Meet the Doughnut and the concepts at the heart of Doughnut Economics
The Doughnut offers a vision of what it means for humanity to thrive in the 21st century.
First published in 2012 in an Oxfam report by Kate Raworth, the concept rapidly gained traction internationally, from the UN General Assembly to the Occupy movement.
Kate's 2017 book, Doughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist, further explored the economic thinking needed to bring humanity into the Doughnut, drawing together insights from diverse economic perspectives in a way that everyone can understand. The book soon became an international bestseller and has now been translated into over 20 languages.
Here's a summary of the book's core messages in a 2018 TED talk.
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The Doughnut's holistic scope and visual simplicity, coupled with its scientific grounding, has turned it into a convening space for big conversations about reimagining and remaking the future. It is now being discussed, debated and put into practice in education and in communities, in business and in government, in towns, cities and nations worldwide.
Read on to find out more about the Doughnut, the core ideas of Doughnut Economics, its implications for business and organisations, and the principles to be followed by anyone wanting to put it into practice.
What is the Doughnut?
Think of it as a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century, with the aim of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the living planet.
The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth's life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is bothecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive.
If the 21st century goal is to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet - in other words, get into the Doughnut - then how can humanity get there? Not with last century's economic thinking.
Doughnut Economics proposes an economic mindset that's fit for the 21st century context and challenges. Drawing on insights from diverse schools of economic thought - including ecological, feminist, institutional, behavioural and complexity economics - it sets out seven ways to think like a 21st century economist in order to bring the world's economies into the safe and just space for humanity.
The starting point of Doughnut Economics is to change the goal from endless GDP growth to thriving in the Doughnut. At the same time, begin economic analysis by seeing the big picture and recognising that the economy is embedded within, and dependent upon, society and the living world. Doughnut Economics recognises that human behaviour can be nurtured to be cooperative and caring, just as it can be competitive and individualistic. It also recognises that economies, societies, and the rest of the living world, are complex, interdependent systems that are best understood through the lens of systems thinking. And it calls for turning today's degenerative economies into regenerative ones, and divisive economies into far more distributive ones. Lastly, Doughnut Economics recognises that growth is a healthy phase of life but nothing grows forever and things that succeed do so by growing until it is time to grow up and thrive instead.
What would make it possible for an organisation to become regenerative and distributive so that it helps bring humanity into the Doughnut? DEAL has run workshops for businesses, city departments, foundations and other kinds of organisations that want to explore this question, and the implications are transformational.
At the heart of these workshops is a focus on design: not the design of their products and services, or even of their office buildings, but the design of the organisation itself. As described by Marjorie Kelly, a leading theorist in next-generation enterprise design, there are five key design traits that powerfully shape what an organisation can do and be in the world: its purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance.
Purpose. Why does the organisation exist: what purpose is it in service to? Is it focused on maximising financial returns, or on a living purpose bigger than itself? Purpose is essential, but it must be backed up by four other traits of organisational design.
Networks. What are the organisation's networks? How does it relate to its customers or members, its staff or volunteers, its suppliers, neighbours and allies? Are they aligned with its purpose and values, or are they caught up in a culture that undermines them?
Governance. How is the organisation governed? Who is in the room when decisions get made, and who has voice in those decisions? How is progress towards the purpose measured, and how is that purpose safeguarded when under pressure?
Ownership. Who owns the organisation? Who owns the land it is on, the data it generates, the knowledge that it creates, the assets that it holds? Is is owned by a founding entrepreneur or by a family, by shareholders or by the state, by its own employees or by venture capital? The design of ownership profoundly shapes the last –- and deepest –- design trait.
Finance. How is the organisation financed, and what is that finance demanding? Is it seeking fast and high financial returns, or it is invested in generating social and ecological value, with or without financial return? Is that finance in service to the organisation's purpose, or in service to itself?
Together these five design traits profoundly shape an organisation's ability to become regenerative and distributive by design, and so help bring humanity into the Doughnut. Find out more about what it means for the future of business.
The Doughnut Principles of Practice
We set up Doughnut Economics Action Lab and the DEAL Community to turn Doughnut Economics from a radical idea into transformative action.
In order to ensure the integrity of the ideas as they are put into practice, we have turned the Seven Ways to Think, and the five key design traits of organisations, into the Doughnut Principles of Practice. We ask that these principles are followed by any initiative that is working to put the ideas of Doughnut Economics into practice. Find out more about what it means to put them into practice in the DEAL Community.