By Alexandra Berendes
I´m from the very north of Germany. People say that we northerners tend to not speak much – as for me, that definitely isn´t true, which is also a reason why I really enjoyed writing this blogpost and I hope you’ll enjoy it too!
Let’s start with a bit about my personal context: After having worked in the economy and big corporations for a few years, I decided to change the path of my career drastically last year. I quit my job and moved to Spain to study a Master in Sustainable Business & Innovation.
In this Master where we talked a lot about the role of companies in regards of shaping the future, the new business paradigm and the triple bottom line. I began to see the economy in very different way. During this time I heard of the Wellbeing Economy for the first time.
One of my classmates, Helene, was deeply involved with WEAll Youth and we began to talk about it, when – be it coincidence or not – they were looking for a community manager in the organizational team. I decided to apply for the role and just shortly after, started to get to know the team and the members.
WEAll Youth started in 2018 – now, three years later, we felt like something went off track.
The initial objective, the strategy and really the overall path had gone missing and we wanted to find it again.
We knew that hosting community calls, talking to members, being connected with WEAll Global – was helping the cause of building a Wellbeing Economy, but we couldn’t help but feel a bit lost once in a while.
We started to ask ourselves the BIG questions:
- Why are we doing this?
- Who are we doing it for?
- Where do we want to go?
It became clear that we needed something to guide us.
Something to help us make decisions, something to help not to lose sight of what we really want to achieve.
In our organisational team of six we began a series of workshops in which we discussed what we’ve done so far, why things worked out and why they didn´t.
At first we wondered where to start – we decided to start with the mission of The Wellbeing Economy Alliance and broke it into smaller pieces to make it easier to digest:
- 10 year project and global movement
- bring together organisations and individuals (reach a critical mass)
- Focus on system change
- by linking and coordinating activities that contribute to a Wellbeing Economy
The question remained – what is WEAll Youth doing then?
For this, let’s look at the “WHY” and “WHO” are we doing this for. (Spoiler – it´s young people ;).)
- We found that some consequences of the current situation that we all feel, were:
- A notion of “Without extensive economic knowledge I have nothing to contribute to the discussion” or “I don´t know enough about it to make a point”
- Young people feeling excluded or not being taken seriously when trying to give input in economic decision making processes
- Lack of confidence to stand up for your own ideas of a future because you feel like you’re alone and lost (I don´t even know where to start)
- Feeling uninspired and unable to see an alternative to current reality
- The root causes of these consequences seemed to be on the other hand:
- The education system doesn’t focus on the “what can be?” but on the “what is”
- Hard to find engaging content and a community where we can exchange ideas
- We feel like they don´t speak our language
- The economy feels like a pretty boring topic
- Getting involved isn’t fun but really difficult and you´re a bit of a weirdo
From there we talked about how we can change this and looked at our main questions.
- Why are we doing this?
- Economics is always shown as this abstract and super difficult subject to understand. It seemed a bit like a strategy from “above” to make the economic system seem so difficult that people don´t want to get involved in the first place.
- But when it comes to other complex topics, we still have opinions on them and know what we are for or against: e.g. when it comes to migration, renewable energy, equality, etc.
- The key to a more equal future is system change – You might ask: “What is this again?” – It´s less complicated than it might sound and does what it says on the box → “Changing the current system” – meaning we need to rethink the ways we were thinking before and find new ways and solutions for current problems. For example we do have enough food globally to feed everyone, but it’s unequally distributed. We live in a system that is not just and we need to change this!
- We want to make it easier for young people to participate and understand what system change means.We feel like there was a need for the information we personally would love to have and we want to fill that gap and create a safe space for people our age to ask all the questions they have about the economy, chat about things that interest them and make up crazy ideas for a future full of wellbeing.
- We want to empower them, connect them, and help them overcome the fear of not being able to participate in this discussion.
- Who are we doing it for?
- Especially young people: firstly, because we all are part of this group of 16 to 30 year olds (age limits are not strict though, don´t worry 😉 ) and we are able to relate the questions this group has – because these are our questions, too. We empathise with them, speak their language, ask their questions and feel their fears, because we are part of this group.
- Where do we want to go?
- The future will always be abstract – no one knows exactly what it will look like: not us, not the politicians, not even Elon Musk. There is always an element of uncertainty, which can be seen as a negative thing, but even more so, it can also be an amazing opportunity! If you don’t know what something is going to be like, you have the possibility to dream about how it could be. You can use your imagination to come up with an idea of a possible future and with this dream of yours, you can take action. You can make decisions, when it comes to the career path you choose, the actions you support, things and people that you spend your time on and time with.
Imagination is such a powerful tool that can literally move mountains. But it’s also not always easy. How can you dream of something that you don’t know, when you have nothing that stimulates you to think in new ways? We often felt like that we can’t possibly dream of something new, because we often focus too much on the present and the given structures we know
“A job needs to be from Monday to Friday, companies are there to make money and produce things you can buy, there has always been a divide between the rich and the poor, the glass ceiling for women is just there” – the list goes on and on.
But whenever we got a little nudge from someone, a little piece of information, that made us question the status quo, it helped us think differently.
“So you´re saying that this company uses all of their waste products internally again and uses them for other products and has hardly anything they need to actually throw away? I see…maybe then…I can dream of a world, where all of the companies reduce their waste output to an absolute minimum and we could live in a totally circular world…that would be incredible! In my first job, I want to question what currently happens with the waste in my company and ask if there isn’t something else we could do with it.”
This is what we call a “spark” – we want to ignite this train of thoughts and help young people to think big, think differently, think bold, think crazy, think like they can make a difference – because they can.
So we phrased our North Star like this:
“Every young person can see an alternative to the current economic system and envision a future of social and environmental wellbeing.”
Finding this North Star and most importantly having intensively discussed the topic and finally have come to a conclusion was super helpful for us. It might not seem like rocket science, but this process helped us reveal many questions we still had, enriched our discussion, brought us closer together as a team and most importantly gave us the direction that we were looking for.
From our North Star, we came up with a list of activities that will help us reach it and boiled it down to a simple equation to make it easy to communicate what we do:
With all of this in mind, we stopped doing certain activities, we changed the frequencies of meetings and community calls, we started trying new things like a different way of reaching people via social media through more diverse content and engaging with other networks to put us on the agenda of other organisations.
All of this goes to show how beneficial it is to go into the introspective from time to time and challenge the status quo.
It’s just too easy to lose sight of the overall goal, when you’re busy dealing with operational issues and short-term needs.
We´re curious to hear what you think of our journey to our North Star and happy to exchange thoughts!
A quick shout-out to our fellow enthusiasts:
To our WEAll Youth members – with a renewed direction as a team, we would love to work closely with our community to bring content that matters and create value together.
To individuals interested in understanding the Wellbeing Economy – do connect with us via LinkedIn/ Facebook or Instagram for a introduction to our alliance, local hubs near you and what the wellbeing economy is all about
To members of WEAll: Looking forward to integrating our youth community closely with you to bring the expertise of policy makers/ business/ community leaders closer to the voices and actions of the youth!
We are hopeful that our North Star will guide us in the future.