Katherine Trebeck: "A wellbeing economy delivers good lives for people first time around, instead of patching things up later"
We met with the brilliant and ebullient Katherine Trebeck this week in Glasgow. Katherine is head of knowledge and policy at the WEAll Alliance - a global network of activists, academics, politicians and citizens who want to change the story about our economic and social priorities.
We’ve profiled Katherine’s work on “arrival” - as an equally attractive metaphor than “progress” for sustainable economies - and we’re delighted to announce the London launch of her book, The Economics of Arrival (co-authored with Jeremy Williams, and also profiled on this site), on May 13th, 2019, at the International Institute for Environment and Development.
This recent column for the Carnegie Trust is a great recent summation from Katherine of “wellbeing economics”. An excerpt:
In the depth of the Great Depression, in 1933, John Maynard Keynes wrote:
The decadent international but individualistic capitalism, in the hands of which we found ourselves after the War, is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed
Today is a time of similar economic inequality to when Keynes was writing and just as then, more and more people are beginning to despise the current arrangements.
Fortunately, today we are not short of ideas as to what to put in its place.
Concepts of societal wellbeing are familiar the world over, even though different terms might be used to describe the central idea of flourishing for all people and sustainability for the planet.
This shared vision for a better way of doing things can be found in the scripts of many religions. It is contained in worldviews of First Nations communities. It can be read in the scholarship of development experts and in research findings about what makes people content.
This vision echoes in evidence from psychology about human needs and from neuroscience about what makes our brains react, and, perhaps most importantly, can be heard loud and clear in conversations with people all over the world about what really matters to them.
A growing movement is forming around the idea of a wellbeing economy. Academics are laying out the evidence base, businesses are harnessing commercial activities to deliver social and environmental goals, and communities are working together not for monetary reward, but following innate human instincts to be together, to cooperate and collaborate.
These efforts will be made easier the more pioneering policy makers embrace a new agenda for the 21st century. We can look to how Costa Rica delivers longer life expectancy and higher wellbeing than the US with just a third of the ecological footprint per person.
New Zealand is showing how to design government budgets for a wellbeing economy. Alternative business models like cooperatives show us how success beyond profit can be embraced [see our blog earlier this week].
So we’re not starting from scratch. By learning from the many examples and reorienting goals and expectations for business, politics and society, we can build a wellbeing economy that delivers good lives for people first time around, rather than requiring so much effort to patch things up.
We designed the current economy, so we all can design a new one: the only limits are our imagination.