From the Old Way to the New Way: how a wellbeing economy will respond to issues differently

The current economic system (the “old way”) responds to the common needs of humanity and the planet in ways that do not address the heart of problems and do not make life better for all. In fact, often problems are made worse or at best responses act as ‘sticking plasters’.

In a wellbeing economy (the “new way”), responses would be person-centred, geared towards environmental protection and regeneration, positive and long-term. The exciting thing is – the new way is already emerging, with inspiring examples around the world showing us the way.

This table sets out indicative wellbeing economy responses to some of the major issue areas that decision makers deal with, and that affect all of our lives.  There is inevitable overlap across issue areas, so some repetition in the table.

It’s a work in progress and open to further contributions – please use the form at the bottom of this page to submit your suggestions. Thanks for the great ideas that have been submitted so far, most of these have now been brought into the table – so it is truly co-created!

Since launching the page in May 2019 we’ve been overwhelmed by the volume and quality of input. Submissions are now collated, and the page is updated on a monthly basis.

Issue area OLD WAY: Current system response(s)NEW WAY: Indicative Wellbeing Economy response(s)
Common good resourcesThe commons plundered by individual companies and people without comparable contribution to public revenues

Technological developments and intellectual property exploited by private owners without comparable recognition of the public investment in R&D that underpinned them

Use of the commons and benefits from technology contribute to citizens wealth fund

Collective, deliberative management of the commons

The natural environment is valued and respected as core shared resource

Climate crisis and communitiesCarbon capture and storage and emergency responses to ‘natural’ weather-related disasters

Low income communities most affected by climate crisis and bear most of the costs

Communities expected to increase their resilience

Circular economy principles in manufacturing and resource use

Community-based renewable energy generation

Climate crisis mitigated

Climate justice to ensure the burden of adaptation and mitigation is shouldered by those most responsible

Community empowermentEmpowerment agenda without the powerful giving up or sharing power

Thin representation even when democratic systems are in place



Attention paid to different styles of communication

Agendas set by communities, not just consultation on the details

Rich and robust democracy with meaningful representation, beyond party politics

Economics educationCurricula confined to neo-classical approaches and narrow focus on theory and modelsPluralistic and heterodox curricula on offer

Dynamic macro modelling and systems perspective

Real world context to the fore

Finance, including investments and access to capitalShort term profit extracted to owners of capital as opposed to fair returns for workers and suppliers

‘Financial innovation’ confined to debt-based products

Finance directed to activities with high social and environmental benefits

Long term ‘investment as commitment’

System change funds

Food systemPrices ignore environmental costs of production (including transport costs) and do not pay living wages to suppliers

Unhealthy addictive food cheaper than healthy food

Small-hold producers are price takers at the beck and call of large agricultural complexes


Locally grown, regenerative and cruelty free

Fair value share throughout supply chain

Plant-based diets more common place

Fossil fuelsExhaustion of remaining fossil fuel reserves seen as viable

No planning for livelihoods of workers in brown fields beyond fossil fuels, leaving communities economically stranded

Tangible pathways of training, enterprise creation, income support for brown field workers

Relevant skills directed to circular economy and renewable energy

Homes and housingRationed by price, uninsulated and energy inefficient, used as investment devices by rentiersCo-housing

Sustainable design

Publicly and community-owned mixed with privately owned

Intergenerational JusticeYoung people engaged because they are the ‘future’ on pre-determined agendas

Young people’s knowledge not recognised as valid or counting as much as older experts

Lack of intergenerational engagement

Young people sincerely and authentically engaged because they are the ‘now’

Benefit of experience of elders is recognised and cherished

Generations work together to address problems and develop the economy

Intergenerational justice is a factor in decision making processes

In-work poverty and earnings inequalityIn-work tax credits from the state to top up inadequate wages

Large gaps between highest paid and lowest paid

Compensation committees decide remuneration rates – vested interests dominate

Workers owning the business so have a guaranteed share of the value created by their work

Wages determined by (or better reflect) social value

Low ratio between highest and lowest paid

Justice and DefenceBurgeoning ‘guard economy’

Access to justice dependent on ability to pay hence unequal and contingent on financial resources

Law of the market dominates, including through private ownership of prisons geared to deliver shareholder value

Defence sector has disproportionate expenditure, is dominated by spending power and can make use of economic conscription

Justice seen as basic right of citizenship e.g. equality of access to defence/prosecution lawyers, perhaps paid or subsidised by taxes.

Wellbeing of people is at the centre of the justice system and decision making

Restorative, community-based solutions financed

Justice system to enable the general population to feel safe, to be fair and to facilitate a flourishing community. It attends to “the causes of the causes” of criminal behaviour.

Defense resources budget is consistent with the Article 26 of the UN Charter which demands disarmament and reduced military expenditures as a precondition for increased security, development, and peace.

Kindness and compassionDismissed as unimportant or even non-existent due to prevailing belief in rational economic manRecognised as a fundamental aspect of being human and nurtured through the nature of work, design of public spaces, the nature of advertising and education, and narratives about human motivations
Materials cycleLinear: take, make, use, waste

Planned obsolesce

Prices unrelated to environmental costs


Extended producer responsibility

Prices of inputs and production reflect true and full cost, including environmental impacts

Local artisans delivering repair and remanufacture

‘Right to repair’ incorporated products from the initial design stage

Mental healthMedicalisation and emphasis on the individual to be more resilient

Monetisation of our attention by corporate media complex, building and preying on vulnerabilities

People enabled to thrive with their basic human needs (including autonomy and relatedness) met

Relationship to nature understood and valued

Fundamental needs are met within society

Mental health in the workplaceReliance on individualised coping strategies without attending to the nature of work and causes of stress

Employees treated as ‘on-demand’ and disposable inputs and a cost to be minimised

Dominant culture of hierarchy and overwork

Healthier relationship with work: jobs designed to deliver autonomy, control and relatedness; sense of purpose; and sufficient and secure source of income and hours

Jobs designed with task rotation, ability to see a process through, reward reflecting effort

MindsetsThe dominant mindset is that there is no alternative to neoliberal capitalism and business as usualThe dominant mindset is that thousands of alternatives for designing economies exist – it is in our power to design economies differently. Economies should have human and environmental wellbeing as their focus

Innovation is the norm

Natural capital accountingEcosystem services ignored in corporate account keepingUse of ecosystem services appropriately counted (may not require assigning a monetary figure)

Recognition of the inherent value of nature, beyond the services it provides to human beings

PharmaceuticalsMonopolised by large corporations, making significant profits

Insufficient regard for public spending that makes research and subsequent commercial success possible

Access to medicine often based on ability to pay

Patents can restrict access to medications for large numbers of people

Medicalised, downstream treatment orientation

Profits of pharma companies socialised via windfall tax, or distributed in a way that recognises the substantial public sector research and development on which sector depends

Patents scrutinised and not acting as a block to entry or denying healthcare

Access to medication is not based on geography or ability to pay

Causes of ill-health dealt with upstream, and reduced through healthier natural environments

PollutionCosts passed onto third parties

Clean up rather than prevention

Polluting the commons charged at true prices so that producer pays

Caps on emissions set according to science

ProductivitySeen as key to economic growth

Results in pressure on workers to increase pace of work rather than supporting care, quality or craftmanship

No heed paid to influence of power within an organisation and how this shapes distribution of value share nor if more production is itself sustainable

Resource productivity is a key consideration, rather than labour productivity

Recognition that in some sectors (such as arts and care) labour productivity might lead to sub-optimal outcomes

Purpose of the economyBoils down to increasing per capita GDPHolistic measures of progress that encompass human and ecological wellbeing, including of future generations

Co-creation of these measures through wide public consultation

RetailExcessive focus on economies of scale

Process orientated, the only service is designed to secure the transaction



Passive process

Bespoke experiences

Focus on quality of craftsmanship

Human centric processes with connection and engagement over data collection

Designed to add value


Social care for elderlyDelivered by expensive, high intervention hospitals

Out of hospital provision outsourced on the basis of lowest price delivery

Community provision with sufficient resourcing to ensure quality service

Delivered by well-paid professionals whose salary reflects the social value of the role or by families who have time to undertake this aspect of the core economy (because of shorter working weeks)

Includes time in nature

WorkAcute specialization and atomization

Workers treated as ’just in time inventory’ and a cost to be reduced

Extremes of overwork, underwork, unemployment and underemployment


Jobs designed to meet fundamental needs

Tasks shared, autonomy devolved, scope to follow through

Workers treated as human beings

Work shared to allow more economic equality and working time reduced to allow other activities in employee’s lives

Renumeration reflects social value (not just what ‘Compensation Committees’ decide) and employees receive a decent share of the value they create

Less overworking

There is meaningful, appropriate, sufficient work for everyone who wants it

Person-centred economic development and investment strategies

Education and KnowledgeAccess is often commercialised and follows ability to pay.

Knowledge is created in systems that are reductionist. “Need to know” basis.

Public education is high quality, teaching and emphasising skills for relating and collaborating.

Higher education is affordable or free.

Access to knowledge is holistic and democratic. “Need to share” default.

Space and infrastructureSpaces are designed for private interests and with private vehicle needs prioritised.

Public space often commercialised.

Linear and top-down/elite planning processes.

Spaces are designed for community and connections.

Green space is prioritised and flourishing of nature is built into design.

Decentralised, participatory planning processes.

TaxationTaxation is usually just an arbitrary levy placed on activities that we actually would like to encourage – like honest useful work (PAYE) and trade (VAT) investment in green energy (business rates) which effectually discourages them particularly for small businessesTax things we want to discourage such as excessive use of non-renewable natural resources, poor use of land (including hoarding of it), monopoly rents and don’t tax things we want to encourage
HealthThe health system treats ill health rather than sufficiently promoting good health.

Emphasis is on treatment and acute responses rather than prevention.

Delivery of health services too often subordinate to short term profit agendas.

Emphasis is on prevention and in particular attention is paid to addressing “the causes of the causes” of ill health.

Access to health services is recognised as a basic right and is free at the point of delivery.

Delivery of health services is driven by values and outcomes.

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