Ecological Economics: A Broaden short video

How Ecological and Doughnut Economics inspired the idea to explore our broken economic system through an animated film.

In March 2021, my filmmaking partner George Webster and I (Bryony Simcox) released an 11 minute animated video together, under the umbrella of our shared video channel, ‘Broaden’. This story unpacks the motivations and process behind creating the short film ‘ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS: What has Covid-19 revealed about our fragile economy?'.

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The idea - let’s make a video about our broken economic system
For a long time, I’ve been interested in economics and how crazy it seems that so few of us engage with it or feel able to engage with it, given how it affects every facet of our lives. I remember when I first got my hands on a copy of 'Doughnut Economics', and Kate's explanations of why our current system doesn't work and her ideas for new systems really lit a fire inside of me. That fire has been burning for a while now, so when I co-founded my filmmaking company, Broaden, I knew I’d love to explore the topic of economics through video and get it out to a wider audience.

filmmakers George Webster and Bryony Simcox

It was while living in Spain at the start of lockdown in 2020 that I read Simon Mair’s article 'What Will The World Be Like After Coronavirus'. The article explained some fundamental ideas about why our economic system hasn’t been resilient to a situation like the global coronavirus pandemic. Reading Simon’s article felt like a bit of a Eureka moment, and perhaps in a moment of blind faith, I reached out to him and asked him if he’d like to take part in a Zoom interview, to form the basis of a video Broaden would make.

Taking shape - telling a story and crafting animations
I went into the interview with Simon Mair with no predetermined expectations. I wanted to talk openly with Simon about his article, which talks about the fragility of our economy, what the economy is for, pointless jobs and our economic imaginations. Simon's research focuses on the fundamentals of the modern economy, and he looks at the way that economic dynamics contribute to challenges like climate change, so I knew he would have so much fascinating stuff to talk about! What ensued was a 2-hour Zoom interview, which we recorded remotely while George and I were set up in Spain and Simon was home in lockdown 1.0 back in the UK.

We embraced animation as the perfect medium to bring the Zoom interview to life. The first stage of the creative process saw me transcribe the interview, and take a macro stance on the messages that Simon explored, chopping and rearranging them into a cohesive structure. Next, I scripted a voiceover which paraphrased some of his points and started to think about imagery that could encapsulate those points in a fun and simple way. Finally, we brought that imagery to life by animating it in Adobe After Effects, which turned out to be a bit of a labour of love for George and I but also a wonderful learning experience!

animated still from Broaden's video

The response - sharing the video with the world
By March 2021, almost a year after Simon had published his article in The Conversation and we had interviewed him, the video was ready to release. Making video work like this pro-bono is exactly the kind of value-creating activity that exists outside of the economic realm which Simon refers to in the video, but sadly that meant that wage-paying work came first as we strived to survive through ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and life in Spain! Nonetheless, after hundreds of hours editing, scripting, illustrating and animating, we were really happy with the outcome, and ready to share the video online.

The finished video was released publicly on YouTube in March 2021. It attempts to present key ideas in a really simple way, starting with the impossibility of growth (an idea reflected by many economists including Kate: ‘change the goal from GDP to the Doughnut’). The video also pulls in lessons from Doughnut Economics, including the four realms of economic provisioning: the market, the state, the household and the commons. We felt these realms were really important to highlight because we have seen them more clearly in the response to the pandemic, through things like the UK Government furlough scheme (the state), informal support in families and friendship groups (the household) and co-created resources and mutual aid (the commons).

animated still from the video exploring different kinds of value

Critically, the video explains a core principle of Ecological Economics - that there are different types of value. Our current economic system doesn’t prioritise or consider these other values, and therefore the market alone isn’t equipped to service our needs.

Since releasing the video, we have seen a broad audience respond to this message, and it has been shared by individuals and organisations such as the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity and the Wellbeing Economy Alliance. We’re also set to screen the film along with a live Q&A with Simon Mair and George and I with the Wellbeing Economy Alliance on 2nd June (4pm BST) which you can join here:

Watch this hugely informative video sharing the threat of our current economic system in the face of Covid-19. Another glaring call to move beyond GDP.

- Wellbeing Economy Alliance

Future goals - what’s next?
As a filmmaking duo, our voice is relatively small. But what interviewing Simon Mair and creating this video has shown us is that there are so many potential allies out there working towards more just and equitable economic futures. As we discuss in the video with Simon, really exciting things start to happen when you combine economic imagination with economic action. And so in creating a short video like this, we hope we are helping build people’s economic imaginations and ideas of what’s possible. Our goal is to keep spreading the word through this video and others like it so that our collective imaginations grow.

two critical ingredients for shaping better futures - economic action and imagination

Broaden would also like to create more videos in the future, possibly diving deeper into real-life examples of people shaping alternative economic futures, through action. This may be exploring things like time-banking, Indigenous wisdom, micro-loans, alternative currencies, co-operatives, universal basic services, participatory budgeting and other ideas already being employed across the globe. If making this short video has taught us anything, it’s that better futures are out there, if we come together to shape them.




    Sophia Manolis

    Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America

    I hope to one day pursue a career in community-engaged policy making, and it would be my dream to work for DEAL.

    1 comment
    Marilyn Hamilton almost 3 years ago

    Thanks for your video - I really liked the fresh ideas and fresh faces exploring what really mattered to you. Ecological Economics is necessary for any strategy of regeneration - so thanks for imagining something that is broader than any of the captialist or communist systems we have. Young people need to kickstart changes to the status quo - because their futures matter - thanks for modelling the energy to do this.

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