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By Shaleen Porwal

At the start of this year, as I was navigating through the Regenerative Building Blocks of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll), I paused when I read, “People safe & healthy in their communities, rather than necessitating vast expenditures on treating, healing & fixing”. And in the definition of the health goal, it appropriately mentions, “both mental & physical.” 

Being a mental health advocate myself, this resonated so well with me. I am practising the science of Positive Psychology that focuses on what works well for people and how we can make it even better. This combination piqued my interest and paved my way to be able to contribute to the WEAll network.

The Wellbeing Economy talks about Mindsets that, “…economies should have human… wellbeing” and this encompasses the mental and emotional states besides physical safety, therefore the need permeates through all humans, irrespective of their trade and beliefs. This includes teachers.

I am focusing on teachers because they are an incredibly special group of employees who are empowered with the unique responsibility of shaping the future of a nation through their everyday interaction with young humans, who in turn will become into adults and will be taking up the responsibility of adding value to their nation, themselves, their family, and their community.

Every interaction that we have with another person, has the potential to bring about a notable change in our emotions. This change in emotions further leads to the development of thoughts and subsequently into action. Every day at a school, frequent communication channels are established between teachers and students, among teachers, and among student peers. These collaborations are vital for the functionality of performance and behaviour – students and teachers – for the continuity of “business as usual” i.e., a day in school. 

There are global reports on mental health that we have been made aware of and repercussions which we are observing in our local contexts as well, with a radical shift in the psychological state of children, teachers, and families, and that the World Health Organisation has fully acknowledged as follows: “…there has been increasing acknowledgement of the significant role mental health plays in achieving global development goals, as illustrated by the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals…”  

With the advent of the global pandemic – COVID-19 – Vulnerability, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity (‘VUCA’) are adding fuel to fire. All of us, from a national level to an individual level, are struggling through it with our fair share of challenges currently. 

However, with a solution-focused approach, I want to see the silver lining of this dark ‘VUCA’ cloud.

We have surpassed the time where we put our resources to destigmatise psychological dysfunction and make efforts for it to be viewed in the light of normalcy. There are already examples of systems, companies, and collaborations that are disintegrating because they are unable to manage the emotional states of employees – after all, the organisation comprises of humans. According to a recent news report, “Mental and emotional well-being are now one of the most important topics in many companies”.

Considering a school as an employer for the teachers, most of the psychological challenges either for teachers or for students pertain to emotions and anxiety. These non-verbal cues need unique skills and methods to tackle and address and at initial stages as a proactive mechanism. We are not in a situation to imagine a scenario where we see attrition of teachers in a similar proportion and events of school dropouts due to the negligence of mental well-being.

Therefore, it calls for:

  1. Accepting this emotional ‘Vulnerability’,
  2. Creating an ‘Understanding’ for each other and the ecosystem, 
  3. All of us coming together for ‘Collaborative’ exercise with experts and within the system, and
  4. Doing what humans have historically always been best at – ‘Adaptability’, in the face of every adversity

Thereby creating a healthy and transparent environment where the teachers and students can freely speak about their psychological challenges to appropriate authorities – a psychologically safe ecosystem with the intent of finding solutions.

As a practitioner myself, below are few recommendations:

  1. Invitation by school management and principal, for teachers to participate in designing well-being policies and systems, in partnership with well-being service providers
  2. This will help in addressing the local pain points by customising the needs of the individual school cultures
  3. Create a transparent and permeable climate for open conversations around challenges in managing psychological distress – walking the talk
  4. Proactively recording and addressing instances of signs and observation by teachers of their students through this established well-being machinery
  5. Including vocabulary, integrating practices and interventions in school curriculum – this will have a double advantage, i.e., it will be an effective strategy to enhance the mental well-being of the current workforce, as well as it will equip today’s students (future workforce) with the skillset for managing well-being in their times of distress
  6. Working on changing definitions and popular beliefs around most widely misrepresented terms like success, failure, vulnerability, emotions, and the like. 
  7. Appreciating meaningful and bigger picture initiatives taken by teachers and students

We know that we are cognitive misers and implementation of a schooling system with a psychologically safe ambience might sound financially unwanted and time-consuming, the truth is that there is no quick fix to it. It will not only save time and effort in the long run but also create a healthy systemic effect for a Wellbeing Economy to function automatically with enhanced belonging to the organisation and finding deeper meaning in education – both for students and teachers – and to the nation.

As I connect the dots backwards, I figure out that this is exactly what Goal Number 3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 talks about i.e., Target 3.4 “…promote mental health and well-being

About the author

Shaleen Porwal is a Positive Parenting and Education practitioner, based in Singapore. This blog forms part of the Faces of the Wellbeing Economy series, sharing expert opinions from across the WEAll network.

References

  1. American Psychological Association. Apa dictionary of psychology. American Psychological Association. https://dictionary.apa.org/cognitive-miser. 
  2. American Psychological Association. Apa dictionary of psychology. American Psychological Association. https://dictionary.apa.org/positive-psychology. 
  3. Brown Brené. (2019). Dare to lead: Brave work, tough conversations, whole hearts. Random House Large Print Publishing. 
  4. Chuan, W. P. (2021, July 16). Commentary: The coming resignation tsunami – why many may leave their jobs in a pandemic economy. CNA. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/commentary/resign-quit-new-job-office-remote-work-employer-hr-covid-19-2052156. 
  5. Edmondson, A. C. (2019). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons. 
  6. Singer, T. & Ricard, M. (2015). Caring economics. Picador. 
  7. WEAll. (2021, March 18). Home. Wellbeing Economy Alliance. https://weall.org/
  8. What vuca really means for you. Harvard Business Review. (2014, August 1). https://hbr.org/2014/01/what-vuca-really-means-for-you. 
  9. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Mental health. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_1. 

Nested between the current core sectors of the economy: Government, For-Profit Business and Non-Profit Organisations, the newly evolving 4th Sector is a space for business to be a force for change. It leverages both business and profit to benefit people and the planet.

We are in dire need of innovative solutions to ensure we rebuild our economy better than it was before COVID-19.

Our new WEAll Member, 4th Sector, believes that in order to Build Back Better, we must harness the power and potential of the 4th sector to address our most pressing challenges, ranging from quality healthcare for all, to unemployment, education, digital access, housing, poverty, structural inequality, climate change, and more!

With this in mind, 4th Sector has launched a way for you to get involved in the development of a new economy: the Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon!

The Hackathon is designed to support governments to prioritise spending in service of the common good and spur the development of effective policy solutions that governments can deploy.

Over the next few weeks, 4th Sector, will be accepting new participants to ideate solutions that support a better economy – and thus, world.

There are a number of Policy Issue Areas, ranging from agriculture, to democracy, trade, transformation, and Youth. Check out the online platform, submit your policy and let’s move from ideas into action.

  • A number of solutions for a better economy have already been submitted, including:
  • Digital and connected technology to improve access to healthcare
  • Shifting mainstream investment practices towards an impact-centered model
  • Capacity building for careers in purpose-driven economy
  • Land mobilisation and livelihood initiatives through Tribal Leadership
  • Critical 21st-century digital literacy for all
  • New Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms to achieve the targets of Zero emissions
  • Investment into the creative economy to support artists

Join the 4th Sector community in the development of a better economy by signing up to participate in the ‘Building a Better Economy Policy Hackathon’.

For more information on 4th sector, visit their website or find them on Twitter and Linkedin.

By Liz Zeidler, Founding Director of Centre for Thriving Places

It’s safe to say that leading economists, environmentalists and political leaders rarely agree. But from the OECD Director General Angel Gurria, to Jeffrey Sachs and George Monbiot and many more, there are a growing number of powerful voices saying that some form of wellbeing economics is vital for a better future.

Few in the WEAll membership would disagree with this view of course, and thankfully it is increasingly not just an academic or theoretical discussion. Real progress is being made at a national level in pioneering countries around the world. From New Zealand to Scotland, Iceland to Wales, small nation states are starting to shift the compass from growth-at-any-cost to a new model of prosperity centred on wellbeing.

But there is a challenge at the heart of this progress, in that the unifying factor in these countries is size.  Smaller nations are innovating, taking some political risk and showing courageous leadership in this space in a way that larger are not. For those of us living and working outside of these pockets of progress, do we need simply to wait and hope?

Centre for Thriving Places (and under its previous name Happy City) has been tackling this challenge for over 10 years. It was clear even back in 2010 that it was never going to be easy to get national or global agreement to shift to a wellbeing economy approach. The transition needs cross-party, cross-sector, cross departmental and cross-generational collaboration.   New ways of thinking and doing, and new measures of progress are needed to build a credible base on which to deliver change. These are currently hard to come by in major national government environments.

Momentum can and must be built by pioneering people and places, at a local level and a national scale. The Thriving Places Index is designed to make this practical and achievable and it is being used by a growing number of Local Authorities, funders, community programmes and far-sighted businesses across the UK.

The approach needs to be as relevant to the mayor of a major city as they are to a junior community development worker on the frontline of tackling complex social and environmental challenges, so the TPI at its most fundamental level asks three powerful and unifying questions:

  • Are we creating the right local conditions for people to thrive?
  • Are we doing this equitably so everyone has the chance to thrive?
  • Are we doing this sustainably so future generations can also thrive?

Published annually for all Local Authority areas in England and Wales, the TPI is an asset based framework, drawing in a broad range of data from different recognised sources. It paints a meaningful picture of what supports the wellbeing of communities, and what can be done locally to improve it.

In every corner of the UK there are clear strengths and challenges when you look through a sustainable wellbeing lens. By providing comprehensive, but clear and comparable data for all local authority areas, the TPI allows learning to be shared, and a collaborative approach to systemic issues to be fostered.  It is a rigorous and accessible way to support local decision makers across sectors to assess and prioritise policy and practice, based on the impact it has on the wellbeing and sustainability of people and communities.

Whilst a national focus on wellbeing set by central or devolved government  is something to be celebrated, it’s not a prerequisite for beginning to make the change that we want to see.   Let’s not sit by and watch as levels of inequality spiral and the climate emergency deepens, waiting for the national political and legislative environment to support a new way of governing. Pioneering leaders from all sectors need to show the courage to innovate a new approach where they are now – one focused on growing our capacity to thrive, now and for generations to come.

 

About the Thriving Places Index: The 2020 results for Local Authorities in England and Wales are now live at www.thrivingplacesindex.org – head there to explore the data and find out more ways to get involved – wherever you are.  

The Thriving Places Index is delivered by the Centre for Thriving Places and supported by Triodos Bank.

About the author: Liz is an internationally recognised leader in sustainable wellbeing with over 20 years of experience in connecting, challenging and supporting change-makers. She has been a key part of the development of all Centre for Thriving Place’s wellbeing measurement tools and approaches. She is a globally in-demand speaker and advisor on community wellbeing and place-based approaches to measuring, understanding and improving wellbeing in all sectors.

Photography by Gareth Iwan Jones www.garethiwanjones.com

By Donnie Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute 

The coronavirus outbreak makes one thing abundantly clear: we’re interconnected and in this together.

Yet our greatest vulnerability comes from a system in which money, resources, and power have accumulated for far too long.

For those in positions of privilege, here are 10 steps you can take to restore the circulation that all living systems need in order to thrive:

  1. Be outstandingly generous to those disproportionately impacted. Consider your privilege and actively support communities that don’t generally have an accumulation of resources, are discriminated against, or are overlooked: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps people understand who is most affected, helps us allocate resources more efficiently and helps to right systemic wrongs. (See here how the coronavirus outbreak affects Black people disproportionately)
  2. Reduce rents for tenants and small businesses. Don’t evict. Delay rental payments. Rent vacant properties. This allows everyone to maintain homes and businesses through challenging times. (See here how this landlord is offering financial relief)
  3. Freeze or cancel loan and bill repayments from individuals and small businesses. At a minimum, put a hold on accruing interest or penalties, and extend loan and bill repayment dates. Offer no-collateral, zero-interest or depreciating loans to individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit enterprises in need. This ensures that we don’t penalize people and businesses because of unforeseen circumstances. (See here how the U.S. administration has temporarily halted interest payments on federally-held student loans)
  4. Support your employees and teams. Provide or advocate for: remote working opportunities (where possible); childcare support; paid sick leave; flextime; early and unplanned bonuses; and an employment guarantee for the coming months. Reduce the top-to-bottom salary ratio. Reject racism and have extra patience with inefficiencies, mistakes, stress and tension with your employees and colleagues. This provides people with security and a better ability to cope with work and family demands. (See here how this company is shutting down its stores but continuing to pay all its employees)
  5. Keep your money local. Purchase from nearby businesses, especially those smaller in size. Tip generously. Purchase gift cards and pre-pay for future services. Support people whose activities and events are being cancelled — through online purchases, subscriptions and patronage. Decline refunds or donate refunded money to an associated cause. Move your personal and company’s money to a local credit union or community bank. This keeps money moving within our communities, and services operational. (See here for comprehensive data on why doing business locally matters)
  6. Increase your charitable giving. Offer before people ask. Provide support to individuals, families and frontline social services, as well as those working to create a more equitable and resilient economic system. If you benefit from investment fluctuations, use the gains to finance your generosity, and donate stock to nonprofits. This reduces the likelihood of people falling through the cracks. (See here how some leaders are ramping up their giving right now)
  7. Volunteer virtually and in-person (where safe). Offer online support to nonprofits and check in via phone or social media with people who might feel particularly alone. Where social distancing is possible, volunteer at your local food bank, shelter or other frontline service provider and pick up shopping, post mail, or offer childcare for people in need. Donate blood (if you’re healthy). This gives everyone an opportunity to take action. (See here for hundreds of virtual volunteering opportunities)
  8. Share spare resources. Make an inventory of your supplies and a timeline for distributing what you’re willing to share. Drop off food, essential items, high-end healthcare products, and gift cards to individuals, your local food bank, meal delivery groups and other supportive services. Share excess produce from your land and provide access to your yard or property for a community garden to emerge. This ensures there is enough for everyone, and that resources aren’t idle. (See here how hundreds of Mutual Aid Networks are mobilizing in response to the coronavirus)
  9. Support aligned programs and legislative proposals. Champion programs and laws that support tenants, small businesses, workers, and nonprofits, while prioritizing assistance for: the elderly, sick or infirmed; healthcare workers; single parents; undocumented, underemployed, self-employed, contract, gig, low-wage or laid-off workers; ; Black, Indigenous and People of Color; immigrants; the homeless and displaced; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals; veterans; people with disability; and LGBTQ+ populations. This helps reinforce the structural changes our system needs. (See here how Twitter has banned hateful speech around age, disability and disease)
  10. Lead by example. Inspire others with privilege to follow you. This creates a snowball effect. (See here how this woman’s coronavirus campaign is inspiring #viralkindness)

With thanks to the following people, from around the world, who helped crowd-edit this article: Dien Vo, Natalie HolmesCrystal ArnoldKatia SolTía Laída Fé, Victoria Saint, Claire Sommer, J’aime Powell, Bonnie Cohen, and Kokayi Nosakhere.

This article has been reposted verbatim from Medium

By Jussi Ahokas

Finland took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union this autumn (from 1 July to 31 December). The timing of Finland’s third EU Presidency has been very interesting. The European Parliament election took place in May and during the autumn the construction of the new European Commission has been under way. The future choices of Europe and the next steps for policies of the European Union have been widely discussed. Hence, more room than usual has been opened for envisioning and reflection – what should be the desirable future path for the whole continent and the union of European nation states?

As the chair of the Council Finland has tried to seize the opportunity by bringing new initiatives to the European policy discussions. Most importantly, Finnish Ministry of Social affairs and Health introduced the Economy of Wellbeing policy approach that emphasises the fact that increasing the wellbeing of people creates positive outcomes for the economy. This in turn allows new investments to increase wellbeing, inclusion and participation. Thus, the Economy of Wellbeing presents the positive cumulative causation, or the virtuous circle, which will lead to the improving people’s capabilities to live good lives.

During the autumn many interesting events under the theme of Economy of Wellbeing have been organized. The high-level conference of Economy of Wellbeing in September in Helsinki brought together politicians, civil servants, researchers and civil society actors from different European countries. Economy of Wellbeing as a new policy approach was enthusiastically welcomed and almost all discussants seemed to be inspired by the concept. Later in October the EU council adopted conclusions on the Economy of Wellbeing which also portrayed the European wide interest on the new policy approach.

The civil society actors had important role in the high-level conference raising also somewhat critical voices on the current situation in Europe and the policy efforts of the EU. For example, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and the Social Platform – European NGOs that organized their own events in Helsinki earlier in that week – reminded the participants that the guiding idea and policy goal of Economy of Wellbeing should be people’s wellbeing and that economy is only a tool for making this happen.

From the perspective of SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health the message of EAPN and the Social Platform was of great importance. Indeed, in Finland SOSTE introduced the concept of Wellbeing Economy already in 2012 and slowly it has drawn more general attention in Finnish society. Before the EU presidency SOSTE was in close dialogue with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and it can be argued that the initiative of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe has its roots in civil society. This is a very good example of the power that NGOs and civil society can have in developing new visions and approaches that could change policies in the EU in the long-term.

The critical stance of NGOs – that the wellbeing of the people should always be the primary policy goal – has much importance, because the Economy of Wellbeing approach presented by the Ministry is also concerned over the “wellbeing” of the economy. There is a risk of “business as usual” being legitimised by the argument that besides the wellbeing of the people, we also need economic growth and sustainable public finances to achieve our goals. Hence, in time of an economic crises even austerity measures could be legitimised with Economy of Wellbeing approach.

Another important critique is the lack of – or at least too small – role for ecological and environmental perspectives. It is impossible to deny that at the time of climate crisis (and other ecological crises) the wellbeing of our planet is the most important policy issue and by neglecting it, we are not able to secure the wellbeing of people in our societies.

Therefore, it is very important that civil society actors continue to battle over the concept of Economy of Wellbeing in Europe. In the best scenario the initiative will bring us more policy space to build an actual Wellbeing Economy. An economic and social model that puts the wellbeing of all people and our planet first.

Mr. Jussi Ahokas is Chief Economist for SOSTE Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health – SOSTE is a member of WEAll