The Doughnut Journey in Barcelona - the process

In 2021 Barcelona municipality has embraced the doughnut. We present here the overall process that has been followed


Barcelona is a city with a long history of social movements and environmental action. Previous work towards urban sustainability paved the way for Barcelona’s endeavour towards the Doughnut framework. The "Citizen Commitment to Sustainability 2002-2012" was born as part of Agenda 21 from a collaborative effort, involving environmental entities, businesses, political groups, and academic institutions, steered by the Municipal Council for Environment and Sustainability.

The commitment saw a renewal in 2012, enhancing its effectiveness with contributions from the expanding Barcelona + Sustainable (B+S) network, encompassing over 1800 entities. Now, as the commitment period nears its end, Barcelona is ready to adopt the Doughnut Economy model. Not dismissing past work, this model adds a fresh perspective, linking the ecological crisis and social inequalities. In response to the 2020 Climate Emergency Declaration, the Doughnut model aims to steer the renewal of the Citizen Commitment to Sustainability 2012-2022, promising a balanced approach to Barcelona's urban sustainability.


Doughnut preparation

In July 2021, the city of Barcelona began a quest to redefine its economic, social, and ecological strategies following the Doughnut Economics model. 

The Barcelona process officially commenced with a presentation and a press release. This ambitious venture was crafted and led by the city's internal teams, with Enric Tello and Federico Demaria from the University of Barcelona's Faculty of Economics and Business playing a pivotal role. Despite the differences between the two cities, the Amsterdam model served as the primary source of inspiration as it was the only completed model at the time, while the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) provided their supervision and consultancy to the project. 

The roadmap for this initiative has started with the development of a city portrait by searching for appropriate indicators across the four lenses of the model, which included an online workshop with experts, followed by a participatory workshop to define the community portrait. The process then advanced towards a debate phase made of a series of conferences and debates with key speakers. Finally, an action phase was characterized by a couple of workshops with entities from the B+S network that have contributed to the renewal of the citizen’s compromise with sustainability.

Fig 1. The Doughnut Barcelona Process.


The governance of the project has involved the definition of a core driving group and a follow-up committee. The driving group is formed by technical staff from the Barcelona City Council or its agencies, while the monitoring commission includes people related to the business world (commerce, unions, SSE), research (University of Barcelona, ISGlobal), and the third sector (environmental entities and cooperation/social justice), as well as some supra-municipal public entities. The committee also included participants from the driving group, all focused on integrating Doughnut Economics' philosophy into the new Commitment and Citizens' Council. There have been a total of four meetings with these groups, particularly in the early phase of the project, that is, spring 2022.


Hands on the doughnut

This unique project was then officially launched on July 29th, 2021, with an institutional presentation by Enric Tello from Barcelona University and a press conference by the council. This initial stage of defining the roadmap and the project's general structuring was then followed by expanding the process to more areas and actions in the fall of 2021.

The development of the Doughnut model in Barcelona has been planned in three distinct phases. Phase one has concentrated on the city portrait (data and community portraits). 

For the data portrait we have researched relevant indicators for the four lenses of the model. This has involved a thorough assessment of the current state of the city and the collaboration of different departments and offices of the Barcelona City Council. Spanning numerous dimensions of city life, these indicators have been drawn from various departments within the Barcelona City Council, guided by ongoing consultation with DEAL and local academic experts. 

Research has played a significant role in the project. The Nature Sustainability article “A Good Life for All within Planetary Boundaries” has been instrumental in defining the Global Ecological lens' indicators by measuring human activities' impact on planetary boundaries, as was done for the portrait methodology of Amsterdam. For the global social lens, the city has pioneered a methodology to quantify the connection between its material footprint - an indicator for the global ecological lens - and the impact it has on the social indicators of countries producing consumed goods. Initially applied in Barcelona, this methodology enhances our understanding of the city's consumption patterns' global repercussions. It became apparent, however, that some indicators still lacked a clear value, signalling the need for continued research, especially at the local level.

When collecting data for the indicators, objectives for each indicator were set to establish clear goals, facilitating their assessment within the Doughnut framework. The quest for objectivity led to prioritizing official targets, ranging from local to global scales. In some cases, defining objectives was challenging due to gaps in official targets or scientific understanding. This highlighted the importance of a precautionary approach, stressing the need for proactive action in the face of potential ecological risks.

The data and community portraits have contributed to the next phase of the project, where a lively debate has been generated, from a series of three conferences with local and international keynote speakers, followed by a closed-door debate on hot topics the city faces in relation to the contents of the conference. 

Following the debate generation phase the third and last phase has been oriented at moving into action: at first, the results of the debates and of the city portrait have helped in outlining eight common challenges. These are the hurdles Barcelona needs to overcome to position itself within the Doughnut.

Then, the last two workshops, with the entities of the B+S network have been oriented at defining a set of possible projects out of which five have been selected as those which will shape the citizen’s compromise with sustainability over the next decade.

During the entire process, we have kept on refining the data portrait, building on the preliminary results in Phase 1. This was aimed at creating a more comprehensive and accurate representation of the city's current state, setting realistic and meaningful targets for the future.

Fig 2. Community portrait: One of the groups in deep reflection.
For instance, the online expert workshop validated the initial desk-based selection of indicators and targets and suggested new ones for the data portrait. The data gathered in the portrait also contributed as a starting point for the hands-on in-person workshop focussed on the community portrait which, based on the subjective perceptions of the city, asked the participants to consider what are those actions that contribute to be in the doughnut or fall out of it.

June 2022 has been a particularly stimulating month. It saw a succession of three "transition cycles" conferences. Renowned economist Kate Raworth, environmental health expert Josep Maria Antò, and political ecologist Giorgos Kallis took to the stage to share their wisdom on the Doughnut Economy, Planetary Health, and the Culture of Limits, respectively. These thought-provoking talks were accompanied by spirited debates.

The visit of Kate Raworth was more than just a keynote. She led a workshop centred around the transition towards a regenerative, distributive economy, drawing from the Doughnut model she pioneered.

Fig 3. First debate of the Transitions Cycle with Kate Raworth.

Deliberations on these challenges ensued in a third workshop that brought together entities and experts from diverse sectors. Following this, a fourth workshop concentrated on defining key projects that would serve as the pillars for the new commitment.


Experts, city council departments, and citizens of Barcelona have joined hands to paint a comprehensive portrait of the city, setting the stage for transformative change. Barcelona now stands before eight key challenges, collectively identified as the city's guideposts towards a more sustainable future. This journey is just beginning, and every step taken is an invitation for others to join in.

Let's keep our hands on the doughnut!





    Carolina Tomaz


    I would love to be connected with Brazilian people who are interested to apply the Doughnut economic. Moreover, with projects and


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