The covid-19 pandemic has made the inequalities and absurdities of our current economic systems clearer than ever. Economic policies are oriented towards emergency response and meeting basic needs, and there is no longer an economic status quo available to us.

This provides an opportunity to advance the vision of a wellbeing economy, with even more urgency than before the crisis. It has never been more crucial that we focus our systems on delivering wellbeing for all.

Ten Principles to Build Back Better

The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating effects on vulnerable communities around the world but we are also seeing glimpses of hope, where societies are working to “build back better” by ensuring basic needs and protecting our natural environment.

In a new WEAll briefing paper published today, we outline a set of ten principles for “building back better” toward a wellbeing economy. “Wellbeing economics for the covid-19 recovery”, by Milena Buchs et al, showcases examples of inspiring actions around the world that are moving us towards a wellbeing economy, along with examples of actions that are moving us away from this vision.


1. New goals: ecologically safe and environmentally just

Prioritise long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making; degrow and divest from economic sectors that do not contribute to ecological and wellbeing goals; invest in those that do; facilitate a just transition for all that creates jobs in and reskills for environmentally friendly and wellbeing focused sectors.

2. Protecting environmental standards

Protect all existing climate policy and emission reduction targets, environmental regulations and other environmental policies in all COVID-19 responses.

3. Green infrastructure and provisioning

Develop new green infrastructure and provisioning, and sustainable social practices as part of the COVID-19 recovery. For instance, transform urban space towards active travel and away from car use; scale up public transport, green energy, environmentally sustainable food production, low carbon housing; attach environmental conditionality to bailouts of high carbon industries.

4. Universal basic services

Guarantee needs satisfaction for everyone, including through health care coverage for the whole population free of charge at point of access; universal free provision or vouchers for basic levels of water, electricity, gas, housing, food, mobility, education.

5. Guaranteed livelihoods

Ensure everyone has the means for decent living, for instance through income and/or job guarantees, redistribution of employment through working-time reduction.

6. Fair distribution

Create more equal societies nationally and globally through a fair distribution of resources and opportunities. E.g. more progressive and environmentally orientated income and wealth taxation; public/common ownership of key resources and infrastructure.

7. Better democracy

Ensure effective, transparent and inclusive democratic processes at all levels; end regulatory capture from corporate interests and corruption.

8. Wellbeing economics organisations

Prioritise in all businesses and organisations social and ecological goals; implement circular economy principles to minimise resource use and waste; ensure economic and organisational democracy.

9. Cooperation

Ensure cooperation and solidarity at all levels, including in international politics and the global economy; across industrial sectors and government ministries; across scales (global, national, regional, local).

10. Public control of money

Introduce public and democratic control of money creation. Spend newly created money on investments that promote social and environmental goals and avoid post-recovery austerity.

What does building back better look like in practice?

There are already great examples around the world of governments starting to employ these principles.

The city of Amsterdam has sped up the adoption of a doughnut economics framework in response to COVID-19 to guide decision making.

New Zealand, Iceland and Scotland are already implementing wellbeing economics principles, through the formation of the Wellbeing Economy Government group, and wellbeing budgets and decision-making frameworks. These countries have also achieved better outcomes in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

Of course, other decision makers are opting for business-as-usual, what the WEAll Briefing paper calls a “back to worse” approach. Notably, several governments, including in the US, UK, Australia, Sweden and Denmark have bailed out airlines, without environmental conditions in response to COVID-19.

Download and read the paper for more examples under each of the ten principles of Build Back Better and Back To Worse approaches.

“Building back better” will require great creativity and coordination. Concerted effort is needed to truly value wellbeing and ecological sustainability simultaneously and for all.

New ideas are a crucial ingredient for such an endeavour. We’ve suggested the ten principles above for responding to COVID-19 – and we recognise that this is a unique moment of change. So, we invite you to engage in this discussion as we work to build back better together. Comment below with further suggestions of principles and examples for what this means where you are.

14 replies
  1. William waiswa
    William waiswa says:

    These principles are wonderfully made. I’m sure, if implemented well they have a huge positive impact on the economic and social well-being of the country.

    The government and other sectors can use them to revive what has been lost due to covid19.

    A lot has gone like jobs, reduced economy, reduced social services, education system affected, people’s lives and so forth. This is the right time to adapt to these principles for a quick positive change.

  2. frank inglis
    frank inglis says:

    These principles are basic left of center policies and are reflected in a variety of groups. Which part of an extreme right wing government do you think might ‘adopt’ these principles. what is the structure of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance that supports achieving these aims.

  3. Linda Pollock
    Linda Pollock says:

    We absolutely need to build a truly integrated health and social care system in Scotland – run nationally – with a workforce organised centrally with similar training, support and procurement arrangements as the NHS.

    I totally support these principles and their adoption would contribute significantly to reducing the inequalities that currently exist (and are increasing because of this pandemic).

  4. Alan
    Alan says:

    Que clase de asquerosidad socialista es esto? Cuando se garantizan derechos alguien los tiene que pagar! La libertad avanza por suerte!🐍 Aguante Milei!

  5. Karen
    Karen says:

    As a correction, the New Zealand Government bailed out Air New Zealand twice – once in 2020 ($891m) and again in 2021 ($500m), so you’d have to add us to the list of countries enacting ‘build back worse’ or change the metrics in your article. In fact, the legal academics in New Zealand called it a constitutional disgrace when the latest COVID-19 legislation that sets up vaccine mandates via employers and segregated society was rushed through under so-called urgency, despite it having commenced a very selective/secret stakeholder consultation (i.e. not the general public) across 5 months that goes completely against principle #7 and #9 of your article. Even the New Zealand Law Society and Chief Human Rights Commissioner have jumped on to criticise the approach. So there’s definitely building something in New Zealand, but it is not back, nor better, and certainly it wreaks of being anti-democratic and damaging social cohesion and trust in our institutions. Life has carried on in NZ and we’re not in a state of emergency anymore but are being forced to live under controls and fear as though that were the case. Barely 50 people have died of/with COVID-19 in NZ (including one classified as such, despite actually dying from a gunshot wound) and our borders are still closed including to many of its own citizens for nearly 2 years, despite official consensus being that COVID-19 is less of a health threat than influenza. This is not wellbeing by any stretch of the imagination. Wellbeing will only ever be built by the people, not authorities – that’s how the social contract works. And wellbeing is best defined and enabled by local communities at localised levels, rather than abused and centralised away from those it impacts so that it can then be globalised for a one-size-fits-all approach. It is also incredibly odd that individual human rights and dignity are only implied in your article, rather than explicitly stated as the foundations for building anything better than the mess we’re currently in.

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  1. […] (Wellbeing Economy Alliance – İyi Oluş Ekonomisi Birliği) günümüz iktisadının “daha iyisini inşa etmek” ve “ötesine geçmek” için önerdiklerini yaparsak ekonomik ve sosyal sistemlerimiz nasıl […]

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  3. […] and social systems look like after the pandemic if we can indeed do what WEAll suggests and ‘build back better’ or ‘bounce beyond’ today’s […]

  4. […] The time has come to Build Back Better… […]

  5. […] and other policies for economic recovery such as those being developed by Common Weal and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, are now necessary in the medium to longer […]

  6. […] Let us join hands across political spectrums and make the Wellbeing Economy the new economy for the 21st century.  Would you like to learn more? Then see the WEAll ten principles of Building Back Better. […]

  7. […] um „Wellbeing economies“ zu schaffen. Der englischsprachige Artikel findet sich hier:….Der komplette Artikel kann hier eingesehen […]

  8. […] for building back better to create wellbeing economies post-covid” which you can find here:…You can read the full paper […]

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