Forward and upward.
Our society is addicted to growth. From our youth, we’re programmed to see the world function in forward and upward motion. Similarly, our economic, political and financial systems are based on a fairytale of everlasting growth – but if you think about it, nothing good in nature grows forever. In the twentieth century, economic growth (measured by Gross Domestic Product, commonly known as GDP) became the sign of prosperity and the overriding goal of policymakers. Of course growth has brought prosperity to millions of people, but this myopic focus on growth — at any cost — has led us to unprecedented levels of natural resource exploitation and increased social inequalities.
Grand challenges of the 21st century require an immediate shift in mindset. To address current pressing environmental and social challenges, we need to stop thinking linearly and embrace a more systemic approach; meaning, that we recognise the complexity and interconnectedness of the world we live in. Kate Raworth, self proclaimed renegade economist and senior research associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, examines what a “sustainable, universally beneficial economy looks like”.
As Raworth explains, we need to urgently reimagine the shape of progress towards prosperous and thriving economies, whether or not they grow.
Introducing the Doughnut
In 2012, Raworth published the book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist”. In the book, she introduced a new revolutionary economic theory based on the fundamental idea that sustainable development can only be achieved when considering prosperity (which is not necessarily a synonym of growth) as a double-sided challenge. There is a dynamic balance between meeting society’s needs and staying within planetary boundaries, and the goal of policy should be finding that sweet spot. Progress can no longer be measured with a single metric of a money indicator (again, we’re talking about GDP). Instead, we need a dashboard that captures how different dimensions interplay – and this is how the Doughnut came to be!