice. It can prescribe changes that are listened to the same way a patient listens to their doctors advice.

So when the OECD’s regular gatherings on measuring wellbeing and shaping policy show signs of moving away from the cosy ‘GDP and beyond’ mantra and the non-system-challenging focus on treatment, then it is worth taking notice.

There’s a new regime in town.

In Paris over one hundred people spent two days hearing from the governments leading the effort to embed a focus on wellbeing into policy agenda. By the end, people were joking that the audience must have ‘framework fatigue’.

Diverse governments, from the UAE to Iceland, from Scotland to Jersey, from France to New Zealand, from Finland to Paraguay set out their efforts to shape policy-making – and, crucially – budgeting, in accordance with promotion and enabling of wellbeing. Discussion was about taking this seriously, changing planning and spending accordingly: the OECD Secretary-General told the audience that: “if it ain’t in the budget, it ain’t really a priority”.

Tensions between different conceptions of wellbeing were, thank goodness, not swept under the carpet as they often are in such discussions. People recognised that a focus on multidimensional wellbeing and the drivers of wellbeing was not the same as rallying around a single number measuring subjective self-reported wellbeing.

But what is done with any measure matters: Professor Jeff Sachs warned that looking at narrow measures means narrow perspective: “the stock market rising”, he said “but US life expectancy is falling, [the US has a] suicide and opioid epidemic – our country is in crisis, but we don’t know it’s a crisis because we don’t look at the right data; this question is not even asked”.

Speaking of drugs, Sachs (channelling WEAll Ambassador Robert Costanza) likened the prevailing money and growth focus to an addiction: “making money is addictive and we have an addiction”. This was reinforced by Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician and Director of the Statistics and Data Directorate who said “GDP was never meant to measure wellbeing; it’s been abused and now we’re addicted to it – need to go to a clinic to stop this addiction”. Fortunately, the doctors on duty are willing to look the patient in the eye and tell them some hard truths.

One of these is grappling with the need for both of the ‘two S.C.s’ as I described them. This first is a focus survival and coping – treating people whose wellbeing is low. This is, of course a humane response. It is also not enough in the face of an inhumane economy that is the root cause of so much anxiety and stress, to both people and to planet.

Hence the need for the second ‘S.C.’: system change that asks why people’s wellbeing is low and what changes in the economic set up need to be undertaken in response? Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff challenged delegates to think beyond celebration of amelioration: “Even the existence of social safety nets tells us people are falling and we need to catch them. But how do we keep them from falling?”

In terms of system change, there was also a frank discussion about the relevance of a growth orientated agenda in the richest countries. Of course ecological economists and others have been questioning this for years, but to have senior members of the policy making establishment state that growth doesn’t matter for quality of life in GDP-rich countries (asserting it is “irrelevant for rich country’s wellbeing”) and to even question why the OECD would maintain a programme under the heading of ‘Inclusive Growth’ seemed to be a new high point for the post-growth conversation.

Finally, an impatience with the disconnect between what the wellbeing community has been measuring and saying for years and slow progress in shifting the economic agenda was apparent. Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, opened the conference by saying the world is “well past the point when a lack of data is an excuse – [now the] need is to rationalise and choose and targets which are the relevant indicators”.

If these two days were a heartening stock-take on the state of the debate on wellbeing measures and policy agendas, their timing was just as useful: Finland is currently President of the EU and has made the ‘economy of wellbeing’ it’s flagship agenda. At times, the Finnish contribution seemed a little out of place, better suited to a gathering 5 years ago in that it emphasised the business case for wellbeing and asserting that if governments boost wellbeing that will boost growth. Fortunately, if the rest of the OECD conference was anything to go by, the thinking has moved on and the question is now “what can growth do for wellbeing?”. Not the other way around.

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

Last week, the Prime Minister‘s Committee on measurements for Well-being in Iceland proposed a framework of 39 indicators that cover social, economic and environmental dimensions of quality of life.

These indicators are intended to complement traditional economic measures, such as GDP, and monitor trends in people’s wellbeing. They are meant to look at the broader picture and inform government policy formulation. The indicators are linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, they are based on official statistics and allow for international comparison. Developing such indicators is a step towards ensuring common understanding of what factors make our lives better.

According to a survey commissioned by the committee, the general public in Iceland views health (i.e. good health and access to healthcare) to be the most significant factor in quality of life. This was followed by relationships (i.e. with friends, family, neighbours and colleagues), housing (secure housing, cost of housing, supply of housing) and making a living (income and assets).

Kartín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister, introduced the proposed indicators in the Inclusive Growth and Well-being Symposium in Reykjavík on 16 September. Other speakers at the Symposium were Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Derek Mackay, Finance and Economy Secretary of Scotland, Angel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD and Dr. Kristín Vala Ragnarsdóttir, Professor at the University of Iceland and WEAll Ambassador.

You can watch a recording of the Symposium and see the full report from the committee on the Icelandic Government’s website here.

 

This piece was first published on OpenDemocracy

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Download the full briefing paper

7 Ideas for the G7

Economic policies to tackle inequality and deliver wellbeing

By Amanda Janoo

 

This week the heads of state of the economies that comprise the Group of 7 (the ‘G7’) gather in France to discuss the critical issues of our time – with the stated focus of fighting inequality.

The group first came together in the 1970s to find a collective solution to the oil crisis that was destabilizing economies worldwide. Since their first meeting, the leaders of the G7 have met annually to confront the economic challenges that bind us.

This G7 gathering could be historic, if they take the bold and swift action required to tackle inequality, as well as the climate emergency, and to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

As we brace ourselves for another financial crisis, inequality between and amongst countries continues to grow exponentially, breeding social and political unrest worldwide.

Within many of the G7 countries, affluence is not breeding happy and healthy societies but lonely and anxious ones. The global balance of power is shifting from nation states to Multinational Corporations threatening the very democratic principles that bind the G7 countries. All while the rapid rate of biodiversity loss and climate change threaten our very existence.

These existential issues cannot be solved by any single country alone. They are a product of a global economic system that desperately needs to be reformed. The G7 countries represent over half of global economic wealth and still have the power to change this system. Tinkering with exchange rates and select tax policies will not cut it.

We need our leaders to be brave at this critical juncture in history when the world is splintering, and to realize there is far more that binds us than divides us.

My new paper, published today by The Wellbeing Economy Alliance, offers 7 Ideas for the G7 in the spirit of hope and a belief that a more just and sustainable economy is not only possible, but a few strategic decisions away:

 

  1. Adopt alternative progress indicators to GDP:

Global obsession with Gross Domestic Product as a progress indicator has resulted in widespread confusion between means and ends. The G7 should abandon the objective of GDP growth and agree to focus on achieving real economic objectives that matter most to citizens.

  1. Reform international economic organizations to promote wellbeing economies:

Perhaps no one has suffered more deeply from our dubious notion of progress than the global south. The G7 should work to reform the international economic organizations to encourage locally-oriented, context-appropriate economic development practices. We must abandon the idea that development or progress is a one-way street and create space for experimentation to identify systems of production and provision that can bring wellbeing to all.

  1. Binding code of conduct for multinational corporations (MNCs):

For too long, the global economy has allowed multinational corporations to accumulate unprecedented wealth and power, leading to a “race to the bottom” amongst countries to adopt the lowest environmental, labour and tax standards to attract or appease these global giants. A binding code of conduct would create greater space for upholding democratic governance of economies, and ensure more ethical production practices worldwide.

  1. Global Competition Regulation:

Every sector in the global economy is dominated a handful of corporations. MNC controlled supply chains now account for over 80% of global trade each year. This level of economic conglomeration is economically unsustainable and ethically unacceptable. We need global competition regulation to minimize risk and ensure more equitable and balanced business development worldwide.

5. Create citizens wealth funds:

The rise of new technologies has created new wealth, much of it reliant on public funding for education and research. The G7 should recognize that technological development must benefit society as a whole and not just the select few – which requires a new tax and redistribution system. Through a windfall tax on technological breakthroughs G7 countries could develop Citizen Wealth Funds at the country level to fund universal basic income, public services and infrastructure development.

6. Ban and redistribute all off-shore bank account funds:

Due to lack of global economic coordination and oversight, it is now estimated that at least 10% of the world’s GDP is held in offshore bank accounts. We need an official ban of all off-shore banking, with the G7 using their collective intelligence to extract all money currently held within these institutions and put it directly into a “global citizens wealth fund” to combat climate change and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. Financial Transaction Tax (Tobin Tax or ‘Robin Hood’ tax):

Global financial markets now move at lightning speed, generating immense wealth and at the same time universal vulnerabilities. France and Germany have been pushing for a global financial transaction tax at the G7 but have not succeeded in gaining substantial traction. This policy agenda would tax international financial transactions, particularly speculative currency exchange transactions, reducing financial volatility and raising billions to combat the global crises of our time.

 

These bold ideas are fully feasible given the wealth and power of the G7 countries. During World War II, the Army Corp of Engineer’s had a motto: “the difficult we do immediately, the impossible will take a little while.”

There are moments in history when paradigms shift. We are at this moment and if the G7 promotes these policies, we would be well on our way to achieving the “impossible”:  a global economic system that ensures we all live long and healthy lives in harmony with our natural environment.

Download the full briefing paper here

Image: Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

By Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead

I write this as I finally get a coffee after a long but exhilarating morning. Actually, a long but exhilarating few years.

This morning a few of us from the WEAll family were sitting in the house that Adam Smith used to live in.

We were there to see the kick off of the first Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) policy lab: Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand coming together to collaborate on wellbeing economy policies.

WEGo is about governments rolling up their sleeves, linking arms, and walking together down a path that sees national success as being defined by the quality of life of citizens rather than the growth rate of a country’s GDP. As the Chief Economist of the Scottish Government said, WEGo is about driving the wellbeing agenda in economic, social, and environmental policy making.

WEAll has been supporting (and sometimes agitating) for this project for many years (even before WEAll was officially formed).

So, sitting back with a coffee after this morning, after these years, and reflecting on the potential of this little project is a nice moment.

We heard the First Minister of Scotland quote Adam Smith and declare that a nation’s success shouldn’t be measured by its gold or silver: that growth is only of value if it makes people’s lives better – it is not an end in itself.

We heard the Prime Minister of Iceland – Katrin Jakobsdottir – say she is personally committed to collaborating with other governments on this agenda and that Iceland is excited by the WEGo project because it is “time to think differently about growth”.

Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes “this event will be the first of many…[because] there is much to gain from working with other countries”.

The governmental engagement in the project is underscored by the support of the OECD – Carrie Exton from their Statistics Directorate described WEGo as “a fantastic project”.

But beyond this, in the context of global divisions, dangerous populism, alienation, Katrin Jakobsdottir looks at WEGo and sees a “light in the darkness” – backed by Nicola Sturgeon who recognised that “if there is ever a right time for such an initiative, it is now…we should seize this [collaboration] with both hands: [this agenda] is the most important overarching thing in my government, because it affects everything”.

Hard to imagine a stronger endorsement for a project rich with potential. It might even be a game changer – setting a new tone for governmental cooperation, leadership, new norms in definitions of success, and working together to deal with the challenges facing today’s world.

Fuelled by coffee, working with such extraordinary and open minded leaders, WEAll might just achieve this wellbeing economy we so urgently need.

Read First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s full speech here.