Brief snapshot of the people of Donut Berlin bringing Doughnut Economics to life. What we're doing, and common threads.
A slice of Donut Berlin
Donut Berlin is a group of Doughnut Economics (DE) enthusiasts drawn together by a desire to see Berlin thrive and grow in healthy, sustainable and ecologically viable ways. There are approximiately 30 members, and 6–10 meet regularly. Everyone is a volunteer also juggling day jobs, families and studies. Some are Berlin-born, some are from other parts of Germany, and a few are ausländers (foreign-born). The group is approximately 15-months old. During that time people have come and gone; the size and shape of the group is always in flux, which seems common to volunteer initiatives (read more on characteristics of DE initiatives)!
In early November, 14 Donut Berlin members got together to look back on our first Festival, look forward to what the future holds, and make and eat delicious kürbis (pumpkin) soup.
I was very curious to know more about what each of us are doing connected to “The Doughnut” in Berlin and beyond, so we went around the table and shared our stories. The result is what you see below — a slice of Donut Berlin – what its members are doing and what they are passionate about.
“It’s about serving others to serve ourselves” — Mario Luhm, Donut Berlin.
At least four are postgraduate students.
One student is working with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) to operationalise workshop design with businesses, and has run sharing sessions on DE principles and degrowth with government and academia. They are also representing Donut Berlin and other City events such as at the Amsterdam Donut Days or International Degrowth Conference, and writing a thesis at the intersection of Economic Diversity, Urban Living Labs, and Sustainability Transitions.
Another student is writing a thesis on designing and managing the process of transition to sustainability. Their main focus is on the bottom-up perspective and how groups such as initiatives or grassroots movements can initiate transformation through society-wide change. The aim of their work is to open up spaces of opportunity as well as provide recommendations for future actions of initiatives.
A third has just completed their Masters on Doughnut Economics model in socio-economic transformation processes and is now co-creating workshops and lectures to further bring their study findings to life. They are committed to bringing the Doughnut and other transformative ideas including Zero Waste goals into City and community conversation. For them it’s about helping people to think about longer term strategy in inclusive, cross-disciplinary ways.
A fourth student’s thesis is about operationalising the environmental boundaries of Doughnut Economics and gathering indicator data for Berlin. This kind of data may serve as inputs to map and ‘downscale the Doughnut’ to the Berlin context.
Two members come from a built environment background, looking at how to implement DE principles in building development and architectural practice. One is also looking at how to implement circular economy ideas as part of this.
Three members are spreading the spirit of the Doughnut through spoken word, storytelling, cooking and community engagement at sites like Teepeeland. With these playful, engaging forms they want to show others that economic change can be enriching and joyful, and that “The Doughnut” offers a safe space for us all to shape a better future. As one of these members says “it’s about serving others to serve ourselves”.
Two members are working on an impact report for what’s been achieved by the group and the Donut Berlin Festival, which will be shared publicly in the coming months.
We are all spreading seeds in our own way — some seeds will take longer to grow, but the most important thing is, it’s happening.
At least six members work for civil society and non-profit organisations, with common threads of sustainability, regenerative thinking and practice, and ambition to influence government policy and priorities.
Four are working for Berlin-focused initiatives: one is helping shape climate policy for citizens and the environment at local and national levels by means of participatory processes like citizen assemblies, one is making visible regenerative projects in the City, and making space for talks and salons on sustainability and “a good life”, one is helping a food cooperative rethink its delivery infrastructure and adopt circularity, and another is providing strategic analysis and consulting to businesses for effective societal engagement and for their transition towards sustainability.
Two work beyond Berlin, one on designing democratic approaches to climate action across Europe — with an interest in how community-led initiatives form and influence system change. The other builds networks for a responsible investment charity engaging NGOs, foundations, universities and investors on social and environmental approaches to investment.
What we’re hearing from the field is that others see Donut Berlin as “people who know stuff” and I’d say that is very true! We are all spreading seeds in our own way — some seeds will take longer to grow, but the most important thing is, it’s happening.
Listening to these shared stories, I was struck by several things:
Taking time out to share our activities and passions really helped with getting to know each other better. It was also exciting and motivating to realise how much we’re doing across the group. It reaffirmed for me how critical and foundational trust and relationships are for change action. You can’t just put a group of people with weak ties in a room to work on a complex socio-economic challenge and say ‘go for it’.
We are a truly multidisciplinary bunch, including architects, ethnographers, strategists, visual and performance artists, facilitators, and postgraduate students in transition design, bringing different skills and interests, and all connected by wanting to shift systems and mindsets on what healthy ‘growth’ really means for Berlin.
We have much untapped collaboration potential between us, but that’s not to say we are not already making inroads in our own ways. The progress we’re making all speaks in the same direction. Later we might come together to do work under a Donut Berlin banner, but it’s also equally fine if we don’t. We’re not a consultancy, we’re a collective.
There are natural synergies between some of us, that could turn into more coordinated activities involving different group members. For example, transition design processes, working in cross-disciplinary ways, circular economy, workshops with academic and industry, and design of our group model itself.
Most of us would like to do more, but have an ongoing tension between paid work and/or family and study coupled with volunteer time for Donut Berlin.
I’m proud to be a friend of this group, and can’t wait to see where we take “The Doughnut” in 2022 and beyond in Berlin.
Thank you to Donut Berlin friends for sharing their work and contributing their time to this article.
About the author: Kate Goodwin is an Australian designer and researcher based in Berlin, and friend of the Donut Berlin initiative since July 2020. Her interests are in social and climate innovation, and creative approaches to engaging with complexity. More via Twitter @matchboxstudio.