In 2017, there was a change of government in New Zealand. At the State Opening of Parliament after the election, the Speech from the Throne announced a new vision for the country’s economic policy: “We need to move beyond narrow measures and views of value and broaden the definition of progress. The economic strategy will focus on how we improve the wellbeing and living standards of all New Zealanders.”

As the government of New Zealand worked to develop the world’s first Wellbeing Budget, they began by using the OECD Wellbeing Framework to understand relevant dimensions for wellbeing.

However, the government recognised that much of our contemporary understanding of economic progress and wellbeing, including the OECD’s framework, has been informed by Anglo-Saxon philosophical traditions

Therefore, the government also worked to ensure that diverse communities were able to contribute their voices to defining wellbeing in New Zealand, based on their cultural perspectives, values and knowledge systems

This involved an initiative to develop a vision of wellbeing, based in mātauranga Māori, the knowledge of the country’s Indigenous population. The name for this Wellbeing Framework is He Ara Waiora, meaning “pathway to wellbeing”.

The framework demonstrates relationships between different elements of wellbeing. At the centre is Wairua (spirit), which reflects the values, beliefs and practices that are the foundation or source of wellbeing. Surrounding the spirit (in green) is Taiao (the natural world/environment), which is presented as the foundation and source of social wellbeing.

The next circle, in red, is Ira Tangata (society), which encapsulates human activities and relationships. The concept of mana (power) is seen as vital for wellbeing, with people thriving when they are empowered to grow and develop, connect with others and have the resources they need to flourish.

The outside circles (blue) present principles to guide how people should work together to achieve wellbeing. These emphasise the importance of coordination and alignment, working in partnership and according to the right processes, promoting collective and strength-based actions, protecting and promoting empowerment, and stewardship of the environment.

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Finland and the ‘Economy of Wellbeing’

In July 2019, Finland’s focus in the health and social sector when holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union was the ‘economy of wellbeing’.

Finland’s objectives during the Presidency were:

  • To stimulate an open European debate on the ‘economy of wellbeing’ and improve policy-level understanding of the fact that wellbeing is a prerequisite for economic growth and social and economic stability*; on the other hand, economic growth also creates more opportunities to improve wellbeing in the population.
  • To have the Council of the EU adopt conclusions on the ‘economy of wellbeing’. These include recommendations for measures to be taken by EU member states and the EU Commission.

Following a high-level conference in Helsinki, the Employment, Social Policy, Health, and Consumer Affairs Council adopted the conclusions on the ‘economy of wellbeing’. In its conclusions, the Council acknowledged that the ‘economy of wellbeing’ places people and their wellbeing at the centre of policy and decision-making and works to achieve equal opportunities, gender equality, and social inclusion.

The Council recognised a need for the coordination of EU and Member States’ powers to focus on the key drivers of wellbeing. Highlighting that GDP alone cannot measure the different dimensions of people’s wellbeing, the Council called the EU Member States for a cross-sectoral collaboration to improve existing instruments and implement a horizontal ‘economy of wellbeing’ perspective into national and European policy design.

In addition to its actions during the EU Council Presidency, Finland also demonstrated its focus on wellbeing through its government programme ‘Inclusive and competent Finland – a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable society’. The government sought to pursue a preventative approach by investing in measures that improve people’s health and wellbeing and take into consideration the long-term effect of their policies and decisions. Indicators about the economic, social, and ecological wellbeing will be used alongside the current economic indicators.

With the vision to transform Finland into a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable society by 2030, the government’s key economic policy objectives include:

  • The government’s decisions will decrease inequality and narrow the income gaps.
  • The government’s decisions will put Finland on a path towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2035.
  • The aim of economic policy is to increase wellbeing and prosperity. This means ecologically and socially sustainable economic growth, high levels of employment, sustainable public finances, and stability in the economy, all of which help avoid unforeseen negative impacts on people’s wellbeing.

As the Finnish government stated in their programme, ‘In a Nordic welfare state, the economy is managed for the people, not the other way round’.

* This is a different framing to a Wellbeing Economy, which downplays the economy as a goal in and of itself, and focuses on what sort of economy is needed to deliver the goal of social justice on a healthy planet.

Finland – Universal Basic Income pilot’ tags=’Wellbeing Policy Design’ custom_id=’How do we design a Wellbeing Economy’ av_uid=’av-6himp8f’]
Finland ran Europe’s first national, government-backed basic income experiment.

Finland’s two-year scheme, which ran in 2017 and 2018 and attracted widespread international interest, paid 2,000 randomly selected unemployed people across the country a regular monthly income of €560 (£490), with no obligation to seek a job and no reduction in their payment if they accepted one.

Aimed primarily at seeing whether a guaranteed income might encourage people to take up often low-paid or temporary work without fear of losing benefits, the scheme was not strictly speaking a universal basic income trial because the recipients came from a restricted group and the payments were not enough to live on.

Ran Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot – led to people building startups and staying ‘productive’, instead of passive consumers. So, guaranteeing basic necessities is not about ‘not working’. It frees up time for people to pursue what they care about.

“The basic income recipients were more satisfied with their lives and experienced less mental strain than the control group,” the study, by researchers at Helsinki University, concluded. “They also had a more positive perception of their economic welfare.”

The researchers also noted a mild positive effect on employment, particularly in certain categories, such as families with children, adding that participants also tended to score better on other measures of wellbeing, including greater feelings of autonomy, financial security, and confidence in the future.

“Some people said the basic income had zero effect on their productivity, as there were still no jobs in the area they were trained for,” said Prof Helena Blomberg-Kroll, who led the study. “But others said that with the basic income they were prepared to take low-paying jobs they would otherwise have avoided.

“Some said the basic income allowed them to go back to the life they had before they became unemployed, while others said it gave them the power to say no to low-paid insecure jobs, and thus increased their sense of autonomy.”

The scheme also gave some participants “the possibility to try and live their dreams”, Blomberg-Kroll said. “Freelancers and artists and entrepreneurs had more positive views on the effects of the basic income, which some felt had created opportunities for them to start businesses.”

It also encouraged some participants to get more involved in society, by undertaking voluntary work, for example. “Some found the guaranteed income increased the possibility for them to do things like providing informal care for their family or their neighbours,” said one of the researchers, Christian Kroll.

“The security of the basic income allowed them to do more meaningful things, as they felt it legitimised this kind of care work. Many of the people who performed such unpaid activities during the two-year period referred to it as work.”

Kroll said the results of the study could support arguments both for and against basic income. “But as we’ve all learned in the early part of 2020, insecurity is not a good way to live,” he said.

“While basic income can’t solve all our health and societal problems, there is certainly a discussion to be had that it could be part of the solution in times of economic hardship.”

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Together with a number of local and international stakeholders and investors, Futuro Forestal developed the ‘generation forest’, a combination of the dynamics of natural forests and reforestation which absorbs carbon dioxide and ensuring biodiversity and recovers soils and water sources. It also helps to create income earning opportunities for locals.

Futuro Forestal’s reforestation model improves on the timber plantation model by harvesting and replanting mainly native tree species, reducing risk in the business model, ensuring everlasting cash flow, and maintaining forest biodiversity.

Futuro Forestal has become one of Latin America’s largest and premier providers of tropical hardwood, and worked on the reforestation of over 9000 hectares, the creation of 4,500 hectares of private reserves.

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The Edmonton Well-being Index (or GPIs: Genuine Progress Indicators) was commissioned by the chief economist of the City of Edmonton, Canada in 2008 as A system of measuring the progress of the City relative to its 10-year strategic plan (The Way Ahead). The other desired purpose of the GPIs was to inform and guide annual budgeting by the City of Edmonton. The 2008 report was updated for a second time in 2009.

The Edmonton Well-being Index analysis is a replication of the 2001 Alberta GPI (Genuine Progress Indicators) study by the Anielski et. al. of the Pembina Institute; the Alberta GPI was a prototype sustainable well-being accounting system piloted for Alberta using 50 indicators of well-being analyzed over a 40-year study period (1961 to 1999).

The purpose of the Edmonton Wellbeing Index and wellbeing assessment was to answer the following question: Is Edmonton’s economic progress sustainable in terms of other quality of life and well-being conditions?

To help answer this question, the GPI analysis examined the trends and interrelationships of economic growth (measured in terms of real GDP per capita) with 47 other indicators of well-being (see table). The result is a state of well-being account for the City of Edmonton. The 2009 Edmonton GPI accounts of well-being shows a mixture of both positive and negative trends in Edmonton’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.

Edmonton Genuine Progress Indicators

Economic Social Environmental
Economic growth (real GDP per capita)

Economic diversity

Trade balance

Family median after-tax income

Weekly wage rate

Personal consumption expenditures

Transportation expenditures

Income taxes

Savings rate

Household debt

Value of public infrastructure

Value of household infrastructure

Poverty rate

Income inequality

Unemployment

Underemployment

Paid work time

Unpaid work time

Leisure time

Volunteer time

Commuting time

Life expectancy

Infant mortality

Obesity

Suicide

Youth drug use offences

Auto crashes

Family disputes

Crime rate

Problem gambling

Voter participation

Educational attainment

Conventional crude oil and natural gas reserve life

Oilsands reserve life

Natural gas energy use

Electricity energy use

Agricultural land

Timber sustainability index

Forest fragmentation

Green space

Wetlands

Water quality index

Air quality index

Greenhouse gas emissions

Carbon budget

Hazardous waste

Landfill waste

Ecological footprint

The overall results of the Edmonton GPIs for a single year are set up using a 1-100 index system, so that 48 wellbeing indicators can be compared to each other and across time, indexed based on a base year (1981) or an optimum wellbeing condition for each indicator over time.

The analysis also contrasts Edmonton’s real GDP per capita with a composite Edmonton Wellbeing Index – comprising all 48 economic, social and environmental indicators — as well as the sub-aggregated Economic, Social, Environmental Indices.

The results showed that between 1981 and 2008, Edmonton’s real GDP per capita has risen, albeit irregularly, while the Edmonton Wellbeing Index rose slightly in the early mid-1980s above the 1981 benchmark year, peaked in 1983 then declined steadily hitting a low in 1998. Since 1998, the overall Edmonton Wellbeing Index has been steadily increasing though has not yet reached the 1981 benchmark-year level.

The strategic planning department along with the Chief Economist, found the GPIs/Wellbeing Index very useful for tracking overall economic, social, health and environmental well-being conditions and trends providing decision makers with a high-level overview of well-being of the city providing important context to policy and budgetary decisions and providing citizens with a high-level wellbeing profile. Another key feature of the GPIs was that it provided City strategic planners and analysts the capacity to assess the interrelationships and correlations between key economic indicators and social, health and environmental indicators of well-being. This provided decision makers to conduct ‘what-if’ future projections of well-being. Ultimately it was possible to link well-being indices to municipal programs and services to ascertain impacts and value for municipal capital and operating spending.

Unfortunately, in April of 2012 the Mayor and Council, with recommendations by the City’s Chief Financial Officer, voted against maintaining the Edmonton Wellbeing Index indices for the purposes of informing annual budgeting. This was unfortunate since in 2012, Bhutan had recommended the adoption of a new economic paradigm based on well-being and happiness (The Gross National Happiness Index), to UN members and nations.

Is there a lasting legacy of the Edmonton GPI work?

While the formal Edmonton GPI work and updates to the indicator set ended in 2012, the lasting impact of measuring well-being impacts of policies, programs and services has taken on greater importance in Edmonton. Two examples include the End Poverty Edmonton initiative that resulted in a well-being impact evaluation framework developed for the City of Edmonton that would be the basis of measuring well-being impacts of the various poverty reduction strategies and actions.

A second example of well-being impact analysis is the development of a well-being assessment system for Edmonton’s Capital Region Housing Corporation, which provides affordable housing to 9,000 low-income Edmonton households. Well-being became central to CRHC’s mission statement. A well-being perceptional impact analysis survey was piloted by Anielski with a sample of CRHC residents providing a well-being baseline upon which to measure the future impacts of CRHC’s buildings and programs based on lived well-being experience and perceptions. So, well-being-based decision making has found life within policy portfolios and other programs of the City of Edmonton.

During the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the City of Edmonton and a new mayor and council, have expressed renewed interest in restoring the GPIs and are interested in exploring a new well-being accounting and reporting system. A suggestion has been made for the City to experiment with a combination of objective well-being indices complimented by a citizen well-being survey of subjective well-being to inform future decision making.

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After decades of civil war and instability, El Salvador was one of the poorest countries in Latin America. In 2009, President Funes was elected and pledged to support a collective, democratic and participatory development of a national health system.

The intention was to take a human rights approach; employ inter-sectoral work to address the social determinants of health; develop an equitable, efficient, fair and universal national health system funded by general revenues; and integrate the development of sub-regional and regional health policies.

Their wellbeing goal was to: ‘Guarantee the right to health of all Salvadoreans through a National Health System that steadily strengthens its public segments (including social security) and effectively regulates its private segments, and provides access to health promotion, prevention, care, and rehabilitation, and a healthy, safe environment, including (but not limited to) the creation and maintenance of an efficient health care system, with high problem-solving capacity and equitable access to quality services for all’

In order to achieve this goal, they identified several key intervention areas in the economy for the five-year policy period:

  1. Develop an integrated health services network, based on universal coverage, through which all people could access quality medical care
  2. Create a national medical emergency system to provide emergency medical services across the country
  3. Guarantee access to medical drugs and vaccines
  4. Create national health forums where communities and stakeholders could participate in policy decisions regarding the health sector
  5. Establish institute of health to conduct research on health challenges and social determinants of health
  6. Develop a unified health information system to analyze health data to support informed decision making at every level of the national healthcare system

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The term and cultural understandings of “wellbeing” vary across communities with Ecuador developing a wellbeing vision based on their indigenous concept of “buen vivir”. Buen Vivir (meaning “ living well together”) is a term used by the Quechua peoples (Sumak Kawsay) of the Andes to describe a way of doing things that is rooted in community, ecology, culture, and spiritual connection to the land. The concept of Buen Vivir was integrated into the Ecuadorian constitution in 2008 and the Bolivian constitution in 2009; it aims for a new form of development which goes beyond economic growth by focusing on people’s wellbeing and respect for nature.

The concept of Buen Vivir has also been integrated into Ecuador’s national development plans, with the Ministry of Planning (SENPLADES) expressing their wellbeing vision in 2018 as follows:

The Citizens revolution is committed to Buen Vivir , for everyone. We want a society in which people can satisfy their needs, live and die worthily with social equality and justice, free of violence or discrimination and achieving individual, social and natural harmony

https://www.planificacion.gob.ec/plan-nacional-de-desarrollo-2017-2021-toda-una-vida/

Painting of Buen Vivir
Along these lines, Ecuador has undertaken a series of constitutional and regulatory reforms to shift the direction of their development to achieve social and ecological wellbeing.

In Ecuador, nature is known as ‘Pachamama’. In 2008, the nation made history by becoming the first country in the world to ratify their constitution to include the right of nature. Article 71 of the revised constitution outlines that Pachamama has the right to exist and it’s “maintenance, regeneration of its life cycles, structures, functions and evolutionary processes” respected.

The rights of people and nature in Ecuador however was not only determined by national legislation, but was also strongly influenced by international agreements as well. Ecuador, like the majority of countries in the world, had signed trade and investment treaties which included a clause called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. This clause provides foreign corporations with the right to sue governments for any change in policy that would infringe on their expected profits.

In 2006, following indigenous and citizen protests, the Ecuadorian government halted foreign oil exploration in the Amazon. As a result of ISDS, Occidental Petroleum was able to sue the Ecuadorian government for 1.4 billion dollars (equivalent to the country’s health budget) as a result of this policy reform. The ISDS allows corporations to sue governments but not vice versa, which Ecuador found out when they sued Chevron for dumping billions of gallons of toxic water into the Amazon and poisoning 30,000 indigenous residents. Chevron went to the ISDS tribunal and had them order Ecuador to make taxpayers pay for the clean-up and violate its own constitution.

The capacity of Ecuador to develop and uphold policies to promote social and ecological wellbeing was therefore constrained by external forces. So in 2013, the government established an audit commission of government officials, academics, lawyers and civil society groups to analyze the costs and benefits of the country’s ISDS treaties and make recommendations.

The commission report was made public and argued that the treaties failed to deliver on the promised foreign investment and had undermined the development objectives outlined In Ecuador’s constitution. In 2017, following the commission’s advice, the Ecuadorian government terminated all existing trade and investment treaties which included the ISDS clause.

In moving forward, Ecuador joined countries such as South Africa and Indonesia (who have also terminated treaties with ISDS) at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law in 2019, to advocate for reform of the ISDS so that it promotes sustainable development objectives, protects human rights and respects policy space and the rule of law.

In this way Ecuador has been undertaking a process of regulatory reform at home and abroad to redefine economic rights and responsibilities to achieve “buen vivir” for all.

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Costa Rica often stands out as a unique development story. It has somehow achieved high levels of wellbeing with a relatively low GDP and minimal pressures on the environment.

Costa Rica is ranked amongst the best performers on the Social Progress Index, with scores divided into three categories: basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity.

Costa Rica’s success in wellbeing can, in part, be attributed to crucial policy decisions in the ’50s and ’60s, following a brutal civil war. During this time, the Constitution was revised to prioritise peace by abolishing the military and requiring the redirection of those resources to social spending on healthcare, education, and social security for the country. The redirection of defense spending to improve education, health care and a durable social safety net was done through policies covering social service (universal access to health and education, reforestation, ecosystem services and resource taxation (water tax).

Today, Costa Rica outperforms the United States on life expectancy (81.0 versus 79.1 years), democracy (a full democracy versus a flawed democracy), and population life evaluation (7.1 out of 10 versus 6.9), and has a social progress score far closer to that of the U.S. and other more developed countries than to many of its economic peers. Costa Rica also scores higher than the U.S. for health and wellness, environmental quality and personal rights. This is all despite having an average income more than three times smaller than in the United States.

On his global travels to learn about wellbeing, Christopher Boyce described the country’s national pride in living a simple, yet happy, relational lifestyle – referred to as the “pura vida”.

Costa Rica is a global leader for its environmental policies and accomplishments, which have helped the country build its Green Trademark. The pioneering Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program has been successful in promoting forest and biodiversity conservation; making Costa Rica the only tropical country in the world that has reversed deforestation.

The country has a National Decarbonisation Plan (2018-2050), which includes strategies for all sectors of the economy like public and private transport, energy industry, waste, and agriculture. It is notable that this plan is more ambitious than Costa Rica’s Paris Agreement targets for 2030 and 2050.

With a recent history of generating more than 95% of its domestic electricity from renewable energy, Costa Rica is committed to achieving 100% electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and fully decarbonising by 2050.

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Bukit-Batu is a governance strengthening project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Its overall objective is to have a well-functioning society where local people are actively engaged in processes that shape the development in their immediate environment.

One important aspect of the project is to encourage individuals and communities to interact with the government and for the government to become much more responsive to the wellbeing needs of local people and their communities. Over time, the project has brought about a significant improvement in the quality of governance in development, through participatory and collaborative processes.

Traditionally, development agencies tended to apply a top-down approach when working with local villages. This was often met with difficulties. For instance, villagers had no access to, and therefore little understanding of, the basis for the development programme as it was imposed upon them. As outsiders, development agents might have been ignorant to local values and cultural practices, and found their plans seldom supported by all community members. Furthermore, there lacked a shared understanding of what wellbeing means for the village, hence individuals sought to resolve their immediate problems, rather than taking the view of a bigger vision.

In this context, a Central Kalimantan NGO, YTS, worked with local villages to develop the Bukit-Batu approach. Inspired by Robert Chambers’ (1994) Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) model, the team enhanced the PRA, especially in their understanding that the relational dimension ought to be central in pursuing village’s wellbeing, involving all members. This has been translated into a dialogic and collaborative approach to community building and to developing the village’s annual plans. All community members are encouraged and motivated to take part in the village-wide analyses and planning processes. In turn, these collaborative processes also help cultivate villagers’ capacities to organise and manage community-level planning and facilitate democratic processes for the equitable benefit of all.

More specifically, Bukit-Batu aims to:

  • Enable villagers to reflect on and identify together their well-being needs and priorities;
  • Establish an effective planning and follow up evaluative process between communities and government;
  • Liaise with and encourage government programmes and services to be tailored to and effectively address specific well-being needs in all communities within the government’s area of responsibility; and
  • Improve significantly social conditions and economic livelihoods and overall well-being within the concerned communities

The programme was implemented in four steps:

1. Developing a common well-being vision for the village

The first step in this process was an important event when all villagers gathered to develop a common vision of wellbeing for the entire village, including envisioning where the village will be in three, five, and ten years’ time in terms of the overall condition of the village, and people’s life within it. This starting point enabled the villagers to reflect and focus on the valuable aspects of their life. In developing a wellbeing vision for the village, the community members also become aware that individual wellbeing and collective wellbeing are mutually developed.

The wellbeing vision was documented by the village committee with the support of the local NGO, and this vision is revisited annually, not only to remind the villagers of how they have seen their well-being possibilities, but also to review and revise their vision. This ensures that their collective vision is represented, and truly ‘speaks’ for everyone.

2. Identifying village well-being priorities

This process served to analyse the village’s existing socio-economic context, and diagnose its wellbeing needs based on the collective vision. Through dialogue and listening, the villagers worked together to review existing needs and challenges, and identify priorities for collective wellbeing. The priorities can include, for instance, agricultural objectives, marketing strategies, the need for technical updates, educational innovation, or specific financial support for a struggling family.

3. Generating an annual implementation plan for economic livelihood

This step involved putting the wellbeing priorities into an action plan. This plan is central to all other activities, and the community can reference it not only to provide a focus for their own concerted effort, but also to feed into the annual government planning process, which earmarks support to communities for the following year. The plan is also used to attract support from NGOs and private companies operating in the area.

4. Evaluating the plan

This final annual process consisted of mapping the community actions and results against the wellbeing priorities, and discussing together how well these priorities had been served, and where the gaps lie. Some of the typical Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods were applied in this step, including focus-group discussion, mapping, and modelling, and activity profiles. Still, the core of this step was dialogic and a collaborative review on how effectively the village has been embedded and involved in the district government’s processes and activities, as well as those of NGOs and enterprises that are supposed to provide support to the villages.

An important element of this governance-strengthening mechanism is to foster and strengthen village institutions that will continue the planning and implementation process. Therefore, YTS (the NGO) provided capacity-building support to two groups:

(1) a democratically-elected village leadership group that continue to direct the development process and liaise with all external actors; and

(2) economic livelihood group who would bring the plan to fruition.

The YTS’s work is more in the form of a programme of technical support for improving well-being and economic livelihood activities. In addition to the YTS’s support, the village is directly linked to government departments in the district that have relevant support programmes and services. The stronger the village institutions, the better the village can benefit from such support and services from district government.

The overall result of these steps and associated activities is to make communities much more aware of their entitlement to and needs for government support, and to strengthen the villages’ internal decision-making processes in order to access government supports and services more effectively. In the process, district government becomes much more aware of the lived realities, actual conditions and wellbeing needs of the communities, thereby enabling the government to design and provide much more effective services.

The Bukit-Batu approach seems to avoid some of the weaknesses of the traditional PRA model, such as the ‘tedious’ process for the plans to be implemented, and the reliance on development agents to facilitate community processes. However, Bukit-Batu still has to overcome similar challenges, including balancing the voice and power amongst the villagers (resulted from gender, social status, and historical dynamic), balancing the individual and collective well-being needs, and balancing a proactive attitude towards enriching economic livelihood thereby well-being of the community, and problem-based analysis towards resolving personal issues.

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Bhutan – Gross National Happiness Index’ tags=’Wellbeing Policy Design’ custom_id=’It is a nice vision, but how are we actually supposed to get there’ av_uid=’av-w8id0f’]
The pioneer of the Wellbeing Economy movement was the country of Bhutan, which in seeing the failures of GDP as the sole indicator of development, created a Gross National Happiness index to gauge the wellbeing of its citizens. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is inspired by the Buddhist concept of “The Middle Path” and seeks to balance multiple goals. The term is defined as “a multidimensional development approach seeking to achieve a harmonious balance between material wellbeing and the spiritual, emotional and cultural needs of society.”

As a development philosophy, GNH was fleshed out in 1998, in a document outlining the government’s vision for the next twenty years of development. They envisioned an alternative approach to development which:

“…achieves a balance between the spiritual and material aspects of life, between peljor gomphel (economic development) and gakid (happiness and peace). When tensions were observed between them, we have deliberately chosen to give preference to happiness and peace, even at the expense of economic growth, which we have regarded not as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve improvements in the well-being and welfare of the people.”

Bhutan proposes GNH as an alternative indicator for GDP to measure progress or development. Bhutan introduced their concept of ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) in 2008 to track domains such as health, education, good governance, ecological diversity and community vitality.

The Bhutanese government uses a policy screening tool to help the GNH Commission assess policy proposals against its Gross National Happiness framework and set conditions for businesses to add value to society and the environment.Bhutan’s GNH survey assesses attainment across the nine domains of GNH and uses this information for five year development plans and reporting on budgets that speak to the five year plans.

The level of GNH for an individual and for Bhutan as a country are determined through measures in nine domainsviewed as vital for happiness and wellbeing: Living Standards, Psychological Wellbeing, Health, Time Use, Education, Cultural Diversity & Resilience, Good Governance, Community Vitality & Ecological Diversity and Resilience. Each domain was chosen based on wellbeing research which demonstrates its link to wellbeing and happiness. These 9 domains are regularly measured through 33 indicators.

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Section 2 of the Irish Budget, announced the Department of Finance in October 2020, was entitled ‘Moving from GDP to Wellbeing’. The section describes the limitations of GDP, acknowledges the limitations of economic statistics alone to accurately reflect the wellbeing of a population, and introduces the idea of having a national wellbeing measurement in the country as a necessary alternative measure to ensure the drive of economic growth does not eclipse progress towards higher living standards for all.
The Programme for Government 2020 outlines the intention to develop new measures of wellbeing and includes a Wellbeing Dashboard designed to inform the budget process, with a commitment to move towards SDG budgeting.
This programme takes into account lessons learned from examples of wellbeing measures and initiatives in other countries, including New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada, the UK and the OCED’s Wellbeing Framework. The development of these measures of wellbeing will be guided by group of experts from across civil service, academia, and the private sector, with the aim to bring Ireland in line with the other European and OECD countries.
The Budget highlights takeaways from the OECD’s How’s life in Ireland Reportwhich outlines Ireland relative strengths and weaknesses in wellbeing compared to the OECD countries.
While this programme is new, Ireland has been undertaking equality and green budgeting measures for some time .
Gender budgeting underpins Ireland’s equality budgeting work: departments are asked to set targets against nine dimensions of equality. Ireland’s tax-benefits model includes a gender module. These efforts are led by an Equality Budgeting Experts Advisory Group encompassing representatives from across government agencies and delegates from civil society and academia.
Better understanding of gendered impacts has led to investments in childcare and parental care; support for art and culture for women; efforts to boost women’s participation in sport; apprenticeships for women; research grants for women; smoking reduction projects; work to broaden access to education; efforts to end energy poverty; and so on.
The equality work in Ireland’s budgets sits alongside poverty proofing of government policies. This assesses policy proposals according to their impact on key social outcomes, using a social impact assessment (SIA) framework that looks at the demographics of people receiving public services and disaggregates households and by income, economic status, household composition, and age. These assessments are released the same day as the budget.

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https://assets.gov.ie/90764/74a122af-0acf-4384-86b5-a0dbd6cca8f5.pdf
https://www.oecd.org/gov/budgeting/equality-budgeting-in-ireland.pdf

In 2010, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono saw that despite rapid GDP growth, over 30 million Indonesian’s still remained in poverty, he instigated a series of institutional and strategic reforms to improve wellbeing in Indonesia. Indonesia’s National Medium-Term Development Plan (NMTD) 2010-2014 outlined that the ultimate aim of development must be an improvement in the quality of life for all Indonesian citizens. One of the priority policy goals was to reduce the poverty rate to 8% by the end of the 5-year period.

In order to achieve this poverty target, the President issued a decree for greater institutional alignment and coordination. To accelerate poverty reduction, he called for

1) well-designed, systematic, and comprehensive steps and approaches;

2) coordination amongst all stakeholders (government, private sector, and communities) in policy formulation and implementation;

3) improved targeting, policy harmonization, monitoring and evaluation; and

4) strengthened institutions at the national, regional, and local levels.

In order to achieve these aims, the Government established a National Team for Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (Tim Nasional Percepatan Penanggulangan Kemiskinan, or TNP2K) with the mandate to harmonise all poverty reduction programs and activities across ministries and institutions and to guide and support their implementation.

The TNP2K reported directly to the President and consisted of ministers, community representatives, businesses, and other civil society stakeholders. Given the country’s drive towards decentralisation and greater local autonomy, the government also created coordinating teams for poverty reduction (TKPK) at the provincial, district, and city levels who would manage and support coordination of poverty reduction efforts in their areas.

In order to harmonise and coordinate poverty reduction efforts across ministries and agencies, the TNP2K identified 4 major intervention areas in the economy that were critical for poverty reduction and grouped all programs into the following clusters:

I: Social assistance programs for households and families. Improve the wellbeing of poor families by increasing their access to basic services such as health, education, clean water, and sanitation.

II: Poverty reduction through community empowerment. Increase living standards in communities, build capacities, and develop opportunities for the poor.

III: Poverty reduction through empowerment of micro-enterprises. Provide financing and support to informal and micro-enterprises that are a vital source of employment and income in poor communities.

IV: Poverty reduction through government provision of basic services and/or through price interventions. This was a new area identified for policy action and included six major policy intervention areas in the economy for wellbeing: inexpensive housing; affordable public transportation; clean water; availability of electricity; improving welfare of fishermen; and improving welfare of urban poor communities.

The National Medium Term Development Plan (RPJMN, 2010‐2014) is its second phase of implementation through Indonesia’s National Long Term Development Plan (RPJPN 2005‐2025)

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Ben & Jerry’s is a pioneer in embedding social purpose into their business. The social enterprise operates on a three-part mission that aims to create linked prosperity for everyone that’s connected to the business: suppliers, employees, farmers, franchisees, customers, and neighbours alike.

Ben & Jerry’s has taken a stance on nearly every major social issue of the last three decades, ranging from same-sex marriage to criminal justice reform and from fair trade to campaign finance.

It’s also worked to reflect those values internally by sourcing ethical products throughout its supply chain and paying Vermont employees a liveable hourly wage. (The company starts its entry-level Vermont employees at $18.13 an hour ― $7.17 above the state’s minimum wage ― and allows workers to take home three pints of ice cream at the end of every workday.)

The company also stopped including criminal background checks in the first stage of its application process in 2015, in solidarity with a national campaign to remove the check box that typically appears on job applications asking about applicants’ criminal history.

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Finland ran Europe’s first national, government-backed basic income experiment.

Finland’s two-year scheme, which ran in 2017 and 2018 and attracted widespread international interest, paid 2,000 randomly selected unemployed people across the country a regular monthly income of €560 (£490), with no obligation to seek a job and no reduction in their payment if they accepted one.

Aimed primarily at seeing whether a guaranteed income might encourage people to take up often low-paid or temporary work without fear of losing benefits, the scheme was not strictly speaking a universal basic income trial because the recipients came from a restricted group and the payments were not enough to live on.

Ran Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot – led to people building startups and staying ‘productive’, instead of passive consumers. So, guaranteeing basic necessities is not about ‘not working’. It frees up time for people to pursue what they care about.

“The basic income recipients were more satisfied with their lives and experienced less mental strain than the control group,” the study, by researchers at Helsinki University, concluded. “They also had a more positive perception of their economic welfare.”

The researchers also noted a mild positive effect on employment, particularly in certain categories, such as families with children, adding that participants also tended to score better on other measures of wellbeing, including greater feelings of autonomy, financial security, and confidence in the future.

“Some people said the basic income had zero effect on their productivity, as there were still no jobs in the area they were trained for,” said Prof Helena Blomberg-Kroll, who led the study. “But others said that with the basic income they were prepared to take low-paying jobs they would otherwise have avoided.

“Some said the basic income allowed them to go back to the life they had before they became unemployed, while others said it gave them the power to say no to low-paid insecure jobs, and thus increased their sense of autonomy.”

The scheme also gave some participants “the possibility to try and live their dreams”, Blomberg-Kroll said. “Freelancers and artists and entrepreneurs had more positive views on the effects of the basic income, which some felt had created opportunities for them to start businesses.”

It also encouraged some participants to get more involved in society, by undertaking voluntary work, for example. “Some found the guaranteed income increased the possibility for them to do things like providing informal care for their family or their neighbours,” said one of the researchers, Christian Kroll.

“The security of the basic income allowed them to do more meaningful things, as they felt it legitimised this kind of care work. Many of the people who performed such unpaid activities during the two-year period referred to it as work.”

Kroll said the results of the study could support arguments both for and against basic income. “But as we’ve all learned in the early part of 2020, insecurity is not a good way to live,” he said.

“While basic income can’t solve all our health and societal problems, there is certainly a discussion to be had that it could be part of the solution in times of economic hardship.”

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https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/may/07/finnish-basic-income-pilot-improved-wellbeing-study-finds-coronavirus

Throughout the 1990’s, Iceland, like so many other countries at that time, transformed their economy through a variety of policy reforms. With the aim of “modernising” and growing the economy, the government implemented a series of market liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation initiatives. There was a massive overhaul of tax policies, with the abolishment of the net wealth tax and a reduction in the capital tax (from 40% to 10%) and corporate tax rates (from 48% to 18%). Subsidies for unprofitable firms were terminated and state-owned enterprises, from fishing to commercial banking, were sold off. Regulations on business and finance were reduced and the currency was liberalised. All of these reforms culminated in the total privatisation of Iceland’s banking sector in 2002 and transformed Iceland from a fishing driven to a finance driven economy. The banking and finance sector grew at incredible speed, with stock market prices increasing by 900% between 2002-2003 and the banking sector coming to account for 96% of GDP. The plan worked, Iceland’s economy “modernised”, and it became one of the richest countries in the world.

When the 2008 financial crisis hit, in a matter of days, Iceland’s banking sector collapsed and nearly every business in the country fell into bankruptcy. In a situation where many other countries deemed their banks “too big to fail”, Iceland decided their banks were “too big to save”. The banks were nationalised and split into domestic and foreign operations, with the government guaranteeing domestic deposits whilst abandoning the foreign operations side. A program of widespread debt forgiveness was implemented for citizens and the currency was allowed to devalue by almost 60 per cent to increase demand for local products on the international market. Furthermore, Iceland was the only country who prosecuted bankers as criminals for the damage they had caused to the economy and society.

Viewed from a standard economic policy perspective, Iceland’s response seems strange. But from the perspective of a country whose objectives were to stabilize the economy and protect citizens’ wellbeing, these policies make a lot of sense. “What makes the story behind Iceland’s recovery important is not simply that it recovered. Iceland’s recovery is important because of its priorities – the decisions made about who to protect, and who to shoulder the cost of recovery.” Coming out of the crisis, the country recognized the need for a new approach to politics and the economic governance.

As the country worked to rebuild, the parliament undertook a process of re-writing their constitution through a participatory, “crowd-sourcing” process. Nine hundred and fifty people were chosen by a lottery to discuss the core values, rights and responsibilities of the Icelandic government. The new draft emphasized the importance of government transparency, equality, welfare and the national ownership of natural resources. While this new constitution did not end up ultimately passing through the parliament in 2011, its core value and priorities have come to inform many of Iceland’s policy reforms and initiatives since the crisis.

In working to build a more just and sustainable economy, one of Iceland’s primary goals was gender equality. Icelandic prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir wrote: “As governments are slowly turning their focus from raw GDP-driven measurements toward well-being criteria when judging economic success, the demand for progressive social justice policies is increasing…The campaign for women’s equality in Iceland has demanded government action to liberate women from social structures that have kept them down for centuries.”

In order to achieve this wellbeing goal, Iceland recognised that they needed to have a better understanding of their policies’ impact on gender. This required going beyond traditional cost-benefit analysis of policies, so the government instigated a gender mainstreaming and budgeting initiative to “to make the impact on genders visible, so it’s possible to re-evaluate policies, expenditures, and sources of income in accordance with objectives for equality”

The Prime Minster went on to say that this re-assessment of existing and proposed policies led to legislative changes for women’s sexual and reproductive freedoms as well as robust equality laws and gender quotas for corporate boards. But it has also required policies that are, in conventional economic terms, considered extremely expensive (such as) universal childcare and shared parental leave. Fifty years have elapsed since Robert Kennedy rightly said that GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile. Economics is nonetheless still centred on the measurable, dividing government outlays into two categories: expenses and investment. This dualism classifies money spent on physical infrastructure as an investment and, therefore, worthy of public monies. On the other hand, social infrastructure (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education) is branded as expenses or operating costs, preferably the first in line to be cut. Yet these are the structures that sustain us from (before) birth to death and create the conditions that make life worthwhile.”

Iceland’s first-hand experience of the dangers of conforming to the standard economic orthodoxy encouraged them to not only explore new, more holistic methods for assessing and selecting policies but also led them to join the Wellbeing Economy Government’s (WEGO) partnership in 2018. Like other WEGO states (see Phase 1), Iceland has now developed 39 wellbeing indicators based on the SDG’s to “service as the basis for an assessment of real prosperity and quality of life in Iceland”. Following on from their experience with gender budgeting, the government is now in the process of developing a wellbeing budgeting initiative to inform their five-year fiscal strategies and annual budgets by analyzing the wellbeing impact of different policy options in order to reform and develop a coherent mix of policies that can deliver on their wellbeing goals.

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The first Scottish resort to transition to a model of employee ownership. A trust owns 100% of the company’s shares on behalf of its 160 employees. Efficiency targets boosted profitability, allowing for the introduction of the Real Living Wage. Meanwhile, the resulting lower staff recruitment costs (due to higher retention), greater productivity, and increased occupancy from an improved reputation, paid for itself and more.

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When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Iceland’s banking sector, which accounted for 96 percent of GDP, collapsed, and nearly every business in the country fell into bankruptcy. Relative to the size of its economy, Iceland’s financial crisis was the largest in the world. While many other countries deemed their banks “too big to fail”, Iceland decided their banks were “too big to save”.

After a bailout by the IMF, Iceland embarked on a path of financial consolidation and reforms, including nationalising Iceland’s banks, implementing a program of widespread debt forgiveness for citizens, increasing taxes and allowing the currency to devalue by almost 60 percent to increase demand for local products on the international market.

Importantly, however, social benefits were safeguarded, and Iceland became the only country who prosecuted bankers as criminals for the damage they had caused to the economy and society. The country’s recognition of the need for a new approach to economic governance is what allowed it to stage one of the speediest recoveries on record, returning to growth only two years later, in 2011.

“What makes the story behind Iceland’s recovery important is not simply that it recovered. Iceland’s recovery is important because of its priorities – the decisions made about who to protect, and who to shoulder the cost of recovery”.

Iceland’s experience encouraged the Government to re-write its constitution based on a participatory process on people’s values and priorities. While it did not pass through Parliament, its priorities informed many of Iceland’s policy reforms and initiatives since the crisis.

In 2019, Icelandic prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir described that a public campaign for women’s equality in Iceland” informed the government’s decision to set gender equality as a primary economic goal. The Government instigated a gender mainstreaming and budgeting initiative, which allowed Iceland to lead the world in gender equality and to join WEGo in 2018.

Benedikt Arnasan, Director General for Policy Coordination and Economic Affairs in Iceland, explained that following on from its experience with gender budgeting, the Government of Iceland decided to explore more holistic, multi-dimensional methods for assessing and selecting policies to improve quality of life. As a first step, the Government conducted a survey to determine the general public’s top priority areas, which found that health was the most significant factor in quality of life, followed by relationships, housing , and making a living.

Iceland introduced a framework of 39 wellbeing indicators in 2019, a balanced set of financial, social and environmental metrics which are considered equally significant measures of the country’s success. The process of developing and securing consensus on the wellbeing indicators involved various stakeholders, including the public, political opposition, public service, and spanned two years. The outcomes of the process are six wellbeing priorities, mental health, secure housing, better work-life balance, zero carbon emissions, innovation growth and better communication with the public, which will guide the country’s Five Year Fiscal Strategic Plan. While the framework and priority list have been approved by the Government, they could be improved upon as collaboration with stakeholders continues. Iceland has committed to conducting regular surveys on the nation’s wellbeing due to COVID-19; the first is underway.

This framework of indicators informed not only Iceland’s Five Year Fiscal Strategic Plan, but also global efforts to reach a common understanding of which factors improve quality of life. While many states and international organisations rely on a single composite indicator, which factors in various aspects of wellbeing, Iceland’s framework is able to inform more specific policy formulation, as it produces insights at the indicator level.

Multiple important takeaways from this process were shared with WEGo counterparts. Lack of information on the environmental factors, and a lack of measurements directed at social capital and the work-life balance, made it difficult to choose indicators for prosperity and quality of life. This highlights the need for governments to support the systematic collection and dissemination of statistical data on environmental issues and social capital. This includes increasing the frequency of measurements for indicators that have limited prior data, in order to assess trends. Finally, when comparing indicators, it is important to note that measurements for indicators are often done in different time periods.

Statistics Iceland is tasked with gathering, monitoring, analysing and disseminating data on wellbeing indicators on a regular basis, as well as further developing these indicators in collaboration with key stakeholders, as measurements are largely based on Statistics Iceland’s data and complements the agency’s existing work on measurements for the SDGs.

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Icelandic prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir (2019) described that, a public campaign for women’s equality in Iceland” informed the government’s decision to set gender equality as a primary economic goal.

The Government instigated a gender mainstreaming and budgeting initiative in 2009, which allowed Iceland to lead the world in gender equality, according to the World’s Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap. The initiative assessed the gender impacts of budget measures and worked to take corrective action as needed. The Government’s Gender Budgeting Committee includes representatives from all ministries, but is led by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, in formal cooperation with the Ministry of Welfare. In every ministry, there is a steering group tasked with preparing the implementation programme for gender budgeting and policy measures are redesigned as necessary to improve gender outcomes.

Other policies promoting gender equality are:

  • Parental Leave Policy: providing the same benefits to both parents, which include four months of parental leave each and two months of shared leave divided between parents. An important note is that leave not transferrable.
  • Annual Equal Pay Certification: Obligatory for companies and institutions employing 25 or more workers, on annual basis. A bill of law about the Certification was passed by Parliament in 2017 and came into force in 2018. The Certification is based on the Equal Pay Standard, a tool that aims to eliminate the adjusted gender pay gap. It empowers employers to implement a management system of equal pay according to the principle of equal pay for equal work and work for equal value. It is believed that the Equal Pay Standard will be instrumental in eliminating the gender pay gap.

Iceland’s focus on Gender Equality is also reflected in the Icelandic Cabinet, which is comprised of five women and six men, compared to the global norm of one in five ministers being women.

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‘The sharing economy is all about the products and services that lead to a happy, sustainable and connected life.’ – shareNL

As the city of Amsterdam works to build a wellbeing economy, they have found that sharing is an economic behavior that has very powerful impacts on social and ecological wellbeing. Therefore, since 2015 they have instigated a process of making the city a “playground for pilot projects. An urban living lab where all stakeholders pilot with this new phenomenon and share insights and experiences.” With the aim of better identifying economic activities that are supporting sharing so that they can better support and foster these activities in the future. As the city of Amsterdam writes, ‘The sharing economy is not a question of ban or authorize, but of monitor and seize opportunities where possible.’

Amsterdam Sharing City was initiated by shareNL and is a joint initiative from the city municipality and ‘ambassadors’ from all corners of the city to work together: from startups to corporates, from community center to public library, and from knowledge institution to the municipalities to find and identify economic activities that can foster wellbeing now and for generations to come.

Source: https://www.sharenl.nl/amsterdam-sharing-city-publications

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In 2019, the city of Guelph was selected for the Smart Cities Challenge to achieve their wellbeing vision of a “food system where everyone can access nutritious food, nothing is wasted and the impact on our environment is minimal”. This vision came from their residents in recognition that one in six families in the region lacked food security and that the cost of healthy food was continuously rising. Meanwhile, a third of all food products were discarded as waste.

The city decided to try and build a food system driven based on the principles of prosperity, planet, and people with the purpose of building an “inclusive green economy of the future, valuing nutrition, health, diversity, equity and dignity”.

The city’s Smart City vision, ‘Our Food Future: Canada’s first circular food economy’, was to be achieved through three bold goals:

  • 50% increase in access to affordable, nutritious food;
  • 50 new circular food businesses, collaborations and social enterprises; and
  • 50% increase in economic revenues by reducing and reimagining food waste.

In order to develop a strategy to achieve these targets, they consulted extensively with community partners and stakeholders through a Theory of Change process. This process engages stakeholders in a series of thoughtful conversations about the kind of difference they want to see in the world and what they think it will take to create it. Put simply, they explored a series of “if-then” statements to connect the dots between potential activities and the outcomes that stakeholders want to achieve.

Through this process they identified 9 major areas for intervention to shift business, consumer and government behaviour and practices in line with their vision.

The city of Guelph continues this work of bringing people, ideas, and technology together
to build Canada’s first circular food economy through 9 priority projects.

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In 2015, the German government instigated a national dialogue to better understand what mattered for people’s wellbeing. In order to ensure diversity and hear as many opinions as possible, the German government asked for help from a large number of social groups (such as workers associations, adult education centers, chambers of commerce, women’s agricultural association, etc.).

Over a period of six months, they hosted over 200 national dialogue events in every region of Germany, with the Chancellor and first ministers being invited to 50 of the events to engage in wellbeing discussions. Those who were not able to attend these in-person events were invited to participate online or by returning a postcard that had been sent to all residents. A total of 15,750 participants took part in the national dialogue. Over 400 different topics and areas important for wellbeing were identified during the national dialogue, with the following aspects being mentioned particularly often:

Through this public consultation people expressed a mix of values, processes, and outcomes as being important for their wellbeing. The results revealed the following priorities: values such as freedom, equity, helpfulness; democratic processes such as civic engagement, political participation, and a functioning state; outcomes such as healthcare, education and unspoiled nature.

These priorities were then organised into 3 broad categories with 12 dimensions:

1) “Our life” describes five dimensions of our current lives: health, work, education, income, and the time we have available for our work, family, and leisure.

2) “Our surroundings” covers three dimensions of our lives: where we live, infrastructure and mobility in our cities and rural areas, security, and social cohesion.

And 3) “our country” form the national and international framework. They relate to the economy and environment, being able to live in freedom and equality, and the concerns of citizens about peace and Germany’s responsibilities in the world.

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