Join us next 29 September 2022 at 4 p.m. UTC time for a WEAll Talk with member Bob Willard.

Net-Zero Procurement (N-ZP) is obtaining the best value for money when purchasing the most climate-friendly goods and services from suppliers who are most committed to science-based net-zero targets. This talk will explain the three main features of N-ZP and how governments can use it as a ubiquitous market force to mobilize the global business community in the race to achieve science-based net-zero greenhouse gas targets.

Bob is a leading expert on sustainability justifications, assessment frameworks, and sustainable procurement.  Over the last 20 years, he has given more than 1,500 presentations, has authored six books and published two white papers. He provides extensive free, open-source resources for sustainability champions. He is an award-winning Certified B Corp, a Sustainability Excellence Professional, and a Future-Fit Certified Professional. He has a PhD in sustainability from the University of Toronto.

by Raad Sharar 

The scars of colonialism run deep. Even after the independence of the vast majority of African states  from their colonisers, the reality of returning to pre-colonial times is nothing short of utopian.  

Colonialism has brought about significant changes in society, culture, and behaviour, in addition to the myriad exploitative and inhuman acts experienced by the African people. These changes have forced a disconnect between the African people and their heritage. The damage caused by colonialism still feeds this disconnect today under the guises of free-market economics and neo-liberalism. Against this stark backdrop, the question arises: “Who are we to become, disconnected  from our roots and our opulent heritage?” 

The launch of the Afrik-Akili Declaration creates a platform for conversations about Africa, its heritage, its limitless vessels of knowledge, and most importantly, it sets out to remind Africans and the world about the continent’s role as the cradle of humanity and the birthplace of the first civilisations. The declaration aims to reconnect Africans with their heritage, allowing the African people to envision a new way of being human while strongly holding the belief that anyone disconnected from their roots cannot flourish. 

The Afrik-Akili Declaration puts forward ten principles to inspire and motivate meaningful connection between the people of Africa, as well as Africa and the world. The proclamation’s principles speak of Africa as the continent that gave birth to humanity and highlights that we all share a common humanity. It incorporates themes of interconnection between past and future generations,  sustainable and circular use of Africa’s natural resources, connectedness to, and respect for, Earth,  nature and people, recognition of the scientific innovations and traditions of Africa, and the centrality of a living systems approach. 

The launch event for the declaration took place on 9 August 2022 and was formally opened by Chief  Hamish Arries, Goab of the Koi and San nations and was led by panellists including Dr. Mamphela  Ramphele, the Co-President of the Club of Rome, several other African Club of Rome members, Solomon Ndondo, a youth educator and counsellor from Zimbabwe and Dr. Fidelis Allen, Professor in the University of Port Harcourt.  

The panellists spoke passionately and with resonance about their perception of the Afrik-Akili  Declaration and the important influence it could have on the future of the African continent.  

“We are here today to launch the Afrik-Akili as a declaration, which is an invitation by the Club of  Rome, together with its partners, to all of humanity, to witness the symbolic occasion of Africa,  reclaiming her place in the world, as the mother continent, the cradle of humanity and the cradle of the very first human civilization. The declaration is an invitation to the human family to engage with  Africa. The Africa we sense, and we are proud of, so that we might together, remember, and learn anew and become human again. African people at home and abroad, I invite you to drink again, from the well of wisdom, and the rich knowledge heritage of our mother continent. Embrace it, hear its songs and its melodies, dance to its rhythms and be joyful.” – Dr. Mamphela Rhampele, Co-President  of the Club of Rome. 

“…so, we should embrace our brothers and sisters (colonial thinkers) abroad. But we must also say to them, you have done our mother a great injustice, you have taken from the soil, the many minerals. Please think about what you have done. Look into our communities, into our townships and see what you have created. And the time is now, with this ubuntu methodology, this thinking this declaration, come back and correct your wrongs. And we will embrace you because we love you as our children. You are born from us and come back to us.” – Chief Hamish Arries of the Koi and San nations.

Alongside rich contributions from the panellists, the launch also served as a platform where the audience, representing diverse backgrounds and ages, engaged in open conversation with the speakers about Africa and its future. 

It is intended that the Afrik-Akili Declaration will serve as a foundation for future actions that are envisioned for the African continent and also as a guide for current efforts there. 

We invite you to sign the declaration and join us in this holistic and transformative journey. To further engage with the Afrik-Akili Declaration please contact: declaration@afrik-akili.org.

The mission of the Swedish Organization for Global Health (SOGH) is “to channel youth passion and talent to create a positive change in people’s health, from spreading knowledge about global and planetary health topics to concretely improving the quality and accessibility of health care in low-income settings” 

As part of that mission, the organisation seeks to adhere more to the terms of planetary health. One area that was looked into was sustainable banking – where are the grants and donations kept before being transferred to the different projects? This talk will describe the experience of trying to mindfully choose a sustainable bank as a small NGO and consider questions and problems that can arise. We are looking forward to a fruitful conversation on how organizations, as well as individuals, can take action towards greener and fairer finances. 

When: 25 August 2022, at 8 a.m. UTC

Where: Zoom

The Transform our Economy Group is a collaboration between Friends of the Earth Scotland, Scottish Environment LINK’s Economics Group, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland and Prof Camilla Toulmin. Together we’ve analysed Scotland’s recent National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

Read our full analysis here.

With climate change impacts being felt around the world and rising prices pushing more and more people into poverty, the need to redesign our economy to serve people and planet has never been clearer. 

Last year the Transform our Economy Alliance published 10 points that set how an economic strategy for Scotland can start to deliver wellbeing for all within environmental limits. 

Those 10 points were endorsed by 42 academic experts and organisations such as Poverty Alliance and Scottish Women’s Budget Group.

So how does ‘Delivering Economic Prosperity’, the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation stack up against the 10 points? 

We conclude that the strategy has made partial progress against four of the ten points, but has not fully met any of them. You can read our detailed assessment here. This lack of progress is deeply disappointing, given the importance of the strategy for setting the direction of Scotland’s society, environment, and economy over the next 10 years. 

The disconnect between the priorities and ambition of the strategy and the scale of the challenges facing Scotland stems from a lack of an inclusive and wide-ranging participatory process for determining the strategy’s priorities. We hope that the delivery plans will be developed through a more inclusive process that can help to align the strategy more closely with the needs of people and planet. 

Join our board of trustees and help build the movement to redesign Scotland’s economy.

WEAll Scotland is a collaboration of organisations, movements and individuals working to transform the economic system into one that delivers social justice on a healthy planet. 

We believe that our economy needs to be redesigned so it provides us with what matters most – dignity, connection, nature, fairness and meaningful participation. We work with a growing network of Allies across Scotland who are playing their part to deliver a Wellbeing Economy at different levels of society. We are the Scottish arm of the global Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) which has hubs in 15 countries.

Even before the cost of living crisis, one in four children in Scotland were growing up in poverty. Too many of us are living in cold homes, skipping meals, and falling behind on rent while Scotland’s 20 richest families enjoy more wealth than the bottom thirty per cent of the population combined. At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC) recently warned that we face a “brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”. But there is a growing wave of support to redesign our economy so it delivers what matters most to us.

We are seeking to recruit two people to join our Board of Trustees. No previous board experience is required.

We are interested to hear from anyone who:

  • Is passionate about the need for economic system change 
  • Has a good understanding of the issues facing our economy, society and natural environment 
  • You should be confident that you can make a valuable contribution to our work and comfortable with working at Board level. However, prior Board experience is not a requirement
  • Is able to think strategically 
  • Is good at building relationships and works effectively as part of a team (with an ability to challenge constructively)
  • Can provide leadership/championship
  • Shares our values as set out in our strategy
  • Skills in business and financial management are desirable but not essential.

The role:

The Board plays a vital role delivering WEAll Scotland’s strategy: Trustees support a dynamic but small core team and act as ambassadors of the charity.  Board members will be appointed for an initial period of up to three years with potential for extension. The commitment required is a minimum of one day per quarter (attending Board meeting and preparation). We would also expect trustees to take an active role and interest in the charity beyond attending meetings, for example by attending public events on behalf of WEAll and by taking on pieces of work for and on behalf of the Board. There is no remuneration, however all necessary travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed.

We acknowledge that people from a number of communities are underrepresented in our team and in the wider movement of those seeking systemic economic change and the charity sector in general, and we’re committed to addressing this. If you believe you would bring greater diversity to our team, we’re keen to hear from you. We will assist with childcare costs or other duties that may prevent candidates from attending an interview. 

How to apply:

If you feel you have the passion, experience and commitment please send a letter/email setting out why you are interested in the role and your CV to anna@scotland.weall.org. The closing date for applications is 29th August.

For more information about WEAll Scotland please see our recently published strategy.

Today, we’re publishing our new organisational strategy which sets out the change we want to see in Scotland and how we plan to achieve it.

This strategy details how we will work with others to create an unstoppable momentum towards a Wellbeing Economy, one which ensures that everyone can live with dignity, experience fairness and connection and participate in the decisions that affect them while we protect the health of our planet.

We will build a diverse network of allies who are playing their part to deliver a Wellbeing Economy at different levels of society. Together we will:

  • Change the public conversation about the purpose and direction of the economy
  • Amplify examples of promising practices which show Wellbeing Economy thinking in action
  • Advocate to influence economic policy at the national and local levels
  • Collaborate with a particular emphasis on business practice and ownership models, influencing national economic policy and local economies.

To redesign our economy we’ll need to work together like never before. Your support and friendship will be crucial.


Review by Jack Santa BarbaReview by Jack Santa Barbara, Ph.D. 

New Zealand WEALL Hub

Everyone in the Wellbeing Economy movement has an intellectual indebtedness to the work of Herman Daly, often cited as the Father of Ecological Economics. Peter A. Victor’s biography of Professor Daly celebrates the man and his ideas, and provides an excellent and handy summary of Daly’s transformative ideas.


Daly’s economic writing spans six decades and provides a rigorous conceptual framework for a new model of economic thought. One of the main features of Daly’s work is that he reformulates economic thought in terms of the natural sciences and ethical theory. This is in sharp contrast to the dominant economic model which is based on a series of assumptions, almost all of which can be demonstrated to be false, and which ignores the natural sciences and ethics almost entirely.


Interestingly, Daly began his career as a classical economist, obtaining a PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University in the mid 1960 ‘s . His decision to study undergraduate economics arose from his broad interests in both science and the humanities, and he saw economics as a social science that would allow him to combine these interests. He quickly came to realize that mainstream neoclassical economics had no scientific basis, and also ignored human values beyond individual self-interest. He came to realize that “neoclassical economics has both feet in the air: disconnected from the Earth and disconnected from Ethics,” according to Victor.


His mission in life came to be connecting the two – science and ethics – in reformulating economic thought – concepts that are central to the Wellbeing Economy. In capturing Daly’s intellectual journey, Victor gives us some helpful insights about how it is possible to question basic mainstream assumptions and move beyond their limitations. Whether or not it was Victor’s intent, he has provided a bit of a case study in how to change a dominant and dangerous paradigm- useful lessons for serious activists.


Peter Victor does a very nice job of connecting seemingly disparate events in Herman’s early life with his later theoretical contributions; Herman’s experience of polio as a youth leading to his acceptance of limits, his exposure to poverty during a teenage trip to Mexico, and religious upbringing, leading to his lifelong concern for social justice.


Even more impressively, Victor identifies Daly’s major conceptual contributions and summarizes their evolution in a very succinct and digestible form. The focus of the book is clearly on Daly’s ideas, but we also learn enough about Herman as a person to justify his reputation as “a warm, mild-mannered, strong –willed man willing to ask awkward questions.”


There are many concepts introduced and developed by Daly that are relevant to a Wellbeing Economy which are not always explicitly linked to Daly’s works. This is unfortunate, as Daly’s rigorous thinking and ethical perspective provides strong theoretical foundations for many alternative approaches to the current neoclassical economic paradigm. Anyone involved in the Wellbeing Economy would be well advised to become familiar with Daly’s work. His theoretical rigour and clarity of thinking will strengthen the kinds of activism that will make real change. Engaging in Wellbeing work without a background in Daly’s ideas is a bit like crossing a busy motorway with horse blinkers on.


Peter Victor has made it easy to access Daly’s theories about how an economy should function to achieve both ecological and social goals, as well as economic ones. In addition to covering some aspects of Herman’s early life and the major influences on his approach to economics, most of the book reviews the scientific and moral underpinnings of ecological economics. There are chapters on Philosophy, ethics and religion; Economics as a life science; Scale, distribution and allocation; Measuring the economy; What’s wrong with economic growth; Steady state economics (including attacks from both classical and heterodox thinkers and rebuttals); Population, migration and immigration; Money and banking; Globalization, internationalization and free trade.


Daly’s thinking about these issues are covered in his numerous books and papers and develop over time. Victor provides a great service in bringing these concepts into well-organized chapters, showing how Daly’s interest in the history of economic thought builds on the work of others, and adds his own contributions. Victor also helpfully elucidates where Daly’s work ends and what additional contributions are needed.


Because so many of Daly’s ideas are unorthodox in mainstream economic circles, much of his work has either been ignored or attacked by prominent mainstream economists. There have been several famous debates between Daly and prominent mainstream economists over the years, and the book makes it easy to understand both sides of these debates and where a sensible resolution lies. Daly’s logic and values always come out the winner.


Heterodox critiques of Daly’s work have also been made – for example, from both Marxist and degrowth economists. Some degrowth thinkers have attacked Daly for relying on markets for efficient allocation of resources, for example. Victor clearly points out how these critiques totally miss Daly’s assertion that efficient market allocation can only occur if both scale and distribution are first addressed. Daly insists that there is an ordering to policy priorities: first ecological scale must be addressed; the physical size of the economy must remain within planetary boundaries. There are limits to economic growth in terms of material throughput. It is only when this ecological limit has been settled that the second policy priority can be addressed – distribution. How can the pie be divided fairly, rather than how can we keep growing the pie so that everyone can have a bigger piece? Once these priorities have been assured, only then the market can become an efficient means of allocating resources. This is a very different role for the market compared to its central role in our current system.


Daly correctly points out that the neoclassical economic insistence on continuous economic growth is not only destructive to ecological systems, but is also an excuse for avoiding the issue of fair distribution. The market on its own cannot adequately address either scale or fair distribution.


Daly’s insistence on limiting economic growth in terms of material throughput is certainly counter to mainstream economics. Daly points out how increasing material throughput (producing more things for people to use) might have made sense in an “empty world,” but is destructive and dangerous in a “full world” of people and human artefacts. Daly’s interest in the history of economic thought helps us understand how we got here, and where we need to go next.


One of the many strengths of Daly’s theories is that he not only provides a deep critique of mainstream economics, and puts it in a helpful historical perspective, but he also presents a framework for evolving economics to the next level. A steady state economy is Daly’s answer to a full world economy, and again, Victor does a great job of summarizing the main features of a steady state economy and the policy instruments that could make it work. Victor has himself contributed to this evolution by demonstrating that a complex economy such as Canada’s can be managed with the right policies, but without growth.


The steady state economy is often misunderstood as a dead end without continued economic growth. But Daly is clear that while material throughput must be brought within planetary boundaries (a quantitative limit), there is no end to the qualitative improvements that can be made in human wellbeing, some of which can be provided by economic activity. A steady state economy can be dynamic and contribute to human wellbeing in many meaningful ways.


Daly’s unorthodox ideas have resulted in his being rejected by mainstream economists, and sometimes personally attacked. Even his family has felt the abuse sometimes directed at him. Nevertheless, he has received many international awards for his thinking and contributions to many movements, some of which may be unaware of the source of their ideas. Daly’s ideas have received widespread support by groups interested in alternative economic systems. His textbook on Ecological Economics with Josh Farley is currently used in several universities around the world, and has been translated into several languages (including Chinese) to further broaden his influence.


Victor’s book points out how some mainstream economists have taken up some of Daly’s ideas and presented them as their own without any acknowledgment of Daly. The book also points out how some new economic thinking such as Raworth’s Doughnut Economics has popularized Daly’s thinking and moved it closer to the mainstream.


Despite active mainstream resistance and rejection of Daly’s work, his ideas about economics for a full world have had widespread impacts. We are seeing more questions about the merits of continued economic growth in the media, ecological overshoot is also mentioned more often, and even the idea of a steady state economy is being explicitly attacked by mainstream economists – a sure sign of increased recognition.


One of the organizations focusing on the steady state idea is the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy (CASSE), a Washington D.C. based NGO, founded and led by Brian Czech, demonstrating the same tenacity for the urgent promotion of a new economic paradigm that Daly models so well.


Daly’s ideas are critically important to a Wellbeing Economy. His theories, his historical perspectives, his rigorous arguments, his responses to critiques of his ideas, as well as his clear moral positioning, are powerful gems to be learned and used in the struggle for an ecologically sustainable and morally just society. Peter Victor has done both Daly and the rest of us a major service in providing an excellent summary of Daly’s ideas in a well written reference book for activists’ libraries.

Herman Daly’s Economics for a Full World: His Life and Ideas is available to purchase here.

What if making the transition from an economy for a dying world to an economy for a thriving world isn’t just about education, policy changes, and raising awareness, but also requires raising human consciousness?  Is there a spiritual component to life, including the human experience, that can be activated to accelerate widespread adoption of a wellbeing economy model?  There is in fact, an increasingly robust interfaith movement for climate and environmental action.  Earlier this year the interfaith Sacred Season of Climate Justice pulled together faith organizations from across the globe to take a stand and use their platforms to take action, and demand action from world leaders.  As systems and old norms destabilize faith communities are likely to become increasingly important vehicles for change and community-building.  The faith and environment action movement is very new to Wellbeing Economy concepts and there is an opportunity for powerful partnerships to be formed. 

Join our member Cylvia Hayes on 28 July 2022 at 4 p.m. UTC to explore this topic. Cylvia Hayes is a writer, speaker and teacher in the areas of economic system change and the Living World, and personal/spiritual development. Cylvia is founder and CEO of 3EStrategies and Cylvia Hayes Enterprises, founder of The ReThink, and former faculty in the Sustainability Department College of Agriculture, Oregon State University. She is also the former First Lady of Oregon and an award-winning environmental and anti-poverty activist.  Cylvia is author of, When Life Blows Up: A Guide to Peace, Power and Reinvention.  She is certified through the Tony Robbins – Chloe Madanes Strategic Coaching Institute. She is a minister in training with Unity Worldwide Ministries and currently serves as an elected member of the Unity Worldwide Ministries Earth Care Core Team.

A blog to mark the 2022 reprinting of Richard Wilkinson’s
Poverty & Progress: an ecological model of economic growth (1973)

The early Seventies saw the take-off of the modern environmental movement, with the first Earth Day celebrated in 1970, and the publication of some classics of environmental thinking: of A Blueprint for Survival, The Limits to Growth and Small is Beautiful.  These books captured widespread attention and helped the movement to flourish, grounding it in serious, but accessible, scholarship.

Also published to critical acclaim in 1973, Poverty & Progress was Richard Wilkinson’s first book. Ahead of its time, the book set forward an argument that environmental constraints of population growth and scarce resources have, throughout history, been the real driving force behind economic development. 

Renowned economist and philosopher, Professor Kenneth Boulding, welcomed the book with these words:

“By a happy coincidence I had been reading Malthus’s First Essay on Population only a week before (this) remarkable little book came into my hands….the similarity struck me with immediate pleasure…Wilkinson has the almost intuitive appreciation of complexity that the classical economists had but that, alas, has been replaced in this day when corn and wheat have been replaced by x and y“. 

Poverty & Progress is re-issued by Routledge in July 2022 and to accompany its re-issue, Richard shares his thoughts on its resonance for our current environmental crisis.

Scarcity & Growth

Written by: Richard Wilkinson

The wheel is often taken as if it were an exemplar of the inventions that gave rise to progress; but if you live in an untamed environment without roads, you soon realise that a wheel is not such a good idea: you are better off with a packhorse than a wheeled cart. We constantly fail to understand how changes in the ecological context in which our economic systems function have shaped innovation throughout the course of development. 

People imagine that the history of economic development is the history of human attempts to improve the quality of life.  We assume that we invented new ways of doing things because they were better than the old ones.  But when you look more closely, that does not stand up. Economic development is instead the history of how we are forced to intervene ever more deeply into natural processes in order to divert a larger part of what nature produces to support humanity.  

I set out this perspective in a book called Poverty and Progress, first published in 1973, which, after almost 50 years, has just been reprinted. It was subtitled “An ecological model of economic development” because it showed how economic development came out of an almost continuous succession of problems forcing us to exploit our environment in new and more intensive ways as our demands on it increased. The only way of avoiding that treadmill was to control population growth, as early foragers did, so avoiding outgrowing the constraints of their environment, and living in what I then called ‘ecological equilibrium’.

As prehistoric hunters and gatherers, humans lived on whatever came most easily to hand – the plants and animals naturally available around them.  They didn’t develop agriculture earlier because clearing forest, planting, weeding and harvesting is a lot more work than foraging in a plentiful environment.  As a modern San forager said, “Why should we plant when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?”  Early hunters and gatherers were eventually pushed into agriculture by climate change and growing population densities that led to scarcities in what they had hunted and gathered.  The first and least arduous form of agriculture was ‘slash and burn’: after burning off the forest cover, you plant in soft, fertile, leaf-mould soil which you simply abandon as soon as soil fertility declines.  But as population densities slowly increased, methods had to be intensified: instead of leaving land to reforest, it had to be kept in cultivation and soil fertility maintained artificially.  The resulting dense grass and weed cover required the heavy additional work of ploughing.  It’s no wonder that people didn’t take to agriculture earlier or that when they did, as the archaeological record shows, agriculturalists were shorter and less healthy than their foraging predecessors. ‘Progress’ was something we had to be forced into. 

The industrial revolution came out of a similar dynamic.  As population numbers increased, so the pressure on the land increased. Almost everything depended on the land.  People fed themselves from the land, they clothed themselves from wool from sheep on pasture, the price of horse transport varied with the price of hay, and the supply of firewood depended on the diminishing forests. Land prices rose under the pressure of competing uses. The British industrial revolution was essentially a solution to this problem.  Cotton was imported to supplement wool for clothing, firewood was replaced with coal, and canals were built which allowed a single horse to pull a barge carrying 50 times the load it could pull in a cart. As waterpower sites for mills became scarce, they, like horse transport, were supplemented by steam engines. And seizing colonies was seen at the time partly as a solution to the same need for additional resources. 

Fundamentally, economic development is simply the escape route for societies caught in the ecological pincers of scarce resources and population growth. The basic dynamic, of having to intervene increasingly deeply in the natural environment in order to divert an ever-greater proportion of its productivity to human consumption, could hardly be clearer than it is now – as we struggle to cope with the environmental crisis. It looks as if it won’t be long before we are replacing meat with growing quantities of protein from insects, from processed fungus and from meat grown in cell cultures.  And we will do this not because the new foods are preferable to what they replaced, but because we have to. As we overfish the oceans, the natural supply of fish is increasingly supplemented by fish farming and by eating species of fish previously ignored.  Similarly, as we are pushed to develop more nuclear power to cover periods when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we will do this because we have to, like it or not.  The same is true of the rapid growth in our use of replacements for timber. Although they are less attractive, we increasingly use chipboard and other composites made from materials such as fibre and cement.  Genuine wood has become too expensive.  Similarly, where once leather was regarded as the best material for everything from shoes to handbags, it was replaced, first by plastics, and now by other unwanted materials including everything from fungus and fruit peelings to bones and fat from slaughterhouses. And more often than not, the substitutes are made to look like the real leather they replaced.

One of the effects of these processes of substitution was aptly summed up by Jack Fisher, the professor of economic history at LSE from whom I learned most as a student.  He wrote “…it is one of the eternal verities of history that as societies become wealthy they are no longer able to afford pleasures that were well within their reach when they were poor.” 

Another aspect of the dynamics driving economic development explains why production has to be increasingly mechanised and automated. Take the development of clothing materials as an example. The first clothing materials were the skins of animals that were eaten. When, in agricultural societies, that became inadequate to meet everyone’s needs, people were obliged to develop textiles from natural fibres such as flax, cotton, wool, and bark.  The need to collect and prepare the fibres before spinning and weaving dramatically increased the work involved in making clothing. Later we see the development of entirely artificial fibres from mineral sources (largely oil), which replaced the organic fibres from land-based crops or animals, so freeing more land for food production. Much the same is also true of metal working.  With sharp tools you can work wood by hand, but working metals requires the addition of mechanical power and often high temperatures. This pattern is seen in almost every sector, including the chemical industry. At each stage, the manufacturing process becomes more difficult and further removed from anything that can be done by hand. The more deeply we have to intervene in natural systems to divert resources to human needs, the greater the processing task that has to be done, and the more sophisticated the tools and machinery needed to provide a person’s subsistence.  The productive task is taken out of human hands and becomes increasingly mechanised and automated because, by its very nature, it is beyond what we are capable of unaided.

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. To understand innovation, you have to understand how the problem it was designed to solve arose in the particular historical period that it did. During much of the long history of economic development it was population growth and occasionally climate change that meant we outgrew our environmental resource base and had to discover how to exploit new resources, or old ones more intensively.  When, in 1798, Thomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population, and argued that population pressure would keep living standards permanently to a minimum, he failed to see the eventual benefits of the industrial revolution. 

Fifty years ago, the Limits to Growth report to the Club of Rome, pointed out that our industrial dependence on non-renewable resources meant that we would, sooner or later, face new scarcity problems. The authors gave less attention to the feedback problems – including the climate crisis, sea level rises and air pollution – that have become major threats. But problems of resource shortages, particularly of some metals and rare earth elements, will indeed hamper the production of enough wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicle batteries. In the 50 years since that report, world population has doubled. Time will tell whether science and innovation will come up with adequate solutions to these problems. 

Rather than failing to change, the great achievement of our hunter-gatherer ancestors was that they avoided the need for change, and they did that by keeping the demands they imposed on their environments within sustainable limits. Key to that, as the evidence shows, were the cultural practices which prevented population growth and enabled most hunter-gatherer societies to live remarkably healthily. Indeed, with few wants, they have been called “the original affluent societies”.

World population is now about 7.6 billion – probably more than 1000 times greater than at the eve of the Neolithic Revolution. Politics permitting, reproductive technology now makes it much easier to control the birth rate. But although the rate of population increase is slowing, estimates are that it will reach close to 10 billion by the end of this century. The pressure on the environment depends however on population numbers multiplied by the level of consumption per person. If everyone lived like Americans, we’d need at least another four planets. The CO2 emissions of the world’s richest 1 percent are estimated to be more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity. 

It is therefore the numbers of the rich that we most need to control. Average income and consumption levels have roughly doubled in many rich countries during the last half century, dramatically hastening the environmental crisis but bringing little or no improvement in happiness and wellbeing. Growing inequality has intensified status seeking behaviour, so adding to wasteful status consumption and harming wellbeing. As possessions are used increasingly as indicators of prestige and status, they intensify the planet-destroying demand for more ‘stuff’.  

Studies have repeatedly shown that key determinants of happiness, health and wellbeing, are the quality of our social relationships. But as widening income differences have increased the numbers both of the super-rich and of the relatively poor, they have also damaged the quality of social relations, leading to a decline in trust, in community life, and to more in violence. 

In these circumstances, the fact that the governments of affluent societies still fail to recognise that they must concentrate on increasing wellbeing rather than on the size of their economies, shows how myopic we’ve become. Our situation is all the more dire because every aspect of the transition, particularly from fossil fuels, will require massive new investments and so cause yet more economic growth. 

However, steep reductions in inequality will not only lead to increases in health and happiness, they will also make the transition to sustainability very much easier. (The evidence is outlined in my recent blog and a ‘deep dive’ chapter, both written for the Club or Rome.)  When, in Poverty and Progress, I outlined long-term economic development as a series of changes forced by ecological problems, I did not discuss the societies which collapsed because they failed to find adequate solutions. But there are now archaeological studies suggesting that more egalitarian societies may always have proved more resilient to the environmental difficulties that led elsewhere to downfall. 

Richard Wilkinson, Poverty and Progress: an ecological model of economic development.

Hardback ISBN 978-1-032-30703-9

Ebook ISBN 978-1-003-30635-1 available from 1st July

About this paper

As the world’s attention slowly shifts away from the Covid-19 pandemic and the deep trauma and crises it produced, we are left to wonder what lessons we have learnt. Why were so many countries unable to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their people? And, even more importantly, what can we learn from the societies that were able to effectively navigate and minimise the negative effects of the pandemic?

This paper examines how New Zealand, Finland and Bhutan were able to successfully contain the initial waves of Covid (2020-2021) by taking a Wellbeing Economy approach. In each of these case studies, we present evidence that a commitment to wellbeing (over economic growth) resulted in favourable outcomes for both public health and economic performance. Understanding how these countries compare with others that adopted counterproductive responses in an effort to protect their economies will help design future public policies to foster human wellbeing in our century of ecological crises (WEAll, 2021; Laurent et al. 2022).

“The purpose of business is to “find profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet, not to profit from creating problems for either.”

Now is the Time for Purpose, Report of the Scottish Business Purpose Commission

We welcome the first report of the Scottish Business Purpose Commission – a joint initiative of SCDI and the Scottish Government – as an important step in the right direction. Businesses have a vital role to play in creating a Wellbeing Economy that is designed to deliver for everyone’s needs, and protect the health of our planet. But they can only do so if they put the purpose of serving their employees, communities, customers and natural environment at the heart of their business purpose, rather than focusing on short-term returns for shareholders. As the commission says, we need businesses in Scotland to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

It is time for businesses in Scotland to show real leadership in moving away from outdated business models and support an economy that works for people and planet. No matter where they are on this journey, all businesses must consider this, whether it is defining and communicating their purpose for the first time, developing comprehensive measures of their impacts on society and planet, or reforming their governance and ownership structures to give a stronger voice to employees, communities and the natural environment. 

The commission shows that Scotland is already full of inspiring examples of purposeful businesses and the key to success is to share the learning and experience from those examples. 

But the commission is also clear that conscientious businesses cannot do this by themselves. Purposeful businesses are not mainstream yet and our economy is still set up to favour those businesses that profit from creating, rather than solving, problems for people and planet. That set up is reflected in the competitive disadvantages, lack of support and limited access to investment for businesses that want to do the right thing. 

Governments at all levels need to step up to create the architecture that ensures that the right thing to do for people and planet becomes the right thing to do for business.

The recommendations by the commission represent an important step in that direction and we call on businesses, the UK Government, the Scottish Government and local governments to implement the recommendations of the commission in full. Governments need to support businesses on their journey by:

  1. Mainstreaming business purpose in business education 
  2. Incorporating purpose into all forms of government support for the private sector
  3. Building a favourable tax system for purposeful businesses.

But that can only succeed if there is a clear and shared understanding of what “business purpose” means in practice, what counts as contributing to the solutions that we need and what counts as profiting from the problems. This cannot be left to businesses to decide all by themselves, and the commission’s report offers little clarity. We need the UK and Scottish Governments to set a strong direction for businesses and to develop a coherent framework for measuring whether Scotland’s businesses are moving in that direction. We need effective ways of holding businesses accountable and prevent purpose-washing. Not all businesses take their responsibility for people and planet seriously as shown by recent examples (e.g P&O ferry, energy company profiteering from the cost of living crises and lobbying against climate change rules). 

To set that direction, we need a wider national discussion to create a shared understanding of the kind of businesses that can contribute to building a Wellbeing Economy and which ones cannot. This process needs to be led by governments but be inclusive and make sure that those with the least power in our current economy are heard. 

Ko Matariki kei runga, ko te tohu tēnā o te tau!

Matariki is up; that’s the sign of the year!

Aotearoa New Zealand is today celebrating its first indigenous national public holiday – Matariki. 

The rising of Matariki, the cluster of stars also known as the Pleiades, signifies for many Māori the start of the new year. It is a time for rest and reflection on the year that has been and planning for the future. Matariki is grounded in a connection to nature and awareness of planetary cycles which were critical within Mātauranga Māori for acknowledging the seasons, navigation and planting. Rest, reflection and time off from work is crucial for individual and collective wellbeing.

In 2020, after growing interest and a revival in Matariki commemorations over the previous decades, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Matariki would become Aotearoa’s eleventh national public holiday. Unlike many of New Zealand’s other holidays grounded in Western culture like Christmas and Easter, Matariki is significant because it is the first holiday grounded in Māori culture, acknowledging our place as a South pacific country. It’s a sign of New Zealand’s growing unique national identity.

It’s another example how te ao Māori (the knowledge and traditions of Māori culture) is enriching New Zealand society. Increasingly Māori tikanga (cultural rules and principles) are being incorporated and recognised in the New Zealand legal system and inspiring approaches like legal personhood for nature features such as the Whanganui River and conservation tools. Around the world people and countries are turning to indigenous knowledge to tackle challenges like climate change.

This weekend, communities across Aotearoa have come together to view the stars, share food and remember the deceased. Today as I rest and reflect on the past and how New Zealand is changing from initiatives like Wellbeing Budgets to incorporation of Māori knowledge I take optimism that we can build on these to grow an economy that puts wellbeing at its heart. By genuinely embracing New Zealand’s foundational document, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Aotearoa has a unique opportunity to reframe what’s important – revisioning a focus on money and economic growth into kotahitanga, whanaungatanga and kaitiakitanga.

Happy Matariki everyone – mānawatia a Matariki.

Written by: Sandra Ericson

There seems to be an intellectual allergy to developing policy for the practical knowledge needs of human life. 

Policy sets out goals, missions, objectives, and visions, but policy does not make a life decision for you and me on a Tuesday morning. Personal policy does that, assuming there is one. This difference in scale is why any policymaking process to develop Wellbeing Economy policies should include what it takes to form personal policy amongst citizens. Life today is more urban and risky. Urban life has often prevented people from fulfilling their health and housing needs with its remote extended supply chains and red tape. Given the degree of social failure in cities, neither income nor trust in urban living ensures personal health and safety. For many, the old bandit challenge is an everyday decision, “your money or your life?” See the recent 2022 report from the Edelman Trust Barometer for a shocker about trust.

Government can’t deliver on its own. From past practice, the assumption is that government committees or economists can address the needs of regular people by enlisting local leaders or maybe they survey local groups. These exogenous efforts are limited by default and cause policymakers to ignore the other most effective means of assuring prosperity — universal education. Imagine the degree of health and wellbeing if governments proactively educated their people in personal care and caution. It could prevent social failure (like drug abuse), economic losses (like recessions and depressions), unforeseen natural events (like pandemics), and coming soon to your block, the effects of climate change. If governments enlisted a population of informed and highly-motivated equal partners, skilled in preventing local loss at its core, the gains could assure greater national wellbeing for generations.

When policymakers consider the educational arsenal, the capitalistic mindset interprets ‘education’ to mean income-producing professional education, believing that income will deliver wellbeing. It no longer does. Given the number of current proposals for direct payment, it is clear that some policy wonks believe working, and now even survival itself requires compensation. The hope is that each recipient will gain dignity from spending money (wisely or otherwise) rather than earning money — is that possible? Does money make everything alright? Mark Twain had it right when Pudd’nhead Wilson said, “faith is believing when you know it ain’t so.”

The Past is Prologue.

With a centuries-long history spanning continents and cultures, a better way, called Bildung in Europe and Consumer Science, Life Skills, or Human Ecology in the US, is waiting. It was an avenue abandoned because the ‘invisible hand’ could not assign it financial utility in trendy short-term markets. So, most economists have not supported such wellbeing education, letting governments pay later — well, it is later, and they are paying. Local governments, burdened with rising social and financial problems, micro and macro, face debt and insolvency. 

Note that three of the four Edelman trust recommendations point to an educational approach:

  • Demonstrate tangible progress by showing how the system works.
  • Focus on long-term thinking via solutions.
  • Provide credible information, meaning trustworthy, consistent, and fact-based information. 

And, by the way, full trust is generated if the information is neutral and local. Enter school districts. For national prosperity, wellbeing education policy must be front and center in creating new public/private partnerships. It is how societies combatted poverty before in Europe and the US; now, it is how meta-modernity can be made livable.

This Social Century Requires Social Skills.

At the center of this new policymaking must be life skills, the human life abilities needed every day. It means teaching old favorites like cooking and sewing, how to choose then choosing medical insurance, the cause and effect of climate change, leasing contracts, why children are not mini-adults, depression, label law, sanitation, fiduciaries, and aging bodies. Age-related work through the complete subject list takes 15 years, three hours per week, K-14. The result will be a universal understanding of human needs within 21st C. social and economic systems. Future leaders will have grown up with a realistic definition of economics. Without this empowering education, democracy itself stands a poor chance.

Why does this education work to benefit the whole of governance? Because with every life, human or not, the first and most-demanding need is to serve the body — its needs garner the highest self-interest. Reduction of pain, cooling/heating, hunger, sleep, light, and physical safety rule the self; unmet needs drive the mental fallout from material deprivation, fear, anger, depression, cognitive load, lower bandwidth, and social rebellion. The prolonged lack of physical safety and comfort has caused most revolutions at the population tipping point. Malcolm Gladstone surmises that the tipping point is 13.5%.

You may be thinking, how can an organization, even ‘new’ economists, believe that a single education policy could apply to the cultural contexts of over 150 countries? Answer: start and end with structural human common denominators; they are species constant. They include food, clothing, shelter, safety, finance, aging, child development, climate adaptation, communication, transportation, social interaction, cultural protocol, personal presentation, and professionalism. Along with professional and civic education, courses in these physical and psychosocial subjects are applicable worldwide. Educators in every country can customize lessons to fit resources and social constructs. This kind of personal education generates human globalism before commercial globalism.

Policy designers implementing Wellbeing Economy policies should consider an educational approach for teaching human wellbeing. It is the one area that focuses on an indisputable fact of life: All human beings want to survive and be successful within their culture. Help them do that; teach Human Ecology; make it possible for people to learn about themselves and their own lives. 

*About the author: Sandra Ericson is the former chair of the Consumer Arts and Science Department at City College of San Francisco. She served three elected terms on the Napa Valley College Board, one appointed term on the St. Helena Planning Commission, and eight years as chair of the St. Helena Climate Protection Task Force. She currently lives in Eugene, Oregon. 

Written by: Lisa Hough-Stewart and Amanda Janoo

One of the statements below comes from our latest briefing paper “This is the moment to go Beyond GDP”; the other was made during the Stockholm+50 conference last week by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres:

“We must place true value on the environment and go beyond Gross Domestic Product as a measure of human progress and well-being. Let us not forget that when we destroy a forest, we are creating GDP. GDP is not a way to measure richness in our current situation in the world. We must shift to a circular and regenerative economy.”

“Current policies prioritise economic growth rather than long-term societal and environmental goals: wellbeing, inclusion and sustainability. 50 years after the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the moment has come to finally go beyond GDP.”

The fact that you can hardly tell who said what is cause for hope – a sign that multilateral organisations are finally listening to and taking steps towards a Wellbeing Economy vision. We have much to celebrate coming out of Stockholm, no doubts about that, but we’d also like to bring some reflections on the hard work that still needs to be done to make Wellbeing Economies a reality, and the mindset shifts that we need to address in order to implement truly upstream solutions.

WEAll at Stockholm+50

The WEAll Amp team saw the Stockholm+50 conference as a critical moment for connecting with members and new audiences, and championing Wellbeing Economy ideas in a space where countries and multilateral organisations were shaping plans for tackling environmental crises. Solutions to the environmental challenges we face will be at best temporary band-aids if we do not urgently address the underlying systemic issues with how our economy works today. 

The two of us (Lisa and Amanda) spent a whole week in Stockholm, making the most of the opportunity to connect with people, deepen our relationships and participate in key spaces to present a Wellbeing Economy approach to climate change. Here’s what our week looked like:

WELLBEING ECONOMY SIDE EVENT: We promoted an official side event, “Wellbeing Economies: a new economic approach for human and planetary health,” as part of the Stockholm+50 programme, organised by WEAll, WWF, EEB, SSNC and Club of Rome. The side event was at full capacity and the audience was inspired by remarks from Sophie Howe (Welsh Future Generations Commissioner), Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner), Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor (Kingdom of Bhutan) and Minister Terhi Lehtonen (Finland), as well as civil society leaders. You can watch the recording and see the official outcomes of the side event here.

PEOPLE’S FORUM: We ran a session at the People’s Forum ahead of the conference, collaborating with Scenario 2030, which featured Amanda in conversation with the brilliant Jennifer Hinton  – check out her pioneering work on Not-For-Profit economic models here. This event was a chance to connect with activists and changemakers, mostly local to Stockholm, and as a result of our conversations there we’re exploring the potential to establish a WEAll Sweden hub.

WEAll MEET & GREET: We hosted an informal gathering for WEAll members and partners. As ever, it was energising to be together in person, making new connections and deepening existing relationships. We’re so grateful to the 25 or so people who came along and made this evening feel special. We hope you found it as useful and inspiring as we did.

LAUNCH OF NATURE POSITIVE ECONOMY ROADMAP: We attended the launch of WWF and UNEP’s Nature Positive Economy Roadmap, which we’ve been helping to shape as a civil society partner. It’s encouraging to see governments, including Nigeria, Finland, Costa Rica and Spain, engaging with this process and we’re excited to continue supporting its development.

Personal Reflections

Lisa

I’m still buzzing from the great conversations we had in Stockholm – too many to count. We discussed the Wellbeing Economy with government representatives, activists, WEAll members and more. Everywhere, there was excitement and curiosity about the need for economic system transformation. I expected we were going to have to push this agenda into what was essentially a space about the environment, but, instead, it really felt like the Wellbeing Economy agenda was already at the heart of Stockholm+50 and we were a key part of it. The Secretary General’s statement and the official outcomes of the conference are testament to this.

Having spent time with Sophie Howe and her team from the Future Generations Commission, I’m even more convinced that the Welsh Wellbeing of Future Generations Act offers one of the most tangible and compelling routes to transformative change. It was encouraging to see other governments’ and multilateral institutions’ interest in learning from Wales  – and I am excited for my home country of Scotland to set up its own Commission soon, which the government has already committed to.

The experience of planning for and participating in Stockholm was one of truly effective collaboration. I’m feeling grateful for the WEAll members and coalition partners that worked with us – galvanising action together around this key moment has made us feel even more like a team. The energy and talent of the people working to build a Wellbeing Economy gives me renewed hope that we’ll get there.

Amanda

There is so much about the Stockholm +50 conference that left me hopeful and convinced of the incredible momentum of the Wellbeing Economy movement. The call for economic systems change could be felt in nearly every discussion and the once fringe idea of moving  “beyond GDP” felt nearly mainstream. 

All in all, the Stockholm+50 conference was a huge accomplishment for our movement and a testament to incredible work being done all over the world to raise awareness of the need for economic systems change if we are to save our planet and our species. 

However, throughout the discussions, I could not help but feel that the economic logic that got us here in the first place is still predominantly guiding our solutions. 

The recognition that we must value nature led quickly to the solution of appropriately pricing nature. As most proposals go, in order to recognize that “nature is not free” we must monetize it and find market based solutions to healing, protecting and revitalising our natural world. 

This question of how to appropriately “value” nature has been around since the inception of classical economics, with Adam Smith pondering the “water-diamond paradox”. Why is water, the source of all life, worth nothing? When Diamonds, which have little functional value, are worth so much? Questions of “value” are at the heart of economics but have long been lost from the discipline, because to understand “value” we must explore underlying “values” and such ethical discussions are viewed as beyond the remit of our modern pseudo-science. 

In a world that is relentlessly exploiting and destroying plants, animals and minerals, I can understand why it feels so urgent to appropriately account for our “externalities”, but I keep coming back to this quote by E.F Schumacher: 

“In “the Market’ everything is equated with everything else. To equate things means to give them a price and thus to make them exchangeable. To the extent that economic thinking is based on the market, it takes the sacredness out of life, because there can be nothing sacred in something that has a price”.

Our current economic system is a product of centuries of colonialism that treated people and planet as commodities to be owned, sold and disposed of, and that ignores the things that matter most for our wellbeing–the incredible interplay between humans and nature and the sacred, free ways we produce and provide for one another.

Think about the gift of water or the shade from a tree. The smile from a stranger or the care of a loved one when we are sick. How, and why, would we put a price tag on that which is given freely? 

Perhaps, given the urgency of the environmental crises, pricing nature would at least be a step in the right direction. A way to slow down the relentless degradation. But I wonder what logic and values would determine the prices we put on nature’s gifts. Would diamonds continue to be “worth” far more than water in this new logic?

These are some open questions that stuck with me after Stockholm +50, and questions to which I know we can together find answers to. The incredible thing about working for WEAll is that I’m always more likely to find tons of people pondering the same things than not. 

While at Stockholm, I happened to eavesdrop on a conversation about a sharing economy campaign that then led to a proposed collaboration to amplify examples, predominantly from the Majority World, of ways in which communities are actively decommodifying aspects of life. I had an opportunity to sit for hours under a bridge with one of our members and discuss the idea of the care economy and what policy mechanisms exist to reverse the market-mechanism that has encroached on so many sacred aspects of life. I was able to challenge my own thinking when speaking with a documentarian who reminded me of Amartya Sen’s insight that markets are like conversations, they are simply mechanisms of exchange and so perhaps it’s not the “market” as much as the profit motive that animates it, encouraging us to always take more than we give. 

I know that together, with our powers combined, we can figure this out and co-create new systems of value that ensure we produce and provide for another in a way that supports the wellbeing of all species on this planet.” 

Written by: Alison Chopel

So much of history describes the violent separation of people from land. There is the recurring story of people who arrive from outside with money and weapons to force people to change the way they use their land to nourish their own bodies. There is the recurring story of people who arrive from outside and rip the people from the land they steward by killing them all or making life so hard that they flee. There is the recurring story of people who arrive from outside to kidnap people from their homes, and forcibly steal or exploit their labor in a way that is harmful to themselves and their communities.

Each of these  strategies were, and often still are, used to satisfy the desires of some groups, while stomping an essential human need of others: the need to connect to and live from land. The Wellbeing Economy is a set of strategies that guide us to discover ways to support the fundamental needs of all people, rather than the desires of a few at the expense of many. And the Wellbeing Economy (WE) also offers a different kind of story, one that many of us believe wholeheartedly and seek to spread. The Wellbeing Economy story is that there is enough for all of us. The challenge is: how do we relegate to memory the destructive stories of the past and open space for a different story?

The histories of my ancestors are full of these terrifying stories. My parents were both born and raised in California because their ancestors crossed the sea to escape from story #1 (Irish potato famine) and story #2 (the holocaust).  

I was born in Colorado, an ongoing stage for story #2. I learned it in history class, and I learned it from Native friends who told me about how they missed the Ghost Dance, since it was now forbidden and called “of the devil.” My child’s other parent survived story #2, fleeing persecution of Tibetans in China, only to kill himself slowly in a foreign land, drinking away the pain of missing the air, the mountainous horizon, and the spring flower blossoms that were only visible in his home steppes on the roof of the world. When we met, I had also fled my homeland. I also expected to never again breathe the dry Colorado mountain air or look upon the snow capped peaks to find my West. But my story was not history, it was understood as an individual, isolated case–the personal childhood traumas that drove me from Colorado. When I moved to California, where my parents were born, I experienced displacement on a personal level (in a place where gentrification was happening on a collective level), as my child and I were evicted year after year from rental homes by landlords greedy for profits. 

My current partner was born in the southernmost tip of the US, a place that had been called Mexico a few generations prior, to people whose grandparents had suffered story #3. As a Black man from the South, he is a refugee from both personal and collective pain. He’ll never again live in his “homeland” of Texas because of racism and violence. So, we set out to find our new home together. And we landed in a place where all these stories were staged with grotesque cruelty. A place where they were not confined to history (though, in reality, that’s most of the inhabited earth these days). A place where outsider status brought us peace, and alienation. Where we experience the complex mix of acceptance and welcoming, deeply aware that the government that claims to represent us both is actively, and hypocritically, oppressing our neighbors, colleagues, friends. 

Here, in Borinkén, named Puerto Rico by the Spanish conquerors (Rich Port– to give their intentions away), the Taíno people were murdered en masse or made to flee (story #2) and then erased even further by lying history lessons that taught that they left no descendants on the face of the earth. Here, in Borinkén, stolen African people were made to labor in sugar mills, worked so brutally that slavers calculated it was cheaper to kidnap and transport more people across the ocean than to invest in the health of the enslaved bodies to enable them to reproduce (story #3). In my very neighborhood, formerly enslaved people who successfully liberated themselves created a free community with each other and the crabs who had made home among the mangroves for millennia and nourished the peace-seekers while they hid.  

Here, in Borinkén, the next generations of people whose ancestors were the villains and the victims and the bystanders in those stories, people who called themselves Jíbaras and Jíbaros, were made to stop cultivating the earth for their own sustenance and come into factories where their labor could create profit for people who they would never know (story #1). This was called Operation Bootstrap, an industrialization policy that solidified dependence on the abuser/occupier/colonizer. Now, the people of Puerto Rico receive 85-90% of their food from outside, arriving to us after being packed on ships for days, losing a little bit of life with each moment. And for the past decade, austerity measures and laws such as Acts 20/22/60 attract tax evaders who use their ill-gotten capital to displace people whose families have lived here for generations and rob them of access to natural resources. 

As an outsider, who shares some identities with these people, I asked myself, what should I do? What can I do? First, I took stock of those shared identities. I am American, English-speaking, white. I am not, however, an expat. The identity of expat centers the place left behind. Expats stick together, they work to re-create their homeland in a new place, they cling to its virtues, are blind to its exploitations and are forever apart from their new home. My partner and I instead identify as immigrants. We migrated in to this place. We seek to learn its culture, to know its land, to connect to its people, to contribute to it, to respect and protect its ecosystems, while recognizing our relative insignificance.

It’s complicated, but not that much more complicated than the Puerto Rican identity. One of the most iconic images across Puerto Rico is that of the Three Kings. The Three Kings represent the tri-continental ancestral identity (African, American, European) that many Puerto Ricans wear with pride. They claim among their ancestors the murderers and the murdered, the exploiters and the exploited, the abusers and the abused. The truth is, most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, should do the same. But because the myth that skin color can tell me everything I need to know about a person is so pervasive in the States, most of us simplify our ancestral identities into a tidy little lie. 

Second, I reflect on my part in these stories. This requires me to first recognize how they are playing out now–not just in history. I try not to create displacement (my apartment was vacant for years before we bought it, in a neighborhood with high levels of vacancy). I try not to re-create economic inequities (work for less than I did elsewhere, seeking parity, adjust budgets when I can, bringing co-workers’ remuneration up). I resist the temptation to hold onto outsider privileges (relinquished my ability to vote for US president or congressional representatives in favor of voting for local Puerto Rican offices) and adjusted my diet so that I am consuming locally-grown food even when it means less variety.

I also listen to people around me and work to drip my beads of sweat onto the side of the scale that tips toward connection and away from the violent, brutal wrestling people from their homelands. I do this in partnership and relationship with local leaders, humbly following where elsewhere I might have led.

Now, this is hard, and it’s confusing, and I often get a little bit stuck. But here’s what I’m thinking so far:

  • Maybe I can help re-write story #1 as the story of reclaiming the relationship between land, the people who live on it, and how it is cared for and nourished to in turn nourish the bodies of the people who care for it. I support the authors of that story instead of those who want to pave over the island or turn it into wellness retreats for Americans or private playgrounds for visitors. Those authors are the farmers without land or capital, and those who support them, such as Fideicomiso de Tierras Comunitarias para la Agricultura Sostenible (Community Land Trust for Sustainable Agriculture) and Organización Boricuá (archipelago-wide network of agroecological farmers).
  • Maybe I can help rewrite story #2 as the story of strengthening the power of people to stay in their homes and shape their neighborhoods. The authors of that story are people who are rescuing buildings and lots that have been abandoned as worthless in the pursuit of capital and turning them into livable, workable, playable community spaces that meet the needs of people who live around them like Centro para la Reconstrucción del Hábitat. People like my late, great teacher of Plena and Bomba, Tito Matos, who together with his partner and his community rescued an abandoned school and turned it into a celebration of arts, culture, healing and gardening. People like the fierce advocates and community leaders of FURIA (firm, united and resilient with advocacy), and La Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico who are taking power by pushing community members into decision-making spaces. Instead of just shaking my head and wagging my finger at outsiders who come in with mountains of capital and wield it like a weapon, maybe I can help direct it toward their community members, the people who have a history of co-creating the communities and cultures that make this place sing, the people who have inherited knowledge from their ancestors of how to cultivate and steward the ancient ecosystems of this beautiful archipelago, so that they are making the decisions about what kinds of businesses and buildings to bolster with resources.
  • Maybe, just maybe, I can help rewrite story #3 as the story of people who collaborate to meet needs as worker-owners, who negotiate their income upon the value of products and services to customers and clients, who share profits only with colleagues and loved ones as they choose, and thus inoculate themselves from exploitation by people far away from them. Maybe there are examples of how to do this, or resources to support such work, like non-extractive capital loan funds for cooperative businesses such as Seed Commons, Our Power Loan Fund, or Ground Cover. Or there are examples right here, like the collective of residents from eight low-income communities in el Caño Martín Peña who now own their land through a trust and recently received $163 million to restore their homeland.

Those old stories, of people who arrive from outside to cause starvation and poverty, evict and displace locals, exploit and wring the lifeblood from people, are exalted in history as momentous, as warnings, and as turning points. I suspect that there are multitudes of stories of people who moved from one place to another and who brought something of value, or simply connected and joined and contributed to their new homes. These stories did not make it into the history books because they did not cause mass suffering, upheaval, or pain. I strive for my story, the story of an immigrant to Puerto Rico, to be one of those stories. That’s why I don’t want to make history.

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

Scotland 

[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.”

California

[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.”

Canada 

[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.

Moments before the beginning of the Stockholm +50 Conference, we’re launching a new briefing paper “This is the moment to go Beyond GDP”. This paper has been written by Rutger Hoekstra, author of Replacing GDP by 2030 (Cambridge press, 2019), in collaboration with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, WWF and the European Environmental Bureau.

About this paper

Around the world we are witnessing important shifts in our definition of “progress” and “development”. Since WWII, governments have largely relied on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to assess their national progress. However, GDP only tells us how much is bought and sold in an economy and nothing about our quality of life and the state of the environment.


This short briefing paper is a primer for policy-makers interested in how and why to move Beyond GDP. It summarises the debate around Beyond GDP and introduces the most relevant alternative indicators and dashboards currently in use around the world. It aims to simplify the seemingly complex Beyond GDP landscape by explaining the shared principles of these indicators and dashboards, and argues that the time has come to embed alternative measures and methods for collective progress within institutions at all levels. The briefing concludes that the Beyond GDP agenda requires a significant acceleration by policy-makers on three goals: convergence of measurement, more policy tools/uptake and participatory policy approaches.


Our upcoming WEAll Talk this month will cover the topic of what it means to be regenerative and how organisations can apply this concept to their operations and value chains. The talk will be given by our WEAll member Hannah Temple, the founder of regenerative consultancy TealCo. Don’t miss this special WEAll Talk on Thursday, June 23, at 3 p.m. UTC.

Want to make an impact in Scotland’s movement towards a wellbeing economy and get involved in the exciting work WEAll Scotland is doing?

Join our new volunteer programme!

WEAll Scotland, part of the global Wellbeing Economy Alliance, is working to change the existing economic system (which prioritises growth for growth’s sake) to a wellbeing economy (which prioritises social justice on a healthy planet).

We’re launching our new volunteer programme so more people can get directly involved with WEAll Scotland and our work. If you have skills, ideas, or perspectives you want to share with us and our movement, we’d love to hear from you.

Keep reading or watch the video below to learn more and how to apply.

How the volunteer programme works

If you join WEAll Scotland’s volunteer programme, you’ll become part of a close-knit group of people who care about the wellbeing economy movement and want to contribute to WEAll Scotland’s work.

Got comms skills? Maybe you’ll want to create a video for that new campaign we’re planning. Good with economics? You might want to share your insights with our policy lead for an upcoming report. Or maybe you are part of a community that’s often left out of systems change discussions. We’d really value your perspective.

We’re especially keen to find people who have skills and experiences in the areas below, but it’s okay if you feel you don’t fit these areas.

  • Content creation
  • Media editing
  • Policy/economics
  • Parliament/MSP engagement
  • Fundraising
  • Youth engagement
  • Project delivery
  • Admin
  • Event support (online and in-person)
  • Sector-specific knowledge (e.g., business, energy, the environment, etc.)

These are just some areas where we know we’d value additional support and perspectives, but anyone is welcome to apply, and we’d love to hear from you.

All new volunteers will receive an induction, including on wellbeing economy principles and WEAll Scotland ways of working. Just to be clear, you won’t have to commit to set hours once you’re up and running, and it’s okay if you need to take breaks due to illness, personal/work events, and anything else. Once you apply, we’ll explain all the details on an introductory call.

How to apply

We encourage anyone who would like to become more involved with WEAll Scotland and the wellbeing economy movement to apply. Here’s how.

Send a brief email to our volunteer coordinator at joey@scotland.weall.org, and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your preferred pronouns
  • Why you want to get involved with WEAll Scotland
  • What skills, experiences, or perspectives you would like to bring to the table

If email isn’t your thing, feel free to send us a video, link to a social media post, or whatever format suits you best. We just need the above information so we can learn a little more about you before setting up an introductory call.

Once we’ve received your application, we’ll review it and get back to you, most likely setting up an introductory call soon after. On this call, you’ll have a chance to learn more about the volunteer programme, including volunteer benefits and responsibilities, and you can ask questions. Finally, we’ll email you after the call to let you know if we’d like to invite you to join the volunteer programme. This also gives you a chance to reflect after the call and decide whether you’d like to proceed.

Tl;dr

Want to become a WEAll Scotland volunteer? We’d love to hear from you.

Send a brief email to our volunteer coordinator at joey@scotland.weall.org, and include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your preferred pronouns
  • Why you want to get involved with WEAll Scotland
  • What skills, experiences, or perspectives you would like to bring to the table

If email isn’t your thing, feel free to send us a video, link to a social media post, or whatever format suits you best. We just need the above information so we can learn a little more about you before setting up an introductory call.

The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is recruiting a new US Coordination Lead to work with its global Amp Team!

As WEAll expands into the United States, we are looking for a US Coordination Lead to lead WEAll’s work of connecting and accelerating the Wellbeing Economy movement in the US.

We are looking for an individual who has demonstrable strategic and influencing skills, and a passion for economic system change and working collaboratively to deliver it.

The post holder must also be adaptable, creative, good at self-management, and – due to the nature of our small, flat-structured organisation – willing and able to turn their hand to a range of tasks and projects as required to support the movement.

WEAll recognises the need for greater diversity in our team and the economic systems change movement more broadly and is committed to addressing it. If you believe you would bring greater diversity to our team, we’re particularly keen to hear from you.

Click below for more information on how to apply.

The application deadline is Sunday, June 26, 2022 at 11:59 PM UK time.