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By Lisa Hough-Stewart

What could economic system transformation mean for women and non-binary people? 

This was the question at the heart of the discussion convened on September 7 by WEAll, Caroline Lucas’ office and Kat Davis of Flip Finance.

WEAll has been working since May with Caroline Lucas’ team to promote the ongoing petition urging the UK Government to prioritise Wellbeing Economy approaches and ideas. We wanted to use the petition campaign to explore different aspects of what a Wellbeing Economy means in greater depth. This event was our mechanism to do so in relation to gender.

Recognising that the power structures of the current economic system often play out in how we engage with each other, the event was structured carefully to distribute power and space as evenly as possible.

After an introduction to Wellbeing Economy ideas from Dr Katherine Trebeck, the audience heard from four UK-based speakers who are actively working to bring about economic system change. Beautifully led by Kat Davis, there was an emphasis on the lived experiences of women and non-binary people throughout the discussion. 

Dr Milena Buchs (University of Leeds) shared her experiences as an academic, reflecting on the fact that academic funding and priorities increasingly mirror the economic system. Work is prioritised based on monetary value rather than societal value. She also advised that women need to challenge and avoid adopting the sorts of masculine behaviours endemic in the current system.

Denisha Killoh (WEAll Scotland and Includem) said that “this system is dominated by the pale, male and stale – it has been designed by them to serve them”. She emphasised the need to build a Wellbeing Economy that is meaningfully designed by and for those communities most impacted and marginalised by the current system.

Anna Fielding (Economic Change Unit) was open about her personal experiences being marginalised by the economic and healthcare systems, whilst also reflecting on her relative privilege as a white cisgendered woman. She said: “Wellbeing Economics is an idea and a movement that means the elite could no longer monopolise resources and power at the expense of everyone else. That makes it a dangerous idea, which is why I love it.”

Nonhlanhla Makuyan (Decolonising Economics) reflected on the original definition of “economy” as “the management of home” – and how we associate home (but not currently economics) with safety, comfort, relationships and feelings. She challenged: “What else can we expect this system to do other than extract” when it was built on exploitation and slavery in the first place?

Audience members were then able to share their own stories of how the current economic system has interacted with gender to impact them. Some of the themes that emerged were:

  • The struggle to balance caring responsibilities with work, and the lack of value placed on care roles
  • Being made to feel that economics was nothing to do with them
  • Credibility being brought into question, with views invalidated if they don’t conform to the norms of the system
  • Unequal pay and opportunities along gender lines
  • The intersection of existing inequalities with the pandemic has intensified challenges.

They also shared their hopes for what could be different in a Wellbeing Economy, imagining that it would mean:

  • True equality
  • Valuing care and embedding caring values
  • Everyone is meaningfully listened to
  • A system that is designed with a gender lens from the start, rather than treating intersectionality as an add-on
  • Female and non-binary leadership.

Finally, two “Keynote Listeners” reflected on everything they’d heard and possible ways forward.

Caroline Lucas MP praised the privileging of lived experience in the event, noting that the challenges of gender, race and disability shared by the speakers are interconnected symptoms of the extractive, exploitative economic system. She said: “The Wellbeing Economy gets at the causes of problems rather than symptoms, this binds together so many of the causes we’re involved in.”

Mandu Reid (leader of the Women’s Equality Party) said: “When I look at what slavishly following GDP has done, it’s a betrayal, particularly of younger generations. The economy neglects, overlooks, undervalues and ignores the contributions of women and non-binary people.” However, she is hopeful that we have the potential to correct our course and build a caring, Wellbeing Economy.

This is just a flavour of the powerful discussion – you can watch the full event on YouTube here or just hit play below:

If you are a UK resident, sign the petition – it needs to reach 100,000 signatures before 26 September to force a debate about the Wellbeing Economy in Parliament.

Whether you are in the UK or not, share it with your friends who live there!

Thank you to the incredible contributors and to the audience for sharing their stories so openly. The discussion was energising and uplifting, but it also laid bare just how deep the damage of the current economic system goes when you view it through a gender lens. The good news is, we can and must redesign this system so that it works for everyone – and the ideas shared in this discussion provide a place to start.

A petition campaign is underway in the UK, demanding that the government at Westminster prioritises a shift to a Wellbeing Economy.

Launched by Brighton campaigner Laura Sharples, the petition seeks to garner 100,000 signatures by September so that the need for a Wellbeing Economy will be debated in Parliament.

WEAll’s Katherine Trebeck was part of the campaign launch event on 1 April, hosted by Caroline Lucas MP and featuring Beth Stratford (Leeds University), Clive Lewis MP, and Laura Sharples. You can watch the event below or here. The event was co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to GrowthCUSP, the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, and Wellbeing Economics Brighton.

Laura Sharples said that she launched this petition campaign because “the economy is really about stories, but the mainstream narratives at the moment work to disempower us by disconnecting us from our communities and nature.

“The economy has been designed – and it can and must be redesigned.”

Caroline Lucas urged people to support the petition, saying: “The window of opportunity is open. That’s the exciting thing – we have a real chance for a fundamental economic reset.”

Katherine Trebeck affirmed this, saying: “This petition is so incredibly important. If we can get it to 10,000, or 100,000 signatures, it demonstrates to Government that there’s demand there, that this is what people want and they can be on the right side of history.”

The petition states:

“We urgently need the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet, by pursuing a Wellbeing Economy approach. To deliver a sustainable and equitable recovery, the Treasury should target social and environmental goals, rather than fixating on short-term profit and growth.More details

A narrow focus on GDP growth has led us to environmental, health and financial crises. The UK is the 6th largest economy in the world, yet roughly a third of our children live in poverty. Two thirds of the public want the Treasury to put wellbeing above growth. Scotland and Wales are already part of the Wellbeing Economy Governments alliance. As host of the COP26 climate summit, the UK Government should build and champion a Wellbeing Economy – at home and globally.”

If you agree, and you’re a UK resident, please sign and share the petition. Use the #WellbeingEconomyPetition hashtag to share.

Can you help amplify this petition to UK audiences? Comment below or contact us here.

As part of our work to amplify the important work in the Wellbeing Economy movement, these WEAll Weekly Update blogs will share some of the latest and greatest updates from our membership and beyond. Please use the comment box to share any relevant updates from this week and keep the conversation going!

Weekly Reads

The Economics of Biodiversity – Dasgupta Review

“It would seem then that, ultimately, we each have to serve as judge and jury for our own actions. And that cannot happen unless we develop an affection for Nature and its processes. As that affection can flourish only if we each develop an appreciation of Nature’s workings, the Review ends with a plea that our education systems should introduce Nature studies from the earliest stages of our lives, and revisit them in the years we spend in secondary and tertiary education. The conclusion we should draw from this is unmistakable: if we care about our common future and the common future of our descendants, we should all in part be naturalists.”

Crack the Crises – The Global Goals

“Join organisations from across the UK, advocating for a better future for people and planet, have come together in this new coalition. We want to bring people together to tackle these crises by taking individual actions, by supporting others and by asking decision-makers to act.”

The Little Book of Flourishing – The Flourishing Institute

“Resilient children are made, not born. Children become resilient as a result of the levels of stress and nurturing that they experience early on in life. If our early experiences are dysfunctional they will lead to changes in the way we respond and behave. The healthier the relationships a child has, the more likely he or she will be able to recover from trauma and thrive.”

Achieving an Economy of Wellbeing in Europe Healthy Europe

“All Policies for a Healthy Europe is calling on the EU and its Member States to step up to the challenge and grasp the opportunity offered by the pandemic to effectively move beyond GDP as the main indicator for economic and all other policies”

Quarterly of the European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies – Opinion Piece from Katherine Trebeck “The Wellbeing Economy Agenda”

“Why go back to an economy that treats many of our most essential workers so badly and which implicitly tolerates such inequalities? The economic systems of some countries generate insecurity, despair and loneliness, which spurs desperate searches for ways to cope, whether at the pill box or the ballot box.”

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On 12th August 2020, the Office for National Statistics announced that the UK’s GDP had fallen 20.4% in the second quarter, putting the UK into its worst recession since records began. Following the UK’s prolonged lockdown, this drop in Gross Domestic Product is more severe than losses seen in the US and the Eurozone.

The impact of COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone, especially those who have become ill or lost loved ones. For many, it’s been a prompt to take stock of what really matters, placing a greater emphasis on individual and community wellbeing.

At WEAll, we’re passionate about advancing the wellbeing economy concept: an economic system purpose-built to deliver social justice on a healthy planet. Within a wellbeing economy, humanity determines economics, not the other way around.

So when we see figures like this—that GDP has fallen by 20.4%—it’s important to clarify what this data means and what it does (and doesn’t) tell us about the state of society.

No one should argue that these are not difficult times, with furloughs and redundancies widespread and social isolation still a reality for many people. In terms of the actual numbers we use to measure our country’s economic health, however, we propose that GDP is a skewed figure that reveals little about the wellbeing of the millions of people who keep the economy running, each and every day.

GDP doesn’t see the outpouring of community support, for example, and it neglects our country’s renewed focus on nature. It measures cash transactions, which include drug dealing, but ignores volunteer work and caring duties.

Find new oil? GDP goes up. Start a community garden? No impact.

Have to deal with flooding caused by global warming or medical treatment to cope with heatwaves? GDP will see that as a good thing. Spend more time with your family and friends? GDP isn’t interested.

Take your car into a congested city? GDP loves that. Jump on your bike and use one of the new cycle lanes? GDP doesn’t care.

The last few months have seen big hits to restaurants, education, the arts, public transport, and even healthcare—all sectors which are very important to the wellbeing economy, not to mention to their workers. However, even here the GDP statistics do not tell the full story. Childcare and education did not disappear. For better or for worse, it just happened at home. We are seeing our friends and family less than we would like to, but we still see them. It’s just that many of us now go for a walk in the park rather than for a meal in a restaurant. These activities still have value, but they are simply not captured by GDP.

We can all agree on the need to rebuild, but it’s imperative that we build back better instead of simply returning to the status quo, which works only for the few and often neglects the very key workers on whom we all rely. We are just not convinced that GDP is the most useful measure of how Scotland builds back better, renews, or recovers. See our recent response to comments made by Benny Higgins, the chairman of Nicola Sturgeon’s advisory group on economic recovery, to learn more about the myth of “green growth”.

Katherine Trebeck, Advocacy and Influencing Lead at WEAll and co-founder of WEAll Scotland, has long campaigned for alternative measures of progress to GDP. One such alternative to GDP she points to is to focus on things like the number of girls riding bikes to school. It might sound radical at first, says Katherine, but just think of the contextual factors that need to be in place in order for higher numbers of girls on bikes (and in education) to improve.

There are tough times behind us, and no doubt there will be tough times ahead. So moving forward, let’s build a stronger economy that works for all of us, not just those who benefit from outdated measures of success like GDP.

This month, the UK House of Lord’s COVID-19 Committee launched its first inquiry on Life Beyond COVID. The Committee is interested in the long-term impact of the pandemic on people’s daily lives as well as on society as a whole.

In its first inquiry, the Committee is inviting people to share their hopes and fears about what the pandemic might mean in the long-term for our home and working lives, and for how we function as a society – what might it mean for social cohesion, for (in)equality, for our environment or for arts and culture?

If your organisation is interested in engaging in some direct policy impact, make a submission (including stories/ material on lived experience) to inform the Life Beyond COVID initiative.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 31 August.

If you have any questions or would like any further information, contact Alex McMillan: mcmillana@parliament.uk

This week, the UK’s #BuildBackBetter campaign launched its #BuildBackBetter statement. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance is proud to support the campaign, alongside over 350 other diverse organisations including civil society organisations, businesses, trade unions and academics.

Part of the launch was polling by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which found that only 6% of the British public want to go back to the same economy from before the Covid-19 crisis. Instead people want to build back stronger, greener and fairer.

The campaign calls for “a new deal that prioritises people, invests in our NHS and creates a robust, shockproof economy that is capable of tackling the climate crisis.” This includes a petition to MPs, which UK citizens can use to contact their representatives asking them to support the Build Back Better vision.

So far the launch has been featured in the Mirrorthe GuardianThe Timesthe Express and Sky. Learn more here: https://buildbackbetter.org.uk.

Join the movement by signing your name to support the #BuildBackBetter statement and sharing on social media using the hashtags #BuildBackBetter, #GreenNewDeal and #TheTimeIsNow.

In case you missed it, read WEAll’s 10 principles to Build Back Better.

This week the #BuildBackBetter campaign has launched in earnest in the UK, and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance is proud to support it alongside more than 70 other diverse organisations.

The campaign calls for “a new deal that prioritises people, invests in our NHS and creates a robust, shockproof economy that is capable of tackling the climate crisis.” This includes a petition to MPs, which UK citizens can use to contact their representatives asking them to support the Build Back Better vision.

All coalition partners support the following high level principles for any coronavirus recovery plan in the UK:

1. Secure the health and needs of everyone in the UK now and into the future – irrespective of employment or nationality – including for food, healthcare, income, job security, good housing, and access to clean and affordable energy and heat, public transport, clean air and green spaces.

2. Protect and invest in our public services. From the NHS to paid and unpaid social care, from schools and colleges to rescue services, early years care and local authorities. The services that we all rely on must be properly funded, protected from privatisation and available to everyone, regardless of their immigration status.
3. Rebuild society with a transformative Green New Deal. The recovery plan must decarbonise the economy in a way that tackles inequality and enhances the lives of ordinary people, workers and communities. It should create thousands of new, well-paid, secure, unionised jobs across the country.

4. Invest in people. Ensure that the policies and investments for recovery do not prop up the profits of the big banks and the executives of corporations fuelling
climate change and inequality. We need to restructure public and private finance so that it redistributes power into the hands of people, workers and communities, and supports sectors that nourish our society and safeguards our future.
5. Build solidarity and community across borders. Our recovery should leave no-one behind – especially as much of the world begin their fight against Covid-19. Anything we do now, and in the longer-term recovery, should aim to end global injustices, conflict, and environmental degradation; must guarantee human rights and free movement; and promote changes that end global power inequalities. We must share solutions, technology and transfer finance where it’s needed.

Reposted from CUSP website

WEAll member CUSP (Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity) recently hosted an event for British policy makers on how to build back better post-covid.

Setting out to engage MPs across the political spectrum, this online discussion was chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy (Channel 4), and expertly deliberated on the prospects for a socially and environmentally just economic recovery—which takes into account not only the need to prevent the worst of climate breakdown, but does so in a way that sustainably strengthens the wellbeing of people. Discussants were CUSP director Prof Tim Jackson, Prof Mariana Mazzucato (UCL), Sir Prof Michael Marmot (UCL) and Sir David King (former Government Chief Scientist).

The interactive panel was hosted by the APPGs on Climate Change, on Compassion in Politics and on Renewable & Sustainable Energy, and joined by Bim Afolami MP (Conservative) and Debbie Abrahams MP (Labour). Introductory remarks were provided by Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Watch the full discussion below or find it on YouTube here.

By Lisa Hough-Stewart

The city of Amsterdam recently unveiled its new Amsterdam City Doughnut, which Doughnut Economics author and WEAll Ambassador Kate Raworth describes as “taking the global concept of the Doughnut and turns it into a tool for transformative action in the city of Amsterdam.”

Doughnut Economics is a book full of ideas for 21st century economies and since it was first launched in 2017 many people – from teachers, artists and community organisers to city officials, business leaders and politicians – have said they want to put the ideas into practice, indeed they are already doing it.

The iconic Doughnut framework sets a goal of operating within safe social and planetary boundaries. It is a playfully serious approach to framing that challenge, and it acts as a compass for human progress this century.

Kate and her team we are launching Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) to help make this happen. The start-up team is currently working on building a collaborative platform so that this emerging community of changemakers can connect, share, inspire and get inspired, with all the different ways that people are putting the ideas of Doughnut Economics into action.

As well as Amsterdam’s Doughnut, there are already other Doughnuts out there – and this period of great change, transformation and recovery is the perfect time to revisit them.

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics work began during her time at Oxfam, and the NGO has developed Doughnut frameworks and tools for Wales, Scotland, the UK and South Africa.

Indeed, Oxfam Cymru has recently published a new Welsh Doughnut 2020  – great timing, as the Welsh Government has just joined the Wellbeing Economy Governments partnership. 

The Welsh Doughnut 2020 offers many insights into the current situation in Wales and where the government and others could prioritise in order to work towards building a wellbeing economy.

Oxfam Cymru

 

If you’re interested in exploring a Doughnut framework where you are, you can let the Doughnut Economics Action Lab know by filling in this short form.

In the meantime, check out the rich resources that are the existing Doughnuts – and if you’re working on building a wellbeing economy of those locations, make sure that decision makers are aware of the Doughnut analysis that’s already been carried out.

Header image: Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

First published on Bella Caledonia

By Katherine Trebeck

History is being made by the hour. The current crisis is era-defining to that extent that we are soon likely to talk in terms of “pre-covid” and “post-covid”. The decisions being made now by those in power will ripple through the years and determine what kind of society we go on to live in.

The spread of covid-19 shines a light on our economy – its inequalities, power structures and absurdities. The opportunity is to address some of the cleavages between parts of our society by building a wellbeing economy instead of reverting to the same old structures: building back better rather than returning to business as usual.

Covid-19 means that the reality is setting in that ours is an economic system which depends on an army of low paid workers. These are the workers Guy Standing described as the ‘precariat’: without decent security in their work, let alone sufficient pay. Those on zero hour contracts in the gig economy or eking out a living as self-employed, but with little command over the rates or regularity of that work. These are the front-line staff of our hyper-flexible economy where humans are treated as just-in-time inventory just as much as oat milk for the salariat’s flat whites is. The precariat are already the first losing their hours and their jobs as business dwindles – as bars close, as people delay haircuts and as events are cancelled. Without savings, they will be amongst the hardest hit and thus compelled to go into work if the work is there – a form of economic conscription if there ever was one.

It is the precariat who drive the delivery vans keeping the salariat stocked with avocados and hand wipes, who keep the Amazon-orders flowing in, and the Uber-Eats sushi on the table. It is the precariat tending to the frail in nursing homes or stocking the shelves in supermarkets so the rest of society can fill up on necessities while self-isolating.

In contrast, many of the ‘salariat’ (or the ‘proficians’ in Standing’s lexicon) have the relative luxury of moving their work from pot-plant filled offices to online conference calls at home. Lonely? Perhaps, but without the risk of bailiffs chasing unpaid bills so long as salaries are still paid.

Covid-19 is putting into sharp relief the contrast between those with sufficient resources and ‘human capital’ to command a toe-hold in the economy and those who are simply knocked about by taps on an app and the ‘Free Next Day Delivery’ obsession.

Precarious work shouldn’t exist – work should be a route to economic security and sense of purpose. Workers shouldn’t be compelled by economic necessity to work when sick and possibly contagious. Government should do all it can to ensure workers don’t face the choice between spreading covid-19 and being kicked out of their house because they can’t pay the monthly rent or mortgage.

There is a serious risk that, with eyes firmly fixed on a return to ‘business as usual’ beyond the current situation, the first queuing up for bailouts are the very entities which should be powered down in the face of the climate emergency. Meanwhile, those that most need it are left to make do with the already frayed social safety net that masquerades as social protection in the UK these days. Around the world governments are recognising the needs of vulnerable workers – not just the vulnerable elderly. For example, Ireland is paying 203 euros a week to those who lose their job or income or who are self-employed and losing contracts for the next six weeks. The Swedish government is also paying sick pay, rather than putting it at the feet of employers and increasing the amount of cover it provides to short-time workers. Even in Australia – one of the toughest welfare regimes in the OECD – the government is paying $AUD750 tax free to those on benefits and to all pensioners.

Yet these are the sort of measures that are short term amelioration – they help take the edge off an economy that doesn’t do enough to support everyone.

They are also a sign of how far away the current scenario is from a wellbeing economy – one purposed for and hence designed in a way to deliver good lives for people first time around.

Fortunately, just as covid-19 is showing us the stark divides in our economy – between those who can readily work from their kitchen tables and those forced to deliver to them – it also is showing us the outline of a better economy – a wellbeing economy.

The economic activities most needed at times like these are not the glittering cocktail bars and massive concert venues. They are the unglamorous but necessary pillars of the foundational economy – the schools, supermarkets and hospitals that can’t threaten to up and run at the lightest change in the tax system, entities which require considerable labour input and hence offer local jobs. The places prioritising those who need them most, profit or no profit (the supermarket Morrisons’ recent effort being a good example).

Local supply chains are coming into their own as global ones are disrupted by border closures and plane groundings.

And, perhaps most beautifully, covid-19 is showing the importance of community ties and informal support – none of which will do much to boost the usual measures of economic ‘success’ in the form of Gross Domestic Product, but which undeniably will be vital in helping individuals and families survive.

Local supply chains, the foundational economy, and community support in the care economy are three of the pillars we’ll all need to get through it. They are also three pieces of the jigsaw of a wellbeing economy weall need beyond covid-19.

Communities and individuals are stepping up to the challenges presented by covid-19, recognising that we all need each other and prioritising togetherness even as we are forced to be physically apart. As the inequalities in our economic system are laid bare by this crisis, rather than returning to business as usual, countries such as the UK would be well-served to instead build back better by creating a wellbeing economy.

 

By Michael Weatherhead

I cannot remember the last time I saw a Ken Loach film. His latest offering is a timely reminder of the power of this film maker. The story makes you want to grab hold of the family it features and hug them close…and it also makes you angry as hell.

Fairness and dignity – two of a wellbeing economy’s key five needs – have been important to me all my life.  I remember learning about them early when I learned about fair trade – selling dried apricots on my Dad’s traidcraft stall at church. But you don’t need to apply Christian guilt to selling apricots to know these needs are important. They are part of our DNA and all children intrinsically understand the concept of fairness.

Ken Loach’s ‘Sorry We Missed You’ is sword-like in its depiction of the precariousness and unfairness of the world of zero hours contracts. The film’s protagonists – a family, with mum a care worker on agency piece work and dad an enforced self-employed ‘warrior of the road’ delivering parcels with only enough time to piss in a bottle in the back of his van between deliveries.

It is impossible not to feel empathy when viewing a family lacking any form of economic security. A degree of certainty and security is something we all need but less and less of us get from our work. New analysis by the TUC shows that at least 3.7 million workers in the UK, around one in nine of the workforce, are in insecure work. In every region of England and in Wales and Scotland, insecure workers make up at least 10 per cent of the workforce’ (see more stats from the TUC here).

What went wrong with the economic system meaning that the majority of users of foodbanks are ‘employed’? What went wrong when the hours you have to work mean you cannot spend any time with your family? What went wrong that so many have so little control over their economic lives?

The film perfectly encapsulates the systemic effects and the false economy of a business model that extracts profits to shareholders at the expense of the workers of a firm. Of course, the invention of zero hours contracts is a rational and logical next step for businesses on the treadmill of continuous cost cutting/profit maximising. And it is a winner as it ‘offshores’ all the negative social effects of that model to the state.

An immediate reaction to the realities laid bare by this film must be an elimination of employment approaches such as zero-hour contracts. A second would be an increase in the minimum wage. However, these will not address the systemic effects of a system that looks to extract profits from areas of life that were once key sources of wellbeing – an affordable roof over one’s head, a job that gives meaning and purpose and provides for your family.

In the world of work, nothing short of a mass expansion of business models that have wellbeing at their heart will eradicate this virus of in-work poverty.

Find out more about Sorry We Missed You here, with details of how you can see the film and opportunities to get involved with campaigns for change.

Image from Sorry We Missed You Facebook page

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

This is an event report from the first in-person workshop of the ‘What’s the Story?’ project, held in London (UK) on Friday 6 March 2020.

‘What’s the Story?’ emerged as a collaborative effort instigated by WEAll and our members the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), and executed by The Spaceship Earth. Its goal is to create the space for new economy stories to spur the co-design of a wellbeing economy. The event in London on March 6 was the first ‘creative design sprint’ in this story crafting process.

By Anna Chrysopoulou

‘What’s the story?’ by Friday Future Love was an innovative, challenge-based experience to turn thinking into ideas with the participation of a diverse audience including artists, photographers, graphic designers, ad creatives, TV producers and marketers.

As outlined on the day, current issues such as climate and ecological emergency, and rising inequalities are linked by “old stories about our economy, which have given us absurd beliefs, deeply rooted on our culture, that demand unfit policies which sustain those stories”.

So, our economic system on its present form is a real Catch-22. It is urgent, therefore, to have a new approach by “creating new stories, that gives us good beliefs, so we demand proper policies and design a better economy for all life”.

It’s now time to reflect:

  • How do we relate to nature?
  • What is our economy’s priority?
  • How should we measure success?

These questions were thoroughly discussed by the attendees who all agreed on the importance of reconnecting with our natural environment, recognising that not only are humans part of nature, but nature is also part of us. It was suggested we should change the rewards mechanisms and find alternatives to our perception of success. For instance, success could be considered to reduce the use of materials, costs and time, to have a 6-hour working day, or achieve building a more local economy.

This discussion led to the next challenge: find new concepts and explore more deeply how these could be formed and communicated.

What would the outcome of this challenge be when creative people are in the same room? New stories, of course!

Imagine a new sci-fi series showing humans connecting with each other and nature by using a chip; a ‘Good Ancestor Fund’, where part of one’s salary could go to converting land into a forest for the benefit of future generations. Think of ‘reclaiming the bank holiday’ when families could spend time together planting trees; the introduction of a parallel pricing system showing the monetary worth of the true value of a product taking into consideration the loss of natural resources. An exhibition where the audience could look back on what went wrong in order to avoid the same actions in the future; a new myth where the tooth fairy does not replace the lost tooth with money, but the tooth has to be planted. Finally, think of a concept when we should ensure that everyone has enough of what is needed, or a dinner where guests represent a certain percentage of the population in terms of economic worth and meals are served proportionately.

All these ideas expressed by this brilliant audience lead to the conclusion that a gathering of like-minded individuals can create fantastic new stories, and Fridays are indeed for people and the planet!

WEAll was honoured to be part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth at the UK Parliament this week.

Chaired by Green MP Caroline Lucas, and convened by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, the APPG provides a platform for cross-party dialogue on shared and lasting prosperity in a world of environmental, social and economic limits.

This session was the group’s AGM and it had a special focus on Wellbeing Economics. Professor Tim Jackson, a WEAll Ambassador, had prepared this briefing paper on tackling growth dependency.

The paper sets out a three-fold strategy for moving beyond GDP by: changing the way we measure success; building a consistent policy framework for a ‘wellbeing economy’; and addressing the ‘growth dependency’ of the economy.

In particular, the briefing recommends:

  • a determined effort to develop new measures of societal wellbeing and sustainable prosperity;
  • the full integration of these measures into central and local government decision-making processes;
  • the alignment of regulatory, fiscal and monetary policy with the aims of achieving a sustainable and inclusive wellbeing economy;
  • the establishment of a formal inquiry into reducing the ‘growth dependency’ of the UK economy;
  • the development of a long-term, precautionary ‘post-growth’ strategy for the UK.

A packed room of MPs and peers from all political parties was addressed first by Peter Schmidt, rapporteur to the European Economic and Social Committee’s (EESC) recent ‘own initiative opinion’ on The sustainable economy we need, then by Lisa Hough-Stewart, Communications and Mobilisation lead at WEAll.

Lisa focused her remarks on the need for new economic narratives, and the role of policy makers in helping shape those narratives. Explaining the work of WEAll and its members, she also gave details of the Wellbeing Economy Governments initiative (WEGo) which has Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand collaborating towards their shared goal of promoting economies based on wellbeing.

A robust and positive discussion followed the presentations, with clear interest in wellbeing economy ideas from all attendees and encouraging suggestions for driving the agenda forward at UK level.

Caroline Lucas has raised an Early Day Motion in Parliament in support of the findings on the EESC opinion, and the principles of a wellbeing economy. It is garnering support with more MPs across the political spectrum – you can view the motion here, and if you live in the UK, share it with your MP asking them to support it.

Are you a young person who wants to play a leading role in solving the problems of the 21st century?

This summer, The Useful & Kind foundation is hosting a summer school for individuals between the ages of 16-30 in York, UK from 6-10 July to give you the skills you need to lead.

Useful & Kind originates from President Obama’s suggestion that we all be ‘useful and kind’ to one another. It is a basis and value set to stand upon in any kind of position. The Useful & Kind foundation is keen to teach how to be a Useful & Kind leader in order to solve problems in your local community. The goal is to build a large constituency of those wanting to make a better life for us all.

Over the weeklong training, the leaders will work on awareness building, idea creating, research conducting and strengthening debate skills. The aim is to create a better, fairer and more sustainable future, starting with understanding how to be a leader in community.

Duncan Fraser, Director of U&K Unlimited, will lead the summer school. He invites guest speakers, to share their experiences with the group. Additionally, the larger group of 24 individuals is broken into smaller groups who are led by junior mentors, all whom are experienced in the field and with the U&K approach.

This opportunity is a great way to learn how to develop leadership skills of the future. With many problems to solve, we need all the leaders we can get. If you’re interested, sign up using this link:

https://www.usefulandkindunlimited.com/projects-1-2

 

Riversimple is a car manufacturer that has taken value creation to a completely different level. The business was founded to address the enormous environmental damage created by personal transport, with the purpose ‘To pursue, systematically, the elimination of the environmental impact of personal transport’. The founders recognised that they serve not only investors but a total of 6 different stakeholders: The Environment, Customers, Communities, Staff, Investors and Commercial Partners. 

“We believe that it’s possible to design a business model that aligns the interests of the business with those of people and the planet but the mindset of the business has to be aligned in order to conceive of and implement such a model, so this is a further reason for redesigning the governance.”
Comments Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder of Riversimple

 

As Buckminster Fuller said, “you never change things by fighting the existing reality; you change things by making a better model that makes the existing model obsolete” and so the intention is to make more money from doing the right thing than business as usual makes from doing the wrong thing.

Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder of Riversimple

“If a business is designed to maximise financial return, delivering environmental and social return as well is inevitably a cost on the bottom line and competes with the financial return. However, if a business is designed to deliver environmental and social return as well as financial, it enhances rather than competes with financial return.”

 

The company did decide not only to include these actors in the governance model, but also to make them the key decision makers in the ownership structure. The aspiration was a business model with the capacity to ‘see’ in all directions and then ‘deliver’, even in the face of complex challenges.

“The original intention was to serve the ‘basket of interests’ so often referred to by economists. However, the interests of investors are not always well correlated with the interests of society and the planet, so we decided to embed the Purpose structurally in the governance of the company, rather than relying on altruism.”
comments Hugo Spowers, Chief Engineer and Founder of Riversimple

 

With that in mind, 6 ‘custodians’ with separate legal entities were put in place, each being a separate and independent entity, representing a set of members that represent each stakeholder.

image: Riversimple value creation model, riversimple.com

 

“Shareholder value has primacy in UK law, so we felt that the simplest way to deliver that without a conflict of interests was to make the Environment and other key stakeholder groups shareholders.”
adds Hugo Spowers

 

A Stewards Board ultimately ensures that the board is abiding by its fiduciary responsibility, “To balance and protect the benefit streams” of each of these stakeholders. 

Hugo Spowers, image source: riversimple.com

“The Board’s duty is to pursue the Purpose while balancing and protecting the benefit streams of all six stakeholder groups, rather than maximising the value of one.  It is essentially a partnership model and you cannot have a partnership in which one partner has control, because then it’s not a partnership.”
explains Hugo Spowers

 

While governance is distributed, money flows in a similar way to any normal business: 

“Dividends still go to the equity holders but that does not mean that control all goes to the equity holders. Equity and control are decoupled and addressed separately – ownership of all the equity does not mean control of all the business.”

 

This ownership model has especially proven its value in difficult moments, where the solution to balance all interests was not obvious.

“Having stakeholders actively interested and involved in the business means that we have the benefit of their wisdom and perspective and they hold us to our Purpose, which is fundamentally dedicated to the wellbeing of society and the planet.” comments Hugo Spowers

Riversimple has developed a unique business model that aims to completely rethink the automobile sector, from open-source design to a circular economy approach to car use, with the goal to minimize environmental impact deeply rooted in the organizational backbone. 

  • This is an extract from the forthcoming ‘The Business of Wellbeing – Alternatives to Business as Usual’ Guide, launching in January 2020. For more extracts, please click here
  • To stay informed of the release of each extract, please sign up to our newsletter here.

Sam Butler-Sloss, who is leading the emerging WEAll Youth group in Scotland, has written a powerful piece in today’s Independent.

In his opinion piece, “Criticise the climate strikers if you like. In five years we’ll all be at the ballot box and the world will change”, Sam makes a strong case for economic system change and advocates for the strength and power of young people in driving change.

Read Sam’s piece on the Independent site here.
The biggest story yet to be told – how we transform our economies
  • If advertisers were selling a more sustainable future to the mass public, how might they do it?
  • If film-makers, musicians, poets, and journalists were tasked with making a sustainable and just economy resonate with their audiences, how might they tell that story?
  • How can the vision of a new economy that protects people and restores the planet start to feel real, relevant and desirable to the average citizen?

Social and environmental crises have already started to take hold around the world. Yet there seems to be no public narrative that explains how we can fix our predicament. We lack a story of solutions. Two global networks working on economic transformation – the Green Economy Coalition and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) – have come together to build that new narrative. We and our partners recognise that before change can happen, we need a convincing and credible story of change.

Our ambition is to tell the story of transition to a better economy, a better environment, and a better future for everyone. We want to convene some of the best communicators out there and inspire them to tell this story: the biggest story yet to be told.

By “communicators”, we mean everyone from the commercial space (marketing, advertising, social media, public relations professionals), to the cultural space (film makers, script-writers, musicians, artists), to the media (journalists, bloggers, writers, photographers), and beyond.

Although both the Green Economy Coalition and WEAll are global in scope, we plan to first pilot an approach in the UK (more on that within the Terms of Reference). Defining key messages and audiences will be a key first step.

We know that our mission is bold and will take time and resources. But existing narratives are failing to inspire sufficient action, and time is short. We have some initial seed funding to kick-start our approach, and we will leverage further contributions from funders and industry as we get underway.

That’s where you come in.

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for an exceptional person or organisation, based in the UK, to help us get this mission underway. You will know the media / marketing / comms world intimately, and are happy to draw on those contacts. You are:

  • Well connected in the ad / marketing / cultural space;
  • Skilled in developing compelling briefs that would appeal to comms professionals, businesses and industries;
  • Confident and experienced in convening and leading collaborative working sessions;
  • A bold and imaginative thinker able to take this idea as far as it can go;
  • Experienced in identifying the right audiences and executing delivery of campaigns.

Download the full Terms of Reference here for full details on the proposed project and how to apply.

The Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) has published a new working paper making the case for an early zero carbon target for the UK.

‘Zero Carbon Sooner’ by Tim Jackson addresses the question of when the UK should aim for zero (or net zero) carbon emissions. Starting from the global carbon budget which would allow the world an estimated 66% chance of limiting climate warming to 1.5o C, the paper derives a fair carbon budget for the UK of 2.5 GtCO2. The briefing then analyses a variety of emission pathways and target dates in terms of their adequacy for remaining within this budget.

A key finding is that a target date for zero carbon is not sufficient to determine whether the UK remains within its carbon budget. Policy must specify both a target date and an emissions pathway. For a linear reduction pathway not to exceed the carbon budget the target year would have to be 2025. Nonlinear pathways, such as those with constant percentage reduction rates, have a higher chance of remaining within the available budget provided that the reduction starts early enough and the reduction rate is high enough. It is notable that reduction rates high enough both to lead to zero carbon (on a consumption basis) by 2050 and to remain within the carbon budget require absolute reductions of more than 95% of carbon emissions as early as 2030. On this basis, the paper argues in favour of setting a UK target for net zero carbon emissions by 2030 or earlier, with a maximum of 5% emissions addressed through negative emission technologies.

Download and read the briefing paper here.

By Lisa Hough-Stewart, WEAll Communications and Mobilisation lead

On Wednesday 10 July, Caroline Lucas MP secured a debate in the UK House of Commons about ‘Economic growth and environmental limits’.

The Green MP made a powerful speech, focused on “why and how our current economic model, which puts GDP growth above everything else, must change fundamentally, fast.”

Quoting Greta Thunberg’s famous statement that ‘our house is on fire’, Lucas argued that “the GDP growth obsession is the obstacle blocking the door to the emergency exit.”

Speaking on behalf of the UK Government, The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick gave a response which continued to be centred on economic growth, stating that “it is now more important than ever that the Government and institutions such as the Treasury, which is at the heart of this debate, confront head on the question of how we continue to grow the economy while protecting our environment and tackling climate change.”

However, Jenrick did agree with the importance of moving beyond GDP, going on to say that “GDP undoubtedly has its limitations and should not be seen as an all-encompassing measure of welfare and wellbeing, and we entirely accept that it was never designed to be”.

Representatives of other parties taking part in the debate also supported this sentiment.

Ahead of the debate, Caroline Lucas published a piece in Politics Home which set out her arguments in full detail, and referenced Katherine Trebeck’s ideas as well as those of other WEAll members and partners.

Considering alternatives to GDP, she wrote: “To do all this we need to start measuring what matters. The economist Katherine Trebeck has one suggestion: ‘Why not get countries to measure the number of girls who bicycle to school? What clearer yardstick could convey so much about progress in women’s education, green transport, health and poverty alleviation in a single number?'”

Both in the article and in the Westminster debate, Lucas heavily cited the new report from WEAll member The European Environmental Bureau (EEB)  which demonstrates that efforts to decouple economic growth from environmental harm, known as ‘green growth’, have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed in their aim.

The full transcript of the Westminster debate can be accessed via Hansard here.