By Michael Weatherhead and Katherine Trebeck, Co-founders of WEAll
Two months into 2023, and two political leaders of countries in the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership have stood down from their roles.
It might be tempting to reach for The Importance of Being Earnest at this point, with its famous quote (adapted here), that to lose one leader may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.
If there is any carelessness, I would suggest, it is on the part of the adversarial political system in which these leaders operate and the unforgiving nature of the wider media. To choose when to leave, and to leave before they are fully burned out, I would argue, are acts of supreme self-care by both Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon. If we don’t care for ourselves, how can we possibly be in service to others.
Knowing when to leave, and knowing when you, yourself may be a distraction from the issues in front of a nation is also an act of real self-awareness.
Both leaders are founder members of WEGo (alongside Iceland with its female leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir). However, the partnership has since grown, now including Finland and Wales together with full participation by Canada and there are other countries interested in joining.
This leadership has been vital in establishing the WEGo partnership and advancing its messages – but thankfully the partnership extends far beyond political leaders. When originally conceived and established, WEGo was located at the level of senior civil servants in the respective countries – often in ministries of finance, but, demonstrating that economics needs to be broader than just finance, also ministries of social affairs, health and prime minister’s offices. This will help it navigate the changeover in leadership, in both these cases within ruling political parties, but also potentially in changes of political parties at general elections.
At WEGo’s first policy lab in April 2019 Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, said WEGo was ‘a light in the darkness’. She was referring to the government-to-government cooperation – but just as easily could have been speaking about the chinks of light seen around the world that are starting to shine on examples of wellbeing economy in practice. These are emerging in the corridors of power just as much as they are in the board rooms, design studios and factory floor of enterprises, and in the gardens, town halls, and football pitches of community initiatives.
Other bodies such as the WHO, the European Commission and multiple local authorities and councils have begun to take seriously the reality that business as usual is not good enough, all since the formation of WEGo. This means we can be confident that while these leaders’ advocation for a more compassionate economy in service to life will be missed, this message will not leave the stage together with them.
Watch Nicola Sturgeon’s TED Talk: “Why governments should prioritize well-being”
More on the Wellbeing Economy Government Partnership Program here.
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