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There is so much rich content out there in the world about a Wellbeing Economy. Part of our job is to amplify and connect the various initiatives and work that exists. 

These WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond every week. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

Opportunity Knocking – Jessica Rose, Marjorie Kelly | Democracy Collaborative  

“Impact investors and other capital providers could be the agents that help resolve this vicious crisis—stepping in to turn the misfortune of small-business owners into a new start for employee-owners. Capital could be the agent that begins to take employee ownership to scale in this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.”

Building a Resilient Economy – Barth J. and Coscieme L., Dimmelmeier, A., Kumar C., Mewes S., Abrar R., Nuesse I., Pendleton A., Trebeck K | ZOE, NEF, WEAll 

“The following chapters (and the research underpinning them) focus on the role of government and policy in delivering systemic change. We outline where public policymakers should place the emphasis in order to transform the world’s economic and financial systems most effectively to mitigate future environmental crises.”

Humanity Report– James Arbib & Tony Seba | RethinkX 

“We can choose to elevate humanity to new heights and use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to end poverty, inequality, resource conflict, and environmental destruction, all for a fraction of the cost we incur dealing with them today. Or we can choose to preserve the failing status quo and descend into another dark age like every leading civilization before us.“

Work-life balance and self-reported health among working adults in Europe: a gender and welfare state regime comparative analysis – Aziz Mensah & Nicholas Kofi Adjei | BMC Public Health

“The pressing demands of work over the years have had a significant constraint on the family and social life of working adults. Moreover, failure to achieve a ‘balance’ between these domains of life may have an adverse effect on their health. This study investigated the relationship between work-life conflict and self-reported health among working adults in contemporary welfare countries in Europe.”

Visions of a Wellbeing  Economy – Anna Chrysopoulou | Standard Social Innovation Review

“To solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges we face today, we need to rethink the status quo. Governments and other institutions around the world need to embrace new ways of thinking and actively engage in widespread systems innovation to make real progress toward a healthier, more prosperous world.”

The Little Book of Education – Wendy Ellyatt 

“If we want to create a better world, we have to start by looking at whether the values that we have been promoting to children through our education systems have been serving the long-term wellbeing and potential, within the context of a sustainable future”

Building Better Systems– The Rockwool Foundation

“System innovation is needed when two conditions apply. First when society faces a systemic challenge which requires a systemic response. Second when society has a systemic opportunity to create a new kind of system.” 

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On November 20, Rutger Hoekstra introduced the topic of his new paper “Measuring the Wellbeing Economy: Going Beyond GDP.” 

During the 60 minute webinar, Rutger outlined the three major to-dos needed  to move this agenda forward.

  1. Harmonise. There are a number of indicators out there. We need the United Nationals and other international institutions to step up and help harmonise Beyond-GDP indicators, to ensure there are consistent measures of success for the performance of a Wellbeing Economy.
  2. Develop Policy Tools. This community needs to create tools which show governments how to enhance wellbeing, sustainability, and equality in their societies.
  3. Change the Social Narrative. Our societal discourse around economic success must not be predicated on the “growth is good” concept. 

You can watch the recap of the event below

He is currently working with the United Nations University (UNU) exactly on these topics. The working title of the project is the WiSE Transition (Wellbeing, Sustainability and Equity). He emphasised that he doesn’t want to create a new index or dashboard. What he’s wanting to do is harmonise existing databases and also put more emphasis on the global south perspective and involvement. 

If you’re interested in getting involved in WiSE, please fill out this form.The survey will close December 4.

During the event, a number of questions were asked. We’ve summarised  them below.

We hope to keep you apprised as Rutger’s WiSE working group and work with the UNU continues. 

Q: A “beyond-GDP” measure makes so much sense! From your experience, what are the top three barriers / inhibitors to its adaption by governments?

A: 1) Political leadership 2) Too much heterogeneity 3) Lack of Policy Tools

Q: How do you view the “buen vivir” alternative narrative in some Latin American countries?

A: Sorry I don’t really know enough about it. But in my research I find far more commonalities than differences between the various concepts. Let’s focus on commonalities. 

Q: Is there space for co-creation and engagement in moving this agenda forward? When we talk about narratives, I suppose it really connects with the lived experience of people.

A: Yes, by definition the harmonisation we discussed will need to be co-created (and an interdisciplinary process).

Q: What do you think of the work of professor Nicky Pouw who takes the SAM (social accounting matrix) and extends the tool to a Wellbeing Economy Matrix. (Is this the kind of tooling you are looking for?) 

A: Sorry, I am not aware of this. Without further knowledge I would say: I like the idea of linking it to the SAM (an accounting framework). I wouldn’t call this a policy tool yet, that would need using the SAM to build a model upon which a decision can be made.

Q: How are you integrating with Ecological Economics principles and practices?  Is there a need for an ecological worldview that changes our perspective of how economy and life fits in the planet?

A: Yes, we need to reframe the idea that the economy is the central focal system. The planet is the most important system, society next, and the economy is only a sub-system of society. 

Q: Because all UN member states have signed on to the SDGs and (at least theoretically) have added SDG-based indicators to their “system of accounts,” do you think that an SDG-based dashboard would have the best chance of becoming a “Beyond-GDP” approach?

A: SDGs are great in terms of harmonisation of indicators, but the link to policy is still a challenge. In reality, the various targets are interrelated and so we need a system (accounting framework) which is capable of showing the interlinkages (trade–offs and win-wins) between the targets so that effective policies can be developed. P.S. the SDGs run out in 2030 – is that the end of Wellbeing Economics?  

Q: The New Zealand Wellbeing Budget was approved in 2019. Can we see some differences in the results of implementing such a budget comparing to the former years before the Wellbeing Budget was set up ?

A: It will probably take a little longer to assess its success. Plus, only 4% of the budget was assigned to specific wellbeing policy, so we need to be realistic about how radical a change we are expecting. 

Q: Global Progress Indicator will show politicians how over-inflated their GDP numbers are, there is strong disincentive to use it. Should one principle of the new metric be that it also highlights what governments are doing right? (Positive progress)

A: Yes, that and it also helps to frame a future where creating a better world is not only a sacrifice [but also has benefits] (e.g. less consumption, but more leisure time).  

Q: Within the SDGs, there is still a goal on Economic Growth (no.8) mostly measured in GDP . What’s your view on De-Growth?

A: I think GDP growth makes sense for very poor people (half the world population lives on less than 5 euros a day). As Kate Raworth says, we should be “agnostic” to growth. I don’t really care if GDP grows or declines as long as wellbeing, sustainability and equity are increasing.  

Q: We basically measure everything. If the values are “good”, then you get a label that says that (e.g. eco-labels). It becomes more about getting the values right rather than the reason why we are making those values, with companies just working to take the right boxes to get the label. How can we avoid wellbeing measurements following the same path?

A: Metrics are always flawed if they become a target. I don’t really know of a solution to this, but I do think that it is more important for companies to internalise the values of the wellbeing economy. Just adopting the metrics, but not the underlying values, will not be as effective. 

Q: Do any of the indices include a measurement of hate crime and how minority groups are embraced or otherwise within a country?

A: There are dashboards looking at discrimination and inequalities, but not as extensively as your question seems to wish for.

by: Rutger Hoekstra

Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the way we measure economic growth, has become the primary measure of success of societies. Countries that have a high GDP are considered important and governments that experience high economic growth are admired. As a result, there is a dominant narrative in society that “growth is good”.

But we have known for many decades that this narrative is flawed and that GDP is not a comprehensive measure of success. It does not measure important components of wellbeing such as health, education and social relationships. As far back as 1968, Robert Kennedy already proclaimed that GDP “measures everything….. except that which makes life worthwhile”.

Crucially, GDP also does not account for the growth in environmental degradation or growth in inequalities that are caused by growth in GDP.

To remedy this gap, many hundreds of alternatives for measuring economic success have been suggested: the Human Development Index, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Genuine Progress Indicator, Ecological Footprint, Happy Planet Index, Adjusted Net Savings, Comprehensive Wealth, and the Inclusive Wealth Index. Many brilliant scientists, thought leaders and important institutes have contributed to this impressive body of research, which is foundational to the creation of a Wellbeing Economy, an economy that delivers social justice on a healthy planet.

Yet, despite 50 years of understanding the drawbacks of  GDP and the introduction of hundreds of alternative ‘Beyond-GDP’ measures of economic success, it seems that the “growth is good” economic narrative is becoming stronger every day. But now,  more than ever before, we need our economy and society to focus on delivering wellbeing, sustainability, and equity. The election of Joe Biden, the introduction of climate targets in China and Europe, marches for racial justice and climate action are all signs of  the dire need and public demand to ‘Build Back Better’ after the COVID-19 pandemic. There has never been  a better time to replace the growth narrative. WEAll’s  new briefing paper describes a three-pronged strategy which should be adopted to do just that:

1) Harmonise. There are simply too many Beyond-GDP alternatives and new ones are being created every month. One of the most powerful features of GDP is that it is measured in the same way all over the world. The United Nations and OECD played a crucial role in developing a global economic accounting framework: the System of National Accounts, which allows for the global comparison of GDP. We need the United Nations and other international institutions to step up and help harmonise Beyond-GDP indicators to ensure there are consistent measures of success for the performance of a Wellbeing Economy.

2) Develop Policy Tools. Statistics help us to measure how things have developed in the past. But policy makers also need advice about their policy options in the future. Macro-economists have developed many tools to help inform difficult policy decisions, mainly focused on GDP growth. This community needs to create tools which show governments how to enhance wellbeing, sustainability and equity in their societies. A prime example of such a tool is New Zealand’s pioneering Wellbeing Budget that is designed expressly to prioritise the wellbeing of citizens.   

3) Change the Social Narrative. This strategy will only be successful if it manages to change societal discourse on economic success. Currently, our media plays a key role in spreading the “growth is good” economic narrative. The development of globally harmonised statistics and policy tools will help journalists and the general public to shift their belief on economic success to a narrative which values wellbeing, sustainability, and equity. If you would like to learn more about these ideas, download and share our new paper here.

Webinar Recording is below:

Download the Measuring the Wellbeing Economy Briefing Paper PDF