WEAll Campfire

Comhrá cois teallaigh

‘What is the role of the artist in catalysing a wellbeing economy on the island of Ireland?’


Friday 25th March 2022 – 19.30 – 21.00

A Blended – Online and Physical Event

Via Zoom and at: An Gairdín Beo, Old Dublin Rd. Carlow

This event follows on from the Irish WEAll Hub launch event in October 2021, ‘Breakdown or Breakthrough?: Catalysing the Wellbeing Economy’ with Katherine Trebeck, Jen Wallace and Kate Raworth.

This session focussed on a Social Imaginary project which the Ireland Hub’s core members have been discussing. The project is a co-production process – a community of practice of artists, activists and researchers exploring how we might imagine the wellbeing economy. 

Why focus on artists for this event?

In the words of Sandra Waddock, 

‘Often labelled visionaries, artists can serve as ‘seers’ of reality as it is, of what is that others do not see, and of what might be. They thus help frame and envision new cultural mythologies and social imaginaries. Artwork is more than beauty or decoration, it has the power to wake people up and create meaningful change. Art can be a compass towards the future we want to live in.’

We asked each contributor the question: 

What is the role of the artist in catalysing a wellbeing economy on the island of Ireland? 

Contributors 

Matt Baker 

Matt Baker is a Scottish public artist who has focused on long-term activist strategies for integrating creative practice into the social, economic and political structures of his home region in South West Scotland. He founded, and is based with, The Stove Network in the heart of Dumfries town centre, which is is the only Community Development Trust run by artists in Britain.

Rosie Lynch 

Rosie is the Creative Director of the Workhouse Union in Callan, County Kilkenny, which works with artists, designers, architects and crafts-people to develop projects examining housing, civic infrastructure and the commons, engaging people with the spaces and places we live. Her activities include work on Nimble Spaces, an innovative housing project developing long term collaborations between artists, architects and adults with a disability, considering ‘home’ and shared living. 

Thomas McShane

Thomas McShane is a native of North Carolina, with family links to Leitrim. He is a professional viola player and currently plays in ensembles throughout Ireland, including the National Symphony, Luminosa Music Galway, and the Ulster Orchestra. He is also a fluent Irish speaker and is completing a graduate diploma in Applied Irish at the University of Limerick.

Kevin Murphy

Kevin is the CEO of the Playhouse Derry, a local community theatre which uses the arts to promote healing, understanding, reconciliation and transformation between people and communities in or emerging from conflict. He is also a voluntary director of Wall2Wall Music which is involved in a range of community music, music education and cross-artform initiatives that seek to engage people in exploring their own creativity.

Sandra Waddock 

Sandra Waddock is an academic, holding the Galligan Chair of Strategy at Boston College, and an author whose latest book is Transforming towards Life-Centered Economics: How Business, Government, and Civil Society Can Build a Better World . She has carried out extensive research on transformational catalysts and on the special role of artists in creating social imaginaries.

Mel White

Mel White is a multi award winning spoken word artist, a resident of Cloughjordan Ecovillage and an active member of Extinction Rebellion Ireland (XRI). Her dynamic poetry comments on a variety of social and environmental issues, amid a backdrop of vivid imagery and personal stories. Mel is a regular performer at events all around Ireland, as well as numerous protests, community and educational events, literary gatherings, and Cloughjordan’s SpeakEATsy, which she co-hosts.

If you’d like to sign up to our mailing list in order to be kept informed of the WEAll Hub for Ireland’s activities, please go here

This event drew an online audience of over 120.

For a few minutes prior to the official start of proceedings we were serenaded by the gentle guitar music of Paddy Flamenco (Paddy Anderson). Then our genial compere Davie Philip ( a member of  Hub steering group) introduced proceedings with a poem from fellow Cloughjordan resident, poet Mel White.

Mel’s inspiring poem was followed by a presentation from Seán Ó Conláin, also a member of the Hub steering group, on the work done to arrive at this point. He invited everyone to join the journey to create an effective alliance in Ireland on this crucial notion  of a different kind of economy. He referred to the work of NESC and the government response, namely, to create a set of national indicators, but suggested that what we need is  a transformative action programme, which we can co-create. 

Our first guest, Katherine Trebeck, Strategic Advocacy Advisor for WEAll, commented that she was pleased to see so many friends from across the globe who will able to support the new Hub. While patch and repair might be offered as a solution, as an economist she argues that we need a new model of the economy – but what should it look like? The ethos of WEAll is all around collaboration, and support for those who are doing pioneering work. Hubs represent conversations at a local level which can lead to a global vision.

Katherine was followed by Jennifer Wallace, Head of Policy at Carnegie UK, who presented their concept of how we can contribute to collective wellbeing and the work that Carnegie has carried out on the wellbeing economy in Northern Ireland, particularly on a community level. (Jennifer’s PowerPoints are here).

Then there were two brief reflections, both from other members of the hub steering group: first, Peter Doran of Queens University Belfast. He made reference to Michael D as a role model for solidarity within Ireland and Europe. He reminds us of the notion of reconciling the economy with global climate justice and the principle of listening to local conversations.

Colette Bennett of Social Justice Ireland commented that we should listen to Katherine Trebeck’s comment that we must continue to ask questions, behaving like 3-year-old children. This underpins the idea of a deliberative democracy; and understanding what community wellbeing really means. But we must avoid ‘wellbeing washing’. The key for her, was creating a transformation task-force.

We then had a second emotive and profound poem from Mel White.

Next Roisin Markham of the Irish Doughnut Economy Network (IDEN) introduced our special guest speaker, Kate Raworth. She gave an inspiring talk, based on this slide deck. Kate related the Doughnut concept to the current situation in Ireland. She asked four questions: how can the people of Ireland thrive? How can Ireland be as generous as the wildlife next door? How can Ireland respect the health of the whole planet? How can Ireland respect the wellbeing of all people? She identified elements of  the deep design of places and gave examples of city Doughnut workshops across Europe. Finally, she suggested the Doughnut Economics Action Lab as a resource that we might turn to.

Davie Philip sought two quick  reflections on Kate’s presentation. Firstly,  Caroline Whyte of FEASTA (another member of the Hub steering group) spoke about the need for Ireland to reflect on its relationship with other countries, taking as an example the prominent role of Ireland’s current Minister of Finance in the Eurogroup. She also stressed the importance of ‘upstream’ measures such as hard limits on fossil fuel production and the introduction of commons-based taxation such as land value tax, so as to help reorient the entire economy. 

Charlie Fisher of the Development Trust of Northern Ireland reiterated the point that earlier speakers had made about Ireland’s effect on the global economy, and emphasised the important role of land ownership and property assets, calling for a community rights act in Northern Ireland and a strengthening of democracy so as to deter abusive extractive industries.

Several comments followed from audience participants, referring among other subjects to Community Wealth Building, EU-level work and the need to emphasise peace and reconciliation.

Davie invited Mark Garavan of FEASTA and  the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology to provide closing remarks. Mark said, in summary:

‘ A recurring idea in all of the contributions was the posing of the question ‘how’, not why, we must move to a new ‘well-being’-centred system? We start with questions, not answers. Therefore, a key barrier to the transition that we need is imagination, as Katherine said. While we need limits to growth we need no limits to thought.

Kate’s doughnut is a visual representation of new modes of representing our social and ecological breakdown points. 

Part of the conception we need is not to limit ‘well-being’ to the human but to also include the well-being of all life – tree, river, mountain, habitat. The well-being we seek is the well-being of all.’

Davie thanked all the speakers, promised to harvest the chat from the recording and link attendees to our mailing list. On offer in Spring 2022 will be a further dialogue with Tim Jackson, ecological economist and author of books such as ‘Post Growth, life after capitalism’.

The session ended with a contribution from Irish bard, John Spillane.

This interactive event was the formal launch of the WEAll Ireland Hub – a follow-up to our successful online gathering in June. We heard from leading global visionaries Kate Raworth of Doughnut Economics and Katherine Trebeck of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. They joined with Jennifer Wallace of the Carnegie UK Trust, core members of the new WEAll Hub for Ireland, the Irish Doughnut Economics Network and other local Irish activists to help identify the strategic actions that are needed to shift values and reorient our economies toward wellbeing policies and practices, to create an island of wellbeing.

Date: Tuesday October 19

Time: 12:30-2pm Irish time

Read the event report and watch the video

Written by Caroline Whyte, WEAll Ireland Hub

High levels of enthusiasm and readiness for change were expressed in the course of this participatory event, with emphasis placed on a need for fundamental economic transformation to bring about greater community empowerment and increase overall societal wellbeing. 

The participants – 45-50 – came from many backgrounds with a wide range and depth of experience, from all over Ireland and a few from beyond. They joined us to explore the principles of a wellbeing economy, identify the range and depth of existing activities on the island and establish how we might catalyse change together. 

At the event we considered these questions:

How might we work together to change the economic system and create a wellbeing economy?

How can the Wellbeing Economy Alliance add value to the existing work we are all doing?

Event Outline

Co-hosts Davie Philip of Cultivate, Caroline Whyte of Feasta, Seán Ó Conláin of Feasta and EHFF, Colette Bennett of Social Justice Ireland, David Somekh of EHFF and Peter Doran of QUB School of Law welcomed the participants and provided some background context on WEAll and the situation of Ireland. Participants verbally introduced themselves in breakout room pairs, and to the plenary via the meeting’s chat. 

Following feedback from the breakouts, a final plenary took place.

We were delighted to have some live music from Belfast-based flamenco guitarist Paddy Anderson at the beginning of the event, and from songwriter Conor Lawlor at the end.

Here’s some of what emerged from the groups and the discussions:

Q1. What has already been done [on wellbeing in Ireland] and Q.2. What is being worked on?

Public Participation Networks (PPNs)

Many PPNs, including Clare, Cork, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wicklow, have created bottom-up wellbeing vision statements to be used by the local authority, with powerful local engagement.  There is an opportunity to build on this interest in wellbeing arising from this work.

Local development

Collaboration for Change has initiated an online mapping project of local groups throughout Ireland. 42 local/community development organisations currently cover the Republic at local level; their focus includes marginalised groups and contributing to a climate of care. Community Wealth Building (CWB) is being actively promoted by civil society in both jurisdictions, including the Development Trust Northern Ireland.

Doughnut concepts are being very actively explored in a local context, with support from the Irish Doughnut Economics network (IDEN). 

A holistic Gaeltacht initiative is working with people in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore) on a development plan for the community.

Business

The event included representatives from a large Northern-based community cooperative in the North owned by 250 people, a network of pop-up repair cafés, rural microenterprise, Community Supported Agriculture schemes, and startups in the blockchain space. Participants explained how their work is helping to generate sustainable diversity in local economies throughout Ireland. 

Government/EU

The Governments both North and South have committed to producing Wellbeing Outcomes. In the North, work on a wellbeing framework is well advanced, and includes the NI Wellbeing Roundtable. In the South, a wide-ranging report from NESC is helping to prepare the ground for the planned government programme based on the OECD wellbeing framework.  

At a local government level, Local Authorities in the North have a duty since 2015 to promote wellbeing; Carnegie UK Trust has been working to support this. Meanwhile, in the South, meetings have taken place with Cork City Council on the adoption of Doughnut Economic principles.

More broadly, work is also being carried out exploring financial system reform through organisations such as Positive Money; there is a constitutional campaign in the South on the ‘right to housing’ and the ‘right to food’; and a civil society campaign is focussing on improving diet and making food more sustainable. At EU level, Irish MEP Grace O Sullivan is working on a legislative initiative which is intended to steer the EU towards a wellbeing economy, with six key objectives. 

Qs 3 and 4. What would be the seeds for change – what might catalyse a wellbeing economy? AND How we might catalyse change together?

Vision and narrative: We need an appealing, positive counter-narrative to the dominant one on the economy. It should use clear language, have a localised, participatory focus, embrace commons development as an alternative to State or private ownership, use an ‘investment’ frame rather than a ‘cost’ one, build on lessons from COVID-19, and be free of GDP-growth dependency. It should avoid the use of binary, ‘us’ and ‘them’ language, focussing instead on breaking down silos at national and local government level and in the media. 

Governance and objectives: We need to encourage longer-term thinking by politicians, ensure that the younger generation is well-informed and involved in the decision-making process, embed principles such as those of Community Wealth Building into government approaches, advocate legislation to de-emphasise GDP-based metrics in favour of other measurements, challenge the dominant role played by consumerism and advertising, and advocate for much stronger government support of participatory community work.

Q5: How could a WEAll hub support your work? – Next Steps

Research and advocacy

By connecting the dots between the global, national, regional and local – i.e. developing a way to bring together top-down and bottom-up action on wellbeing throughout Ireland, while working to reverse the trend of commercialisation of community development. There is a need to distill ideas down while avoiding over-simplifying; this ties into the work on narrative change and communication mentioned above.

Communication and Network-building

• By organising regular meetings and conversations of people from across the spectrum, including for example members of the groups within the PPNs.

• By creating a dedicated online space where people can continue to have e-conversations. 

• By creating a dedicated website for people to easily find information on the WEAll Ireland Hub, with clear visuals on what wellbeing economy means, and concrete examples.

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We would like to thank all of the participants once again for their time and very valuable contributions.