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By WEAll Aotearoa Country Lead Gareth Hughes

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s fourth Wellbeing Budget continued the focus on wellbeing and responded to social and environmental failings – but did it address them?

A transformation is still needed to go from Wellbeing Budgets to a Wellbeing Economy – one that delivers wellbeing by default, not one where it needs to be added on.

After two years of Covid dominating Government spending decisions, Grant Robertson pitched the 2022 Budget as “less of a crisis budget” and a return to the wellbeing framework. What the country saw this week was very much a Wellbeing Budget but one that responded to failing rather than addressing them.

Since the first Wellbeing Budget in 2019 the Labour-led Government has approached the annual process to put together the national books differently from their predecessors. A wellbeing analysis was applied across all spending, and government departments were asked to leave silos and work together on joint proposals.

With a message of kindness and a focus on child poverty this approach received international plaudits in a world hungry for inspiring, positive news.

The 2022 Budget continued this focus, with Treasury’s updated Living Standards Framework providing the behind the scenes structure. Robertson’s focus in this Budget was health, cost of living issues – especially for the ‘squeezed middle’ – and climate change. Big ticket items were a record amount spent on a buckling health system, a temporary $350 payment for around two million New Zealanders and $2.9 billion of Emissions Trading Scheme revenue recycled on climate projects.

In Parliament National moved the inevitable amendment to oppose the Budget and labelled it the ‘Backwards Budget’, instead pushing for tax cuts. New Zealand is already in the bottom half of the OECD for tax as a percentage of GDP and a tax cut, especially one targeted at higher earners, would simply increase inequality while placing further pressure on public services.

This Budget contained many good measures, including rectifying a historic child support injustice.

However it continued the incremental, slow approach to change that won’t substantially alter persistent poverty, wealth inequality or the biodiversity and climate crises.

While National’s Christopher Luxon railed against so-called wasteful spending, this Budget was no radical dagger aimed at the heart of Neoliberal economics.

The parliamentary debate is always full of hyperbole but I believe a reasonable and constructive critique of the Budget is that it focused on failure demand.

This is the concept where the Government pays costs which are responding to the damage created by the current economic system. Current settings aren’t delivering a socially-secure, high-wage, low-carbon economy so vast sums are spent addressing symptoms and avoiding causes.

Take the biggest new line of spending – health. More than $11 billion was allocated over the forecast period – a huge sum – spent to patch holes and pay debt from historic underinvestment. Fixing damage.

In the climate space, nearly $340m will be spent looking for agricultural fixes to address the failure that farmers don’t pay the cost of their emissions.

The temporary $350 cost-of-living payment for individuals earning under $70k (except beneficiaries) offers short-term relief but doesn’t solve the systemic problem that Kiwis work some of the longest hours for some of the lowest wages and pay some of the highest costs of living in the developed world.

Half price public transport for Community Service Card holders and higher low-income dental grants help – but only respond to the failure that New Zealanders are not guaranteed liveable incomes above the poverty line.

Spending on motels for emergency shelter, the human and health and costs of diseases from unsafe housing, purchasing international carbon credits to avoid reducing emissions at home are all other examples of costly remedial measures from avoidable damage.

Economically New Zealand is doing reasonably well compared to similar countries in these volatile times. The growth rate is high coming out of Covid, government debt is comparatively small and the unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1986. With money to spend, the Government has been able to respond to some areas of failure demand but not all, by any means. A rental crisis, a housing crisis, an inequality crisis, a poverty crisis, a biodiversity crisis, and a climate crisis still stalk Aotearoa.

Wellbeing Budgets have been a welcome innovation but the next step surely must be addressing the root causes of social and environmental failure and building a Wellbeing Economy. A Wellbeing Economy is structured so that the economy serves people and planet, rather than being geared to maximise profit only through economic growth at the expense of the planet. It is designed to deliver quality of life with dignity, purpose, fairness and participation whilst caring for nature.

We need to do more than respond to costly avoidable damages arising from our current system. In 2017 Jacinda Ardern in her first speech as Prime Minister said: “This will be a Government of transformation”. With one Budget left before the next election I hope the Government will deliver on this aspiration.

This was originally published on Newsroom

Kia ora ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa. I whānau mai au i te taha o te awa o Tairawhiti. I raro i te maru o te maunga o Kaiti. He uri ahau no Wales, no Scotland. Kei te noho au kei Ōtepoti. Ko Gareth Hughes toku ingoa. Tena koutou katoa.

I’m Gareth Hughes, the new Country Lead for the Wellbeing Economy Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand and I wanted to introduce myself. Above is a little about where I have come from in Te Reo Māori, the first language in New Zealand. I’ve spent my entire adult life campaigning for progressive causes as a campaigner at Greenpeace, as a Green MP and an activist. I describe my background as banging on the outside doors of Parliament as an activist then banging-on from the inside. I’ve taken part in non-violent direct action, like once infamously being arrested dressed as Ronald McDonald, passed laws and led campaigns that helped end offshore oil exploration and shark finning in New Zealand. I’ve always felt a passion and a calling for social justice and to protect our planet and I’ve tried to pull all the levers to achieve it.

After working on the symptoms for so long I am excited to now focus on the source of so many of the problems we face. I believe the most important mission facing us is working together to build an economy that works for people and the planet.

In 2020 I ended a decade-long career as a Member of Parliament. I am proud of what I achieved there but I was also frustrated how often the focus was on the short term, policy tinkering or debating what type of ambulance should be at the bottom of the cliff. Things like climate change, homelessness, poverty and inequality were seen as if they were bugs in the system when in fact they were consequences of a system that needs to change fast. My final speech in Parliament was a challenge to all political parties for transformational change – this is what I’ll be focused on in this new role. As such, I have stepped away from political party membership so I can advocate effectively to all parties.

In my valedictory speech I ended on a note of optimism for the future. “Fortunately for us in Aotearoa, we have an alternative value system focused on collective wellbeing, long-term thinking, and a strong connection to nature in mātauranga Māori. I believe if we truly became a Te Tiriti o Waitangi – respecting nation, we could escape the fatal embrace of short-term, individualistic, environmentally damaging thinking that has dominated our politics.” 

In my office I used to have a poster of the first whole image of the Earth taken from space hung on my wall. It was a reminder we need to operate within planetary boundaries which is so beautifully communicated in the Doughnut Economy. In the last year I have been researching and writing a biography of the late Jeanette Fitzsimons who was one of the pioneers of challenging infinite growth on a finite planet and GDP as a measure of success in New Zealand. This deep-dive into her work and the wider thinking that has occurred by many people over multiple decades has further inspired me to focus on a wellbeing economy. These are well-established ideas and the move towards them is now urgent.

I’m also a Dad to two kids, Arlo 14 and Zoe 11 and partner to my wife Meghan. We live in paradise, next to the sea in a small village on the Otago Peninsula in the southern part of New Zealand’s South Island. I love travel but I want to see the world in a low-carbon way so in the last five years I’ve become passionate about sailing. Most weekends you’ll find me on my yacht Avanti.

I am proud to join the New Zealand Hub in this new phase, as it becomes an established organisation with full-time staff, and to continue to expand on the more recent work of our WEAll volunteers in New Zealand. I have a busy work plan and I’m looking forward to rolling that out and working with WEAll partners, citizens and all political parties. 

The WEAll global Amp Team is recruiting for a new full-time Communications and Narratives Co-Lead.

The position is a fantastic opportunity for someone with skills and experience in storytelling and journalism, and who has the energy and ideas to help WEAll build a better system for people and the planet. The successful candidate will be part of an exciting movement, working with people from all over the world who are collaborating to transform the economy. 

What WEAll is looking for

We are looking for an organised, flexible, and highly motivated individual with the vision and skills to take WEAll’s global narratives and communications work to the next level. They will have demonstrated persuasive communications skills, and a passion for economic system change. The person in this role will work with the existing Co-Lead on WEAll’s communications and narratives strategy and delivery, with a focus on imagining and bringing to public consciousness new stories that create a different set of beliefs about what is viable and desirable in our society.

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

We acknowledge that people from a number of communities are underrepresented in our team, in the wider movement of those seeking systemic economic change and the charity sector in general, and we’re committed to addressing this. If you believe you would bring greater diversity to our team, we’re keen to hear from you. 

What WEAll is offering

An opportunity to work with a highly motivated team committed to accelerating economic system change. A team with a set of dedicated values: Togetherness, Care, Honesty, Equality, and Passion. This is WEAll’s core ‘amplification’ (Amp) team. 

The position offers the opportunity to co-lead on the management and enhancement of WEAll’s communications and narratives approach and the promotion of Wellbeing Economy ideas. Amplification of our vision around the world is critical to our theory of change. 

Start date: As soon as possible after 1 April 2022

Fee: £40,000 per annum (dependent on experience) for a full time role

Hours of work: The nature of this role is that flexibility in hours is both required by the role (for example, there will be some evening and weekend work) but also offered by WEAll. The contracted hours will be 35 hours per week, which can be worked flexibly. Please note that WEAll does not officially operate on Fridays.

Location: Our team is global and we encourage and welcome applications from anywhere in the world (working from home). However, this specific position requires working directly with a Communications and Narratives Co-Lead based in Sao Paulo (GMT -3:00), so availability to work with this time zone will be taken into account during the selection process. In Glasgow, Scotland, we can potentially offer access to a shared working space.

Applications close at 23:59 UK time on Sunday 13 March 2022. Interviews will be held starting on March 30. To find out more and how to apply, download the recruitment pack here.

The WEAll global Amp Team is recruiting for a new full-time Advocacy and Movements Co-Lead.

The Advocacy and Movements Co-Lead position offers the opportunity for a passionate individual to co-create and execute a local to global Wellbeing Economy advocacy strategy. They will focus on connecting with global movements working on issues such as climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity loss and social justice. They will work closely with colleagues to effectively advocate for the global governance, policy and cultural reforms needed to build a Wellbeing Economy.  

The position is a fantastic opportunity for someone with skills and experience in advocacy, influencing and knowledge sharing, and who has the energy and ideas to help WEAll build a better system for people and the planet. The successful candidate will be part of a diverse, and energised movement from across the world that is collaborating to transform the economy.

What WEAll is looking for

The focus for the role is to take the lead on WEAll’s global advocacy strategy by galvanizing and aligning with social and environmental movements. We are looking for an organised, flexible, and highly motivated individual with the vision and skills to implement a significant component of WEAll’s strategy: nurturing greater alignment of multiple social and environmental movements with the Wellbeing Economy agenda. Our new colleague will have demonstrable strategic and influencing skills, and a passion for economic system change and working collaboratively to deliver it.      

The post holder must be adaptable, creative, good at self-management, and – due to the nature of our small, flat-structured charity – willing and able to turn their hand to a range of tasks and projects as required to support the movement. We are seeking someone with particular experience and skill in driving successful partnerships between societal movements and impacting multilateral decision-making spaces, with understanding of how different audiences respond to different approaches. 

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

What WEAll is offering

An an opportunity to work with a highly motivated team (WEAll’s core ‘amplification’ or ‘Amp’ team) committed to accelerating economic system change and who hold fast to a set of dedicated values: Togetherness, Care, Honesty, Equality, and Passion, through a flat organizational structure. 

Start date: As soon as possible after 1 February 2022 

Remuneration: £45,000-52,000 per annum (dependent on experience) for a full-time role 

Hours of work: The nature of this role is that flexibility in hours is required (for example, there will be some evening and weekend work, plus travel). Equally, WEAll offers flexibility. The contracted hours will be 35 hours per week, which can be worked on a flexible basis. Please note that WEAll does not officially operate on Fridays. 

Location: Our team is global and we very much encourage and welcome applications from anywhere in the world (working from home). We support      and remunerate team members to work in co-working spaces. 

Applications close at 23:59 UK time on Sunday 2 January 2022. Interviews will be held during the week beginning 24 January 2022. To find out more about the role and how to apply, download the recruitment pack here.

The WEAll global Amp Team is recruiting for a new full-time Communications Lead.

The position is a fantastic opportunity for someone with skills and experience in strategic communications and who has the energy and ideas to help WEAll build a better system for people and the planet. The successful candidate will be part of an exciting movement, working with people from all over the world who are collaborating to transform the economy. 

What WEAll is looking for

We are looking for an organised, flexible, and highly motivated individual with the vision and skills to take WEAll’s global communications to the next level. They will have demonstrable strategic communications skills, and a passion for economic system change. The focus for the role is to take the lead on WEAll’s communications strategy and delivery to drive engagement with the Wellbeing Economy vision amongst the public and specialist audiences. 

The post holder must be adaptable, creative, good at self-management, and – due to the nature of our small, flat-structured charity – willing and able to turn their hand to a range of tasks and projects as required. We are seeking someone with particular experience and skill in driving successful outcomes across digital platforms, with understanding of how different audiences respond to communications approaches.

We acknowledge that people from a number of communities are underrepresented in our team, in the wider movement of those seeking systemic economic change and the charity sector in general, and we’re committed to addressing this. If you believe you would bring greater diversity to our team, we’re keen to hear from you. 

What WEAll is offering

An opportunity to work with a highly motivated team committed to accelerating economic system change. A team with a set of dedicated values: Togetherness, Care, Honesty, Equality, and Passion. This is WEAll’s core ‘amplification’ (Amp) team. 

The Communications Lead position offers the opportunity to lead on the  management and enhancement of WEAll’s communications approach and the promotion of Wellbeing Economy ideas. Amplification of our vision and the work of our members around the world is critical to our theory of change. 

Start date: As soon as possible after 1 October 2021

Fee: £40,000 per annum (dependent on experience) for a full time role

Hours of work: The nature of this role is that flexibility in hours is both required by the role (for example, there will be some evening and weekend work) but also offered by WEAll. The contracted hours will be 35 hours per week, which can be worked flexibly. Please note that WEAll does not officially operate on Fridays.

Location: Our team is global and we encourage and welcome applications from anywhere in the world (working from home). In Glasgow, Scotland, we can potentially offer access to a shared working space.

Applications close at 23:59 UK time on Sunday 19 September 2021. Interviews will be held on 28 or 30 September. To find out more and how to apply, download the recruitment pack here.

2020. There’s no denying it’s been a year of struggle. But like a bright candle in an otherwise dark room, it’s also been a year of opportunity.

As lockdown loomed and work was waylaid, more and more people began to think about who “the economy” really serves. Does it benefit the millions of people, including key workers, who work every day to keep it running? And what about the many people who are unable to work? Or does it tend to benefit a privileged few at the expense of other people and the environment?

We’ve been advocating for Scotland’s transition to a wellbeing economy—a system which delivers social justice on a healthy planet—for a long time now, but the need for its realisation has never been greater. That’s why it’s so encouraging and uplifting to mainstream sources adopting language like wellbeing economy, build back better, and green recovery into their everyday discussions, from journalists to politicians.

In May, for example, Fiona Hyslop (Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs) declared in Parliament that “the time of a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”

The wellbeing economy concept then took centre stage a month later when the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery published its report, Towards a robust, resilient wellbeing economy for Scotland.

At WEAll Scotland, we were delighted to see wellbeing-economy language featured so prominently. But it’s important to remember that we exist to advocate for and enable a wellbeing economy, not simply celebrate its becoming a buzzword.

We were concerned with how prominently the reliance on growth was referenced throughout the report. What kind of growth, we ask, and for whom? Simply adding “inclusive” and “sustainable” modifiers to growth does not answer either of these vital questions.

It’s time to move away from outdated metrics like growth to GDP and instead focus on the indicators which truly measure quality of life: social justice, a healthy environment, and the opportunity for everyone to pursue the life they wish to live.

Life is for learning, and we’ve certainly learned a lot in 2020. As we look to the future by looking back, we wanted to end the year (and this article!) by sharing some positive stories from lockdown.

Ostrero is a research and advocacy body that raises awareness of what the circular economy is and why it’s vitally important to Scotland’s economic and environmental wellbeing. Earlier this year, they gathered quotes from children across Scotland on what they learned during lockdown and how we can work together to build back better. Ostrero were kind enough to allow us to share some of those quotes here.

Thanks for reading and for helping us advocate for a wellbeing economy in 2020.

Here’s to a bright new year.

“Although lockdown has been hard there’s been many positives, for instance when I go on a bike ride with no traffic on the road, I can go down the Mound without a single car in sight, the air is fresher and cleaner and it’s lovely to hear the birds sing.”

Millie, age 12

“When I was at school, every lunch, we used paper plates. So every day, we threw away our plates, our cutlery and our glass. It wasn’t reusable, so it was harmful for the planet. Now I use a real plate to eat with my family, and it is better for the environment.”

Arthur, age 10

“I had my 10th birthday during Lockdown and it was different, but also good as it was a new way to spend my birthday. My parents arranged for my family to sing to me on Messenger. It was nice and my mum made me a cake. I think that using technology is helping people be able to see each other and also help me to do my school work.  I have been learning Spanish during this time using an app and it has been a lot of fun.”

Ethan, age 10

“I have online classes, so teachers can’t print documents anymore. It strikes me because having documents online already pollutes a lot and by printing them in addition, you only harm nature more by using unnecessary paper. I hope it will help people be more careful when using our planet’s resources.”

Salomé, age 15

“I never really talked with my neighbours (I didn’t even know some of their names) but now we do because we check everyone is ok and we help a neighbour with her shopping, recycling and anything else she needs and in return she bakes us delicious cookies.”

Archie, age 13

“But how would things actually be different in a wellbeing economy?”

This is probably the question that our team gets asked most often – and while there’s no single answer, there ARE lots of answers. It all depends on the location, and the issue area.

WEAll Knowledge and Policy lead Katherine Trebeck has created a new section of the WEAll website exploring how the dominant economic system tends to respond to issues, from mental health to the climate crisis, and how a wellbeing economy would respond differently.

The current economic system (the “old way”) responds to the common needs of humanity and the planet in ways that do not address the heart of problems and do not make life better for all. In fact, often problems are made worse or at best responses act as ‘sticking plasters’.

In a wellbeing economy (the “new way”), responses would be person-centred, positive and long-term. The exciting thing is – the new way is already emerging, with inspiring examples around the world showing us the way.

This new online resource sets out indicative wellbeing economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives. It’s a work in progress and open to further contributions –we’re inviting people to submit their suggestions to keep developing the ideas and examples.

Check out the “Old Way vs New Way” resource now.