Our complicated relationship with products

Product workshops in Skibbereen, Co. Cork during the Skibbereen Arts Festival and the West Cork Feelgood Festival

Product Workshops

We started to run these workshops at 49, North Street, Skibbereen, Co. Cork during the Skibbereen Arts Festival and the West Cork Feel Good Festival 2022.

49 North Street: “Creating Alchemy in the mental health services” 

49 North Street is part of The  Wellbeing Network and “aims to create a space, a melting pot whereby learning, therapeutic activities, creative expression and diversity can flourish. It’s about taking risks and building upon people’s strengths, working together to create a community where recovery and wellbeing thrive”

The Workshops:  It is hard for individuals to feel that they can influence the running of the economy.  However, how we spend our money can affect how business ‘does business’. What we buy interfaces with our own local economy but also with the wider world. 

In the shop or supermarket, people are turned into 'consumers'. While they are driven by their own needs and wants, they are also heavily influenced by psychological pressure to buy certain goods. Our decision making becomes more impulsive and emotional after a certain period of time in a supermarket, as has been shown by research

So the idea of the workshop was to take people away from the pressures of  shops and supermarkets to reflect on possible outcomes of their purchases but without shaming ourselves and others. We were concentrating more on  a feeling that we are in this together and that perhaps we all have ‘guilty pleasures’.  Thinking about the goods that we buy in a wider context – e.g. in terms of the environment or of working conditions in the supply chain, which could amount to slavery – can help change our future patterns. 

Our pilot product workshops attracted both 'environmentally aware' people and service users of 49 North Street, who happened to be around at the time. 

We began with a quick explanation of Doughnut Economics.

Then we asked the question “What product(s) are you very attached to which you know may not be so ‘good’ ? “

The list was long and varied from airline flights and avocados  to washing-up liquid. 

These are some of the things which people said: 

"Don't go shopping on an empty stomach."

"Everything that you're consuming, you have to be conscious that our lifestyle is creating 20 to 50 modern slaves."

"You need to make the best choice you can at that particular moment."

"Yeah, going shopping, using transport, it's always about 'How can I be aware of what is connected to it'. Enironmentally (overshoot) and on the social side (shortfall)."

The discussion was interesting and informative. So we next asked:

"What can we do to make it better?" Again we had lots of discussion and suggestions. 

"Best question is, can I do without it? Do I need it?"

"Don't let yourself be rushed into something. "

"Re-assess your sources of dopamine. Shopping, of any sort, is a dopamine hit. The moment you acquire something, you feel good. A rush. And then there may be a cliff. Pretty rapidly you are no longer that interested in it. "

We ended with tea and locally made bagels. 

What did we learn? 

The different ways in which we are attached to products.

That so many people attempt,  each in their own way, to apply morals to their shopping behaviour.

That NO ONE  can be squeaky clean, which leads to the real solution being  system change across the business sector.

What we could do additionally

Run a poll to learn more about the outcome of the workshop. Did it change things for the participants? 

What’s next:

One of the follow-ups of the product workshops was a pilot for an audit which examines household products (including food) that are bought and used by an organisation such as 49 North Street. The ultimate aim is to only use ethically sound products. In terms of packaging, labour, resources, how it affects the environment. This audit is very much a work in progress. 


Our next workshops will revolve around research and a collective effort to see what (creative) messages would encourage people to change their behaviour.




    Amber Wan

    Madrid, Spain

    A regenerative economy is the only one that makes sense in the long run. I want to be part of a community that fosters this!

    David Harold Chester

    Petach Tikva, Israel

    I am aware that the doughnut is imprecise and I wish to show using a model with circular flows of money and other resources

    1 comment
    David Harold Chester 11 months ago

    The amount of complication greatly depends on how one chooses to think about this situation of our society. Since we wish to understand it, the correct thing to do is to try to reduce the amount of this complication as much as possible, without making it so simple that it has no or very little meaning. Here is how I do it and simultaneously turn the subject into true science.

    Making Macroeconomics a Much More Exact Science

    Today macroeconomics is treated inexactly within the humanities, because it appears to be a very complex and easily confused matter. But this does not give it fair justice, because we should be trying to find a viable approach to the topic and examine it in a way that avoids these problems, and for us to better understand of what it comprises and how it works. 

    Suppose we ask ourselves the question: “how many different KINDS of financial (business) transaction occur within our society?” The simple and direct answer shows that that only a limited number of them are possible or necessary. Although our sociological system comprises of many millions of participants, to properly answer this question we should be ready to consider the averages of the various kinds of activities (no matter who performs them), and simultaneously to idealize these activities so that they fall into a number of commonly shared operations. 

    This approach uses some general terms for expressing the various types of these transactions, into what becomes a relatively small number. Here, each kind is found to apply between a particular pair of agents—each one of which has individual properties. Then to cover the whole sociological system of a country, it requires only 19 kinds of exchanges of the goods, services, access rights, taxes, credits, investments, valuable legal documents, etc., versus the mutual and opposing flows of money. 

    The argument that led to this initially unexpected result was prepared by the author. It may be found in his working paper (on the internet) as SSRN 2865571 “Einstein’s Criterion Applied to Logical Macroeconomics Modeling”. In this model these double-flows of money verses goods, etc., necessarily pass between only 6 kinds of role-playing entities (or agents). Of course, there are a number of different configurations that are possible for this type of simplification, but if one tries to eliminate all the unnecessary complications and sticks to the more basic activities, then these particular quantities and flows provide the most concise yet fully comprehensive result, which is presentable in a seamless manner, for our whole social system and one that is suitable for its further analysis. 

    Surprisingly, past representation of our sociological system by this kind of an interpretation model has neither been properly derived nor formally presented before. Previously, other partial versions have been modeled (using up to 4 agents, as by Professor Hudson), but they are inexact due to their being over-simplified. Alternatively, in the case of econometrics, the representations are far too complicated and almost impossible for students to follow. These two reasons of over-simplification and of complexity are why this pseudo or non-scientific confusion has been created by many economists, and it explains their failure to obtain a good understanding about how the whole system works. 

    The model being described here in this paper is unique, in being the first to include, along with some additional aspects, all the 3 factors of production, in Adam Smith's “Wealth of Nations” book of 1776. These factors are Land, Labor and Capital, along with their returns of Ground-Rent, Wages and Interest/Dividends, respectively. All of them are all included in the model, as a diagram in the paper. 

    (Economics’ historians will recall, as originally explained by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that there are prescribed independent functions of the land-owners and the capitalists. The land-owners speculate in the land-values and rent it to tenants, whilst the capitalists are actually the owners/managers of the durable capital goods used in industry. These items may be hired out for use. Regrettably, for political reasons, the concept of these 2 different functions were combined by John Bates Clark and company about 1900, resulting in the later neglect of their different influences on our sociological system-- the terms landlord and capitalist becoming virtually synonymous along with the expression for property as real-estate.) 

    The diagram of this model is in my paper (noted above). A mention of the related teaching process is also provided in my short working paper SSRN 2600103 “A Mechanical Model for Teaching Macroeconomics”. With this model in an alternative form, the various parts and activities of the Big Picture of our sociological system can be properly identified and defined. 

    Subsequently by analysis, the way our sociological system works can then be properly seen, calculated and illustrated. This analysis is introduced by the mathematics and logic, which was devised by Nobel Laureate Wellesley W. Leontief, when he invented the important "Input-Output" matrix methodology (that he originally applied only to the production sector). This short-hand method of modeling the whole system replaces the above-mentioned block-and-flow diagram. It enables one to really get to grips with what is going-on within our sociological system. It is the topology of the matrix which actually provides the key to this. The logic and math are not hard and are suitable for high-school students, who have been shown the basic properties of square matrices and the notation of the calculus. 

    By this technique it is comparatively easy to introduce any change to a pre-set sociological system that is theoretically in equilibrium (even though we know that this ideal is never actually attained--it simply being a convenient way to begin the study). This change creates an imbalance and we need to regain equilibrium again. Thus, sudden changes or policy decisions may be simulated and the effects of them determined, which will point the way to what policy is best. In my book about it, (see below) 3 changes associated with taxation are investigated in hand-worked numerical examples. 

    In fact, when I first worked it out, the irrefutable logical results were a surprise, even to me! Developments of these ideas about making our subject more truly scientific (thereby avoiding the past pseudo-science that currently is being taught at universities), may be found in my recent book: “Consequential Macroeconomics—Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works”. Please write to me at chesterdh@hotmail.com for a free e-copy of this 310-page book and for any additional information. 

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