This relentless treadmill of working to consume is underpinned by an economic system that prioritises the pursuit of profit and economic growth over the wellbeing of our communities and planet.
- Úna Bartley, Director, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland.
Back in the late eighties, Christmas for me, meant extra shifts at WH Smith's record department. More shifts meant more cash, and more cash meant more purchases from Ms. Selfridge for my ever expanding wardrobe with its fifty shades of black. With my shaky grasp on economics, the festive period seemed a win-win for all concerned: more work equalled more goods purchased. More purchased goods equalled more work. And more work equalled more goods to be purchased. What wasn't to like?
Fast forward thirty years and this is the world that so many are living in and on which our economies depend. A world dominated by work (be it low-paid, well-paid or unpaid) and consumption.
This relentless treadmill of working to consume is underpinned by an economic system that prioritises the pursuit of profit and economic growth over the wellbeing of our communities and planet. It is a system that has given rise to stark inequalities and is devastating our environment. It has also subtly shaped our thinking so that with all that work and shopping, we often lose sight of what really matters to us: our family, friends and health. As well as what is essential for our survival: a sustainable and viable planet.
Yet it's hard not to feel that change is in the air. Witness the recent series of political shocks, the volatile atmosphere across the globe and the sudden rise in protests against climate change.
While some are simply venting their frustration at a system that they feel has left them behind or is trashing our planet, others are quietly channelling their energy into establishing positive alternatives to our current economic model, from community energy projects to innovative business initiatives to ethical finance projects.
While some are simply venting their frustration at a system that they feel has left them behind or is trashing our planet, others are quietly channelling their energy into establishing positive alternatives to our current economic model
The Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland was established as part of a global movement which works to build on this momentum and to promote a wellbeing economy. Building such a radically different economy - one that delivers social justice and environmental health - will require participation from both 'insiders' & 'outsiders' across all sectors. Our role is to support, connect and amplify those who are already pioneering alternative practices and demanding radical change of our institutions, as well as to create platforms for a different narrative, including safe spaces for business leaders and politicians to explore a different economic model.
From the outset, WEAll Scotland has been overwhelmed by individuals and organisations in Scotland wanting to be part of the movement to build a wellbeing economy. To capitalise on that energy and potential, we are setting up a series of sector-specific clusters, including a 'Faith Cluster'. Each cluster will work with participants to identify the leverage points and opportunities for change within their own communities, led by the question, ‘what can we do together that we can’t do apart?’.
The 'Faith Cluster' will build on the strong engagement we have had to date with the Church of Scotland and others. It offers particular promise given the track record of churches and other faith groups in leading some of the most successful social movements of our time, through mobilising engaged communities and by asking people to reflect on their values and our social norms.
The festive period is a good time for reflection, and if like me, you now think there has to be more to life - and Christmas - than work and shopping, we'd love to hear from you. You can stay engaged with the work of WEAll Scotland through our website, our Twitter account or by signing up for our regular bulletin at Scotland@wellbeingeconomy.org