Doughnut Economics For Businesses Who Dare

In March 2024, we piloted our first Doughnut Economics Workshop. Here’s a taster of how we did it &what we learnt.

Doughnut Economics One Day Pilot Workshop – ‘For Businesses Who Dare’


Nancy Hyne & Ali Fisher are both members of the DEAL Community.  You can find our public declaration forms on the DEAL website: Plans with Purpose & True Horizon


In March 2024, we piloted our first Doughnut Economics One Day Workshop ‘For Businesses who Dare’.  Here’s a taster of how we did it, what we learnt & what we heard back from participants.


Our Participants

We decided to pilot our first workshop with an already engaged community.  Ali is a Surrey resident in the UK with connections to the B Local Surrey network of B Corps.  We offered 4 organisations from that community the one day workshop for free.  The only requirement was a commitment of their time and feedback afterwards.


In-person On-line Workshop

Given we were running a local workshop, we wanted to hold it in person.  We debated physically printing the doughnut template out for each team but decided to trial it on Miro live in the workshop.  Each team had their own Miro template which meant they had an immediate take away at the end of the day and it worked well as a collaboration tool.  Whilst a couple of people felt they would have liked some more tactile off-screen elements to the workshop, all agreed the Miro templates worked well.


Image Description: A collage of 6 photos from the pilot workshop, showing individuals and teams hard at work on their Miro Boards.


What worked well


1.        Intros are key: We got behind on our timings from the outset!  But in the end it was the best thing that could have happened.  We spent longer than we anticipated on a round of intro’s from everyone in the room and it really paid dividends, setting us up for more sharing and collaboration through the day.


2.        Simplification: We wanted to clearly signpost the teams through the 4 phases of the workshop so we simplified the day long journey into Investigate -> Solve -> Enable -> Plan

Image Description: 4 photos running from left to right highlighting the 4 stages of the workshop journey from Investigate (photos of the world) to Solve (photo of a person in front of a fountain with a glitter ball on their head reading a magazine called ‘Ideas’!) to the 3rd stage of Enable (photo of a road barrier) to the final stage of Plan (A photo of a blond person journaling at the beach at sunset).


3.        Balancing crisis with optimism: We used the Doughnut Economics model to play back to the teams the reality of some of the stark situations we face in both overshooting our planetary boundaries and our shortfall in meeting our critical social foundations.  We were a little nervous this might be too much and too dark for our participants but we then used Hans Rosling’s Factfulness to lift them back up again.  We also reminded them of Christiana Figueres powerful call to action: “We over-estimate what we can achieve in one year but we under-estimate what we can achieve in 10.”


“There was a perfect balance between theory and action, hard-hitting facts and optimism to leave us feeling equal parts informed and galvanised to use our businesses as a greater force for good.  Every organisation would benefit from taking a day out to do this - it just makes sense!”


4.        Learning from Peers:  We went into the workshop wondering whether teams would be nervous about confidentiality, given they were all working through their positive and negative impacts on people and planet.  It works because it is a brutally honest and self-reflective part of the workshop.  What we found was the opposite.  Teams shared that one of the highlights of the workshop was listening to the journeys of other organisations, gaining both empathy & learnings.


“Time out of the business to think big with other businesses. I loved hearing other people think through these ideas.”


5.        Focus on Feedback: We shared a feedback form at the end of the workshop and encouraged people to fill it out there and then if possible.  We had responses from all the participant organisations within 24 hours.  This feedback has been invaluable and really helped us highlight the strengths, benefits and any short-comings in our approach.  Thankfully it was very positive and constructive with 100% of participants saying they would recommend the workshop & that it exceeded their expectations.


What we’ll change going forward:


1.        More time to share: We want to take on board the huge benefit that participants shared from hearing from their peers.  Whilst everyone shared their end of the day storyboard with each other, going forward we will add a sharing & building session at the end of the morning session too.  We certainly felt the end of day sharing was one of the most powerful, moving and inspiring moments of the day – hearing the transformational journey each organisation could go on in just one day


Image Description: The final workshop template of the day where participants summarise & share their Why, What & How

2.        Ensuring full inclusivity: We would both like to think that we are pretty clued in on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion but we missed a few tricks on the day.  In particular, a workshop like this can be noisy and full on – which doesn’t suit everyone.  We will think about how we create more quiet break-out spaces and keep challenging ourselves to be accessible to all.


3.        Thinking about making the workshop more multi-sensory: Whilst the general feedback was that Miro worked brilliantly as a tool to facilitate their thinking and capturing, we can see how beneficial it would be to add a different dimension to the day and are thinking with our creative hats on of how this might play out.  Watch this space!


4.        Go with the idea flow: We were probably a bit too rigid in trying to hold people back from Stage 2 building transformational ideas until they had gotten all their reds and greens negative and positive impacts out in Stage 1 of Investigate.  Going forward, we would encourage groups to be more fluid and let the transformational ideas tap switch on as soon as felt natural.


5.        Business benefits as a barrier: In our feedback form, we ask participants what might have stopped them attending and consistently the biggest barrier was ‘not being clear about how it benefits our business’.  Post pilot, we are now more clear and passionate than ever about the potential of these one day workshops to inspire & ignite transformational enterprise change.  We just need to ensure we communicate it!


Image Description: This is a screenshot of a part of Ali & Nancy’s Feedback Form, asking which of 9 blockers would have stopped them committing to the workshop. The box for ‘Not being clear about how it could benefit your business’ is the only one ticked.


6.        Following Up:  We realised pretty much as soon as the workshop finished that we needed some sort of follow-up mechanism to the day.  Our participants genuinely realised transformative ideas in one day and we want to help ensure these translate into transformative action.  As a result, we put in one on one calls with each organisation two weeks post workshop to discuss how they felt about their plans, having had some time to reflect, and how they would carry them forward into action.  This additional investment in encouragement and accountability was welcomed by the participants and we had really constructive conversations about next steps.


In addition, we have set up a ‘Doughnut Economics In Action’ Group on LinkedIn for workshop participants where we hope people will continue to engage with each other, support, challenge, share and inspire.


In Summary

We were big fans and believers in Doughnut Economics.  This has then translated into us being big fans and believers in the Doughnut Economics Action Lab.  Now we are huge fans and believers in the Doughnut Economics one day Workshop 'For Businesses who Dare’.  We have proven to ourselves and to engaged organisations in the B Corp Community already on their people and planet journeys that with the investment of just one day out of the office, we can kick start real and meaningful transformative action within businesses and sectors.  We’re rolling our sleeves up to do more.




    Tim Frenneaux about 1 month ago

    One final thought, defining step 2 (love the 4 steps btw) as 'Solve' seems to imply an impossible finality, perhaps it would be better framed as 'Start' - the steps feel more like a loop than a linear process?

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    Ali Fisher about 1 month ago

    Tim, this is a lovely build.  The challenge, I think, is in getting the principle right (love your nudge here to be more iterative) alongside engaging the broader business community.   'Solve' probably over simplifies the reality, as you indicate, but we also need to keep it simple to keep it accessible and ensure we don't overwhelm our audience.  I'm going to ponder this and see where it takes us.  I love the provocation though.  Thankyou

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    Tim Frenneaux about 1 month ago

    Love it, thanks for sharing - I will check out Hans Roslings Factfulness as I've enjoyed his work in the past.

    Great response to the learning point about not being clear on the business benefits " to inspire & ignite transformational enterprise change. "

    Keep up the good work, and thank you for sharing, this is how we do it!

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