By Della Duncan
A tactical guide to Doughnut Economics for grassroots community organizers
Author’s Note: I got involved in bringing the Doughnut to a community when Jared Bybee, a lawyer in Los Angeles who I had never met before, messaged me on the Doughnut Economics Action Lab website asking if I was interested in co-facilitating the first-ever California Doughnut Economics meet-up. In November 2020, over 50 people joined our first call excited by the idea of bringing the Doughnut to California and eager to help turn the idea into reality. Since then, we, a group of committed volunteers, have launched the California Doughnut Economics Coalition, working to compile California’s current “Doughnut selfie” with the hopes that we can eventually bring our work to the governor’s office to inspire equitable and sustainable systemic change at the state level. In our open calls, folks from other parts of the country (and even from other countries) have joined to cheer us on and get inspiration from our process. We have been supported by other groups before us (especially London and Amsterdam) as well as the Doughnut Economics Action Lab team and at the same time, we are also building the road as we walk it. This guide offers invitations for you to get involved whatever your background and wherever you are in the world. This offering comes from my personal perspective and experience which is by no means exhaustive. There are many roads up the mountain and customizing the process to your context may be helpful to gather support and momentum.
You do not need to be an economist to change the goal of your economy to well-being for people and the planet. Here’s how you can bring Doughnut economics to your community.
Amsterdam, California, London. These are just a few of the places adopting the ‘Doughnut’ in order to encourage sustainable and equitable economic systems change. Behind each of these initiatives, there are people just like you motivated to turn Doughnut Economics from an inspiring idea into practical action.
What is ‘the Doughnut’ and why is it useful?
According to the late great systems thinker Donella Meadows, one of the highest leverage points to change a system is to change the goal. The current goal of many economies is blind growth. From extreme weather to wildfires, most people have directly experienced the impact of climate change by now. Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. At the same time, we recognize growing social and economic inequities, in most cases exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, showing up as precariousness, homelessness, and the fact that according to Oxfam, ‘the world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people who make up 60 percent of the planet’s population.’ The ‘Doughnut’ is a model offered by Kate Raworth and the Doughnut Economics team (UK-based hence the “ugh” in doughnut) that puts growth as a means to an end and not an end in itself. The goal of a Doughnut economy is to meet human needs equitably in consideration of the sustainability needs of the planet. Doughnut economics asks, ‘how can we have an economy with a strong social foundation for all without going over the ecological ceiling?’
This is where you come in. The doughnut can scale from the town-level all the way to the planetary-level. By measuring the doughnut for your community (affectionately called ‘taking a doughnut selfie’) you can assess how your community is doing at meeting the needs of the people in your community in relation to the health of the ecological systems your economy is embedded in. Curious about the data that goes into creating a doughnut selfie? Check out this slideshow for an example of data points a community could use.
You don’t have to do this work alone, in fact there is already a growing community of folks around the world and likely folks in your area excited to work with you to bring your local doughnut to life. Here are 5 steps to get started.
5 steps to implementing Doughnut Economics in your community:
1. Get to know the Doughnut
You don’t need to be an economist or an expert, but familiarizing yourself with the main idea of ‘Doughnut Economics’ will help you be able to make sense of the idea in your own context and invite others to join your effort.
Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist is a great place to start.
If you prefer to watch a video, Kate also made a TedTalk on Doughnut Economics called ‘A Healthy Economy Should be Designed to Thrive not Grow.’
2. Join the Doughnut Economics Action Lab community
The Doughnut Economics Action Lab or DEAL – doughnuteconomics.org is a community of practice for Doughnut Economics.
Sign up for free and create a profile to get started.
Once you are logged in, search the over 5,000 member database to find folks located in your area or who share your interest in particular themes. Find out how to message them by clicking on their profile picture.
3. Browse upcoming and past events for inspiration and information
On the DEAL website, there is a section featuring events coming up and those that have past. This will give you information about whether any events are going to be held or have been held in relation to your location. For example, at a quick glance at the time of writing this article, I can see that doughnut meet-ups have recently taken place in Hamburg, New York, Yorkshire, Spain, and Copenhagen!
Looking through the events will help you figure out if there are already folks working on bringing the doughnut to where you are. It can also help you to see how people are inviting people to collaborate, for example, some event organizers include games, presentations, and translation.
4. Plan and host a Doughnut meet-up
On the DEAL website, in the events section, there is a button to ‘add an event.’ This is where you can post your Doughnut meet-up gathering. Here are some tips and questions for you as you think through the planning and hosting of your event ~
- Is there someone in your area who you could co-facilitate the gathering with? It could be fun and helpful to have another person to generate ideas, think through the flow, and facilitate the meeting well.
- People attending your gathering will likely have different levels of experience with the Doughnut model, it might be good to include a short presentation on what the doughnut is and why it would be beneficial to measure it for your community. Here is the write up of the first California DEAL Meetup for inspiration of how we facilitated our first gathering.
- Besides the DEAL website, where can you promote your event to reach people who might be interested? Consider who is likely to show up and whose voices might be missing or do you want to make special effort to include.
- Lean on the DEAL team who are available to support you in promoting your event, attending your event, or offering resources and tools.
- Setting up an eventbrite for your event is helpful to be able to collect names and emails of folks interested in your event. Be sure to follow-up with this list (even folks who sign up but don’t attend) with next steps and the date of your next gathering if appropriate.
5. Be open to what emerges
Embody the more kind, caring, and collaborative economy you are working towards. This is not an opportunity to force your idea or gain at the expense of others. Let the ‘Doughnut Principles of Practice’ guide you and your community’s work together. May it be distributive, nurturing, and regenerative. Let those who come to your first gathering help shape the next steps and the process including helping to answer practical questions such as how should we keep in touch, how often should we meet, and what do we want to accomplish? Shared leadership can sometimes feel slower but it is more thoughtful, inclusive, and does not leave anyone behind.
Setting our intention to meet the needs of all people within the means of the planet is bold but necessary. There will be surprises and likely even setbacks and disappointments. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember you are not alone. There are many of us around the world also working on this shared goal and ultimately, the social and ecological benefits of this movement you are now a part of will be beyond our ability to measure.
Read Shareable’s recent article on the story of Doughnut Economics in California here, listen to their featured interview with Kate Raworth on “How Doughnut Economics Can Sustain the Planet” here, and listen to Kate Raworth’s presentation on “Doughnut Economic Scaled to the City” released by Shareable in partnership with Tufts University and The Kresge Foundation as part of their cities@tufts series. Learn more about Kate Raworth and her work with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab by visiting: www.doughnuteconomics.org