Ahead of World Well-Being Week (June 21-30), an international alliance of organizations and individuals challenging the core purpose of the contemporary economy will soon include a hub for Canada and sovereign Indigenous nations.

“The current economic system was borne out of the Second World War, and it served its purpose at the time, which essentially was to prevent another war,” said Yannick Beaudoin, innovation and Ontario director with the David Suzuki Foundation and lead facilitator with the Well-Being Economies Alliance for Canada and Sovereign Indigenous Nations (WEAll Can). “But our lives now are about more than preventing war. Instead of just focusing on material growth forever, we need an economy whose purpose is to deliver on all aspects of well-being.”

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance has been working in select countries to help enable a reimagining and redesign of economic systems to put the well-being of people and planet first. Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand are just a few places that are reenvisioning their economic purpose and designing policies and metrics that deliver more meaningful value to people’s lives. 

“It’s not about being anti-growth, anti-business, anti-anything. It’s about being pro well-being,” Beaudoin said. “That’s a big difference. And it’s going to make a big difference to all our lives, and to the future of the planet, if we can get it right.”

WEAll Can will work to co-create an economic model and supportive systems that nurture well-being for people and planet. It emerges from an acknowledgement of pre-settler economies, where Indigenous Peoples prioritized well-being among each other and with nature for millennia. WEAll Can will also begin to track for the first time Canada’s progress toward a well-being economy.

“White economics informed by a reductionist western world view have dominated the scene for too long,” Beaudoin said. “We need to go back to the table, to sit with Indigenous knowledge keepers, change actors from underrepresented communities, women and youth. We need to rethink, together, what we want our economy to deliver and how we know that we’re getting there. It’s already being started in other countries. It’s about time we started here too.”

Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many revelations that forced everyone to reassess. Amidst the challenges and difficulties, it showed that a holistic and unified approach trumped a profit-centred individualistic mindset. Rather than just striving to return to “normal”, we are seeing more countries promising to build back better. In fact, thanks to vaccinations, a transition to sustainability, and international aid, the World Bank already predicts a 4% expansion in the global economy this year. It must be noted that this growth will no doubt be fuelled by wealthier countries with stable healthcare sectors.

Meanwhile, economic recovery in developing countries will be slower. In 2020, the World Bank predicted that these emerging markets will likely shrink by 2.5%. While this might seem trivial on a global scale, an article on how the pandemic has caused a global recession by FXCM explains that with poverty affecting millions of people, a slight recession will have long-lasting repercussions on those in developing countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about business closures, inflation spikes, and widespread unemployment. And these effects are all the more salient in developing countries like the Philippines.

In response to this, private citizens are coming together to bridge ever-present socio-economic gaps through community aid, particularly in the form of community pantries. Through these community pantries, lower-income families have received essentials in their time of need. As the Philippines’ COVID-19 cases begin to increase again, these compassion-driven efforts are helping mitigate the pandemic’s effect.

But before we dive into the details of this humble yet gracious gesture, let us look back at 2020 in the Philippines.

The Philippines During the COVID-19 Pandemic

After the first COVID-19 case hit the Philippines in January 2020, the government was quick to implement mandatory mask regulations. Soon, though, a nationwide lockdown was officially enacted on March 16, 2020. This would go on to be one of the longest and strictest lockdowns in the world.

Because of the strict lockdowns imposed over Metro Manila and other townships and regions, workers from all sectors were forced to stay home. While this didn’t really impact the middle-class and upper-class—many of whom simply transitioned to working remotely—for the majority of daily wage-earning Filipinos, this was a serious issue.

Vendors, cleaners, sales employees, and the like were essentially stripped of their source of income.

The quarantine also prohibited public utility vehicles (PUV) from operating for most of the lockdown, which impacted their operators, conductors, and commuters. According to a Senate House Bill passed in Congress in July 2019, 70% of all trips in Metro Manila are commuters. The few Filipinos who were allowed special passes (mostly medical professionals and other frontliners) then had to bike, walk, or wait for shuttles from local government units (LGU).

In response to this, President Rodrigo Duterte enacted Republic Act (RA) No. 11469. Also called the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, it empowered the President to reallocate P200 billion to assist 18 million low-income households. Many private companies also took the initiative to send aid packages (which typically included some money, medicines, and pantry essentials), across the Philippines.

By the 4th quarter of 2020, COVID-19 cases had begun to plateau, and more non-essential businesses were allowed to operate. Though social distancing, masks, and face shields were still mandatory. By December 2020, the Philippines was seeing an e-commerce boom of 55% and the overall COVID-19 recovery rate was at 92.9%.

At the time of writing, the Philippines is back in lockdown. This was enacted after a spike in cases likely due to the loosened quarantine regulations.

Community Pantries as Means for Mutual Aid

While this response helped to control the spread of the virus, it soon became apparent that financial and food aid was necessary. As a developing country with 16.7% of the population living below the national poverty line, many Filipinos are daily wage earners who cannot afford to stay home. The government aid sporadically being handed out is also not enough to sustain most Filipinos. According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index, the Philippines ranked 69th out of 107 countries.

Ana Patricia Non, the inspiration of #maginhawacommunitypantry; Photo credit: AC Currency

And so, on April 14, a small bamboo cart in Maginhawa Street in Quezon City (the largest in Metro Manila) began what would be an inspiration for others and a notice to the government. Filled with canned goods, fresh vegetables, vitamins, and other pandemic needs, the “Maginhawa Community Pantry” soon took social media by storm.

This pantry, created by Ana Patricia Non, serves approximately 2,000 families a day. These include seniors and the disabled who have not been allowed much movement since the first lockdown. Since its genesis, roughly 350 other community pantries have cropped up in the country.

While these mutual aid efforts have been largely lauded, it has not been immune to “red-tagging”. The latter is a colloquial term for the practise of accusing others of communist collaboration. More often, there is little to no evidence of such ties. On April 18, social media showed police with high-powered rifles inspecting the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

“People will not stop giving as long as there is a venue for it,” Non said in an interview with The News Lens. “There are more people in need than those criticising.”

Since then, community pantries in the Philippines have gotten more structured. Recently actress and activist Angel Locsin celebrated her birthday by renting out a small venue and outfitting it with essentials. Non-profit animal welfare groups have also introduced “community paw-ntries” for pet owners in need.

Crowds at Community Pantry; Credit: jilson.tiu on Instagram

As the world begins to reopen, countries like Iceland and New Zealand have become the standard for prompt and mindful pandemic responses, with an emphasis on wellbeing indicators. In places like the Philippines, people are still waiting for their government to provide aid and sustainable solutions.

In the meantime, the fight for sustainable development is being led by every day Filipinos, who are inspiring millions daily.

If there was ever any need for a concrete example of a Wellbeing Economy in play, we can look at the Philippines’ community pantries, many of which say, “give according to your means, take according to your need”.

For more details on Philippine Community Pantries and how you can get involved, check this Rappler list.

Feature specially written for weall.org

Written by: JBrothwell

Wellbeing Economy Correspondents is a series highlighting the firsthand experiences of individuals who have witnessed Wellbeing Economy principles, practices, and policies being implemented in all different contexts around the world. Our correspondents support WEAll’s mission to establish that a Wellbeing Economy is not only a desirable goal, but also an entirely viable one.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck recently gave the evening keynote lecture at the Nourish Scotland conference in Edinburgh.

This new talk takes an in depth look at the role of food in our economy. In it, Katherine examines what our food systems would look like and do in a wellbeing economy.

Watch her fascinating talk HERE from 23:30.

WEAll Wales founder Duncan Fisher has written a series of four visionary articles on the Institute of Wales Affairs website, designed to encourage and guide Wales towards becoming a wellbeing economy.

Last week we shared the first of the series here.

You can now read all four at the links below.

  1. Unhappiness threatens our democracies: the data proves it
  2. Beyond GDP – welcome to wellbeing
  3. Wellbeing worldbeaters: New Zealand, Scotland and Iceland
  4. Welsh wellbeing – where we need to go from here

If you’re interested in getting involved with WEAll work in Wales, contact Duncan here. He is in the process of establishing a new WEAll hub in Wales and is keen to connect with like-minded people and organisations to build momentum.

Back in January, Rethinking Economics and Doughnut Economics got together and launched a competition based on the ‘seven ways to think like a 21st century economist’ set out in Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics. The challenge that they threw down was this:

The judges were amazed and delighted to receive over 250 entries across three categories – schools, universities, and everyone else – covering a very wide range of themes. You can find out more about all 250 ideas and what happens next with them on the Doughnut Economics site here.

And the winners are…

‘Everyone Else’ winner – (WEAll member!) On Purpose with their short video ‘From Business Case to Systems Case’
School winner – Presence Tse with her video ‘From Division of Labour to Cohesive Partnership’
University winner – James Legg-Bagg with his video ‘Legal Rights for Nature’


Each month, members of the WEAll Amplification team (Amp team) share what they’ve been working on, and their priorities for the coming month.

Find out more about our team members here 

Ana Gomez 

  • What’s kept you busy in November?
    • Just like last month, I’ve been onboarding and meeting with new members – the network is growing all the time!
    • Creating new ways for members to connect with WEAll and each other – it’s great to see lots of activity in our new Facebook group
    • Developing ideas and plans for local level engagement with WEAll

    November highlight:

    • All the wonderful, energising conversations I’ve had with new and potential members

    December priorities:

    • Further development of the WEAll local hubs plan
    • Spending important time together as a team in Glasgow

Lisa Hough-Stewart 

What’s kept you busy in November?

  • Planning events with Katherine around the launch of her book in January, where we’ll invite people to discuss advancing the wellbeing economy in Scotland
  • Building the website for NESI Global Forum 2019 and getting comms ready for the launch of ticket sales
  • Planning the development of WEAll Citizens

November highlight:

  • Having energetic meetings with Isabel to develop ideas for WEAll Citzens

December priorities:

  • Having a scoping meeting with members to develop Citizens
  • Launching ticket sales for NESI and promoting it to the world
  • Spending time together with the team in Glasgow


Katherine Trebeck

What’s kept you busy in November?

  • A trip to Rio where I was so inspired by the CollaborAmerica conference, it was an honour to deliver a keynote talk there. I also had the chance to catch up with the wonderful This Is Not The Truth project
  • Travelling to Korea for the OECD Future of Wellbeing event – I was part of panel discussions on creating a wellbeing economy
  • Taking forward our narrative work, getting ready for collaborative meetings in Lancaster in the new year

November highlight:

  • Being there for the launch of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative in Korea, very proud to see this come to fruition after years of involvement with its development

December priorities:

  • Pursuing fundraising opportunities, especially some exciting opportunities in Scotland

A rare month without travel, and the rest is much needed!

Stewart Wallis

What’s kept you busy in November?

  • A big focus on governance, working with members to finalise a proposal for decision making and strategy within WEAll
  • A fundraising push with a particular focus on USA based trusts
  • Meeting and introducing to the Amp team new partners in the business and finance areas
  • Contributing to the Research Cluster alongside Katherine including pursuing contacts with the T20 group (Think tank 20)
  • Contributing to the development of our Citizens work, alongside Lisa
  • Working on a Technology chapter for a new book edited by key members of the Research Cluster
  • Presenting an hour long webinar for a catholic TV station with huge online audience

November highlight:

  • Really constructive meetings about governance – it has been a pleasure collaborating with our members and learning from them

December priorities:

  • Finalising the governance plans with the wider group of members
  • Major focus on fundraising

Michael Weatherhead

What’s kept you busy in November?

  • Development of content for NESI Global Forum 2019 working with an excellent group of contributors from the WEAll membership. The programme is shaping up nicely
  • Working with the business cluster to develop two business guide proposals
  • Co-designing the process for creation of a WEAll leadership toolbox
  • Negotiating the legal hosting of WEAll for 2019

November highlight:

  • Working with the content group for NESI Global Forum, and learning about new collaboration tools

December priorities:

  • Leading some productive team days in Glasgow
  • Having the NESI Forum format finalised and sub-groups decided for working on details of the Forum in the New Year.
  • Taking the business cluster proposals to funders