Place in the Wellbeing Economy

BEFS Policy & Strategy Manager reflects on the recent Wealth of Nations 2.0 Conference and place as part of the wellbeing economy agenda.

©UN Photo/Cia Pak: SDG Projections: Massive scale projections and peoples’ voices to celebrate UN70 and visually depict the 17 Global Goals.

WEAll (Wellbeing Economy Alliance – Scotland) Wealth of Nations 2.0 Conference.

WEAll (Wellbeing Economy Alliance – Scotland) exist as a global collaboration of organisations, alliances, movements and individuals – working together to change the economic system to one centred around wellbeing; an economy that delivers for human and ecological wellbeing.

WEAll Scotland is working through themed areas (as was represented on the day) these include: youth, finance, business, place, community and faith. BEFS are working with WEAll in relation to the Place strand, look out for a WEAll event from BEFS.

The extremely supportive Conference keynote address was given by Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland. The message being that our economy has to be worth more than GDP alone – GDP is not the only measure of our progress. (The Government statement can be read here.)

In a question from the floor, the First Minister was asked how she manages to prioritise across a wide range of policy areas on a regular basis. Nicola Sturgeon said she uses the National Performance Framework as a guide. Having a structure helps to find focus. The First Minister doesn’t mean that she examines the NPF for all decisions, just that if the framework exists, it can help to make informed decisions based on already agreed criteria. It would be remiss of me not to comment that this seemed relevant to the work being done on Prioritisation and the ‘decision making tool’ in relation to the OPiT Built Heritage Investment Group.

Rarely have I attended a conference where so many people expressed at the end of the day how exhausted they were … To be clear, this was a positive affirmation of a day which clearly expressed big ideas, with tangible examples, and gave a surprising amount of hope that we are reaching an ecological and economic tipping-point where change becomes inevitable. It’s directing the change that becomes the greater challenge! (There were many excellent speakers, practical examples, and workshop sessions, to list them all would take too long, and to pick out a few would be detrimental to the whole.  For those who want to see more, there will shortly be a film available on the WEAll website.)

In many ways the best way to demonstrate the day to readers is by focusing on the end; Dr Katherine Trebeck, Global Knowledge and Policy Lead for WEAll, closed the final plenary with thoughts on taking stock and stepping forward. After digesting the full breadth of the day’s speakers, and listening to feedback from the ‘Deep Dive’ sessions (six sessions enabling participants to discuss challenges and generate solutions across themed areas – BEFS participated in the Infrastructure and Community sessions), Dr Trebeck concluded with a rapidly formed three point plan, we collectively need to: Surf the silos – acknowledging that what connects us and the related knowledge can aid progress; Sort out ‘switching costs’ – change can cost, these costs need to be acknowledged and justly borne; and develop how to Sequence sensibly – systems change will have many steps and logical progression will be key to success.

As a sector we are aware of many aspects which can help encourage pragmatic change; from making sure our buildings are considered as part of the circular economy, to the importance of our existing places and buildings as central to infrastructure, learning how we can meaningfully support community participation, and collectively contribute to the making of NPF4 – forming places for the future.

We can apply pressure that enables leadership to recognise that we understand how what we measure, is how we are judged. Let us not be judged as complacent, or complicit in denying the potential positive changes an economy which foregrounds wellbeing for people and places can achieve.

To steal a few phrases from Anna Murphy and Sam Butler Sloss (WEAll Scotland Youth) – we need to be ready for ‘change as usual’ and to bring forth ‘outrage with optimism’.

Read more in the new The Business of Wellbeing guide released at the event.