Build back better: 10 doughnut-inspired principles

A story about how doughnut economics inspired the formulation of 10 principles for building back better post Covid-19

The early days of the Covid-19 pandemic felt like a mix of shock and wonder - scores of people losing their lives and livelihoods; far-reaching restrictions of movement; inner cities and cultural life shutting down; but also new government expenditures of impressive proportions, at least some of which to support people's livelihoods; new community efforts to support people who were shielding or self-isolating; quiet streets on which cycling finally felt safe.

Things were happening fast, so I decided to set up a collaborative online document to track economic, social and environmental policies in response to Covid-19 and invited a bunch of friends and colleagues from different countries to contribute. 

Luckily several of them were interested, and soon the idea came up to use this information we were collecting for a short policy brief to compare what was happening around the world and assess it from a 'doughnut economics' perspective: to what extent did government responses to Covid-19 point into a direction compatible with a good life within planetary boundaries?

To write a coherent piece, we needed a comparative framework, and that's how we came up with this set of 10 principles to build back better following Covid-19. To create the first version of these principles, I looked at various ecological economics frameworks and sets of criteria that they had defined for alternative social, economic and environmental goals. Kate's doughnut was one of them, and it turned out to be one of the most useful ones due to its clarity and simplicity.

The policy brief collects examples from around the world for each principle on 'building back better' or 'building back worse'.


The first principle in our set is the doughnut economics demand to deprioritise GDP and instead focus on needs satisfaction and staying within planetary boundaries. Principles 2-6 summarise ecological and social foundation goals of the doughnut, and principles 7-10 are a set of additional 'how to' principles that we thought were important to characterise governance processes that can support the shift towards an alternative economy.

We were also fortunate to have had inspiring input from Katherine Trebeck, Amanda Janoo and other colleagues from the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) in this process, and even more fortunate for them to agree to publish the piece as a WEAll Briefing Paper. Many thanks also again to everyone else who contributed to the policy tracker and the policy brief, which you can find on the WEAll website here:

Open 'Ten principles for building back better to create wellbeing economies post-covid'.

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    Pritesh Dineschandra Kotecha

    Lisbon, Área Metropolitana de Lisboa, Portugal

    Learn and Grow. I love the systematic approach of your framework. Simple and effective.

    SOJY SN

    Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

    To learn, practice and employ humanistic economics in all its progressive aspects.

    John Burton

    South Burlington, Vermont, United States of America

    I have enjoyed the Donut Economy book and agree with this way of viewing our current economy.

    Anne Fritzner

    Stevns, Region Sjælland, Denmark

    a longing for a more sustainable world and way of living that makes all thrive. Are looking into creating teaching materials (DK)

    Ann Gosline

    Patagonia, Arizona, United States of America

    Very interested in how donut economics principles can be brought to large rural landscapes and their communities.

    Greg Hart

    Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    A designer, investor, educator, and community member who is building a future-fit world full of future-fit people.

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