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Earlier this month, the WEGo partnership was featured in the 2020 edition of WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, which outlines how we can restore our relationship with nature to realise the promise of the SDGs and Leave No One Behind.

Individually, the 17 SDGs define key areas of progress for humanity. Delivered together, they will transform the world and create prosperity for all on a healthy planet.

The publication gives inspirational examples of where each of the 17 SDGs have been put into practice – ranging from Supporting Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Communities in Myanmar to Renewable energy solutions for better health and energy security in Karachi, Pakistan.

In WEAll’s article, we discussed how to shift toward a Sustainable and Just economy – one that promotes wellbeing for all. 

Action on the SDGs in the next ten years is not possible without a fundamental transformation of our economic system.

In order to do this, WEAll’s membership has developed the 5 priorities a wellbeing economy should deliver on.

‘We All Need’:

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

These principles guide the work of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

WEGo member states have achieve great successes in mainstreaming social equity and ecological restoration – in line with the SDGs:

Read all of the inspiring examples of the shift toward a wellbeing economy in the WWF’s Nature In All Goals publication, here.

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

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

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

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

By Isabel Nuesse and Robert Wanalo

What are we going to do when weather patterns change and communities that depended on their consistency, suddenly have to re-imagine how they’ll receive their incomes? Planning for resilience in the face of climate change will soon become mandatory for communities. Makerspaces offer a solution that enables the community to develop resources and knowledge distinct to their communities changing climate. Thinking of these long-term strategies to are key to ensuring the sustainability of makerspace development. Two of the five principles for developing makerspaces actualize this thinking:“Include Environmental Ecosystem Services” and “Build for Continuity”.

  1. Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.

Our natural environment is the broader ecosystem within which our social and economic system is nested. An economy that has proved through the outcomes it creates, to be working against rather than with nature, and climate change is one of the many forces that threaten our very existence today.  The Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion movements are continuing to gain traction globally, as citizens realize that systems change is fundamental for climate action. As citizens become more aware of the complex ecological challenges we face today, how can we be empowered to take practical actions towards climate justice? Our group discussed this extensively. There was a general consensus that the makerspace movement should increasingly leverage their innovative capacity to support climate action in communities across the world. 

A great movement that has formed around this objective is the FabCity Global Initiative that was co-founded by Tomas Diez of Fablab Barcelona. The audacious goal behind the FabCity Challenge is to enable this shift away from the industrial paradigm of Product-in Trash-out, by enabling the return of manufacturing to cities such that by 2054, the cities that sign up for the Pledge, with be able to produce everything they consume, thus drastically reducing their carbon footprint. The potential of GIG as a global movement of techies and innovators to be able to contribute to addressing climate change was the impetus behind the Sustainable Making Track. 

One case study from within the GIG network that demonstrates Principle 3 is the work of Sri Lanka based DreamSpace Academy through their Underwater Glider project which aims to enable local communities to better understand their surrounding Indian Ocean ecosystem. 

After the Tsunami hit back in 2004, the oceans ecosystem was significantly disrupted, and the local community started seeing changes that were not normal. One such observation was a large number of eels that had emerged from the backwaters, which locals presumed to be snakes, as such species were not commonly visible above water. Aravinth Panch, and his team at DreamSpace took this as an opportunity to carry out research that aims to increase local awareness on their surrounding habitat. 

For this, they needed to have an underwater glider which, if purchased from Europe would cost over 200,000 Euros which was of course too expensive. As a Community Innovation Center and local makerspace the team decided to use open source technology to build their own Underwater Glider, which will enable  them to carry out their own scientific research and assessment on their local ecosystem through which they would be able to increase their awareness and strengthen their capacity to develop solutions for some of the issues that have risen since the Tsunami. 

It’s impossible to place a value on nature, in many ways it provides for our essential everyday needs. But recognizing that the services we receive are not free, and that we have a responsibility to ethically deal with our planet, because a thriving ecosystem means that our social and economic systems would equally be able to flourish.

2. Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency. 

In the age of the internet, where social networking and access to knowledge has been significantly augmented, the makerspace movement is developing a compelling case for ‘glocality’, that is a globally connected community that is locally proactive towards achieving common objectives. Inevitably it must have been this worldview that necessitated the existence of SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals,” whereby, even in development, we must depart from centralized systems towards those that are more decentralized and geographically distributed to ensure that agency is created at a local level.

Critical to the ability of any initiative, project or enterprise to be in operation for the long term, is its ability to to build social capacity to be able to carry out the necessary tasks for the project, and the economic models that ensure its costs can always be met. Particularly with regards to the latter aspect of financial sustainability, there was a shared aspiration in our track for makerspaces, like social enterprises, to be able to generate enough revenue to cover their operations.

With this Global-to-local approach,  Sustainable Making has the potential to transform the social, economic and ecological fabric of communities across the world. Developing local capacity and encouraging local innovation creates opportunities for new business models that create jobs and build more resilient local economies. Thinking in this way does not fight against the inevitably globalized world, but rather redesigns it to be more inclusive and equitable.

The Access to Skills and Knowledge Technology Emergency Case (ASKotec) is an open source tool co-created by the R0g Agency and Open Source Ecology Germany e.V. The tool provides over 1000 pieces needed to facilitate training in rural areas on the fundamentals of open tech and open source hardware innovation, education and repairing. The transformational technology establishes a base by which the community can expand upon the training to innovate locally.

At the Rhino Refugee camp in Uganda for example, where Platform Africa, one of the 6 hubs in the ASKLab East African network, is using the ASKotec kit to hold Open Tech workshops and training for displaced refugees living within the camp. Richard, an ASKotec trainer, says that these sessions enable the participants to be engaged in something interesting and productive, considering their current reality. An outcome of these sessions is that refugees in the camp learned how to repair chargers, phones and radios and in the case of the ATAKA hub in Juba, participants have been able to establish microenterprises with these skills. To learn more, watch this YouTube video here

Alongside the r0g Agency, Field Ready is another organization doing great work in the humanitarian space. They are an NGO that operates a network of makerspaces that empower and support local innovators in complex humanitarian situations triggered either by conflict or natural disasters to make the things that are needed where they are. They are a team of experts that leverage their expertise digital manufacturing with CNC, laser-cutting, & 3D printing to support local production of  products like lifting airbags for rescue workers, hydroponic systems for food production, as well as components for the repair of solar systems and healthcare equipment. Field Ready has established makerspaces in Iraq, Northern Syria, Jordan, Fiji, and Nepal, to name a few. By up-skilling locals, designing and implementing solutions with them, Field Ready ensures that local production continues in these communities long after the crises they face have subsided.

 

At the DOTS conference in December 2019, we joined a working group whose aim was to find out how makerspaces are could amplify the level of impact they are already creating in the communities in which they exist across the world. We articulated these findings in 5 Principles of Sustainability, which are as follows:

 

  • Make things that make sense:  Create products and solutions that solve fundamental, real-world problems.  
  • Integrate Local Knowledge:  Design with the community, leveraging on local knowledge and experience, as well as the local resources & assets available.
  • Include Ecosystem Services: Aim to give back more than you take from the environment and include accounting practices that value the natural resources used.
  • Build for Continuity: Design for the present and future; build social capacity, & aim for financial self sufficiency.
  • Share How You Make: Develop a set of guidelines that provide a framework for openly documenting everything about the making of the project. 

 

 

These principles provide a framework for makerspaces around the globe to consider in their development, operations, and  strategy. Not only do these spaces provide opportunity for communities to revitalize their local economies, but it inherently builds an economy that enables communities to be self-reliant. 

Over the next few weeks, WEAll will be publishing a blog series that showcase different case studies from groups that are a part of the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG), and The r0g Agency for Open Culture and Critical Transformation.

Currently, about 2.01 billion metric tons of waste are produced annually worldwide and only a fraction of that is recycled or composted. The World Bank estimates overall waste generation will increase by 70% by 2050. In a world full of waste, what products and services does the world truly need? 

Dave Weatherhead, Managing Director of Kinesys

“Business should ultimately aim to give people jobs that improve their lives and to produce products and services that improve the world.” 
Dave Weatherhead, Managing Director of Kinesys

New York University Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) has identified a growing consumer demand of sustainability-marketed products, however these currently only account for under 17% of the current market. But does sustainability as we understand it enhance the world? 

William McDonough, author

“I ask myself occasionally if the word sustainability is the right word to use. If sustainability is just maintenance, perhaps we can go beyond it. Is being less bad being good?” 
William McDonough, co-author of Cradle-to-Cradle

 

Designing products and services that last

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We are all now familiar with this slogan. However, it is still only recycling that has really taken off. 

The problem is, that if we design products that go to waste after a certain lifespan, even if we recycle, the raw material loses value. There is energy lost along the product lifespan, throughout research and development, production, transport, maintenance and the recycling process. Many industries design their products to break after a certain period of time so they can be replaced by a new (possibly improved) version – so called “planned obsolescence” .

“I see design as a signal of human intention. We need to stop designing things for end-of-life, designing for next use is just a different way of thinking.” 
William McDonough, co-author of Cradle-to-Cradle

 

Image: Ellen MacArthur Foundation infographic

The image above presents three principles of a circular approach for product design. Waste and pollution are largely a product of how we design and so can be designed out. Keeping products in use is all about reusing, repairing and remanufacturing. Regenerating natural systems is making sure that every end of use /spare resource is food for another sector.

Creating space for learning and innovation

Traditional innovation processes tend to leave out the bigger ecosystem picture and to focus on satisfying consumer demands. There is a need to map raw material flows, energy use and stakeholders in order to develop a balanced approach that creates value for all that are involved. 

“The current linear economy is following a cradle-to-grave model, we are looking at eliminating the concept of waste using biological and technical nutrients.” 
William McDonough, co-author of Cradle-to-Cradle

No matter if you apply human-centred design, design thinking, biomimicry or circular design processes, a circular design approach includes ecosystem awareness in every step of the product and service innovation process.

Offering services rather than products

One way to radically reducing material use is to move from offering to sell a product to selling a service. Offering products as a service is a model which returns the ownership and responsibility of the product back into the hands of the producer. Selling a product as a service makes energy efficiency and sustainability profitable. It makes cutting costs through designing for disassembly and resource recovery attractive. Modular design becomes the default for designers, making extending the life of the product attractive. 

A good example of this approach is Philips’ selling of light as a service rather than lighting units as a product. With a 5-year service agreement to supply lighting in Schipol airport, designing lighting units to be easily repairable makes financial sense for Philips and reduces the price to the client. 

For Riversimple, a company featured in another case study in the guide, they include not only all elements of car ownership in their service offer – the vehicle, repair, insurance but also the (hydrogen) fuel. This allows them to exercise their greater buying power to keep down (hydrogen) fuel costs.

Moving towards a circular economy

As we move towards a circular economy, we start seeing more opportunities in stakeholder collaboration. Suddenly organizations like Circle Economy find that a neighbourhood community can benefit from the heat created during the manufacturing process of a nearby factory, sharing platforms can facilitate the exchange and reuse of goods and we can benefit from open design processes that involve citizens to solve local challenges, like with OpenIdeo

A circular economy system is one where collaboration prevails and where there is no need for patents and idea ownership. An example here are Tesla and Riversimple. The real value is created through expertise, mutual benefit and collaboration. Learn more about the circular economy here. All the concepts mentioned in this article talk to the wellbeing economy – the wellbeing of the planet.

WEAll members and partners have collaborated to publish a new academic paper in the journal ‘Sustainability’ on the wellbeing economy.

Led by Luca Coscieme of Trinity College Dublin, the paper was also contributed to by: Paul Sutton ,Lars F. Mortensen ,Ida Kubiszewski ,Robert Costanza ,Katherine Trebeck ,Federico M. Pulselli ,Biagio F. Giannetti  and Lorenzo Fioramonti.

The authors explain the article as follows:

Increasingly, empirical evidence refutes many of the theoretical pillars of mainstream economics. These theories have persisted despite the fact that they support unsustainable and undesirable environmental, social, and economic outcomes. Continuing to embrace them puts at risk the possibility of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and overcoming other global challenges. We discuss a selection of paradoxes and delusions surrounding mainstream economic theories related to: (1) efficiency and resource use, (2) wealth and wellbeing, (3) economic growth, and (4) the distribution of wealth within and between rich and poor nations. We describe a wellbeing economy as an alternative for guiding policy development.

In 2018, a network of Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo), (supported by, but distinct from, the larger Wellbeing Economy Alliance—WEAll) promoting new forms of governance that diverge from the ones on which the G7 and G20 are based, has been launched and is now a living project. Members of WEGo aim at advancing the three key principles of a wellbeing economy: Live within planetary ecological boundaries, ensure equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity, and efficiently allocate resources (including environmental and social public goods), bringing wellbeing to the heart of policymaking, and in particular economic policymaking. This network has potential to fundamentally re-shape current global leadership still anchored to old economic paradigms that give primacy to economic growth over environmental and social wealth and wellbeing.

You can read the article in full here.