Covid 19 has tested the nation and the world. It has provided an unprecedented shared experience and prompted a significant rethink of priorities at all levels of society. From far sighted businesses and concerned citizens to politicians of all persuasions, more and more voices are demanding that we ‘Build Back Better’, and develop an economy with people at its heart, and the planet firmly protected.
The task of refocusing and radically rebooting our economy has never been more urgent or supported. But whilst the time might be now, time is also not on our side.
The combining crises produced by 10 years of austerity, a global pandemic, a looming no deal Brexit and climate emergency mean that solutions are needed fast. Local and national leaders, with the courage and vision to genuinely build something ‘better’ out of all of this, need help to define what ‘better’ really means and help to drive a pathway to delivering it.
But let’s be realistic. If you are the mayor of a UK city, or the chief executive of a council, a business or a charity, you do not have the time to research every option, or the expertise to redesign the economic model that got us in this mess, and is now embedded in almost all aspects of our lives. So you turn to the ‘experts’ and what do you find? As the title of this blog says, you find an array of models, tools and narratives to choose from. Each has different strengths, and offers different possibilities, but what do they have in common, and how do you choose between them?
Luckily there is a strong enough thread through them to be useful now- even to the most stretched of local leaders, and many can be viewed under the banner of ‘wellbeing economics’.
Whether it’s the Doughnut model from the brilliant self-styled ‘renegade economist’, Kate Raworth, with its provocative questions about our impact on people’s needs, planetary resources and the world around them – or OECD’s ‘Better Life’ spidergrams – keeping nations around the world focused on what matters to the lives of their citizens – or bigger still the vital clarion call of the UN’s Sustainable Development goals. The work has been done – from the grassroots deliberative democracy movements to the leading academics bringing research to life – we don’t need to start with a blank piece of paper when it comes to defining better. Let’s start with what we know and build build build from there.
As an organisation that has been shouting from the rooftops for exactly this shift in thinking and action for over 10 years, we at the Centre for Thriving Places continue to bring our decades of know-how together to offer places across the UK a fast track to creating their own route map to build back better.
The Thriving Places Index is a world leading tool designed to measure whether or not we are creating the right local conditions for people to thrive, and whether we are doing that equitably and sustainably. In essence, it is a tool that already maps out the principles of better economics for every Local Authority Area in England and Wales and has the data ready today.
Our work not only delivers the data behind the ‘Doughnut’ and the building blocks for ‘better lives’, our team works with local towns, cities and regions, to quickly, collaboratively and economically fill in the detail. We take this outline ‘portrait’ of a place, and adapt it to the local context, priorities and needs. We can help people across sectors, communities, politics and place agree what ‘better’ looks like and then use the data we already have, combined with their own unique local wisdom to paint a clear and shared picture of where they are, where they want to be and the key steps to getting there.
As a ‘centre’ we believe in collaboration. We listen and co-create with places this clear picture of vision and need, then we bring in the best people, tools and data to support them to get there. That might be our own expert staff and associates, or the brilliant Doughnut Economics Action Lab team, or it might be the local wealth builders at CLES, or the new economy policy visionaries at NEF, or the social business brains at Power to Change or the cooperative culture experts at Co-operatives UK. Whatever the barriers are to a ‘better economy’ locally we will help navigate a path to overcoming them.
If you’re serious about building back better where you are, and you need help to ensure that the urge to return to business as usual doesn’t overwhelm that ambition – we can help fast track your vision into a practical and deliverable plan – with the metrics to back it up and keep the economist and funders on board.
The communities most affected by the current perfect storm of challenges, cannot afford for us to sit around pondering a blank page for too long. They are crying out for an economy where people and places matter. We don’t have all the answers, but most of them are out there, so we need to start there and work together, against the clock, to deliver this urgent work.
A ‘new’ or ‘wellbeing’ economics is the only option if we collectively want a fair and sustainable future. If we can help local leaders carve out a route to delivering that out of the current crisis – then perhaps we will together really ‘reshape’ the world around us into a colourful array of doughnuts, spiders and more.
“The Thriving Places Index is a brilliant tool for debating what we think matters most in our lives, exploring just how different parts of the UK are doing, and asking why there are such vast differences between them. This is just the kind of metric needed to steer us wisely through the 21st Century”