Posts

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.

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.

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.

By: Isabel Nuesse

well-be·​ing | \ ˈwel-ˈbē-iŋ  \

Definition of well-being : the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous : WELFARE

It’s a tumultuous time in the United States. With an ever-divisive political arena, our sensitivities have the wheel and it’s much easier to stick to our corners, and talk amongst ourselves.The outcome of the upcoming federal election could further exacerbate political polarity. If this trend continues, I expect few will applaud the result. 

Writing this piece, I’m a little scared. I do not want to over-simplify, offer a blanket solution, cause offense or seem uninformed. I know I’m not alone in this. These worries are everywhere. Due to our lack of trust for the ‘other’, we’re losing our ability, or more specifically, our desire to communicate honestly with each other. 

Conversations on topical news stories can often end with the warning of, ‘don’t make this political’, because it’s almost guaranteed that one side will lash out at the other. Or, we spew ‘facts’ back and forth. But are we sitting with the complexity of these issues, thinking from other perspectives or challenging our own thinking? 

I see both the left and the right disengaging entirely. ‘You’re threatening to take away my abortion right?’ ‘You’re threatening to take away my guns?’ It’s a yes/no, a this/that, either/or. When in reality, it’s almost all grey. But are we willing to believe in the grey? It’s much easier to stick to our corners and hold a hard line.

A transition toward an economy centered on wellbeing may only be possible if people are willing to and capable of having patient conversations with one another. 

It’s true that sometimes patient conversations cannot be had, due to deep rooted histories of oppression. In this instance, my suggestion does not apply. 

I do believe however, many people are capable of having these conversations. But they’re hard, uncomfortable and can be extremely emotional. If we don’t start to shift more of the conversation to be inquiry-based, with a focus on the core issues, do we run a risk of escalated unrest?  

I found some hope in seeing this video the other day, of two candidates running for Governor in Utah.

It is not perfect. But, it’s somewhat refreshing to see the two sides trying to move beyond the hyperpolarization of our current political state. 

In my own life I’ve tried to facilitate some of these conversations. 7 months ago, I moved back in with my parents in a small town in  Massachusetts. Twice a week, I walk with a friend of my Mom’s: a ‘fiscally conservative’ voter, who is curious enough to engage me in conversations on current events. From police violence, racial justice, supreme court nominees, climate change and Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar salary, we cover it all. 

We can agree that local community resilience is paramount, that wealth inequality is an issue, that police often act above the law, that women are the future and that nearly all political parties can act immorally. While these agreements are not revolutionary, they are telling. 

These topics are complex. I can see from her perspective and have been forced to ask myself questions that I would not have thought of before. It can be refreshing to chat with her, because she is so hopeful about the future that it can sometimes dampen my worry.

Most importantly, these conversations have solidified the fact that we do have similar visions for the future.

Meaning, we can likely find common ground to work together towards a country we’re both proud to live in. 


My vision for a Wellbeing Economy in the US starts with us. Compromise is not impossible. And having compassion is important. One way to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy is to start in the community to better understand our neighbors, and to be open to question our individual perspectives. We have to remind ourselves that the ‘other’ isn’t evil. We can co-create an economy that meets the needs of all people. And we don’t need to be filtering our conversation to do that.

by: Xola Keswa

Impilo econo kuqala kwesimosomnoto – Wellbeing economy 

Zulu

South Africa is a country that many greats, including Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, Mark Shuttleworth, Steve Biko, Mariam Makeba, Trevor Noah, and Mahatma Gandhi, have called home.

People will tell very different stories of their experiences in our beautiful country, depending on when they were born and which time period they lived through. As is no secret, the country wasn’t always like it is today. South Africa comes out of a difficult time of suffering and pain: apartheid, a legal form of discrimination, loomed on our streets for about fifty years, following 300 years of colonisation. These hard times ushered in new visions of what South Africa could be, if given the opportunity. 

The Rainbow Nation

The new vision was one of equality before the law and the upholding of human rights: the right to life, right to dignity and the right to freedoms that any person can be all which they desire.

In our African traditions and customs, we call this word humanity (the foundation for wellbeing) in a different way. We call it by the name “Ubuntu”, meaning “I am because we are”.

Desmond Tutu was one of the first people to mention Ubuntu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which then further introduced it to the world. After his release from prison, South Africa began to embrace a spirit of togetherness inspired by Nelson Mandela, the father of our nation and its democracy. After he was elected as the first president of our democratic South Africa, Madiba, as many call him, chose peace and reconciliation instead of bloodshed and civil war, which could have easily been the story of South Africa, like many of our African countries which experienced a similar situation.

Inspired by these leaders, the spirit of Ubuntu and togetherness have shaped our new vision and narrative of a post-apartheid South Africa: the Rainbow Nation

Visions of Wellbeing from the ‘Born Frees’

At the age of 26, I’d say I’m one year short of being what we call ‘a born free’. In South Africa, children who were born in 1994, who are about 25 years or younger, are referred to as ‘born frees’. They did not experience apartheid; they have only heard about it in the news or in their history books or in the stories told by their parents or grandparents.

These are the young ones who belong to the united, post-apartheid South Africa, which we have come call our Rainbow Nation.

It is this Rainbow Nation and the spirit of Ubuntu that I’d like to focus on, as a gateway to an economy of togetherness as opposed to separateness. 

The Time of COVID-19: Ubuntu in Action

In 2020, the country was faced with a challenge some thought was on too big a scale for South Africa to tackle, given our young democracy. 

As COVID-19 approached us, many feared for the worst to happen, as people were pushed to the brink of survival. Many people who were already on the breadline saw that same bread disappear at the table. Many people lost their jobs as the country geared for lockdown level 5 (meaning nobody could be walking around in the streets): everyone was told to stay home. What was our country to do, as 30% of youth were unemployed and those who did have a job lost them? Many people left cities and towns to get away to the countryside, fearing an insurrection.

This country did no such thing; instead people and government came together and thought of exactly the opposite.

The country responded as if they asked themselves, ‘What Madiba would do?’

In March, our government started a new foundation called the ‘Solidarity Fund’, intended to support communities with food aid, medical and financial relief, as well as to support the country with the spirit of togetherness during these difficult times. It is also investing funds into wellbeing, health and ending gender-based violence. In response to the crisis, all the major South African business firms and wealthy families in South Africa started donating to this Solidarity Fund. 

At the same time, citizens also took action as lockdown rules tightened and the need for basic food and shelter became apparent. In Cape Town, a local initiative was created by a group of Captonians’ who saw a need for solidarity instead of segregation, from a Facebook group called ‘Cape Town’. A self-organising system of community action networks were created in every major town or suburb in the city of Cape Town metropolitan area. Each community organised its own volunteers from the neighbourhood, to help in fundraising for the less fortunate in the cities’ peripheries. 

As the world knows, South Africa is the most unequal society in the world, where the rich live like those in Europe and the US, while the majority, the indigenous people, can barely afford to stay above the poverty line.

Through these community action networks in Cape Town, we witnessed a major redistribution of resources from the ‘haves’ to the ‘have nots’.

Like a wave of a magic wand, people began distributing food aid and blankets for the homeless and assisting in finding shelters in churches etc. What stood out for me, by far, was the partnering of affluent suburbs and townships called the ‘Cape Flats’. As the nation started to form an understanding of a common threat to us all, we put our differences aside to deal with the virus together. 

I have seen the vision of building towards a Wellbeing Economy being put into practice – slowly though, as negative minds still exist and push back against the current communal wave. For example, many municipalities went against their rate payers by calling them out for engaging in community action networks. But this hasn’t stopped the spirit of togetherness spreading into the country to major cities like Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth city in the Eastern Cape. 

For the first time in my life (aside from winning the Rugby World Cup, of course), I felt proudly South African. I am actually seeing my country, our Rainbow Nation, put aside the past and “build back better” through the idea of solidarity – Ubuntu.

My Vision of a Wellbeing Economy

The idea of solidarity as a response to the COVID-19 is definitely part of my vision for a new economy. Putting human beings and communities first, before anything else and actually mobilising funds and resources to do so via the Solidarity Fund. 

To me it is obvious that whenever our country is pushed into a corner, we will return to the spirit of togetherness inspired by our past leaders and Desmond Tutu’s philosophy of Ubuntu. It helped to end apartheid and it is building our strength in the face of the coronavirus. 

This spirit of finding strength in diversity and bringing together different resources and skills, is South Africa’s best hope of coming out of any mess we find ourselves in and fostering the wellbeing of all people, regardless of colour or creed.

The cooperation around South Africa’s progressive Solidarity Fund demonstrate this spirit – and can be the foundation for a Wellbeing Economy in South Africa.