Jimmy Paul, Director of Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland
I was delighted to join the kNOw One Place event in Dumfries on 23rd September. I have long appreciated the centrality of the arts and creativity in enabling good lives and ensuring meaningful participation of communities in driving social change. Art and creativity is also vital in telling stories and in building our connectedness to one another, and to nature.
The word ‘economy’ can sometimes feel like it is preserved for the use of those with a degree in the topic. Its origins can be traced back to ‘Oikonomos’ in Greek, which means ‘living within our household’. Today therefore, it is best understood as simply how we provide for one another. With that said, a successful Wellbeing Economy would have to provide for the following fundamental needs for Scotland: Purpose: The purpose of serving the collective wellbeing of people on a healthy planet is embedded in all decision-making processes across governments, businesses and third sector organisations. Economic activities and behaviours are valued for their contribution to this purpose.
- Dignity: The economy is built around an ethic of care, eliminates poverty and collectively ensures that everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness.
- Nature: The economy operates within planetary boundaries, regenerates ecosystems and provides a restored and safe natural world for all life.
- Fairness: Justice is at the heart of the economy with the economy designed to ensure a just distribution of income, wealth, power and time.
- Participation: The shape of the economy is determined by people’s active voices and locally rooted. People participate in and are engaged with the decisions that affect their lives, whether it is in their countries, communities or workplaces.
So to what extent are we providing for one another, and flourishing? In his book ‘Injustice: Why Social Inequality Still Persists’, Danny Dorling talks about “wounds caused by inequality by building more prisons, hiring more police and prescribing more drugs”. Spending in such a way is a symptom of an economy which continues to get things wrong for families and the environment first time around, and tries to patch up the damage further down the line.
The appetite at this event to talk about the role of the economy at the kNOw One Place event was refreshing and exciting. I was struck by the contribution of the attendees of how vital their work is in delivering better lives in line with Wellbeing Economy principles, as artists, community leaders, as charities and as citizens. Participants did not shy away from talking about the economy. Fellow provocateurs also spoke about the need to understand the bigger picture in the work that we do day-to-day, acknowledging the important of arts and creativity in telling stories in an ethical, powerful way which helps people to understand both the moral imperative for bigger systems change, alongside the economic and fiscal imperative.
Indy Johar gave an incredibly powerful keynote about the influence of individual action. His key message, however, was to be active drivers of systems change in the face of both social and environmental crises which impact us all. With that in mind, I see that there is more that those involved in the arts across Scotland can do to support the move towards a Wellbeing Economy in Scotland. One obvious way to do this is to join WEAll Scotland as members; it is free to join and you will be joining a fantastic community of diverse, like-minded organisations who are all committed to making this a reality.
Whether it is being more explicitly in support of a Wellbeing Economy, focusing our efforts more preventatively, identifying and amplifying the importance of systems change measures which prevent us jumping from crisis to crisis or indeed ensuring a ‘nothing about us, without us’ approach to change. There was a quote that was ringing in my ears on my drive home: “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard”. I am looking forward to working with The Stove and others in the arts and creative sector to ensure that everyone in Scotland has a voice, especially those who have been ignored in the past, and that it is in service of a Wellbeing Economy which works for people and planet.