Rishi Sunak will present his Spring budget statement tomorrow. It would be great to think recent hardships caused by pandemic, inflation, fiscal drag, high energy prices and national insurance increases might give him pause to think more deeply about the kind of economy this country needs.
If he did, he might stumble across a truth that the wellbeing economy movement has been shouting about for years. These are not random micro events thrown by invisible forces to compromise us, change our behaviour or make us tighten our belts. They are not accidents caused by ‘the market’. The seemingly unconnected convulsions that periodically break out as a response to this lumbering, venal and profoundly inequitable system – which is created and controlled by humans – are symptoms of a deeper disease.
Even on 21st century climate-challenged and war-torn planet Earth, the growth proliferation agenda apparently knows no limits. What needs to happen before a chancellor can deliver a truly visionary investment in every individual, every community and the planet we live on, instead of sticking plasters like ‘Levelling Up’?
At CTP we know that an economy focused on delivering equitable and sustainable wellbeing and a world where progress is measured by our capacity to flourish, thrive, belong, be happy is already in our hands. It’s called a wellbeing economy, Mr Sunak, and here’s how it works.
Why we need a wellbeing economy
There are four elements of our ‘economy’ – the market (how we exchange goods and services), the government (how we provide and distribute essential services and support), the household (where much of our work is done including caring for the young, old and vulnerable), and the commons (communities, shared skills and natural resources). In this model the market is ‘master’ – the other three play supporting roles to its confidence and growth.
By making the market and growth our goal, and putting consumption-based measures like GDP to the fore, our economic and political systems do not measure, value, nurture or invest in the other three elements. This system does not account for nature, is blind to distribution of resources and gives little value to things that are essential for our human, social and environmental resilience.
There’s a wealth of vital projects and initiatives dealing with the symptoms of this economic model. From tiny community projects to global initiatives, the work to deal with the fallout of our attitudes to people and planet is everywhere. Similar effort needs to be urgently turned to challenging and reversing the fundamental root cause.
A wellbeing economy approach
In a wellbeing economy the household and commons and their collective capacity to thrive become the goal and the market and government are in service to this goal. Business can no longer blindly consume our planetary resources, nor ignore the value of people and communities. The market is essential but focused on products and services to help people and places to thrive.
In a wellbeing economy government policies and resources are directed at ensuring shared benefits of society (education, health, transport, a safety net for all), and the natural and human commons are available to all, now and for generations to come. Decisions in all sectors and at all levels of society are taken against these core principles.
There is an urgent need for pioneering local leaders to come together and choose this path, showing what’s possible, sharing what works and creating ways to spread change place by place across the UK and beyond.
Such leaders are already emerging – people in all sectors who are making their choices and investments of money, skill and creativity based on their value to people and planet – moving away from short term thinking and privileged interest groups towards valuing the building blocks for our collective wellbeing.
This new way of working is also prompting the rapid development of new tools, data, delivery models and ways to embed them. Data that is playing a key role in delivering a sustainable shift in focus for local policy and action, support for leaders to scale this approach, tools and guidance are helping those on the front line use this compass for decision making. This work is happening in pockets around the UK and the world and is helping break down entrenched divides and creating services and systems that work in this new and disruptive way.
With the right information, tools and support, the changes we are seeing in New Zealand, Iceland, Scotland and elsewhere can be delivered across the UK. Examples such as wellbeing budgets, wellbeing focused regional plans, social value procurement, community led social businesses and participatory democracy can be delivered at scale even within our highly centralised system.
To find out more about how CTP and many of our partners, such as WEAll and NEF have already helped design this future economy, with the tools and support in place to help deliver it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org