The Economy has a Purpose…and that purpose is Wellbeing

Tags: iceland, policy, wego
Published on June 13, 2024

WEAll Co-Founder, Michael Weatherhead, reflects on the Wellbeing Economy Forum in Iceland. 

I try not to fly as much as I can, so to get on a plane must be worth it for me. And for it to be worth it, the event I am going to has to be one that recognises the times we live in and is willing to step up to the transformational change required to meet these times. I write this as I am on the plane coming back from the WEF. Not the World Economic Forum in Davos, but the second Wellbeing Economy Forum, held in Reykjavik, hosted by the Government of Iceland and the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership.

The Wellbeing Economy Forum (WEF) is important, for it is the only international forum in the world that focuses explicitly on the wellbeing economy. Not wellbeing, not the economy, but this transformational framing of an economic system that places the economy in service of people and the planet.

    WEAll Ambassador Kristin Vala Ragnarsdottir

How is that different to all those events where social, economic and environmental are regularly trotted out as the three key pillars of sustainable future. Put simply, a Wellbeing Economy provides a purpose for the economy as it is in service of the other two. When you place economy equal to society and the environment, you, unsurprisingly, get into endless conversations around trade-offs and people, in their conversations and deliberations, manage to get as far as ‘doing less bad’ or ‘offsetting the damage’.

This year’s event showcased the world premiere of the film ‘Purpose’. Purpose follows the fortunes of Katerine Trebeck (co-founder of WEAll) and Lorenzo Fioramonti (former Italian education minister) as they navigate, from the outside and inside of politics, the creation of a new government alliance, committed to exploring economic policy making with the purpose of serving people and the planet first. 

World Premiere of Purpose by Martin Oetting

The film is a tale of courage and perseverance (by all those that brought WEGo to life) in the face of multiple setbacks. The film may very well have documented the beginning of a (quiet) revolution. Why quiet? Because it shows that behind-the-scenes work is as important in creating change as is marching through the streets. And, because if you push past the noise around environmental destruction and societal inequality, you will find the current economic system quietly driving these crises.

Another notable highlight of the event was people coming from Iceland, Norway and Taiwan all wanting to learn about how to establish WEAll hubs. I gladly set them up with other Hub leads present, like Denmark who recently ran a successful conference in Copenhagen. 

It was also exciting to see the new Prime Minister of Iceland taking the WEGo torch from Katrin Jobstotrittier forward. He acknowledged that while Wellbeing Economy outcomes may not always manifest within political cycles, it is crucial to persevere and remain steadfast in our convictions.


Prime Minister of Iceland Bjarni Benediktsson

New power matters, and WEGo is, and has the potential to be, one such form of new power to push vital changes to our economic systems. I am already thinking about next year’s event and the potential to make it a truly global event, where WEGo governments, and governments aligned with a wellbeing economy, come together with purpose driven businesses and civil society movements from across the globe to educate, inspire and act, by use of this powerful framing, to counter the prevailing calls that suggest societal good and environmental restoration are somehow incompatible and as such, we need to double down on an economic system no longer fit for Purpose.

Want to join
the discussion?
Let us know what
you would like
to write about!