After our Regenerate Devon Summit in July 2020 (brilliantly hosted by Local Spark, Plymouth Social Enterprise Network and Essence Social Enterprise Exeter), an open invitation went out to all Regenerators in Devon to continue the conversation about using the Doughnut as a way to coordinate work towards a socially and ecologically resilient economy. 

In neighbouring Cornwall, Manda Brookman/Cafe Disruptif had already got the ball rolling and now, six months on, Cornwall County Council’s Decision Wheel is in its second iteration. Here in Devon activity abounds that has ‘a healthier, more just, more resilient future’ at its centre. Adding to that vitality, a growing group of ‘Devon Doughnut Makers’ is in the midst of exploring the idea of a “Devon Doughnut For All”, or, more accurately, ‘Doughnuts For All Across Devon’.

Following on from that in October (2020) the Bioregional Learning Centre initiated a series of six ‘Coffee and Doughnuts’ sessions with about 30 people from very different backgrounds including councillors and officers. We anticipate that this group will organically broaden into a coalition with a Doughnut Summit on the horizon. With three task streams, Planning, Making and Sharing, we are learning together, actively generating and addressing questions and issues, and formulating a perspective that we plan to discuss with decision-makers of all kinds. We are placing equal importance on 1) a unifying process that connects different levels and sectors, 2) the nuts and bolts of data-crunching and 3) widespread participation and a public-facing programme.

The Doughnut we are shaping has “space for revitalization” as its centre. Paul Pivcivic, Doughnut Maker, describes where we are at session five: “if we know, say, that Devon is emitting 20% too much carbon do we put in place an action plan that gets us back behind the 'defensive' outer ring, the ecological ceiling, and into the safe space of the doughnut on that indicator? What mindset is likely to inform that action plan? And who would be engaged implementing it? If we understand the carbon indicator as an emergent property of a complex socio-economic system we might be tempted to start exploring the interdependencies, like housing, transport infrastructure, second home ownership, food production. Great for describing the problem, which we might say is vital for the community to speak its voice and feel some agency. But quite a thorny one to develop policies around. What might be the place of communities (once they share a richer picture of the issues), to image together a Devon which has a restored capacity to keep regenerating a healthy human/ecological system? How could a restored/improved ecology be sequestering more carbon as well as providing more opportunities for contact with Nature? What would shift in climate related behaviour if people were given more agency to shape the stories of the places they live in? With the investment to back it up? What might the visible signs be of bioregion which is regenerating? Is this what we should be measuring?”

Nudged by that challenge, we are now experimenting with “space for revitalisation” indicators. They demonstrate gain within the central ring and along the lines of the different segments like greenhouse gas emissions. We are still in an early phase of deciding what we want to measure and how to democratise data so that citizens can settle on the indicators they need for their specific places. Alongside that, we are speaking with Devon County Council to understand what kind of Doughnut would work for them. We are testing out the idea of a range of different ‘dashboards’ for different contexts that can all feed into an evolving Devon Doughnut. 

Our work is entirely voluntary at this stage. Led by “good enough” evaluation, the goal is to move through a process so that we have a strong sense of all of the aspects involved–from statement of purpose through to communications timeline–to see how far we can get in six sessions. We have a first-iteration Doughnut sketch that we are evolving, not with the purpose of announcing a solution, but rather to be able to explain Doughnut-making to others and create a well-considered frame that communities within Devon can build out and use. Our process includes a co-design platform on Mural, an evolving slide deck that tracks progress and a website, devondoughnut.org.

Next comes a conversation with councillors to bring citizen-led and policy-led worlds together and a plan to keep the momentum going beyond the sixth session.


    Rosa Sommer

    Thanks for sharing this story Isabel. Really great to see what's happening in Devon!

    about 1 month ago
    Roxy Piper

    Was exciting to be part of this process Isabel! And a lovely group of people too. Look forward to welcoming new people to our Devon Doughnut Collective soon!

    24 days ago
    Marieluise Niehus

    Great read, Isabel, thank you so much! Hi Roxy, I would love to join the collective!

    19 days ago
    Marieluise Niehus

    I saw Andrew Fanning doing all the data crunch for various cities at the Humanity Rising presentation last year, and I wonder what that would look like for Devon, the South West, and Plymouth (is Plymouth even showing any interest?)

    19 days ago

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