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Wohlbefinde – “Wellbeing”

Eh Ökonomie fürs Wohlbefinde – “A Wellbeing Economy”

Swiss German

Switzerland is a country that always scores very high in rankings such as “the world’s happiest countries” and “best standards of living”, and that people living elsewhere often associate with beautiful nature, tasty chocolate, and very expensive prices. In many ways, Switzerland is the perfect example of a country that could fully implement a Wellbeing Economy, and in some aspects, it does. But not all that glitters is gold. 

So here, along with examining what is already happening in Switzerland that contributes towards a Wellbeing Economy, I will also dive into the possibilities for the future, drawing on my experiences and knowledge of my hometown, Zurich. 

So, where would Switzerland rank highly among countries on progress towards a Wellbeing Economy? 

Education 

The Swiss educational system allows most young people to choose a career that they like, because of the many possibilities available to them after graduation. Apart from having schools for students that are planning on going to university, there are three levels of secondary schooling: A, B, and C. In the B and C levels, students need more support in education. Because of the availability of these levels, the teachers can give more specific attention to the needs of the students, to help them graduate without failing. Moreover, apprenticeships after completing high school are more common in Switzerland than going to university. Most often, young adults are able to choose an apprenticeship from across a wide range of professions and exciting companies. During the apprenticeship, youth go to specific schools some days per week to deepen their learning. Some of the schools also offer the possibility to go to university after finishing the apprenticeship, so there are various pathways that one can take to pursue further education. 

Datei:Badi-Oberer-Letten Zuerich Sommer.jpg
The Limmat in the Summer (Source)

Social Life

In Switzerland, cities organise a lot of social activities which increase social wellbeing, because they offer opportunities to come together and to share happy experiences. In Zurich, for example, we have a city-festival every four years and in the winter, we have beautiful Christmas markets spread out through the whole city. Many stands in the Christmas markets are local crafters and artists selling their handmade products and foods. Of course, the next step would be to ensure these events implement high sustainability standards around energy consumption and waste management. But I think in terms of a Wellbeing Economy, and looking at the aspect of the wellbeing of People, using the profit of a country for organising Christmas markets and other festivals for the people is a great way to put value back into society. Next to these events, there are a lot of possibilities for people to enjoy their leisure time. We have the “Limmat”, a large river that is clean, so it is amazing to swim in and is free to access. 

advent-weihnachtmarkt-basel
Christmas Market in Zurich (Source)

Where is there potential for improvement in Switzerland?

On the 29th of November this year, important political referenda took place, which, if they had been accepted, would have fit perfectly into the Wellbeing Economy agenda.

There was a vote on ending arms deals that are financed by Swiss funding, but the majority voted against this. 

There was also a vote on the heavily anticipated Initiative for Industry Responsibility, which would have made corporations liable for breaching human and environmental rights. This initiative was accepted and voted for by the majority of the general public. However, Switzerland is made up of so-called “cantons” (similar to states) and when there is an initiative that would change the federal constitution, votes from the majority of the number of cantons are needed. And this is where the initiative was rejected.

That the majority of people voted for an initiative, but not by the majority of cantons, has only happened once since the Swiss constitution was founded. 

This means that Swiss banks’ support for institutions and concepts that are not aligned with the principles of a Wellbeing Economy will remain strong, because power flows where money goes. 

Therefore, in the near future I would like to see true moral values be reflected in the economic structure of financing and foreign trade. In the day-to-day life of Swiss citizens, we are on our way towards a Wellbeing Economy. We must continue this progress by challenging and demanding strict transparency in banking and investment in Switzerland, as an influential sector globally, to accelerate sustainable development for people and planet.

On a positive note, in Switzerland, any initiative that receives over 100,000 official signatures is nationally voted for and can be constitutionalised. So, if you have an idea for an initiative that can directly contribute to a Wellbeing Economy, let me know and we can work to get 100,000 supporters and help to partly restructure the Swiss system. That’s how easy it should be for people in any country to directly demand political and economic change. 

We have the power. It’s just about inspiring and working together for something greater… Join the WEAll Youth community to keep the conversation going. 

I am Cosima, 19 years old, and I was born and raised in Switzerland. Right now, I am studying “Global Project and Change Management” at the Windesheim Honours College, in Zwolle, The Netherlands. Fun fact, WEAll Youth was founded here! I joined WEAll Youth because it is a global network of young people that inspires each other and works together for a better tomorrow. My personal motivation towards a Wellbeing Economy is that life and all that lives, has infinite value. and I want to bring this understanding into people’s daily lives. With three other girls, I have re-established the local WEAll Youth hub in Zwolle. I am excited to organise lots of activities for people living here to become involved in co-creating the Wellbeing Economy we all envision deeply. 

Connect with Cosima on LinkedIn: Cosima von Seefried

Learn more about WEAll Youth here.

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

By Izabela Ivanova Velikova

Визии за Благополучната Икономика в България

“Visions for the Wellbeing Economy in Bulgaria”

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

Благополучна

“Wellbeing”

Bulgarian (sounds like /blagopoluchna/)

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

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

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

Is a Wellbeing Economy possible in Bulgaria?

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

But I do not think that it is impossible.

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

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

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The groundwork for all happiness is good health”

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

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

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

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

Thankfully, progress has been made in recent years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

By: Anna Chrysopoulou

Κοινωνική ευημερία: collective wellbeing

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

Οικονομία της ευτυχίας: Wellbeing Economy  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Put wellbeing back into the heart of politics

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

2. Embrace togetherness

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

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

3. Protect our natural spaces

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

4. Take action against racism

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

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

Socrates

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

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

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