Here, Liz tells us about the need to work together to change the economic system.

Liz Zeidler

We might all want to change the world, as the Beatles famously sang, but few of us agree on why, for whose benefit, and in what way. Brexit, climate change and austerity all show how deeply divided we can become on questions of what a fair society is, who or what should come first, and what it means to live a good life.

While Greta Thunberg and many Extinction Rebellion campaigners understandably don’t feel there is ‘time’ to focus on anything but saving the planet, many of those queueing up at food banks across the country understandably don’t feel they have ‘time’ for worrying about the ‘environment’. So who’s right?

The economic system

It seems we have submitted to the oldest tactic in the book – we have let ourselves be divided and conquered by an economic system designed to do just that. While we sit in our separate camps, fighting over minimal political will, media airtime and resource scarcity – about complicated issues that affect a majority of people – a new billionaire is created every two days and the top 1% have more wealth than the rest of humanity put together.

The current money-first, growth-obsessed, economic system is surviving and thriving as we compete against each other to change it. 

When money and consumption take centre stage as our key measure of success, combating climate change or tackling poverty must compete for limited resources. A growth-at-all-costs economic system drives spiralling levels of inequality and environmental destruction by design, not by accident. When the end goal of ‘progress’ is economic growth, neither people or planet are as important as inflation rates, house prices and consumer confidence.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

The economy is a human invention. We designed it and we’ve changed it many times before – in fact, it changes all the time as we work, shop, support businesses and charities, volunteer, campaign, vote or do any other everyday activity. And right now, a big change is taking place in the form of the growing wellbeing economy movement.

Happy City is part of a global movement supporting individuals, communities, businesses and governments to shift to a new economy that puts the wellbeing of both people and planet at the heart of our lives, our work and our society.

If we reclaim our vision of progress and redefine prosperity in terms of wellbeing, then sustainability and social justice are clearly and vitally ‘on the same side’. A wellbeing economy provides a lens through which to design a new way of doing business, politics and economics where justice for people and planet are balanced and prioritised.

The Thriving Places Index

This week we have published the 2019 results for the Thriving Places Index (TPI), with support from Triodos Bank. It is a comprehensive, but deeply practical, way to assess every area of England and Wales – 373 local authority areas in total – on how well they are creating the conditions for people to thrive, and if they are doing so fairly and sustainably.

Every local area is assessed against a range of indicators that together paint a clear picture of what’s working to build community, support health and education, and create a clean environment and strong local economy that supports current and future generations to thrive. To find out more about where you live go to our website  to see your local area’s results.

The TPI provides a way for decisionmakers to create plans and assess progress using a different compass – one that drives us towards long term wellbeing for everyone. In New Zealand, they are using measures like this to deliver a national wellbeing budget – only spending public money on the things that are proven to improve people’s lives. There are pockets of such innovation around the world but the TPI is the only example of a comprehensive way to assess sustainable, equitable wellbeing at a local level, but also at a national scale.

By supporting local people, from citizens to mayors, to come together around a shared vision, and providing a shared set of metrics to measure progress towards delivering it, the TPI is a key tool in breaking down our divisions and creating an economy that can support people and planet to thrive. 

We are excited to be already working with pioneering places and organisations, eager to embed this new and fast-growing way of working where they are.

About Liz Zeidler

Liz Zeidler is co-founder and chief executive of Happy City – a small team with a big mission, to help make what matters count. Happy City challenges the idea that the world has to be about endless consumption and GDP growth, because it thinks people want something better than that.

The latest Thriving Places Index was launched in partnership with Triodos Bank. If you’re interested in using the TPI or working with Happy City to embed a wellbeing economy approach in your business, community or public body, get in touch.

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