By Anna Murphy
Where does money come from? What’s the purpose of economics? What is economics? Is growth the means to an end or an end in itself? Why are there people still homeless and hungry when the world has so much wealth? Why have we developed economic and political systems which disregard nature’s power and beauty? Can we fix the system with the very tools that built it? What does ‘the system’ even mean?
What can I, as an individual, do to create positive change?
Welcome to WEAll Read. WEAll Read is WEAll’s new book club, a community reading and discussing books relevant to the wellbeing economy: in essence, the goal is to answer the questions above…and the many more that crop up with each new book! It’s about making economics everyone’s business, because it is too important to be left just to the experts.
A core premise of the wellbeing economy is that economic growth must not be an end in itself: but rather a possible means to the ultimate goal of creating human and ecological health, wealth and fulfilment. This challenges a deeply embedded assumption of traditional economics: that it is a science, devoid of values. At WEAll read, we believe in the need to bring values back to economic thought, knowledge, theory and practice.
Where did it come from?
As a recent graduate starting out with a sustainable finance project, my 2019 New Year’s resolution was to learn about sustainability and economics (and ideally to build a community with whom to chat about this slightly niche topic). It all started with a LinkedIn post. I promised wine. The Impact Economy Book Club kicked off in Edinburgh and 8 months later, we welcomed Katherine Trebeck to the local bookshop. We were so inspired by her ideas and organisation, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, that we joined forces! It was immensely exciting to discover an organisation turning the things we were reading about into action.
‘Together we are greater than the sum of our parts’ goes the WEAll mantra, and this collaboration felt like exactly that.
Where is it going?
Think hundreds of local book clubs, far and wide, with people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines coming together to learn and take action with the wellbeing economy.
We’re up and running in Edinburgh (join this Whatsapp Group to get involved), and start in Glasgow this month. Beth Cloughton, the Glasgow organiser, is also planning a book swap and online dial-in, already showing the power of creativity! You can join their Facebook Group here.
We’d love for you to get in touch if you’d like to set up either a place-based or online club, and also have a Goodreads Group for anyone to join (you can find the books we read in 2019 there).
How we are at WEAll Read
- Brave and respectful: we listen attentively and respectfully, and challenge bravely
- Curious and skeptical: we are open to new ideas whilst also rigorously challenging them
- Grounded in knowledge and action: each month, we conclude our conversations by making personal intentions to take action, based on what we’ve learnt
Where we could do with some help
Challenging conversation isn’t always comfortable. A few months ago, in Edinburgh, a book club attendee criticised it for being a feminist echo-chamber: we had apparently been read too many books by females. After establishing robust argument against this critique, the whiteness and Western-ness of all the authors whose books we had read was obvious, and problematic. This is why we believe brave conversations are necessary: uncomfortable moments produce stronger arguments and reveal important blind spots.
If anyone from the wellbeing economy community has books to recommend from perspectives we might have inadvertently missed, please reach out, we would love to hear from you.
Books we read last year:
- Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas
- Lean Impact, Ann Mei Chang
- The Purpose of Capital, Jed Emerson
- A World of Three Zeros, Muhammad Yunus
- Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth
- The Value of Everything, Mariana Mazzucato
- There is No Planet B, Mike Berners Lee
- The Economics of Arrival, Katherine Trebeck and Jeremy Williams
Discussions so far in Edinburgh