If a donut isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about saving the planet and fixing the economy, I wouldn’t blame you. But, at the end of the day, a donut might be just what we need right now.
As the world continues to crumble around us, communities and cities have turned to an economic model known as “Donut Economics”. The ‘donut’ is an idea that was first presented by renegade economist Kate Raworth in her 2017 bestselling book, “Donut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. ”
The idea is based on an image that contains two rings. The inner ring represents our social foundation and the outer ring represents our ecological ceiling. The goal of the “donut” model is to bring humanity into the pasty center – the space where we meet our economic needs while remaining within planetary boundaries.
“So many people say we need a new economic story”, Raworth said. “We need a new narrative of what economics is, and I agree with that. But the most powerful stories are those told with pictures. And if we don’t redraw the pictures, it will be very difficult to tell a different story.
Probably the most important image associated with the economy is the supply and demand curve. And while useful in some contexts, Raworth wants to replace this image with that of a donut. His vision is one that rejects our current dedication to endless economic growth while ensuring that humanity thrives.
“What is the purpose of the economy? Raworth said. “The old diagram that told us what the goal of the economy was was for GDP growth, which is just an ever-increasing line that goes up and up – that deeply rooted notion of moving forward and upward. is good. But we know that GDP growth and growth itself does not bring all the well-being that we want in the world. The process we have now led to extraordinary environmental degradation and extraordinary inequalities as well. ”
By creating policies and frameworks that reject blind, endless growth – policies that lie in the donut sweet spot, Raworth believes we can structure our societies in a way that provides communities with the economic security they need. by maintaining a habitable planet.
“The donut tries to represent a worldview in which we can meet the needs of everyone within the means of our planet,” said Raworth. “It is the vision of human well-being that he portrays. For each person to have the resources and capacities to meet their needs and rights to food, water, health, education, housing, community, connections, energy and political voice – so that we can meet all of these needs and lives of dignity and opportunity, but doing so within the means of the planet.
And Raworth is not alone in his vision. Many communities and even entire cities have started to explore the “donut” model as a goal for community and environmental well-being as well as for public policy. And while the goal is a global donut, not all will be the same. The model is flexible and can be applied at the grassroots by a variety of communities, cities, states and even countries. In fact, earlier this year the city of Amsterdam adopted the model as a starting point for public policy decisions.
“The city of Amsterdam was the first city to say, yes we are using the donut, we are designing our circular strategy for the city,” Raworth told Shareable. “So we created a Donut City Portrait, which looked at their city through the donut lens, and they decided to release it in April 2020. At the height of their covid crisis. The deputy mayor of Amsterdam, Marieke van Doorninck, said to herself: are we really going to publish this strategy in the midst of the covid crisis? And she said, yes, in fact we know that transformation becomes possible in times of crisis. Crisis opens up opportunities and sometimes even in the darkest hours, this is when we need to see the light most.
Together, Raworth and city officials were able to build a framework that aims to firmly place the municipality of Amsterdam at the center of the donut. The emphasis is on creating a circular economy, a model that rejects the traditional economic linearity of growth and instead focuses on how economies and societies can follow a more sustainable and humane path.
“We have to turn these linear lines into circular lines,” Raworth told Shareable. “We need to create economies in which resources are not used, where they are used over and over and over again, much more carefully, more collectively, more creatively and more slowly. “
And it’s not just Amsterdam. Cities around the world have been inspired by the ‘donut’ and have strived to incorporate the model into their policy making and future visions.
“Less than six weeks after it was posted by Amsterdam, the city of Copenhagen got a vote that was passed by a massive majority to say, hey, look what they’re doing in Amsterdam,” Raworth told Shareable. “Here in Copenhagen, we will vote to make our own plan and explore what it would mean to become a Donut City.”
After realizing the interest in the donut model, Raworth and her co-founder Carlota Sanz launched the Donut Economics Action Lab, or DEAL to create a global network of communities who want to embrace the donut economy.
“Since Kate Raworth came up with the ideas, people are spontaneously applying them in different contexts – so neighborhoods, cities and businesses have picked up on the idea,” DEAL’s Rob Shorter told Shareable. “The ideas have been implemented for many years now. DEAL’s goal is to create a space for this emerging community of change makers who apply these ideas spontaneously and help people connect around the ideas.
DEAL’s approach to economic transformation includes reframing economic narratives, influencing strategic policy and innovating with the DEAL community itself by providing communities with the tools to co-create methodologies that transform Donut Economics ideas in action. In the United States, Philadelphia and Portland are two cities that are currently exploring what the model might look like for them.
“These cities have gone through a process with city officials and residents to come up with an approach of taking the global donut and saying, how can we apply this to our city?” Shorter says Shareable. “How to reduce that? We therefore realize our global responsibility to the global donut and recognize our local aspirations for a thriving city. “
But it’s not just at the municipal level. More recently, residents of the state of California gathered at Zoom meetings to try to introduce the “donut” model to their state.
“I read Donut Economics when it came out and honestly that was the first ray of hope,” Jared Ruiz Bybee told Shareable. “It brought together a lot of different sons who I knew were important individually, but didn’t have a mind map for them to be together. So when Kate Raworth and the DEAL team launched the DEAL platform and made some of these tools and concepts available to people, I was really hoping that I could be a part of something happening in California and later in the world.
Bybee has spearheaded efforts to bring the “donut” to its state. The group is in its very early stages of development, having only had three meetings so far. But Ruiz is confident there is interest and enthusiasm in the idea and hopes to present it to decision makers once the group has had the opportunity to develop a “donut portrait” for the state of California.
“We’re trying to be very broad and open about what it might mean to apply Donut Economics in the state of California,” Bybee told Shareable. “Whether it’s at a very popular level or at a statewide political level. I’m more interested in politics and statewide politics, but other members of the group are interested in much more popular endeavors. And we hope to create a tent big enough that there is space for each of them and everyone in between.
After setting up a Slack channel and bringing together a hundred people, the group created different working groups that focus on the different dimensions of the introduction of the donut model in California, including the ecological dimension, the social dimension and the commercial dimension.
“I’ve listened to lots and lots of different agency meetings across the state of California, and I think there will be lots of friendly ears,” Bybee told Shareable. “A lot of these conversations are happening already and I think the concept of evaluating what we do as a state through this Donut lens is really going to resonate with policy makers in the same way it resonates with a lot of. people.”
Many of the conversations surrounding the introduction of the Donut to cities or states are in their very early stages. And while there is no public statement from the new Biden administration, Raworth recently made a presentation to Biden’s transition team, demonstrating that there is also at least some level of interest at the federal level.
“The transition team was saying, well, what we really want to hear are ideas that could be implemented within the first 100 days that don’t need additional legislative approval,” said Raworth to Shareable. “And so I put forward some ideas from the first hundred days. But then I said, to be honest I think the real value of Donut Economics isn’t a hundred day idea – it’s the whole mindset shift. It’s taking a step back and wondering what it would mean for the United States to be a home for prosperous people in a prosperous place while respecting the well-being of all and the health of the entire planet? It is not a hundred days’ job. It is not even the work of a single presidency. It’s a decade’s work.
It is far from certain that the Biden administration will embrace the donut model, but as interest and engagement continues and communities continue to work to influence policy makers at the municipal and state levels, which knows what is possible.
“I’m hoping that like a lot of things California can take the lead,” Byee told Shareable. “That we can show other states and other places what is possible if there was the political will to think about the economy and to think about our economy in a more holistic way.”