Paris Workshops

Either side of the Final Conference, a smaller group came together to discuss how they could take forward the key recommendations of the BRAINPOoL project. On this page you can find a report of the discussions and access the external presentations given at the first of the two workshops.

Since the workshops, working groups have been developing projects to help move Beyond GDP into the political and policy mainstream. If you are interested in getting involved, please email christine.berry@neweconomics.org.

Day 1: Exploring key problems and solutions

The first day’s workshop focussed on refining the two key recommendations to be discussed at the afternoon conference: developing a compelling narrative for Beyond GDP, and facilitating integrated and innovative policy making. Each session opened with a presentation from the BRAINPOoL team and two external contributions, followed by table discussions.

The first session, focussing on narrative, was opened by Charles Seaford of the New Economics Foundation. (A revised version of this presentation is available on the conference webpage, here.)  The group then heard from Alexandre Jost of Fabrique Spinoza about the experience of the ‘movement for a positive economy’ in France, and from Jon Hall of the UN Development Programme, who identified five beliefs which a new narrative needs to challenge and five priorities for action.

 

BRAINPOoL Workshop 24 March 2014: Alexandre Jost from nefwellbeing

BRAINPOoL Workshop 24 March 2014: Jon Hall presentation from nefwellbeing

 

Table discussions generated a number of recurring themes. Groups agreed that the 2008 crisis was the backdrop for any new narrative about the economy, but that successful narratives must go beyond this, offering a more enduring positive vision. There was more debate about what this vision should focus on, but a number of key concepts drew widespread support, including equality, stability, resilience and quality of life. But it was also pointed out that a compelling narrative needs explanatory power: we must guard against the risk of a “proliferation of adjectives” to describe the new economy which does not add up to a coherent alternative story.

Groups identified a number of broad areas for action, including the need for participatory processes enabling people to discuss and define the concept of progress, linking Beyond GDP to democratic renewal; mapping the opportunities to engage supportive governments and building cross-jurisdictional links to learn what works and does not work; engaging communications specialists to develop compelling Beyond GDP messages; and developing a single headline indicator to crystallise these messages.

The second session, focussing on Beyond GDP policy making, was opened by Saamah Abdallah of the New Economics Foundation (revised presentation available on the conference webpage). The group then heard from Tommaso Rondinella (ISTAT) and Romina Boarini (OECD) about the E-frame project’s development of tools for policymakers, including the Handbook for Measuring Progress and ‘policy-integrated framework for well-being’; and from Lisa Ollerhead (UK Cabinet Office) about the O’Donnell Report on Well-being and Policy.

 

BRAINPOoL Workshop 24 March 2014: E-frame presentation from nefwellbeing

BRAINPOoL Workshop 24 March 2014: O'Donnell Report presentation from nefwellbeing

 

Table discussions emphasised the need to be clearer on the policy implications of Beyond GDP indicators: what are the policy levers that can be pulled to influence indicators of well-being or sustainability, and how would policy be different if it were made with these indicators in mind? This could mean taking particular policy areas as case studies (as the BRAINPOoL team began to do with labour markets and the green economy), or developing overarching policy-relevant messages or rules of thumb (e.g. ‘three key lessons from the well-being evidence’). Disseminating these messages and getting policies implemented would require a willingness to reach out beyond the existing community of indicator specialists, including to officials in finance ministries which are too often treated as ‘the enemy’.

There was also a need to build up statisticians’ capacity and willingness to act as ‘indicator entrepreneurs’ and as agents for policy change. Structural changes to the policy machine could help to better equip it for Beyond GDP policy making – for instance, mechanisms to help overcome short-termism and facilitate continuity from one government to the next, learning from successful experiences in countries like the Netherlands and Korea.

 

Day 2: Developing action plans

 The second workshop was designed to move from general priorities for action to concrete next steps. After a short recap of the BRAINPOoL project’s recommendations and the input from the previous day’s workshop and conference, working groups were formed to discuss and develop specific action plans. Since a key lesson of the project and the workshops was the need for indicator specialists to become more outward-facing and engage strategically with influential actors, the groups were structured according to the key audiences for new projects:

  • The EU institutions and the UN. This group focussed on plans for engagement with EU institutions to influence the Europe 2020 mid-term review and the European Semester process, as well as Europe’s interactions with the UN’s SDG process.
  • National governments and politicians. This group focussed on plans for direct engagement with governments, politicians and their advisors, both to build support for Beyond GDP narratives and to develop Beyond GDP policy processes and accountability mechanisms.
  • Local government and public engagement. This group developed plans for public dialogue events which could form the basis for engagement with (particularly local) politicians, as well as the scaling up of existing local government initiatives involving new indicators.
  • The media. This group discussed two ideas for projects: the need to provide media training to statisticians and indicator specialists, and the potential to harness ‘big data’ to produce real-time indicators such as a Daily Happiness Index.
  • Business. This group discussed ways to connect the Beyond GDP community with synergistic work on new measures of value at the corporate level, as well as to unblock barriers to a wider understanding of value on the part of businesses.
  • Academia. This group focussed on the key next steps for developing strong theoretical foundations for Beyond GDP, including securing funding to fill key gaps in research, building networks of heterodox economists, and pushing for changes to economics curricula.

Workshop participants were keen to maintain the momentum generated by the conference to take these ideas and projects forward. Each group now has a co-ordinator who has committed to help facilitate action and collaboration, and the New Economics Foundation has agreed to act as a secretariat for the groups as a whole.

If you are interested in finding out more or getting involved in one of the groups, please email christine.berry@neweconomics.org.