Written by: Lisa Hough-Stewart

A little over a year ago, in March 2021, WEAll published our Policy Design Guide. This Guide was co-created with over 70 WEAll members, and aims to support visionary policy makers to build just and sustainable economies for people and the planet. 

Since then, WEAll hubs in California, Canada, New Zealand and Scotland are working with community partners and local or city governments to bring the Wellbeing Economy Policy Design process to life. 

You can read more about the background of these pilot projects in our introductory blog posted in December 2021.

Now, at the halfway point of their projects, these four WEAll hubs are focused on co-creating locally rooted wellbeing visions with their communities, which will go on to inform policy recommendations.

Why developing a wellbeing vision matters

“We need to move beyond narrow measures and views of value and broaden our definition of progress”

Patsy Reddy, Governor-General of New Zealand 

Wellbeing Economy policy design begins with setting a different vision of progress. For decades, we have used indicators such as wealth and GDP growth to assess societal progress.

This has led us to focus on fostering economic growth, regardless of whether or not it leads to improvements in collective wellbeing. Many governments are now flipping the script and developing more holistic and longer-term visions of progress, so that collective wellbeing becomes the ultimate measure of economic success. These visions help us to recognise wealth as one driver of wellbeing, alongside a wide variety of other social, cultural and environmental factors.

The challenge, of course, is that viewing wealth as the main–and often only–indicator of progress has become embedded in many of our cultures, influencing the way we view our own capacities, relationships, and purpose. Changing this requires expanding our understanding of the economy, its relationship to social and ecological wellbeing, and our notion of progress to encompass a wide variety of factors that determine the quality of our lives on this planet. As such, a Wellbeing Vision is not something that can be imposed; it must come from  within communities and will vary according to each of their needs, desires and contexts. Co-creating Wellbeing Visions requires engagement with communities to understand what matters for their wellbeing, now and for generations to come.

The Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guide breaks the process of developing a Wellbeing Vision into three steps for policymakers and communities to work through together: 

1) Understanding what matters for wellbeing

2) Crafting and communicating the Wellbeing Vision

3) Measuring wellbeing. 

The purpose of this process is to develop a medium- to long-term Wellbeing Vision towards which the society and government will work. 

The visioning work of the hubs so far


[The Love Letham Commission kick off meeting. Photo credit: F Rayner]

Working with schools and young workers, the Love Letham team has carried out age-appropriate visioning with over 270 children and young people in Letham: that is over 20% of all children and young people in the community they’re working with. 

The activities were innovative, designed to be fun and engaging for the children and young people taking part as well as to draw out their hopes for a thriving future in Letham. The different techniques used were:

  1. Magic Carpet – pretend they are flying above a future version of Letham and describe what they see
  2. Photo Walk – taking pictures of what they value about their community and what they would change
  3. Poems and presentations – young people choose their own medium to communicate what a good life means for them
  4. Small world observed play – young children play with figures representing themselves, and their caregiver. They act out what they like to do and where they feel safe and happy on a map or sandtray. 
  5. Small group discussion – these included parents and carers too. The discussion was based on questions about the local area and what children need to live well there.

The project team has also established the Love Letham Commission, which includes young people, local leaders and community representatives. At their first meeting in April, they also took part in visioning exercises to connect with what a Wellbeing Economy could mean for Letham. Through the collaboration with local primary schools, a parallel Children’s Commission is also up and running. These two Commissions will analyse the data from the visioning exercises and develop it into a shared vision in the coming weeks. 

Sarah Stocks, Northern Star (delivering Love Letham project on behalf of WEAll Scotland) reflects on this juncture for their visioning work:

“It’s great to have a lot of data that’s not in the same homogeneous form. We’re going to use the Mosaic Approach to bring it all together. At the first Commission meeting, we took some of the data to them and asked what was striking them. There were lots of really interesting observations about what people need. What children want is to be able to have the things that they need in the place that they’re in.”


[Pomona residents take part in a visioning workshop inside a local solar panel factory. Photo credit: J Fackenthal]

With a core group that includes WEAll California hub members, representatives of the Latino Latina Roundtable and elected officials, the California team has developed and honed its approach to visioning that it will now go on to use with the wider community in Pomona.

They developed a workshop that can be used online or in person. Ahead of the workshop, participants were asked to name general areas that are a priority for achieving wellbeing in Pomona.

The pilot team distilled those into five priority areas. During the meeting, the core group was put in pairs and each pair came up with as many wellbeing priorities as they could for that area. They were explicitly asked not to worry about ranking or prioritising, just to capture everything they could think of.

Next, different sets of pairs looked at these long lists and ranked them in an unusual way.

Jeremy Fackenthal, EcoCiv and WEAll California co-founder, explains: “We wanted to genuinely assume that everything that was listed in the previous session was important or valuable. So instead, we ranked in terms of time and priorities. What could be accomplished? What should be focused on within the next 12 months? What should be prioritised over the next three years? Over the next five years? And then beyond?

“We really want to start to do this with larger and larger circles. It shouldn’t just be our core group naming what we say are the priorities. We’re be repeating the process with a number of different groups from May onwards, starting with community groups and activists working on issues related to wellbeing and ideally more City Council members. Then over the summer, the idea is to build toward larger, almost citywide events, but to do that by starting to reach out to groups of maybe 12 or 15 people at a time using some existing networks.”


[The first visioning meeting of the Toronto pilot steering group took place around a camp fire. Photo credit: T Campbell]

The pilot team working in Toronto is also taking the approach of starting with a core group for visioning work, and will soon progress to work with City Government officials and wider groups of Toronto residents. 

Not only is the core group going through the visioning process, they are also co-creating it.

Tara Campbell, David Suzuki Foundation (delivering the Toronto project on behalf of WEAll Can) has put a lot of focus on the people who make up that core group, taking care to invite them into this process as unique individuals rather than representatives of an organisation or group. She explains:

“These are people who are community organisers, designers, artists, academics: people who have deep relationships in Toronto. They have networks that they could invite into the larger process, and who are also quite invested. I don’t know if any of them would have ever even heard the term Wellbeing Economy before. But I would say that their work falls within it.”

Attention is also being paid to the types of spaces people are being invited into. The core group is initially meeting outdoors, gathering around fires to share their visions for a thriving future in Toronto. The group has a mood board and a shared playlist, taking a multi-sensory approach to wellbeing visioning. They are currently shaping the broader visioning process which City officials and wider groups of residents will be invited into over the course of the summer.

New Zealand

body of water between gray rock formation during daytime
[Photo by Callum Parker on Unsplash]

The WEAll team in Aotearoa New Zealand are concentrating on local government for their study project. Local governments are required by statute “to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities in the present and for the future”. This requirement was first introduced in 2002, and so there is a good history of New Zealand initiatives in the Wellbeing Economy space.

Some local governments, for example, have worked with community partners to create formal frameworks for monitoring the wellbeing of their communities. The Canterbury Wellbeing Index is a good example. This includes a wellbeing framework named He Tohu Ora, which is based on Indigenous values developed in liaison with the local Māori tribe, Ngāi Tahu. Another is at the top of the South Island. Te Tauihu is an intergenerational wellbeing strategy inspired by the vision to be good ancestors, this was developed in conjunction with the local government’s economic development agency.

Against that background, the WEAll team are working with a community wealth building project in Porirua, which is a city within commuting distance of the country’s capital city of Wellington. The project has identified three opportunities for developing a local Wellbeing Economy centred on housing, food and digital. Project leaders are exploring how to develop this potential. The WEAll team is walking alongside this initiative, using the Wellbeing Economy Policy Design Guide to engage with the project on turning vision into policy.

Paul Dalziel, Deputy Director of the AERU at Lincoln University comments: “This project is a practical illustration of how a wellbeing lens can help communities build wealth in a way that respects the natural environment and expands the capabilities of people to flourish. 

Justin Connolly, Director of Deliberate, adds: “Porirua is a good example of how participatory projects can redesign systems to better promote community wellbeing.” 

Paul and Justin are leading the WEAll contributions to this project.

Are you interested in finding out more about the pilot projects, or using the Policy Design Guide to inform your own work? Get in touch with me at lisa@weall.org.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance, European Environmental BureauWWF InternationalSwedish Society for Nature Conservation and Club of Rome invite you to join us for an event on “Wellbeing economies: a new economic approach for human and planetary health” at Stockholm +50:

Stockholm +50 – Wellbeing economies: a new economic approach for human and planetary health

2 June, 9:30-10:45, Room 4 & online

Are you in Stockholm and have registered for Stockholm+50? Please join us! Breakfast will be available in Room 4.

Not in Stockholm? Follow the live stream. The link will be available before the event on the Stockholm+50 side event page. You can also watch it herewhen we will be live at 9:30.

“Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity” will take place five decades after the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The event will provide leaders with an opportunity to draw on 50 years of multilateral environmental action to achieve the bold and urgent action needed to secure a better future on a healthy planet.

The planet, societies and economies are under growing pressure. This event aims at reimagining policymaking to design economies that serve human and planetary health. Governments will showcase innovative instruments and policies to establish Wellbeing Economies. Civil society responds and shares its vision for a new economic system.

Moderator: Patrizia Heidegger (Director for Global Policies and Sustainability, European Environmental Bureau)

Keynote opening speech

  • Sandrine Dixson-Declève (Co-President, Club of Rome) 

Government interventions

  • Virginijus SinkevičiusEnvironment Commissioner, European Commission
  • Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
  • Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor, Ambassador to the EU, Kingdom of Bhutan
  • Terhi Lehtonen, State Secretary, Ministry for the Environment, Finland

Short civil society respondents

  • Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo, Executive Director, IBON International
  • Nina GualingaWomen Defender from the Kichwa community at Amazon Watch
  • Georgina Muñoz, Co-Chair, Global Call for Action Against Poverty
  • Ebrima Sall, Executive Director, TrustAfrica
  • Bruno Roelants, Secretary General, the International Cooperative Alliance

Closing speech

  • Johanna Sandahl, President EEB and President SSNC

More details about the conference: https://www.stockholm50.global/
See event in the official Stockholm agenda: https://www.stockholm50.global/events/wellbeing-economies-new-economic-approach-human-and-planetary-health

More info

The 1972 Stockholm Conference highlighted the centrality of the environment for human wellbeing. However, our planet, societies and economies are under growing pressure. Human activities overshoot several planetary boundaries whilst governments struggle to meet all societal needs. It is time to reimagine economic policymaking and to make our economies serve human and planetary wellbeing. Although the contexts, concepts and pace vary, some governments around the world are engaged in reimagining their economic model. Bhutan orients its policies at Gross National Happiness, Wales has passed the Well-being of Future Generations Act, and the European Commission is designing a Beyond GDP dashboard. These innovative actions illustrate how wellbeing-focused economies can drive sustainable development. The purpose of this event is to exchange concrete measures that governments are taking to redefine the priorities for a new economic system. It will discuss how to initiate and enable the transition towards wellbeing economies and what good policy practices can look like. The event strives to encourage further debates on how to reimagine our economies in respect of the planet’s ecological limits.

We thank the Laudes Foundation for providing funding to organise this event.

By WEAll Aotearoa Country Lead Gareth Hughes

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s fourth Wellbeing Budget continued the focus on wellbeing and responded to social and environmental failings – but did it address them?

A transformation is still needed to go from Wellbeing Budgets to a Wellbeing Economy – one that delivers wellbeing by default, not one where it needs to be added on.

After two years of Covid dominating Government spending decisions, Grant Robertson pitched the 2022 Budget as “less of a crisis budget” and a return to the wellbeing framework. What the country saw this week was very much a Wellbeing Budget but one that responded to failing rather than addressing them.

Since the first Wellbeing Budget in 2019 the Labour-led Government has approached the annual process to put together the national books differently from their predecessors. A wellbeing analysis was applied across all spending, and government departments were asked to leave silos and work together on joint proposals.

With a message of kindness and a focus on child poverty this approach received international plaudits in a world hungry for inspiring, positive news.

The 2022 Budget continued this focus, with Treasury’s updated Living Standards Framework providing the behind the scenes structure. Robertson’s focus in this Budget was health, cost of living issues – especially for the ‘squeezed middle’ – and climate change. Big ticket items were a record amount spent on a buckling health system, a temporary $350 payment for around two million New Zealanders and $2.9 billion of Emissions Trading Scheme revenue recycled on climate projects.

In Parliament National moved the inevitable amendment to oppose the Budget and labelled it the ‘Backwards Budget’, instead pushing for tax cuts. New Zealand is already in the bottom half of the OECD for tax as a percentage of GDP and a tax cut, especially one targeted at higher earners, would simply increase inequality while placing further pressure on public services.

This Budget contained many good measures, including rectifying a historic child support injustice.

However it continued the incremental, slow approach to change that won’t substantially alter persistent poverty, wealth inequality or the biodiversity and climate crises.

While National’s Christopher Luxon railed against so-called wasteful spending, this Budget was no radical dagger aimed at the heart of Neoliberal economics.

The parliamentary debate is always full of hyperbole but I believe a reasonable and constructive critique of the Budget is that it focused on failure demand.

This is the concept where the Government pays costs which are responding to the damage created by the current economic system. Current settings aren’t delivering a socially-secure, high-wage, low-carbon economy so vast sums are spent addressing symptoms and avoiding causes.

Take the biggest new line of spending – health. More than $11 billion was allocated over the forecast period – a huge sum – spent to patch holes and pay debt from historic underinvestment. Fixing damage.

In the climate space, nearly $340m will be spent looking for agricultural fixes to address the failure that farmers don’t pay the cost of their emissions.

The temporary $350 cost-of-living payment for individuals earning under $70k (except beneficiaries) offers short-term relief but doesn’t solve the systemic problem that Kiwis work some of the longest hours for some of the lowest wages and pay some of the highest costs of living in the developed world.

Half price public transport for Community Service Card holders and higher low-income dental grants help – but only respond to the failure that New Zealanders are not guaranteed liveable incomes above the poverty line.

Spending on motels for emergency shelter, the human and health and costs of diseases from unsafe housing, purchasing international carbon credits to avoid reducing emissions at home are all other examples of costly remedial measures from avoidable damage.

Economically New Zealand is doing reasonably well compared to similar countries in these volatile times. The growth rate is high coming out of Covid, government debt is comparatively small and the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1986. With money to spend, the Government has been able to respond to some areas of failure demand but not all, by any means. A rental crisis, a housing crisis, an inequality crisis, a poverty crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a climate crisis still stalk Aotearoa.

Wellbeing Budgets have been a welcome innovation but the next step surely must be addressing the root causes of social and environmental failure and building a Wellbeing Economy. A Wellbeing Economy is structured so that the economy serves people and planet, rather than being geared to maximise profit only through economic growth at the expense of the planet. It is designed to deliver quality of life with dignity, purpose, fairness and participation whilst caring for nature.

We need to do more than respond to costly avoidable damages arising from our current system. In 2017 Jacinda Ardern in her first speech as Prime Minister said: “This will be a Government of transformation”. With one Budget left before the next election I hope the Government will deliver on this aspiration.

This was originally published on Newsroom

Written by Gareth Hughes, WEAll Aotearoa New Zealand Country Lead

Many years ago I had the rare privilege to visit Kiribati, the low-lying Pacific nation on the frontlines of climate change. Climate change isn’t academic there – it’s a lived part of daily existence. Even then in 2010, they were building seawalls to try and keep the rapidly-rising seas from washing into their fields. Heartbreakingly these flimsy walls were built from garbage and sticks and would be no match for the power of the waves. 

This week New Zealand outlined the country’s plan to reduce emissions consistent with the Zero Carbon Act. Would a New Zealander travelling to Kiribati today be able to report New Zealand was doing all it could to urgently reduce emissions? Is it enough?

It comes in the fifth year of Ardern’s premiership, fourteen years after the Emissions Trading Scheme was created and 32 years after New Zealand’s first climate targets were announced. Since 1990 New Zealand’s emissions have increased by a full quarter – primarily as a result of ‘cars, cows and coal’. Successive governments have preferred agricultural exemptions, ineffective price signals and technological wishful thinking over more proactive policies. Inadequate targets, pine tress and creative accounting have all been used to mask our long-standing lack of deep and decisive action.

On Monday Climate Minister James Shaw released the Government’s first Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) – a laundry list of policies to meet the first emissions budget. The plan sets out $2.9 billion in spending from the Emissions Trading Scheme, the biggest single item being a $569m cash-for-clunkers scheme to encourage cleaner vehicles. There’s $350m for walking and cycling, $650m to help industry invest in low-carbon processes and $339m for agricultural research and a new Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. Farming still gets a free-ride outside of the ETS and many people have pointed out the irony it is receiving about a third of the total funding without contributing anything towards it. 

Despite being a weighty 343 pages, the plan lacks detail and ambition and many of its pages are padded outlining existing projects and case studies. Far too many actions are listed as to ‘investigate’, ‘explore’, ‘trial,’ or ‘consider’ and twelve separate new strategies are proposed. Substantially grappling with the 50% of our emissions that come from agriculture or making difficult decisions like reducing the national dairy herd have been ‘kicked down the road’ to another day along with congestion charging and bans on internal combustion vehicle imports. People hoping for a permanent extension of public transport discounts, free public transport or electric bike incentives would have been disappointed.

With billions of ETS revenue to spend there are many worthwhile projects in the plan. Home insulation, more electric car chargers, a new Climate Information Centre and organic kerbside waste collection are all good projects. One particularly promising area the plan outlines is a Māori climate strategy and action plan that ‘prioritises mātauranga Māori’. Funding will be made available for tangata Māori initiatives and I would love to see solar panels adorning the roofs of marae and whanau and hapu producing their own power. I imagine an Emissions Reduction Plan developed in a true Tiriti partnership would be stronger.

I wanted to see a huge regenerative agriculture fund and a €25bn package like in the Netherlands to radical reduce livestock numbers. I wished for more to help our most vulnerable New Zealanders cope with climate change amongst the other structural challenges they face. I hoped the ERP would have sent a clearer signal New Zealand coal burning might end before my children have kids and oil drilling might stop before they have grandkids. There are plenty more climate policies to push politicians of all stripes on.

After decades of inaction, the ERP is a milestone and a step-forward but a small step. Would this plan truly demonstrate to a citizen on a small-island state like Kiribati that New Zealand is treating climate change like an emergency and doing all it can to reduce its high per-person emissions? Probably not. It does show a direction of travel and after decades of inaction, perhaps those selling this aspect of the ERP are right to celebrate this. We need a level of political ambition as high as the existential threat of climate change.

The ERP is a modest step in the right direction but still leaves many of the most intractable, difficult choices ahead. We should celebrate positive steps but we shouldn’t forget Bill McKibben’s warning ‘winning slowly is the same as losing.’

While this isn’t the bold, transformative plan to fundamentally redesign our economy to live within planetary boundaries it should be – it can be a foundation to build on. The climate movement has made massive strides and is now securing serious money and policy programs but the scale of action is not yet matching the scale of the climate emergency.

In the end, a bold, transformative plan is unlikely to come handed down from those in power – it will come from people coming together. People who want to turn roadway into cycleway like on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, travel between our towns and cities on a national network of fast intercity rail and ride on modern free public transport need to redouble their efforts. Those campaigning to end coal burning for milk dehydration and a ban on coal exports need to ramp it up. Those calling for social justice and drawing attention to the fact 15 companies are responsible for three-quarters of New Zealand’s emissions need to constantly remind our politicians about this. We need to work together, build bridges and form alliances across society to create a transformative climate movement. This is just the start.

This was originally published on The Spinoff.

Kia ora ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa. I whānau mai au i te taha o te awa o Tairawhiti. I raro i te maru o te maunga o Kaiti. He uri ahau no Wales, no Scotland. Kei te noho au kei Ōtepoti. Ko Gareth Hughes toku ingoa. Tena koutou katoa.

I’m Gareth Hughes, the new Country Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and I wanted to introduce myself. Above is a little about where I have come from in Te Reo Māori, the first language in New Zealand. I’ve spent my entire adult life campaigning for progressive causes as a campaigner at Greenpeace, as a Green MP and an activist. I describe my background as banging on the outside doors of Parliament as an activist then banging-on from the inside. I’ve taken part in non-violent direct action, like once infamously being arrested dressed as Ronald McDonald, passed laws and led campaigns that helped end offshore oil exploration and shark finning in New Zealand. I’ve always felt a passion and a calling for social justice and to protect our planet and I’ve tried to pull all the levers to achieve it.

After working on the symptoms for so long I am excited to now focus on the source of so many of the problems we face. I believe the most important mission facing us is working together to build an economy that works for people and the planet.

In 2020 I ended a decade-long career as a Member of Parliament. I am proud of what I achieved there but I was also frustrated how often the focus was on the short term, policy tinkering or debating what type of ambulance should be at the bottom of the cliff. Things like climate change, homelessness, poverty and inequality were seen as if they were bugs in the system when in fact they were consequences of a system that needs to change fast. My final speech in Parliament was a challenge to all political parties for transformational change – this is what I’ll be focused on in this new role. As such, I have stepped away from political party membership so I can advocate effectively to all parties.

In my valedictory speech I ended on a note of optimism for the future. “Fortunately for us in Aotearoa, we have an alternative value system focused on collective wellbeing, long-term thinking, and a strong connection to nature in mātauranga Māori. I believe if we truly became a Te Tiriti o Waitangi – respecting nation, we could escape the fatal embrace of short-term, individualistic, environmentally damaging thinking that has dominated our politics.” 

In my office I used to have a poster of the first whole image of the Earth taken from space hung on my wall. It was a reminder we need to operate within planetary boundaries which is so beautifully communicated in the Doughnut Economy. In the last year I have been researching and writing a biography of the late Jeanette Fitzsimons who was one of the pioneers of challenging infinite growth on a finite planet and GDP as a measure of success in New Zealand. This deep-dive into her work and the wider thinking that has occurred by many people over multiple decades has further inspired me to focus on a wellbeing economy. These are well-established ideas and the move towards them is now urgent.

I’m also a Dad to two kids, Arlo 14 and Zoe 11 and partner to my wife Meghan. We live in paradise, next to the sea in a small village on the Otago Peninsula in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. I love travel but I want to see the world in a low-carbon way so in the last five years I’ve become passionate about sailing. Most weekends you’ll find me on my yacht Avanti.

I am proud to join the New Zealand Hub in this new phase, as it becomes an established organisation with full-time staff, and to continue to expand on the more recent work of our WEAll volunteers in New Zealand. I have a busy work plan and I’m looking forward to rolling that out and working with WEAll partners, citizens and all political parties. 

How can we inspire the urgent and collective action we need, right now, to address the major challenges of our time? We think local action in local places is a big part of the solution, and that’s why Wellbeing Economy Wales is exploring ways of empowering and supporting communities to take action.

In September 2021 we were excited to convene a major event for Wales about the synergy between our vision for a wellbeing economy, and Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics”. Bringing together Kate Raworth, Katherine Trebeck, and Sophie Howe – who is Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner – the discussion unexpectedly attracted 800 registrations, many more than any of our previous events! Clearly there is something about “the doughnut” that resonates with people and sparks their curiosity. We had hit upon a great way to talk to people about wellbeing economics in a way that seemed to make sense, using Kate Raworth’s framework of the social foundation and the planetary limit. This landmark meeting for Wales has become a launchpad for greater community and organisational engagement for the Wales Wellbeing Economy Alliance hub.

Building on the interest generated by that first discussion, which you can watch in full on our Youtube Channel here, Wellbeing Economy Wales is now designing a series of workshops to help communities across Wales develop their own priorities, plans and actions – using tools and resources developed by the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, as well as others. We are working in partnership with Oxfam Cymru, and inviting an initial cohort of participants to join this Wales-wide learning journey.

Find out more and keep up to date as this initiative moves forward, on our website.

Our wonderful co-founder and Advocacy Advisor, Dr. Katherine Trebeck, is stepping back from WEAll, after many years of incredible work and dedication to put the Wellbeing Economy into the public agenda and gather so many people and forces around this shared vision. She has been fundamental in the construction of this organization and movement, and we will all miss her passion and enthusiasm in the WEAll family, but we know this is also just a “see you soon”, not a “goodbye”. Below, word by word, is Katherine’s recent blog post explaining a bit more in depth her path until now and next steps:

March 2022
Time off and next steps

This blog has been a long time coming (and it’s not even a blog – just a wee note to explain why I’ll be going quiet and unresponsive for a few months).

Being part of building the Wellbeing Economy Alliance has been the most incredible journey. It began when Stewart Wallis wrote an email to me back in June 2017 with the subject line of: ‘Hello and Mad Suggestion!’ It was mad, but somehow it feels we have made what felt mad – but very necessary – now manifest and possible (the photo above shows just some of the fantastic folk who make it so).

But, my husband is retiring so I am taking the opportunity to gather my thoughts a bit and from April to the end of June I will be ‘downing tools’ and taking some extended leave; stepping back from being a core team member for both the WEAll global team and WEAll Scotland.

It is because of where WEAll is and how it’s standing that I feel it is timely to find new adventures and different ways of trying to be useful. The global WEAll ‘Amp’ team has just met in person, for the first time for many of us. We cooked together, laughed, drank caprihinas, walked, and worked through some knotty internal questions and made some rather fantastic plans for the coming months and years. The team are pretty darn amazing – such different skills on top of shared energy, care, and passion for the work of WEAll. WEAll feels steadier now in a way it hasn’t before. People are coming to WEAll, wanting support to implement and learn more about the nature of an economy that puts people and planet first. There is secure funding beyond the next few months for the first time and WEAll is in the process of recruiting some excellent new colleagues to help carry it into the next stage.

And as for Scotland WEAll, while smaller and still fragile financially, is punching above its weight thanks to a dynamic board of dazzling women; volunteers who are generous beyond anything I have ever seen; and a small staff team who couldn’t be more perfect for their respective roles.

So it feels like a new era for WEAll – one in which I can be more a friend, by-stander and cheerleader than such an active player.

WEAll is more necessary than ever. I am more grateful for WEAll’s existence than I can imagine given the current economic debates in Scotland which feel pathetically inadequate for our times and given the lack of sufficient action pretty much everywhere to build a more humane economy that’s gentler on the planet.

What instead after my time off? There are a few ideas, some irons in fires and twinkles in eyes. But I can’t pick one above another until I’ve had a bit of a break and spent a bit of time in the Scottish hills and then breathing deeply of some Australian eucalyptus (something I am missing terribly after almost three years). So TBC I guess.

There’s a lovely wee saying that ‘you can’t discover new oceans until you are ready to lose sight of the shore’. I’m not feeling particularly brave or adventurous or anything, but I am feeling it’s time to look out again and see what new ways I can find to be part of building a more humane economy.

*Her original post can be found in her website: https://katherinetrebeck.com/time-off-and-next-steps/

By David Suzuki with contributions from Ontario and Northern Canada Director General Yannick Beaudoin

When you pause to reflect on what’s truly essential and meaningful for you to thrive, what comes to mind?

Is it about having more? Or having better? Is it about all the buying or the genuine caring? Is it about over-consuming or connecting and sharing? Is it about loving stuff and status or simply loving? As we experience disruption on a scale not seen since the Second World War, people in Canada are taking note of what’s really important to them. That can lay the foundation for new ways of thinking about a better economy for tomorrow.

We often confound “economy” and “economics.” Words matter. In this time of crisis, we’re hearing rhetoric aimed at convincing us that caring for our personal health and that of our loved ones is locked in an antagonistic tension with protecting the economy’s “health.” Yet the word “economy” refers to all the interconnected social actions every person does daily. It’s about the way you live your life and the way everyone around you lives theirs. It includes the stories we tell, the knowledge we share, the making, exchanging and trading. It describes how we experience and govern our collective lives on a shared planet.

As we’re witnessing at this extraordinary moment in history, often what we feel matters most in our times of need is not aligned with the purpose we gave our economy before this crisis.

“Economics,” on the other hand, is about how we think about the economy and what its purpose should or could be. As we’re witnessing at this extraordinary moment in history, often what we feel matters most in our times of need is not aligned with the purpose we gave our economy before this crisis.

It’s also interesting that the words “economy” and “ecology” both come from the Greek “oikos,” meaning “domain” or “household.” Ecologists seek the principles, rules and laws that enable species to flourish sustainably. Economists are meant to “manage” our activity within the biosphere, our domain — ideally within the rules and strictures ecologists find.

Before the pandemic, we thought of our economy as an engine, the main purpose of which was to burn through natural resources quickly to produce as much money as possible using the cheapest, most abstract notion of labour. That equation omits human beings with all our complexities and the “pale blue dot” on which we all depend. It wasn’t exactly intentional.

This equation was agreed to at the end of a war, under the assumption that more trade between nations would ensure global peace and prosperity. In 1944, representatives from 44 countries met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to create a more efficient foreign exchange system and to promote economic growth. Out of crisis, a new way of managing our economics emerged. Although the system was changed in the 1970s, it maintained its earlier purpose.

Now, many politicians are ascribing war language to the pandemic response. But what will we do when this “war” is over? Will we allow an old equation to continue to guide us, or could we choose to come together to define a new purpose?

The old way of thinking about the economy, the established economics, has been exposed as inadequate and flawed.

People everywhere are in distress. Our health and livelihoods are threatened. The social fabric of togetherness is impeded by a need to stay physically distant from each other. The old systems haven’t been able to respond to our needs in meaningful ways, so governments have had to use unusual interventions to ensure the collective good. The old way of thinking about the economy, the established economics, has been exposed as inadequate and flawed.

But through this distress and disruption, we’re seeing glimmers of transformative potential. Over a few weeks, incredible acts of kindness and collective caring have become normal. People are applying novel means of digital creativity to support each other. Some businesses are pivoting from short-term, profit-first motives to purpose-driven actions in response to real needs.

We’re witnessing the surfacing of tangible inspirations for the re-imaging of a Canadian economy — one explicitly designed to deliver the well-being and resilience people need to flourish — and that nature can provide today and for generations to come.

At the end of the Second World War, it took just three weeks for a small group of men to design what would become a new purpose driving the postwar global economy. As this crisis comes to an end, will we embrace the opportunity to do better?

Together, we can design an economics for what matters.

Last week, Statistics Canada announced that gross domestic product grew by 1.3 per cent over the last quarter. It’s in large part because of an increase in household spending, meaning more money is leaving your wallet.

Does growth of our traditional measure of economic success mean you’re better off? Maybe; maybe not. But it’s time we accept GDP for what it was always meant to be: a measure of the value of goods and services our country produces, rather than a mark of our collective well-being.

Our economic system doesn’t distinguish between what’s good or bad for society. It often benefits from social ills and environmental crises. The act of using money to pay for, or provide, a good or service boosts economic activity. With wildfires, governments have to spend money on extinguishing, rescue operations and rebuilding, all of which support more jobs. Nobody would advocate for spreading more wildfires. But from the perspective of boosting GDP, there’s a transactional benefit to supporting a growing sector.

Our economic system doesn’t distinguish between what’s good or bad for society. It often benefits from social ills and environmental crises.

Today’s economy is growing not in spite of some of the greatest challenges our society faces, but because of them. More people than ever are struggling to make ends meet, while the twin biodiversity and climate crises threaten the very future of humanity. Yet we continue to focus on growing GDP, as if that ever will translate into greater human and ecological well-being.

If we want to break the vicious cycle that results from chasing economic growth above all else, we need to redefine our economic purpose. We need to pursue well-being as if it’s the only thing that matters. Because ultimately, isn’t it? Don’t we all want greater health and more time to raise our children? Or meaningful jobs that keep us satisfied?

There is something profoundly wrong with an economic system that values a sick child over a healthy one, since a sick child creates more jobs and services and thus boosts GDP. It would seem that our society is the one that is sick.

It’s not a radical idea to grow an economy intentionally designed to generate well-being for people and ensure nature’s health in perpetuity.

We can still disagree on political priorities. But until we get over this obsession with economic purpose as growth, we’ll never achieve well-being for all. Until we can stop treating each other and the world around us like factors of production just waiting to be converted into money at the cheapest possible rate, we’ll be trapped in the same economic thinking that led us to where we are today: a world where a rich few propel themselves to new planets, while the vast majority struggle to survive on the only planet they’ll ever know.

It’s not a radical idea to grow an economy intentionally designed to generate well-being for people and ensure nature’s health in perpetuity. Indigenous Peoples worldwide have been guided by such holistic thinking since time immemorial. All we need to do is listen and learn from their experiences.

GDP may tell us how much an economy has grown, but it says nothing about the quality of life of those growing it. It’s time we put people and the planet first.

This op-ed was originally published in The Toronto Star

GDP growth ignores challenges most people in Canada face just to survive

A new alliance of Indigenous and Canadian organizations is calling for a well-being revolution — in the economy, that is. The Well-being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the celebrations around gross domestic product returning to pre-pandemic levels discount the day-to-day hardships many in this country, including Indigenous people, face. Ahead of the upcoming federal budget, the alliance is calling for policies that put well-being first.

“The economy is up, but many people are down when it comes to their quality of life,” Yannick Beaudoin, lead facilitator with WEAll Can and director of innovation with the David Suzuki Foundation said. “It’s time to stop celebrating rises in GDP as if that means everyone is better off. In fact, it’s often the opposite.”

Canada’s GDP rose to 0.2 per cent over this time last year. However, according to recent Angus Reid polling, three-in-five Canadians say they’re having trouble feeding their households and two-in-five say they’re worse off than last year.

“Everyone is talking about building back better, but we need to consider what that means for everyone,” Beaudoin said. “We should learn from Indigenous Peoples who have always been guided by such principles. And we can follow the lead of countries like Scotland and New Zealand that are starting to put in place policies to promote well-being. Things like ensuring decent and secure work and social protection. And where productivity isn’t judged by dollar signs but by enhancement of that well-being.”

WEAll Can is an alliance of Indigenous and colonial descendants, economists, innovators, researchers, activists and policy experts looking to transform the economic system away from a growth mindset and toward one rooted in quality of life.

“Shifting to economies of well-being require us to uphold the dignity of all life, including our non-human relations: land, the waters, animals, trees, plant life and even the air we breathe,” Terrellyn Fearn, director of Turtle Island Institute said. “The earth is changing, therefore, we must change our way of thinking from individualism to communal by ‘centring values of relationality and care’ to connect to the living spirit of the land imbued with the life force of all of Creation.”

“Nothing short of a wholesale change in human values is called for in this generation and beyond,” Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, founder of Soul of the Mother said. “Respect, compassion and love for each other, generosity, kindness and unconditional sharing are the new laws of life for well-being. We, as adults, must learn and encourage our young people to learn the value of collective thinking for the highest good of all and the preservation of the commons.”

WEAll Can is part of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, a global coalition advancing economies designed with human and ecological well-being in mind.

“We need a well-being revolution,” Beaudoin said. “We can’t keep taking and expanding at an unchecked rate while everyone and the natural world around us suffer. We need to focus on policies that deliver good lives and a healthy planet instead of growth.”

Learn more about the Well-being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations at https://weallcanada.org.

By: Martin Oetting – Omnipolis Media

When it comes to going ‘beyond GDP’, there are two major countries that have a mighty historical disadvantage: the United States of America and Germany — my home country. Until very recently, I was convinced that these two would only move away from that mighty number once every other country on the face of the earth had let go of it.

The USA were built on the promise that each following year, ‘the cake’ would be bigger — with ‘the cake’ being the space that was available to immigrants (while the aboriginal population was killed or dislocated). And, as long as new places could be ‘discovered’ and conquered, this logic held true: Anyone could make a living and build a wonderful new life in the New World. 

Fast forward to today, and ‘the cake’ is no longer space — today, it is money. “With GDP growth there will be more money next year, so even you — yes, you, the poor girl/guy with nothing to eat, no roof above your head — can make it, if you only try hard enough” says the American Dream. The fact that this Dream is no longer available to most — despite the millions that are still clinging to it — may explain at least some of the current distortions in American democracy and society.

In Germany, our love affair with GDP has been much shorter — but no less powerful. For us, it provided meaning in our darkest hour: After the Nazis had inspired, motivated, coerced, tempted, roared, seduced, threatened the country into “total warfare” with the whole planet, our country and our world lay in ruins, and there was no way back to the (presupposed) glory of old. Enter GDP, to provide us with our new glory. Instead of winning the world by military means, my compatriots were handed a new tool to win it economically. And win we did. Leaps and bounds in GDP growth were soon summarised in the very term every West-German child is familiar with: “Wirtschaftswunder”, aka: “economic miracle“. (I grew up in the West and do not want to speak on behalf of my neighbours and friends in the East who grew up under the Eastern Bloc regime, which was governed by a somewhat different rhetoric. However, in 1990 they also joined the system that had been built in the West — for better or worse.)

Growing the GDP was our way to pull us out of the quagmire, the contempt, the devastation — and to regain acceptance around the world. It became our religion and our source of national pride and joy. And when it came to consumption patterns, we were more than happy to learn from our new North-American Ubervater.

I was more than surprised when I read earlier this month that one of these two countries might be making an attempt at changing course. After sixteen years of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship — over which history will cast a withering verdict, I am sure — we now have a new German government. In it, the ministry for the economy has given itself a new double-mandate to additionally serve as ministry for the climate, which didn’t exist before. At its helm sits Robert Habeck from the Green party. Only days ago, he presented the latest economic report of the Federal German Government. Large parts of it read like a manifesto to fight climate change. And crucially, one section outlines how Germany must evolve its concept of the ‘social market economy’ to a ‘social-ecological market economy’ — a process for which GDP will need to be taken off center stage and surrounded with a range of metrics that will be better suited for assessing whether or not the country is actually making progress.

Not quite the revolution yet – but the door is opening.

Going beyond GDP is no silver bullet and no miraculous cure. But to accept that this earth and the amounts of money we can extract from it are finite is an important first step. It shows that a socio-political system is (finally) acknowledging the physical realities of our world. Habeck has not (yet?) stated outright that in the global north we can no longer afford GDP growth. Nor that it logically follows that we must start talking about what is fair or acceptable in terms of social inequality — and do something about it, once we agree that our combined income cannot keep growing; alas, that it might actually start shrinking. But he seems willing to take the long overdue first step into a direction that will ultimately enable that conversation. 

Initial press reactions seem to hang somewhere between curiously critical and critically curious. To be sure — Habeck’s initial draft was much more progressive and daring, it contained questions regarding the capitalist logic of our societies, or the sustainability of consumerism. But much of that has been sanded down by the inner-coalition debate with the other government parties before the actual report was published. As a matter of course, ‘decoupling’ becomes — once again — the solution for the unsolvable. And yet, Habeck was not shy to preempt the actual report by leaking parts of his proper vision to the public.

The USA, on the other hand, seem nowhere near taking that first step. Watching them go these days, it seems they might soon be moving into the opposite direction — all the while being not only the biggest player but also the referee and writer of rules for the global economy. That probably provides the most compelling argument for the countries that do understand all of this to join forces and be stronger together. With the WEGo initiative — begun in 2018 by visionary pioneers Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand — that solution is already implemented, and has since been reinforced by Finland and Wales. This must be turned into the next global alliance of governments that shows the world a new way: Politics is not about making more money, but about enabling better lives for people and for the planet. The time for that is now.

In the homeland of Nazism, many of us have a hard time feeling and expressing national pride. I personally consider national pride a waste of energy and a bane of humanity. And yet — if one day Germany joins the Wellbeing Economy Governments, I may actually give in and feel a little pride. If only for a minute.

Love Letham is bringing people together to develop a plan to make Letham the best place it can be for children to grow up in.

The pioneering project is supporting children, young people, families, the wider community and organisations like Perth and Kinross Council to work together to create a shared local vision of what children and young people need to flourish, as well as a plan to deliver it. 

By bringing children and communities together with decision makers we’ll create a shared roadmap that captures what matters most to people. 

This innovative programme is part of a growing movement of people, organisations and businesses across Scotland who are trying to do things differently. Working together we can think through what we all need to live good lives on a healthy planet and redirect our institutions, policy and practice to work in service of our collective wellbeing.

How we’ll get there

First, we’re working with children, young people and their families to explore what wellbeing means to them and what areas of life are important for current and future wellbeing.

Children and young people’s voices and ideas are central to the Love Letham project so we want to reach as many of them as possible. We are especially keen to reach those whose voices are less often heard in policy conversations and we’ll work with children using a range of creative age appropriate formats.

From January 2022 we’ll recruit people to join the Love Letham Commission – a small working group of residents, children, young people and key professionals from decision making institutions such as the Council. The Commission will analyse the data that’s emerged from the exercises and conversations in the community and discuss recurring themes. They will use this to create a shared local vision for making Letham the best place it can be for children to grow up in, and they’ll develop a plan to make it happen. The Commission will also include a group of younger children who will meet separately so the sessions are appropriate to their age.

The inclusion of key professionals and members from the Council should allow the Commission not only to make recommendations but to take action in the Council to reorient policy and budgets to realise the community’s vision. It is envisaged that the Commission will share their plan in July 2022.

How you can get involved

Follow us on Facebook to find out the latest about the project and see how you can get involved. Email frances.scotland@weall.org to receive regular email updates. Your email address won’t be shared with any third parties and will be used exclusively for updates about this project. 

Who set up the project?

Love Letham is a collaboration between the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland and Perth and Kinross Council. It is part of the Perth and Kinross Offer – the Council’s commitment to draw on the strengths and assets of individuals and communities and work together so everyone in Perth and Kinross can live life well.

The project is supported by Northern Star and is funded by the Cattanach Trust. For further reading on the ideas that inform this approach see WEAll’s Policy Design Guide and WEAll report Being Bold: Building Budgets for Children’s Wellbeing.

For more information contact frances.scotland@weall.org.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Written by Suzan Joy

We are all victims of various forms of injustices like domestic violence, police brutality, hunger, income inequality, sexual harassment, land conflict, death, betrayal, homelessness etc. Through these shared experiences and stories we find ourselves connected to one another. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all come from a place of deep compassion and become part of a solution that restores hope and healing

A solution that empowers those at the margins of society to step forward and become drivers of change. Where their voices are heard and amplified. This is exactly why the WEAll East African hub exists! To support grassroots movements across East Africa to be key drivers for the global movement for a wellbeing economy. 

Part of my journey in creating this hub is connecting local grassroots organisations and building a tight support network amongst them so they are able to create more impact in the communities they serve. And by connecting these organizations to all other key actors/sectors at all levels, we expect to be able to help support Alliances make more impact and influence working policies. In the end use the bottom up approach to address complexities that emerge 

Building a Wellbeing Economy means creating spaces that breeds collaborations, social innovations and strategically placing grassroots movements at the forefront of systems change. Grassroots movements  are the engine that drives societal and policy change as people who work and reside in communities are best positioned to identify what needs to change in their communities.

This week I had the privilege of interacting with Molly, a woman who dedicates her time, energy and resources to support her neighbors. She works closely with her community members to promote the welfare needs of the most vulnerable people such as women, children, youth, disabled, elderly and HIV/AIDS infected and affected persons in her community. 

Listen to our interview below

Witnessing her work was a good reminder of what it means to build a Wellbeing Economy. It means actively taking care of the needs of the people and the planet.

Molly realized that the rate of teenage pregnancies in her community is increasing daily due to schools being closed down as an effect of COVID-19. So together with her community they established support groups for teenage mothers. In these groups the mothers go through therapy or counseling sessions. And are taught various entrepreneurial skills as well. This way they can be economically independent and mentally healthy to raise their children 

Molly also realized that women were being deprived of their land rights because in most cultures here, they aren’t supposed to inherit land. But through Fountain of Life, a community based organization that she founded and directs, she organizes training sessions with these women and educates them about their land rights. Fountain of Life also facilitates reconciliation dialogues between the victims of land grabbing and the land grabbers. Mary, one of the victims, was able to get back 800 acres of land. Now uses her journey and story to build confidence and encourages other women in her community to fight for their land rights. Mary has now established a team of women and together they settle cases of land disputes in villages within Otuke district.

This is just one example of the many initiatives that exist to address local issues via local, grassroot solutions. We hope you continue to follow the journey of the East Africa Hub and if you have any questions or would like to get involved, please reach out to me, Suzan Joy using this email address:  

COP26 is over – the agreement, which builds on the Paris agreement of 2015, has been reached, and the city of Glasgow has returned to normality.

During the two weeks of COP, the city was a hive of activity – within the official “blue” and “green” zones of the conference, and across the Glasgow. What did WEAll do during COP, what does our team make of the outcomes, and was it all worth it?

Image: Cameron Brisbane photography

Common Ground Festival

WEAll’s primary goal during COP was to use it as an opportunity to engage new audiences with Wellbeing Economy ideas – making the link between the climate crisis and the need for economic system change.

This meant that we focused our efforts outside the formal conference, on the delivery of the first Common Ground Festival, in partnership with WEAll members fiis (Festival Internacional de Innovacion Social).

Over 1200 people attended Common Ground at the Queen Margaret Union on Saturday 6 November, listening to artists including the Fratellis, Colonel Mustard and the Dijon Five, The Twilight Sad, Kitti and many more. They also participated in workshops and listened to leaders from around the world, bringing the Wellbeing Economy to life and inspiring hope about what is possible.

This short video features some of the highlights of Common Ground – and shows the energy, passion and optimism shared by all who attended. Fuller videos of the panel discussions will be available soon.

Connecting with WEAll members

COP meant that many WEAll members from around the world were coming to Glasgow – and given that some of the WEAll Amp team, and of course the WEAll Scotland team, are based in the city, this was a rare and exciting opportunity to connect face-to-face with our network.

We hosted an informal gathering at one of Glasgow’s oldest pubs on Friday 5 November. Over 40 WEAll members and friends spent the evening together, building relationships, sharing ideas and enjoying the feeling of being with the “WEAll family” that for so long has been confined to the world of Zoom! 

WEAll team members also had the chance to catch up with some of our members in longer meetings while they visited Glasgow, and it was a reminder of the importance of “real life” connection, with many seeds being sown and relationships strengthened.

Spreading the message

WEAll was invited to participate in many events connected to COP, and we took up as many offers as possible in order to spread Wellbeing Economy ideas and make connections for diverse audiences. Katherine Trebeck spoke inside the official conference “blue zone” (once for our friends the Club of Rome and for Face the Future – plus held several meetings while there). Katherine and other team members represented WEAll at many online and offline events throughout COP – too many to list!

The WEAll team reflects on their COP experience 

Sarah Deas, WEAll Scotland trustee

“During COP, I mainly participated in online events – of which there were many! I was a speaker at Remade Network’s launch event, sharing my thoughts on the contribution of remakeries to a wellbeing economy. The events that I attended ranged from discussions on the need for systems change to the benefits of a circular economy, decoupling growth from consumption and the role of communities in achieving net zero.

“Business was very present at COP (more so than ever before). There was positive engagement – pushing for the right things, trying to increase ambition. The announcement of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero was a positive move, holding the financial community accountable for its pivotal role in addressing climate change.

“It was also good to see the level of activism on the streets. And, the breadth of fringe events (both face-to-face and online). However the outcomes were disappointing on many fronts. The push to get national ambitions as high as possible fell short of the mark. Current pledges don’t go far enough – they will lead to between 1.8 & 2.4 degrees of warming, with catastrophic implications.  And, worryingly, many of the new net-zero targets lack implementation plans.

“We must celebrate progress though: this was made across a range of initiatives. Successes include developments in how Article 6 will be governed (carbon accounting and trading), the methane reduction pledge, ending deforestation by 2030 and the new requirement for net-zero transition plans for listed companies in the UK. Also, the greater recognition of the role of communities and indigenous peoples in addressing climate change. Most importantly there is a commitment to come back with raised ambitions every year (rather than every five years).

“There is plenty to be optimistic about after COP26 – but it is clear that there needs to be a step change in terms of urgency.”

Lisa Hough-Stewart, WEAll Organisation and Projects Co-Lead

“The COP fortnight felt like (and probably was) two years’ worth of human interaction in two weeks – which was glorious, as I’ve been craving it, and also a bit overwhelming!

“It meant so much to connect with WEAll members in person. Looking around at our gathering at Sloans, I had worked with every person there over the past few years, but there were only a handful I’d ever met in person before. I’m grateful that COP brought our community to Glasgow, and gave this opportunity to strengthen the relationships which are at the core of WEAll’s purpose. 

“I was proud of what the team pulled off at Common Ground – a genuinely world-class music festival, which brought Wellbeing Economy ideas to a new audience and communicated them in a fun way. 

“COP was a busy time for me as a musician, too. I performed with SambaYaBamba near the front of the 100,000 strong march on 6 November – we had the privilege of providing the music for the Indigenous bloc. 

“I also took part in a massed band performance of Enough is Enough, a gorgeous song created by Oi Musica, Karine Polwart and the Soundhouse Choir and which WEAll played a small part in supporting. Being on the streets in Govan, raising my voice with hundreds of others with words of hope about a better system, made me feel optimistic and truly connected to others and the planet: the essence of a Wellbeing Economy.

“So, I didn’t have time to go near the official COP and I almost forgot to check up on what was happening with the negotiations. For those of us on the streets in Glasgow, COP was a powerful moment of connection and togetherness, that I truly believe has helped galvanise the Wellbeing Economy movement.”

Amanda Janoo, WEAll Knowledge and Policy Lead 

“In March 2020, right as the COVID-19 lock-downs began sweeping the globe, I started my dream job with WEAll. Attending COP made this work feel real in a way that has been rejuvenating to my core. 

“Upon arrival into Glasgow, the wonderful Katherine Trebeck took me to a music and arts performance, with legends such as Bill Mckibbon and Patti Smith bringing awareness and hope to the climate crisis we face. 

“My first speaking event was in a room filled with fourteen year old girls. The incredible prompt for myself and the other panelists was: “when the problems are man-made, the solutions are feminist”.  Sitting alongside three remarkable women, we fielded some of the most challenging and foundational questions I’ve received in this work to date. Questions such as “why do women feel inferior to men?”, “what does indigenous mean?” and “how can I change the world”, left me humbled and inspired by the generation of leaders to come. 

“One of the highlights for my trip was getting to spend quality time with my colleagues, Lisa, Michael and Katherine. To be able to have conversations that don’t need to have any purpose or outcome, allowed me to deepen my understanding and connection with them as brilliant, kind and incredibly fun people. 

“Lisa and I designed a workshop for students at the University of Glasgow on the Wellbeing Economy. We experimented with a dialogical approach to focus on what the students already knew and their ideas: resulting in fantastic conversations. We realized in developing this workshop that what would have taken ages over zoom, took less than an hour, as the energy and flow of being in person facilitated powerfully generative discussion. 

“Common Ground and our members’ gathering made me feel so grateful to be part of a community that recognizes the transformative power of fun and joy. By bringing people together, and celebrating the gifts we bring to the world as artists, thinkers and changemakers we were able to elevate vibrations and expand our understanding of what the economy is and can be. 

“After MCing one of the festival stages and dancing for much of the night at the Common Ground Festival, I arrived a bit worse for wear to a Climate Campaigners Event but was quickly revived by the rich discussion. This was potentially the most powerful event I attended at COP. Sitting around the large table were not only representatives from organizations such as 350.org, Sunrise, Fridays for Future and many more, but critically a group of funders who genuinely wanted to understand how they could better support the movement. I became fast friends with Lina from movilizatorio and we advocated for more long-term, core funding  and asked funders to stop making us differentiate ourselves and rather support greater collaboration across the movement. I had joined this meeting because next year, WEAll aims to connect more with social and environmental movements and are in the process of hiring a Advocacy and Movements Lead to lead this work. I therefore wanted to get a sense of the aims and objectives of the movement and was very encouraged when a beautiful representative from Fridays for Future spoke and said that whilst they recognize the need for economic systems change, they do not always feel comfortable discussing issues related to the economy or finance. I offered our support and look forward to working more with these passionate, powerful and transformative change agents.

“I will end by sharing my proudest moment at COP: I got a chance to speak on a panel organized by Caroline Lucas MP and gave a speech that reflected my journey and passion for the wellbeing economy. If you’re interested you can check it out here.”

Jimmy Paul

Jimmy Paul, Director of WEAll Scotland

“I was inspired by the togetherness of people in the climate marches, the quality of speakers and the energy in events like the Common Ground Festival. I loved that COP brought people together in person (particularly so post-covid.

“However, I can’t help but be disappointed by the political tensions in the lead up to COP26, and ultimately disappointed by the dilution of the agreement.

“I would like to have seen international agreement and commitment to finance for adaptation, loss and damage from richer countries, acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis on small island states, for example.”

Katherine Trebeck, WEAll Co-Founder and Strategic Advocacy Advisor

“I spent two days in the official blue zone, taking part in events for the Club of Rome and Facing the Future. 

“I was struck by the diversity – my sense is that vulnerable countries do seem to have had more space and influence this time.

“The official space however, felt very busy and airless, there was no natural light. The pavilion section felt like a trade fair!

“I attended many events over the course of the fortnight, and it struck me that fantastic events which at any other time would have had huge audiences had empty seats. With so many organisations tying events to COP, and only so much audience to go around, I can’t help but wonder: if everyone is talking, who is listening? Perhaps as a movement we need to consider the effectiveness of putting so much energy into having a presence at these large events.

“So, I feel that WEAll made the right call going for a different audience with Common Ground, and it feels like we succeeded in our mission to take the Wellbeing Economy conversation to wider audiences. 

“In terms of the COP26 agreement itself – I think both the proponents and the critics are right. It’s not good enough, and it is progress. Coal was mentioned for first time, annual check ins are an important step forward – and of course, we need to keep moving further and faster. We should be careful not to be too “us vs them” about the outcome.”

Michael Weatherhead, WEAll Organisation and Projects Co-Lead

“For much of COP26, I had my head down preparing and delivering our Common Ground music festival. Reaching a new audience with the festival was undoubtedly a highlight for me – those that came for the music and left with awareness of the need for economic systems change to sort climate change. 

“Additionally, the inspiring Macaulay lecture by Christiana Figueres, Nicola Sturgeon and two of the young women – Anuna de Wever and Julieta Martinez – who featured on a panel at Common Ground was an undoubted highlight. 

“Christiana Figueres speaks with such hope and humour, yet with the gravitas of someone that knows the reality of how progress is often made.””

This has been a week of big milestones / ‘firsts’ for the Wellbeing Economy movement – from being seriously debated in the UK Parliament to being recognised in law in the EU. Let’s dive into some of the highlights:

The UK’s first ever Parliamentary Debate on a Wellbeing Economy

On Tuesday, MP Caroline Lucas of the Green Party led the UK’s first ever Parliamentary debate on the topic of a ‘Wellbeing economy approach to meeting climate goals’. As she put it,

“The GDP figures we’re using to measure economic success also measure the rate at which we’re barrelling towards climate catastrophe.”

The debate was made possible by over 65,000 signatures from across the UK on a petition, to urge the Government and Treasury prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet, by pursuing a Wellbeing Economy approach.

The debate displayed strong cross-party support for the need for economic system change – and for a Wellbeing Economy approach to tackling both the climate emergency and social inequalities in the UK.

This is a big milestone in the road to making real change, because, as MP Patrick Grady put it,

“If we agree that the aim is to reduce inequality, to improve wellbeing and to meet climate goals, we can have a debate about how best to do that.”

Watch the recording of the full session here and read the full transcript here, and the briefing paper that informed the debate.

Here are some of the key highlights from the debate:

Key highlights from the ‘Wellbeing economy approach to meeting climate goals’ debate

The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee launches new inquiry into moving ‘beyond GDP’

Also this week, the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee launched a new inquiry on the case for moving beyond GDP and to explore viable alternative measures. The Committee will undertake hearings in 2022 to examine how the UK Government could incorporate environmental sustainability into its leading measures of economic success.

This is a strong opportunity to build cross-party political support for a Wellbeing Economy and practical steps that the UK Government and Treasury can take in the right direction. The call for evidence covers the UK, but also international policy and action too. Experts are requested to send in written submissions by January 7th at https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/646/.

A Wellbeing Economy is recognised in EU law for the first time

The EU’s 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) sets the objectives for EU environmental policy up to 2030, and lays down the conditions to achieve them.

Yesterday, after months of negotiation, a deal on the EU’s 8th EAP was made. While the agreement fell short in setting an end date for harmful subsidies, the overall result was very promising.

“For the first time, the EU recognises the need to shift towards a Wellbeing Economy. EU institutions have committed to ensuring policy-making is guided by indicators which give a better picture of social and environmental progress than only GDP growth.”

Rebecca Humphries

Key takeaways from the deal are summarized by WWF EU here and the ZOE Institute below:

Here’s hoping these significant strides in promoting the creation of a Wellbeing Economy build stronger momentum for the movement worldwide.

WEAll Scotland is growing.

As the wellbeing economy movement becomes a bigger force for change in Scotland and the UK, we’ve expanded our team of staff and volunteers. The thing we all have in common? Belief in and passion for a wellbeing economy—in Scotland and around the world.

Keep reading to say hello to the latest additions to the WEAll Scotland team.

Dr Lukas Hardt – Policy and Engagement Lead

Lukas Hardt

I am super excited to have started my new role as Policy and Engagement Lead for WEAll Scotland! I am passionate about building a wellbeing economy because our current economic system is not working. The relentless focus on economic growth has come at a large cost to the climate and the wider environment. At the same time, millions of people are still going hungry across the world (including in Scotland).

Up to now, I mostly studied and researched wellbeing economics in an academic context. Earlier this year, I finished my PhD research on how to transform the sectoral structure of our economy towards a wellbeing economy. Academic research is extremely important for understanding how we can redesign our economic system, but it has also often felt very theoretical for my taste. In the past, I pursued different voluntary activities to apply my passion beyond academia—for example, setting up a local currency during my undergraduate degree in St Andrews, becoming an organiser of the Post-growth Economics Network, and volunteering for WEAll.

Working as Policy and Engagement Lead for WEAll opens an exciting new chapter in my life. It allows me to focus my time and energy on developing wellbeing economics not only with academics, but with the amazing people who are already making it happen on the ground. For example, I will be helping to develop cornerstone indicators with communities in the Cairngorms National Park and supporting a cross-party parliamentary group on wellbeing economics. There are so many more inspired politicians, citizens, businesses, and community projects making their mark in Scotland right now. I can’t wait to learn from them and work with them to build a wellbeing economy together. 

Frances Rayner – Communications Lead

Frances Rayner

Having spent the last decade working in comms and campaigns for a range of social and environmental causes in Scotland, I am beyond excited to bring this altogether to work towards the ultimate policy solution – a wellbeing economy.

I believe that most of us yearn for a different kind of economy and society. We long for connection. We want to know that we and our neighbours will have what we need to live with dignity and participate in our communities. And we want to protect our planet for future generations. Our challenge now is simply to bring the vision of a wellbeing economy to life. To show how we can redesign our economy so it delivers what truly matters to humanity. In the words of Toni Cade Bambara, “to make revolution irresistible.”

I am in awe of the work the WEAll team and allies have achieved to date, and I’ve been moved to see just how strongly the organisation embodies wellbeing economy values in its organisational culture and working practices.

I’m confident that together we can create an unstoppable movement.

Patrick Wiggins – Associates Lead

I am really excited to join WEALL Scotland as Associates Lead, where I will be helping to coordinate and plan projects and commissions.

I have spent my career working in economic development and regeneration – dealing with the consequences of a system that doesn’t work for so many people. It’s time to address  the systemic causes of inequalities and fractured communities rather than trying to patch them up. Wellbeing thinking helps us do that. 

I hate injustice, social and climate, and in some small way want to do something about it. The economic system prioritises individual wealth accumulation and growth, at the expense of the planet, over meeting peoples’ needs and wellbeing. People and the planet should be served by the economy, not the economy served by people and the planet.

The application of principles of the Wellbeing Economy is a route to making that shift. So joining the fantastic, and enthusiastic, team working to mainstream Wellbeing thinking in Scotland is a great way  to try and make that a reality. I’m really looking forward to it.

Denisha Killoh – Trustee

Denisha Killoh

I’m Denisha, and after an incredible 18 months as a participation volunteer, I am delighted to be appointed as a trustee, marking a new chapter in my journey at WEAll Scotland.

I first learned about the term ‘wellbeing economy’ as the Stigma Co-Chair at the Independent Care Review, where Katherine Trebeck (co-founder of WEAll Scotland) wrote our ‘The Money’ report. This work explored how much it costs Scotland to deliver the ‘failure demand’ services required to support adults with care experience as a result of them being failed by the ‘care system’ as children. This way of thinking about how to solve our social issues, arguing to invest preventatively upstream rather than reactively downstream, is why I am so passionate about building a wellbeing economy, because it can’t be done without putting marginalised communities in the driving seat.

It is an honour to be given more responsibility to deliver this aim and shape the strategic direction of an organisation I truly love. I can’t wait to get started!

Daisy Narayanan – Trustee

Daisy Narayanan

I am an architect and urban designer. Over the last decade, my work has focussed on sustainable transport and climate action. I came to Edinburgh in 2004 to complete my master’s degree, fell in love with this incredible city and stayed.

As we respond to the climate crisis, I feel it is even more urgent to find new ways of working, to put the focus firmly on the wellbeing of people and planet. Only then can we collaboratively shape our cities and towns to be fairer, kinder, healthier and truly resilient.

Satwat Rehman – Trustee

Satwat Rehman

Structural inequalities and injustice are the root cause of the issues that I have worked and campaigned against all my life: climate change, racism, poverty, and gender inequality, to name but a few. At the heart of the matter is an economic system which values growth and wealth creation for the few. I truly believe we need to change what we value as important and move to a wellbeing economy—with people and planet at its heart. We need to have the ambition to move beyond mitigation and managing inequalities to developing a new way of thinking and doing which enables the creation of a wellbeing economy with justice and equality as its bedrock.

This is why I am so pleased to join the board of WEAll Scotland and look forward to working with the team.

To end with the words of Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Guest Blog from Finance Watch

As world leaders gather at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26), plans will be laid out to address climate risks and create a low-carbon economy. Yet even while this plan should be straightforward, huge new fossil fuel exploration and extraction projects are being financed across the world.

With the transition to net zero, fossil fuel assets of banks and insurers will rapidly diminish in value or become entirely worthless. Massive losses will follow for financial institutions, which could result in them requiring bailouts, paid for by the public.

In the meantime, more frequent and severe natural disasters mean that insurance companies face huge claims, and financial institutions are exposed to financial losses through assets and business operations that are destroyed.

There is a solution.

A growing number of experts are proposing a simple solution to this impending crisis: implementing one-for-one capital requirements for the financing of new fossil fuels. This is a form of financial regulation that means for each euro/dollar that finances fossil fuels, banks and insurers should have a euro/dollar of their own funds held liable for potential losses.

This basic risk management principle is already applied to other high risk exposures. For example, the Basel Committee just recommended the one-for-one be applied to some cryptocurrencies’ exposures.

Financing fossil fuels poses a far bigger threat to the entire global economy.

We believe regulators must act immediately.

A one-for-one regulatory standard for financing new fossil fuels projects would mean that banks and insurance companies are gambling with their own money, and not the public’s money.

The current capital rules ignore the risk of financing fossil fuels, making fossil fuel exposures artificially more profitable – which equates to a subsidy. This is on top of the $1.54 million in direct subsidies and tax breaks the fossil fuel industry gets from governments every single minute.

Markets are notoriously bad at self-correcting, as we discovered in 2008. Voluntary measures by financial institutions will not be sufficient, as there are limited incentives for financial institutions to change their behaviour as long as profits can be made in the short- term while ignoring climate-related risks. 

A one-for-one standard is the robust regulation needed to prevent advantages for banks and insurers to finance fossil fuels. It is a way to guide the market away from mutually assured destruction.

We’re calling on world leaders to take action now and protect us from a potential financial crisis. 

WEAll revealed the latest rankings of the Happy Planet Index (HPI) today, which compare countries by how efficiently they are creating long, happy lives using our limited environmental resources.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is the leading global measure of ‘sustainable wellbeing’. It measures ‘efficiency’, using three indicators:

This is the fifth edition of the Happy Planet index. It was first launched in 2006, with subsequent editions published in 2009, 2012, and 2016.

The 2021 Happy Planet Index: Which countries are most ‘efficient’?

The top 10 countries by Happy Planet Index score are as follows:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Vanuatu 
  3. Colombia 
  4. Switzerland 
  5. Ecuador 
  6. Panama 
  7. Jamaica 
  8. Guatemala 
  9. Honduras
  10. Uruguay 

Notably, Central and South America dominate the Happy Planet Index, with 8 of the top 10 highest ranking countries from the region. However, there has been a decline in wellbeing in several countries in South America, including Brazil.

Selected other countries:

11.   New Zealand

14.   United Kingdom

29.   Germany

31.   France

35.   Ireland

41.   Sweden

88.   Australia

94.   China

105. Canada

122. USA

The full Happy Planet Index rankings are available to view at www.happyplanetindex.org

How does your country measure up?

This year, the Happy Planet Index features an interactive website, where viewers can explore the data, make comparisons between countries and regions, and view trends over time, from 2006 to 2020. You can also download the data to make your own analyses!

There is also a new ‘Personal Happy Planet Index’ test to help users see what country they are most like based on their own lifestyles – and to reflect on how they can create their own “good life that doesn’t cost the Earth.

How is the Happy Planet Index different?

Unlike other indices, such as the Quality of Life Index or World Happiness Report, the Happy Planet Index does not rank countries in terms of quality of life or happiness. Instead, it looks at which countries are best at using minimal ‘inputs’ of natural resources to create the maximum possible  ‘outputs’ of long, happy lives – thus delivering truly “sustainable wellbeing”. 

Rankings serve as a compass pointing in the overall direction in which societies should be travelling – towards higher wellbeing lifestyles with lower ecological footprints. 

The Happy Planet Index does not consider societies truly successful if they deliver “good lives” which use more resources than the earth can support OR if they consume within the Earth’s limits, but have very low levels of wellbeing or life expectancy. 

Promoting human happiness doesn’t have to be at odds with creating a sustainable future.

The Happy Planet Index turns the old world order on its head by highlighting how high-income Western nations are often inefficient at creating wellbeing for their people. 

Costa Rica has again been ranked in first place for a fourth time due to its commitment to health, education, and environmental protection. In contrast, the USA was placed as the lowest scoring G7 nation at 122nd place, ranking low on both wellbeing and ecological footprint.

Costa Rica has been ranked in first place for a fourth time due to its commitment to health, education, and environmental protection. According to the Happy Planet Index, Costa Rica has a more efficient economy than the USA.

  • Costa Rica outperforms the USA (#122) on each of life expectancy, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability.
  • Costa Rica’s GDP per capita is less than half that of the USA. Despite this, Costa Ricans have higher wellbeing, and on average live longer. 
  • Costa Rica’s per capita Ecological Footprint is just one third of the size of the USA’s.

Countries that rank highly on the Happy Planet Index show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller ecological footprint than found in the highest-consuming nations. 

Many nations achieve green lights in each of the individual components of the Happy Planet Index – meaning that these targets are genuinely attainable. 

Stories from a ‘Happy Planet’?

Overall, the Happy Planet Index shows that we are still far from achieving sustainable wellbeing: only a third of nations (representing 38% of the global population) consume within environmental limits and no country scores successfully across the three goals of high life expectancy for all, high experienced wellbeing for all, and living within environmental limits. 

Still, the Happy Planet Index rankings highlight many success stories that demonstrate the possibility of living good lives without costing the Earth – and we’re making progress towards this goal.

Environmental progress made in Western Europe – but more must be done.

  • Switzerland jumps to 4th place out of 152 countries on the Happy Planet Index, becoming the top ranking European country on the Index – and the only one in the top 10.
  • The UK rises to 14th place; now the highest scoring G7 country. 
  • Other Western European countries rank fairly well on the index: the Netherlands (#18), Germany (#29), Spain (#30), France (#31).

Mixed results among high-income countries.

  • North America falls in the bottom third of rankings of 152 countries: USA (#122) is the lowest ranking G7 country; Canada (#105) and Australia (#88) are not much further ahead.
  • In contrast, New Zealand is now in 11th  place,  becoming the second highest Western country in the rankings. 
  • South Asia and the Middle East dropped in the rankings; India dropped to 128th place out of 152 countries due to significant decline in wellbeing since 2006, but also a rising ecological footprint.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s scores are rising due to rapid increases in life expectancy.

The Impact of the Pandemic

Data from 2020 shows that despite the largest pandemic in living memory and a complete re-organisation of the world economy, people’s wellbeing had, at least in 2020, on average, remained surprisingly stable.

This demonstrates that our wellbeing is not inevitably linked to the fast-paced economic system that we have become used to – and suggests that it is possible to sustain good lives with a lower impact on the Earth.

To effectively address the climate crisis, positive changes we see on the Happy Planet Index need to be much more rapid. To do that, we need to rethink how our global economic system is designed. All signs point to a Wellbeing Economy.

Share the Happy Planet Index

Use our promotion pack to start the conversation: “How can we live good lives that don’t cost the Earth?”

For further information or to speak to the founder of the Happy Planet Index, Nic Marks, please contact: Rabia Abrar at happyplanet@weall.org