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Coffee and Doughnuts: Workshop on Doughnut Economics

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On 19 July, the Partnership held a workshop on Doughnut Economics in collaboration with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab and the University of Bristol’s Inclusive Economy Initiative, to explore how the framework can be applied to organisational design. In the blog post below, Anna Ralph of Windmill Hill City Farm shares her reflections about the morning.

Despite melting temperatures, there was a lot of energy in the room for the Doughnut Economics workshop held at St George’s on the 19 July.  At the invitation of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Erinch Sahan and Rob Shorter visited from the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) to get us thinking about how to move Bristol and the world at large into what renegade economist Kate Raworth calls ‘the safe and just space for humanity.’  To that end we marked out two concentric rings on the floor, the outer one representing the Ecological Ceiling, and the inner one representing the Social Foundation. This language is taken from Raworth’s 2017 book, Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, which is one of those books which, once read, you will find yourself talking about to anyone who will listen.

Raworth’s main point is that our economy sidelines vital considerations, like care provided for free by parents and others and the environmental costs of producing goods that aren’t covered by the producer or the consumer. Her argument is that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is an outdated, inappropriate metric for the success of a country, and by extension, that the ‘bottom line’ is an inadequate measure of the success of a business. So, we were here to think about enterprise design and how we could make it regenerative and distributive to bring our activities into that safe and just space, without overshooting planetary boundaries or causing people to fall below decent living standards, wherever they are in the world. Erinch and Rob’s workshop enabled us to break this slightly overwhelming subject down, to bring our imaginations to bear, and do some surprisingly deep work in a few hours.

We were encouraged to imagine our businesses operating in a way that met these standards, and it was certainly challenging. What might a cup of coffee cost if every person and ecological system that contributes to it, from bean to customer, soil to water, transport & packaging, was managed in a way that was safe and just, regenerative & distributive? Would anyone still pay it? A big question for a social enterprise café operator! Through various props (rope, tubes, and a springy thing that kept misbehaving) we asked and answered questions, making connections between ourselves and elements of the city (housing, education, equality, air quality) and explored how they related to one another through 4 lenses; social/local, social/global, ecological/local and ecological/global. This provided a joined up way of finding solutions to the city’s challenges, one that acknowledges the tensions and overlaps between the local and the global, the social, economic, and ecological. We also thought about radical, innovative changes we could make to our own organisations thinking about their purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance – it was great to have the opportunity to take a step back and think outside the box.

Bristol has a global reputation for being a green, forward-thinking city, but I think it’s still vital that we look outside, learn from others, and see what other cities are doing to move in this direction.  Amsterdam is one city that has adopted Doughnut Economics as a guiding principle for their social and economic recovery after the pandemic. Closer to home, in Birmingham, seriously inspiring work is going on, led by an organisation called CIVIC SQUARE.

You’ll find loads more examples, all at different scales of impact and ambition, on the DEAL website. You can get involved as an individual or as an organisation, but I think the best starting point is the book itself, which will change the way you think about economics.

  • Watch our Doughnut Economics webinar here.

The workshop was part of the Climate Action Programme which offers free events, resources and learning opportunities for organisations looking to reduce their emissions. 

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