How it went: Global Donut Day 2023 in Prague

The key to a good life is responsible production, fair redistribution and dignified reproduction

As part of the Global Donut Day initiative, under the auspices of Doughnut Czechia, we organized a mini-conference on the 3 Faces of a Just Transition. 70 people across sectors spent the whole day looking for practical ways to fulfill the vision of a good life within planetary boundaries for all.

We (intentionally) did not record the lectures. But we want to share at least the key ideas that were mentioned. Below you will find a transcript of the introductory contribution by Matěj Malecha, and then key insights from the lectures of individual speakers.

We filled the large conference hall at the Hybernská Campus first thing in the morning. The chairs almost ran out.

The discussion on sustainability is missing the organizational level

When you look at how sustainability is discussed in the Czech Republic, you will find that the recipes offered to us can be divided into two categories: macro recipes and micro recipes.

Macro recipes take the form of legislation at the national and international level. An example is the introduction of non-financial reporting in companies. So these are recipes that rely on advocating top-down change.

The vast majority of people have no chance to get involved in the creation of this legislation in any way. In practice, this means that they are confronted only with the result, which they often do not understand why and how it actually originated, thus it often evokes one of two feelings in them: anger or helplessness.

On the other hand, micro recipes represent advocating bottom-up change through lifestyle changes. But in practice, these recipes usually involve some form of restriction or fundamental transformation of life priorities: not eating meat, not flying, minimizing waste... so they often evoke feelings of anger, frustration, apathy and helplessness in people when they want to change their lifestyle but fail.

In short, the existing recipes mainly evoke negative emotions and do not offer a positive vision of change.

Sustainability transformation recipes need to be sought at the organizational level where top-down pressures for change meet bottom-up pressures for change.

In addition to the micro and macro levels, there is also a meso level, i.e. the level of organizations. Recipes at this level are not talked about much yet. Yet it is a level where:

  • pressures for top-down change meet pressures for bottom-up change,
  • most of us spend most of our waking lives,
  • we are used to adapting our behavior to other people.

So it is a level with the greatest potential to set in motion truly radical systemic change.

Sustainable transformation is not a leisure activity

As service designers, we operate in various organizations across sectors. And we have the opportunity to see how people in organizations think about the issue of sustainability. And we often see that they simultaneously hold two contradictory attitudes:

  • On the one hand, few people outright deny today that we are in the midst of a polycrisis – and that something needs to be done. Most often we hear: "We all have to start with ourselves and behave responsibly."
  • On the other hand, when it comes to the topic of "what your organization can do," we most often hear that nothing, until a higher power gives the order to change. In other words, today the most common attitude of people in organizations is: "Yes, the situation is serious, something needs to be done and we all have to start with ourselves... in our free time." As if the start of the workday meant entering an alternative reality where the polycrisis does not exist.

We need to break this apathy. Sustainability is not a leisure activity. We need to find ways to ensure a good life within planetary boundaries for all during working hours. But for that we need to fundamentally transform how organizations work.

The Doughnut model shows what achieving a good life within planetary boundaries for all means.

It is of course appropriate to ask what exactly a "good life within planetary boundaries" means? The Doughnut model offers an answer, in our opinion. So we have a named goal of sustainable transformation. Now we need to ask: "What role do organizations play in ensuring a good life within planetary boundaries for all?"

The key to a just transition is developing 3 competencies at the organizational level

Today's organizations can be divided into 3 basic sectors:

  • companies make up the business sector,
  • offices make up the public administration sector,
  • and all organizations whose primary purpose is not profit making up the non*profit sector – in addition to traditional non-profits, these are schools and hospitals, for example.

In ensuring a good life within planetary boundaries, each sector has its key competence: business produces, the state redistributes, and non*profits reproduce. The sectors need each other because the success of one creates conditions for the success of the other two. So we need them all to function well.

If we as a society are to ensure a good life within planetary boundaries for all, we need to develop 3 key competencies at the organizational level.

But what does “function well” mean? Maintaining balance. In practice this means that:

  • production must be responsible to people and the planet, otherwise it endangers the survival of all mankind,
  • redistribution must be fair, otherwise we are unable to ensure dignified reproduction,
  • and reproduction must be dignified, otherwise we first lose the ability of responsible and later any production.

What exactly does responsible production, fair redistribution and dignified reproduction mean? We need to talk about this in the most diverse group of people possible. Because only then will the resulting vision of sustainable transformation reflect the needs of all. At the same time, everyone must have the opportunity to participate in fulfilling this vision because only then will it be a just transition.

The key to a good life within planetary boundaries for all is intersectoral discussion and cooperation. So let's talk to each other. And let's work together.

A just transition needs knowledge transfer between sectors

Zuzana Harmáčková pointed out that we tend to think about systemic change in terms of institutions, but in practice individuals representing those institutions play an enormous role. She further noted that sectors tend to close in on themselves and function more "next to each other." And she offered a tool to support intersectoral cooperation: formal and informal intersectoral platforms.

Differences in ways of thinking and functioning often hinder the transfer of knowledge as well.

Respect for people and the planet does not preclude financially successful business

Marek Mencl talked about what companies that do not have profit as their sole raison d'être look like. And he outlined the reasons why it makes sense to discover and support these alternatives: maximizing profits at all costs leads to irresponsible production, overconsumption, social inequalities and distrust in the state. He also introduced the 5 dimensions in which, according to Kate Raworth, author of the Doughnut Economics concept, it is necessary to strive for change in the functioning of companies.

The five dimensions in which companies need to change in order to start seeing profit as a means rather than the ultimate goal of their functioning.

Economics must be understood as a subordinate part of nature and society

In her online speech, British economist Kate Raworth introduced the basic ideas associated with the concept of Doughnut Economics. She showed in what respects the prevailing economic thinking is inadequate, and what alternatives are available.

Instead of "non-profits", let's talk about public benefit organizations

Klára Šplíchalová distanced herself from the term "non-profit organization" and used several statistics to show that these constitute a very productive and important part of the economy. For example, public benefit organizations employ nearly 120,000 people, accounting for 2% of employment in the Czech Republic.

Public benefit organizations in numbers.

Meaningful and sustainable work under fair conditions is a privilege

Ondřej Kolínský first described the problems created by the prevailing understanding of the purpose of work to society and what it means to "have work". He then introduced the concept of guaranteed jobs and outlined how to bring it to life. He sees the way mainly through decentralized design and a state that primarily serves as guarantor.

Decentralization allows the creation and provision of jobs that respond to local contexts and needs.

Everyone has the right to a vision of a good life

Veronika Pavlovská provided an insight into the world of public services. She explained how to recognize a good service, but mainly appealed for greater and broader support for investment in public services. We all need help in difficult life situations occasionally and cannot choose a provider at that moment – we need what is available to work well.

Five reasons why we need quality public services.

It is important to distinguish between the state, political representation and public administration

In her presentation on the role of technology in the fair transition process, Eva Pavlíková emphasized that technologies are (just) a tool, but it is up to us humans what we use them for. It is therefore much more important to take into account what actors are working with technologies, what roles they play in the system and what relationships they have with other actors and roles. In the environment of public administration, this means, for example, consistently distinguishing between the state, political representation and public administration.

Three terms that are often confused even though each means something completely different.

We followed up the lectures with 3 round tables, where participants had the opportunity to build on the presented ideas and discuss them in greater detail.

Participants debating the topic of just redistribution.

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