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WEAll is a collaboration of changemakers working together to transform the economic system. We have over 350 organizations, alliances and movements, and over thousands of individuals involved in all five continents.
WEAll’s vision is that economies around the world are redesigned to create shared wellbeing for people and the planet by 2040.
WEAll’s mission is to change the debate and build momentum for economic transformation so that economies around the world deliver shared wellbeing for people and the planet.
WEAll’s underpinning value is that collaboration and togetherness define our destination and also how we get there. The transformation required calls for an entirely different way of being within human society: a shift from “us vs them” to “WE All”.
WEAll has three streams of work:
- Strengthening, supporting, and connecting existing geographic and thematic power bases at all levels of society, in priority countries, that together have the power to change the current global economic system.
- Curating and democratising knowledge that demonstrate the viability of a Wellbeing Economy approach, to influence change in local, national, and global arenas, as well as set the agenda for governments and institutions to sequence just transitions to Wellbeing Economies.
- Co-creating new, powerful narratives of hope to change the debate and mobilise millions of people of all ages and from all walks of life to act at local, national, and global levels in support of a shift to a Wellbeing Economy.
Evidence from successful system change shows that it is necessary to combine all three approaches simultaneously. A Wellbeing Economy movement is needed to drive change at all levels of the economic system, to influence societal values and norms, and above all, to inspire a sense that change is both necessary and possible.
‘What is needed’ is clear to many groups and academics, and to large numbers of citizens. ‘How to make it happen’, however, is the key issue yet to be addressed. All the evidence from successful system change shows that individual policies and great exemplars are simply not enough. What is vital for systems change is a critical mass of people and organisations coming together to form a dynamic movement to influence and inspire.
WEAll was founded to unite otherwise fragmented, under-resourced and fragile components of the new economy ecosystem: linking all layers within the system, from individuals to institutions, and local to global.
Solid, new power bases are the central element and the backbone of our theory of change, while collaborative narratives and knowledge creation amongst the alliance serve as the nutrients that feed the ecosystem with strategic vision, tools and understanding, and persuasive capacity to affect large-scale change. We’re pooling resources and brainpower from thousands of changemakers around the world to work towards a common vision, put knowledge into practice, and make the Wellbeing Economy become common sense.
WEGo is the world’s only living laboratory of governments implementing wellbeing economic policies at scale. It was initiated by WEAll and counts on our continuous support, although it operates separately and in a self-organizing manner, with the Scottish government providing secretariat support. Current members of WEGo are Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Wales, Finland and Canada. Their aims are to deepen their understanding, co-create and test alternative visions of development, and more powerfully advance their shared ambition of building Wellbeing Economies.
WEAll Hubs are place-based, cross-sector groups who are working within their communities to co-create narratives and knowledge that are relevant to local contexts, and to offer a platform for organisations and individuals working locally to drive economic systems change. While the WEAll Hubs are key partners to WEAll and have a fundamental role in bringing to the global stage their experiences, solutions and stories, to inspire and support action across the movement, WEAll hubs are independent of WEAll and are self-organising.
There are currently hubs in California, Canada, Cymru-Wales, Netherlands, Aotearoa – New Zealand, Brazil, Mendoza – Argentina, Australia, Iberia, Ireland, East Africa and Scotland.
WEAll’s funding comes from a variety of sources:
a) Foundations, including Partners for a New Economy, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Christopher Reynolds Foundation;
b) Donations from individuals; and
c) Some of our members provide a voluntary ‘fee’, if they are able to, upon joining WEAll.
We are grateful that many people give their time for free as volunteers with WEAll, particularly within our hubs and in WEAll Youth.
WEAll hubs manage their own budgets and funding, with some of them (including WEAll Scotland) operating as separate registered charities.
- Learn more on the WEAll website and follow us on social media.
- Join WEAll’s membership as an organisational or individual member and participate in our working groups.
- Join the WEAll Citizens platform and connect with like-minded people in your local area or around a topic you are interested in.
- Join a hub. We have multiple active local hubs across the world, working on issues specific to that area. These involve businesses, government and civil society. Check the full listing of hubs at: www.weall.org/hubs
- Volunteer with WEAll, one of our hubs, or member organisations.
- Learn about a Wellbeing Economy. A good place to start is the WEAll resources page.
- Talk about it to your friends and colleagues – help people ask more questions about the economy and see the possibility of change.
- Be generous with your time, skills and resources.
- Write to your political representatives and demand that they prioritise wellbeing over GDP.
- Think about your shopping, investing, work lives and any changes you can make there.
- Get involved with WEAll! (see question above)
An economy designed to deliver quality of life and flourishing for all people, in harmony with our environment. It puts the five core needs of people and planet listed below at the centre of its activities, ensuring they are met the first time around:
- Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness;
- Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life;
- Purpose: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good;
- Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced;
- Participation: Citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies.
In other words, the vision of a Wellbeing Economy is a world where everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety, and happiness. Where all people feel secure in their basic comforts and can use their creative energies to support the flourishing of all life on this planet. Where we thrive in a restored, safe, and vibrant natural environment because we have learned to give back as much as we are given. A world where we have a voice over our collective destiny and find belonging, meaning and purpose through genuine connection to the people and planet that sustain us.
This is not a new idea
The shared vision for a better way of doing things can be found across a surprising range of texts and backgrounds: it is even embedded in the scripts of many religions.
It is contained in worldviews of traditional and indigenous communities. It can be read in the scholarship of development experts and in research findings about what makes people content.
This vision echoes in evidence from psychology about human needs and from neuroscience about what makes our brains react, and, perhaps most importantly, can be heard loud and clear in deliberative conversations and polls with people all over the world about what really matters to them in their lives.
A Wellbeing Economy approach will have a different impact on a variety of issue areas, ranging from environmental breakdown to the food and justice system.
Our ‘Old Way to New Way’ resource sets out Wellbeing Economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives, in contrast to how the existing economic model responds to such challenges.
Key differences include people having more time, doing more meaningful work, consuming less stuff, caring for people, repairing things instead of buying and throwing away, and restoring nature rather than digging out fossil fuels.
The economy is not an abstract concept, it is a concrete set of activities through which we produce and provide for each other. We often think of the economy as fixed and unchangeable – but it’s not. People created the rules around flows of money and growth of these flows.
Building a Wellbeing Economy requires changing the rules of the game and redesigning our institutions, our infrastructure and our laws. This can be done through a simultaneously bottom-up and top-down approach.
- Governments need to change the laws, taxes, and so on in order to incentivise different behaviour and facilitate the changes that are needed. They cannot do so single-handedly either and the design of these new policies should be created through participatory processes, as outlined by our Policy Design Guide.
- Businesses need to harness commercial viability to deliver solutions to society’s needs. They also need to push governments to favour locally rooted, sustainable and positive impact enterprises, and to inspire customers to follow their values.
- Trade unions need to lobby employers and governments to prioritise wellbeing, especially with regard to ensuring that all jobs have decent conditions and pay people enough to live on.
- NGOs working on one of the many facets of the Wellbeing Economy need to collaborate based on their common core goals.
- Motivated citizens can spread the word and work for change across all areas of their lives, talking to friends and colleagues, voting for parties that support a Wellbeing Economy, taking part in demonstrations, buying from social enterprises, taking action within their communities, etc.
All of these are interdependent, and we need to create a dynamic where all of these avenues reinforce each other.
Power comes in many different shapes and forms. The world has often been changed by a group of committed individuals, by social movements and by visionaries.
There are many leaders in business, society, government and institutions around the world who believe in the Wellbeing Economy vision and recognise that change is needed. They need our support to act from where they sit.
- Often starting conversations by connecting on a human level rather than on areas of disagreement can mean the conversation doesn’t slip into opposing “sides” and can thus be more constructive.
- We need to come together, get organised, get all the organisations and people on board who are already working on this, make our voice heard and put pressure on those powerful people until they have no choice than to listen and join the conversation.
- For those who might be blocking change, we need to find ways around them – by working with those who do want to change and showing what is possible and desirable. Thomas Khun, the systems thinker, advises not to waste time with reactionaries who won’t change.
There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy.
- The principles for designing a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere but the shape, institutions and activities that get us there can be very diverse and will look different in different places, as will the opportunities and barriers to navigate.
- This applies both across different countries but also across different localities and communities within countries.
- Our case studies section point to several ways in which specific governments, communities and organisations have been promoting economic systems change.
Unlike GDP, which counts the cost of treating and cleaning up the collateral damage from the current economy as a success, alternatives would align with what people and the planet really need.
There are many frameworks from other movements that measure different aspects of society, such as the Genuine Progress Index, Happy Planet index, Humankind Index, UN’s Social Development Goals. Frameworks that pay attention to a range of dimensions of wellbeing (subjective and objective) are preferable, as is avoiding reducing wellbeing to simply how individuals report feeling at a moment in time.
Examples of different measurement frameworks in action:
- New Zealand (part of WEGo) introduced its first Wellbeing Economy budget
- Santa Monica has a wellbeing index
- Bhutan uses the Gross National Happiness (GNH) measure
- The UK’s Social Value Act, which measures the social value of public services.
OECD’s Better Life Index
In short, they’re usually complementary.
For example, Doughnut Economics is a brilliant visual and conceptual way to show the relationship between important environmental and social considerations and how to measure them. It is resonating especially with localities in higher income countries that have overshot planetary boundaries without meeting basic needs of society. The Doughnut is part of the Wellbeing Economy movement we’re bringing together, and WEAll has been working with Kate Raworth since the very beginning.
All our members are working in different fronts, in different layers of the system, and in different specialisations. Some are experimental still, some have evidence that they work, but no one or no tool alone offers a bullet-proof solution to getting to a Wellbeing Economy. That is why our work as a network and all the collaborations we promote are so important, so that we may collectively build on each other’s experiences and advance the movement.
Our current prevailing economic system has four interlinked and systemic flaws. It is unsustainable (we are using more from the planet than can be regenerated, threatening the existence of all species), unfair (those at the top get more and more) , unstable (facing cyclical crises) and creates unhappiness (with far too many people left behind and not feeling valued or valuable).
We are facing huge inequalities, environmental breakdown, and multiple conflicts as a result of the many interconnected crises that are rooted in our economic system.
Research done at the University of Leeds found that ‘No country in the world currently meets the basic needs of its citizens at a globally sustainable level of resource use’. The research quantifies the national resource use associated with achieving a good life for over 150 countries. It shows that meeting the basic needs of all people on the planet would result in humanity transgressing multiple environmental limits, based on current relationships between resource use and human well-being.
According to the World Hunger Statistics 2020 report, 1 out of 9 people in the world go to bed with an empty stomach every night. Worse even, 1 in 3 suffer from malnutrition.
While millions of people fell into extreme poverty during Covid-19, there were 578 new billionaires in the world by March 2022. According to an IPCC report, the lives of over 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, or half of humanity, are endangered due to global warming., as the Earth heats over 1.5 degrees celsius.
Economic growth, or GDP growth–increasing production and consumption year after year–has led us to overshoot 7 out of 9 planetary boundaries, or safe limits for survival, meaning that we have gone over our planet’s capacity to sustain life as we know it. Many people believe that the answer is absolute decoupling from the factors like carbon emissions that are causing these overshoots and if this is achieved, then infinite economic growth is possible. However all the evidence shows that such absolute decoupling is impossible to achieve even factoring in major technological breakthroughs. To sustain life on Earth, there cannot be infinite economic growth.
Over the last centuries, growth has brought progress in some areas, when the fruits of growth have been used well – i.e. to invest in collective institutions such as health and education – but gains have happened at a high cost, since all growth has been based on exploitation of both the planet and people.
The current dominant market was designed with a certain logic/algorithm, meticulously regulated and maintained by those in power – it is a political project. That’s why we see widening economic inequalities; increasing levels of insecurity, despair and loneliness; and the emergence of coping mechanisms that turn people inwards or against each other – all while trust in institutions withers away.
Our current socio-economic model is failing because, while it claims to deliver good lives, it does so by taking the long way round. The approach can be described in three steps1:
- Get the economy to grow bigger, but don’t fret too much about the damage to people or the environment that this does.
- Second, sequester a chunk out of this economy via taxes.
- Third, channel some of this money into helping people and the planet to cope with step number 1.
The limits of this approach are clear: it implicitly concedes to damage and harm being done to people and planet, and it relies on reparative measures that cannot keep up, so harm is inadequately remedied. It is not enough to just add modifiers like ‘inclusive’ or ‘green’ to our current growth model. We need to change its underlying logic.
There are multiple issues with the GDP measure. The first is that it doesn’t take into account inequality or distribution of wealth. The second is that GDP does not measure what matters most to people, giving us a very narrow view of success. GDP essentially counts how quickly we can turn natural resources and people’s efforts into money, not where it’s gotten us as a society..
Robert Kennedy said: GDP ‘measures everything except that which is worthwhile’. GDP ‘counts air pollution and cigarette advertising … the loss of our natural wonder… nuclear warheads… Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.’
An example of the incongruence of GDP is that it counts for profits from deforestation, but not its costs, since it doesn’t put any value on living forests, which manufacture an essential condition for life: oxygen. GDP also does not account for domestic work or care, despite its contribution to society.
Thirdly, and related to the previous point, GDP creates perverse incentives for policy makers. It doesn’t go up when people are kept healthy and safe; but it does rise when money has to be spent on treatments for ill-health or security, defence and so on. It does not celebrate prevention of harm, but instead counts as progress the responses to harm that has been caused.We can do much better than this.
A Wellbeing Economy would encompass and measure everything that matters to people: our environment (natural and built), health (mental and physical), participation, trust in institutions, the work we do, the lifestyles we live, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and so on. With these accounted for, our cost-benefit analyses would be more realistic and broader than narrow and short term criteria, and lead to better decision-making, prioritising actions that truly have wider benefits for people and the planet.
In a Wellbeing Economy, we would focus on working for the direct benefit of human and ecological wellbeing (providing better public services, retrofitting homes and restoring natural habitats) and creating more time for leisure.
In a Wellbeing Economy, everybody’s needs will be met whether they are in paid work or not. It means nobody will need to do a low-quality, low-paid job just to pay the bills.
What will work look like in a Wellbeing Economy?
- Work will be better quality, better paid and better shared, to reduce extremes of overwork and lack of work.
- Shorter work weeks/hours: With technological progress, we can now produce our necessities with much less labour than at any time in the past – even Winston Churchill thought that our society would evolve to 4-day (or less) weeks, and Keynes predicted that we’d be working 15-hour workweeks.
- In a Wellbeing Economy, people will be less dependent on others for work. For example, they would be encouraged and supported to start their own activities and to collaborate with others in worker-owned cooperatives.
- Work would support people’s lives and protect the environment.
In a Wellbeing Economy, we would not prioritise the creation of jobs for jobs sake, but the creation of meaningful work. In our current system, many people feel that their job should not or need not exist (‘bullshit jobs’). The shift to a Wellbeing Economy also means asking fundamental questions about the nature and value of different types of work. For example, why is it that we value people’s hard work in jobs and industries that don’t create value (e.g. finance) so much more highly than the work done by people caring for others and doing essential work (e.g. childcare, domestic work, recycling)?
We recognise that achieving a Wellbeing Economy is a massive challenge. The current ideas and rules driving our destructive economy are deeply embedded and there are powerful vested interests working against the goals of a Wellbeing Economy.
However, it is unscientific to think that the economic model we currently have is one we can continue with, because it irreversibly damages the planet and harms people around the world.
We’re in a system which assumes that just because growth-based systems have worked sometimes in some places, that it is automatically the right model for the future. And that’s dangerous for 3 reasons:
- Diminishing marginal returns – After a certain threshold, we see diminishing returns (to better lives) from additional income.
- Failure demand – much of the growth recorded as GDP is actually defensive, reactive spending (‘cleaning up’ after problems created i.e. tax credits for low wage earners).
- Pseudo satisfiers – we use consumerism to satisfy our very natural human need for social connection; but this will never satisfy our needs, perpetuating the issue.
Our obsession with growth has many downsides, including impacts on health that the system doesn’t account for. High pressure work environments and long work-hours drive burnout and mental health issues. That is actually a greater risk to the success of an economy – we can’t burn out all of our workforce!
Studies, such as the nation-wide experiment conducted in Iceland, show that healthier workers and shorter work weeks actually result in better performance.
And at a higher level, companies that take a triple bottom line approach, looking after their employees, communities and the planet along with profit generation, actually outperform those companies that don’t.
Currently, governments spend a lot of money and energy on fixing the harm done by our growth-driven economic system. The costs of this ‘failure demand’ are enormous. For example, poverty in the UK alone costs £78 billion every year. Other examples of costs that would be eliminated in a Wellbeing Economy:
- Redistributing after the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest has opened up.
- Providing temporary housing for people who cannot afford a home.
- Cleaning up after floods and storms caused by climate change.
- Providing respiratory medicines after peoples’ asthma is exacerbated by pollution.
- Health care costs, crime-related costs, intergenerational costs and other opportunity costs associated with poverty and inequality, as shown in our Failure Demand report.
A Wellbeing Economy is about a wholesale transformation of the way we work and live to prevent that damage and reparations have to be paid int he first place.
- Some aspects of this transformation will need more money from the government (better public services, guaranteeing social security)
- Other aspects of this transformation will save the government money
- Lowered public health costs due to a healthier population
- Less need for policing and the military
- Rapidly decreasing costs of renewable energy and batteries
- The transformation benefits business
- A 4-day work week has been proven to increase productivity i.e. 40% at Microsoft
- A Universal Basic Income could increase entrepreneurial activity, as shown by pilots in Zambia and Mexico
- A Universal Basic Income could de-risk social entrepreneurship
Analysis shows that we with certain policy changes, we have enough money to address the SDGs, the pandemic, the climate transition and reparations for slavery.
- Over the next 10 years, the globe needs $9.410 trillion each year to repay the costs of the pandemic, to fight climate change, to pay US slavery reparations and to tackle the sustainable development goals. 🡪 INCOME FROM PROPOSALS: $9.457 trillion
- We have the resources to do this.The global annual revenue from just ten progressive policies listed below will raise $9.457 trillion annually – enough to pay these cos
Our current system allows for extreme wealth inequality and deems it fair. We seem to have lost track of what’s actually valuable in and for society. Does a CEO or founder like Jeff Bezos contribute that much more than his lowest paying worker to justify their income gap and his fiscal paradise?
Inequality is not only ethically questionable, but also socially and politically dangerous. Inequality is a driving cause of violence, polarization and societal instability–not to mention its effect on productivity, to those that mind it.
We also seem to have lost a sense of ‘what is enough?’ After a certain point, there are diminishing returns to increasing wealth (for individuals and for society). If it’s not actually adding extra value to the wealthy or if it is hurting their mental health, it would be better off to redistribute so everyone has enough to survive.
All surveys show that excessive wealth creation isn’t necessarily benefiting the mental health or happiness of the ultra rich. In fact, ultra rich people score lower on wellbeing, meaning they are extremely unhappy. A Wellbeing Economy would balance this.
In a Wellbeing Economy, people would still be free to work hard and earn wealth and be rewarded for their efforts. The focus is organising the economy and its underlying principles so that it is fairer and everyone benefits from the economy, not just a few people.
By the way, wealth was never meant to mean money. ‘Wealth’ comes from the old English ‘weal’, which means ‘THE CONDITIONS OF WELLBEING’. Weal is in turn related to the older word ‘wel’, meaning ‘in a state of good fortune, welfare, or happiness’. By 1430, the use of the term settled around the idea of riches and prosperity, leaving behind the older meanings of wider wellbeing and health.
“WEAll”, short for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, looks a lot like that old word ‘weal’ – a beautiful coincidence.
Even if philanthropy has helped improve some problems, its scale is totally inadequate. There are also major problems with philanthropy – including the fact that it is voluntary and that means that a few people are guiding the agenda and where these funds are flowing. For example, very little philanthropic work is directed to labour rights.
A Wellbeing Economy would allow all of us to collectively decide how money is spent, and how decisions that impact all of us are made. This is more democratic and equitable – inclusive of especially racialised communities, who have historically been excluded from the conversation and agenda setting.