It’s no secret that our economy only works for a select few. But what would our economy look like if we prioritized people and the planet, instead of profit? Economist Kate Raworth says it might look like a doughnut and to build it requires changing how we talk about, teach, and imagine economics. Baratunde talks with Kate about her theory of doughnut economics and how we can build an economy that works for all life on Earth - exploring how our small acts of consumerism can enhance or degrade a culture of democracy.
- What We Call Ourselves Matters
It's clear that we show up with different values, norms and expectations when called as a citizen rather than as a consumer. Take a moment to reflect on how you might interact differently with e-commerce and purchasing decisions if you were called a “Steward to the Commons?”
Become More Informed
- Digest the Doughnut
Check out Kate's TED talk of 2018 (where Baratunde first met her!). Also, read Kate’s book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.
- Find or Start Some Doughnuts Near You
Join the community at Doughnut Economics Action Lab! You can check out the members map to find others near you and read stories of how community groups are getting started putting the ideas into practice. You can also create your own event on DEAL's platform inviting others in your locality (be it town, city, or state) to join you. And check out the tools Kate mentioned: Doughnut Unrolled and Doughnut Design for Business .
MORE WAYS TO CONNECT AND SUPPORT
Check out the Doughnut Unrolled tool Kate developed for cities and places interested in trying out the doughnut. Find How To Citizen on Instagram or visit howtocitizen.com to join our mailing list and find ways to citizen besides listening to this podcast!
Please show your support for the show by reviewing and rating. It makes a huge difference with the algorithmic overlords and helps others like you find the show! How To Citizen is hosted by Baratunde Thurston. He’s also host and executive producer of the PBS series, America Outdoors as well as a founding partner and writer at Puck. You can find him all over the internet.
Kate Raworth 0:01
It wasn't a completely crazy thing to call it Doughnut Economics. Because some people say, "This is a very serious model. We are talking about the future of life on earth. How could you name it after American junk food?" A lot of people are intimidated by economics, but no one's afraid of doughnuts. You might love them or hate them, but you're not afraid, and it just tells you this is a playful space. And so people showed up and started playing.
Baratunde Thurston 0:27
Welcome to How To Citizen with Baratunde, a podcast that reimagines citizen as a verb, not a legal status. This season is all about how we practice democracy. What can we get rid of? What can we invent? And how do we change the culture of democracy itself? We're leaving the theoretical clouds, and hitting the ground with inspiring examples of people and institutions that are showing us new ways to govern ourselves. When I first heard economist Kate Raworth describe her theory of Doughnut Economics, I thought it sounded delicious. It was 2018, and I was at this big fancy conference all about bold new ideas to solve some of our most pressing problems. TED. It was the TED Conference, okay? There were talks on AI, mitigating the impacts of climate change. Y'all, Tracee Ellis Ross even made an appearance.
So when Kate got up on that stage and started talking about sweet fried dough, it caught me off guard. But the vision she shared for a new circular economy that works for everyone, I was like, yum. Literally. Economics, as we traditionally know it is all about one thing: growth. And we don't just hear it from economists, we hear it from politicians and journalists all the time. We need to grow our GDP. We've got to maximize this and optimize that. We have to produce more and consume more. They all say we need to keep the economy growing. But looking around, I can't say that what we're growing is actually good. You know it, and I know it. We can't maintain endless growth, at least not in a healthy way. And that fact seems to be obvious except when it comes to our economy. I mean, when something grows endlessly in our bodies, we call that cancer, and rush to get it under control so it doesn't destroy its host. So why would we insist that our economy can grow endlessly without destroying us, the people who live within it, and destroying the planet that we live on? So if endless growth isn't the goal, what is? How about we prioritize people and the planet instead of just profit? How about we meet the needs of everyone without exceeding the limits of our only planet? And how about we find ways to thrive in that space between an inner boundary of human need, and an outer boundary of planetary limits? A space, oddly enough, that's shaped like a doughnut. This is what Doughnut Economics is all about.
We've talked about the economy a lot on this show, because as we said in season 2, it's hard to citizen when you can't pay the bills. Now in that season, we explored how wealth inequality stifles democracy. We talked to historians, organizers, and entrepreneurs. We learned about cooperative economics, social franchises, and other business models that put people and the planet at the center. Kate's theory of Doughnut Economics gives all these beautiful solutions an umbrella to live under. It helps those of us who are frustrated by an economy that only works for a select few find and connect with one another, so we can build something better, together.
Kate first coined the term Doughnut Economics a decade ago, and her 2017 book of the same name, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like A 21st Century Economist, is an international bestseller. From promoting regenerative design practices to encouraging play and experimentation, Kate has envisioned a new cyclical way our economy can function. In that time, the doughnut has spread far and wide. In 2020, Amsterdam announced it would start embracing the theory of Doughnut Economics, along with cities like Barcelona and Philadelphia. And the doughnut isn't just trickling down, to borrow a return from economics, it's bubbling up in communities around the world. Kate's even created a lab, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab to support people turning this theory into action. So you are in for a sweet treat of a conversation. After the break, Kate Raworth on how we build an economy that works for the people, and the planet. Kate Raworth, welcome to How To Citizen.
Kate Raworth 5:29
Hi, it's a big, big pleasure to be here. I'm really delighted. I'm very, very much looking forward to this conversation.
Baratunde Thurston 5:34
All right, so I want to dive in right off the bat. What is Doughnut Economics?
Kate Raworth 5:38
So the first thing, I'm going to completely disappoint you. There was no pastry involved.
Baratunde Thurston 5:42
Just misdirection, false advertising, classic neoliberal economic thinking already.
Kate Raworth 5:50
Yeah, see, the best doughnuts are conceptual. It's just about the shape. So if we put it in the simplest of terms, we need to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. So imagine a doughnut with a hole in the middle, and think of humanity's use of Earth's resources radiating out from the center of the doughnut in every direction. So that means that the hole in the doughnut is a place where people are left falling short on the essentials of life. It's the place where people do not want to be, because you don't have the resources to have good healthcare and education, decent housing, energy, food, clean air. You don't have political voice, income, access to transport, right? The essentials of life that ensure that everybody has a life of dignity, community, and opportunity. So leave no one in the hole.
And then there's a big but. As we collectively seek to meet the needs and some of the wants of people, we use earth resources. We transform land to grow food. We withdraw water from lakes and rivers. We burn fossil fuels. We cut forests. We take fish from the sea. We start to put pressure on our planetary home. And so just as we want to leave no one in the hole, we also don't want to overshoot the outer crust of this doughnut, because the outer crust is what's known as the planetary boundaries. And these are the life supporting systems of our planetary home. If you think of your body, our bodies have a digestive system, a nervous system, and we need to keep all of these systems in balance, in health, working together. So our planet has the same. She has a carbon cycle, she has nutrient cycles, she has a web of life. And we need to keep these in balance and working well together.
So I like to say to people, what do you think is the shape of economic progress? Because if you listen to an economist, if you listen to a politician, the shape apparently is growth endlessly. No matter how rich a nation already is, I'm in the UK, you're in the US, we live in two of the richest countries in the history of humanity. And yet our economists, our politicians, think that the solution to all of our problems lie in yet more growth endlessly. There's no end in sight. Now, there's something utterly absurd about that, and I think we really need to take seriously what is the shape of progress?
Baratunde Thurston 8:01
That is a practical and delicious metaphor, and it just makes sense. There's a floor below which we don't want to fall into that inner hole. There's a ceiling beyond which we risk the whole system. Now, one of the things you've done in your book is you've highlighted these seven key concepts that are designed to have us actually build this out. You've got changing the goalpost, and shifting our perspective on what economics actually is. You've got things like designing to redistribute. So can you give an overview of what these concepts are, and how you landed on these seven?
Kate Raworth 8:33
So I first sketched this doughnut on a little scrap of paper, like you do, 10 years ago.
Baratunde Thurston 8:38
Kate Raworth 8:39
And I was working at Oxfam at the time, where we published this discussion paper, like, "Well, this is an interesting idea." And it had way more resonance in the world and traction with people than I had possibly imagined. It was clear that it really helped people empower themselves in debate about saying, "This is a vision of an economy, and now I can advocate for really different policies, and I feel strengthened in that." So if we put this as the goal of what you want the economy to be, then it invites this really exciting question. What kind of economy would actually help get us there? And it was really clear to me that what I didn't want to do is try and come up with a list of policies, because that's not going to be relevant across countries. And who knows what crisis might be around the corner and what might happen next.
So what I wanted to do was put forward a set of principles. So the subtitle of my book is Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. And that was really important. It was not claiming to have defined the answer, but it's ways to think. What if we become systems thinkers, which just means we understand that things have feedback loops? What if we recognize we live in a, and have inherited an economic system, that's deeply divisive through legislation, through privilege, through inheritance, captures value and opportunity in the hands of a few. So how can we make a distributive economy, and all the different ways you could do that, to bring it close home to How To Citizen. What if we were to realize that the character of humanity put at the center of economic theories gives us the most narrow version of who we are, and we actually need to nurture the very best of human nature, and reimagine ourselves?
Where these principles came from first was... So I studied economics at university, and that was 30 years ago, and I was really frustrated because the issues I cared about, social justice, environmental integrity, just was on the margins of the syllabus. And you had to beg and knock on the door, and try and reframe them to make them even show up in economics. And when I came back to economics many, many years later, I then read all the economics I had never been taught. So I read feminist economics, ecological economics, complexity, institutional economics, behaviorally economics, and there are amazing ideas there. And I wanted to bring them together and get them to dance on the same page.
So I'm just starting by recognizing that what I'm doing is really celebrating the work of many diverse elders, economic elders, and people who would never have called themselves economists, but have hugely influenced these ideas. So in one way it's a stretch, and yet the ideas go back a long way. Regenerative thinking goes back... In western tradition, it goes back decades. In other cultural traditions, it goes back millennia. So is it a stretch, or is it a return? I sometimes think of Doughnut Economics as a bit of a western mindset recovery program.
Baratunde Thurston 11:28
Instead of 12 steps, it's seven ways.
Kate Raworth 11:30
There you go. Because you can't just appropriate an indigenous culture's wisdom and say, "Oh, well, we'll just take that. Thank you very much," and make that yours. You have to find your own way towards the wisdom that it already creates, I think.
Baratunde Thurston 11:42
Yeah. This new way of being and new way of thinking. It sounds really optimistic. It sounds really beautiful. And when we talk about redistribution and collaboration, I'm like, "Oh, that sounds a little more socialist," but it's not totally a socialist thing you're proposing. Where does this live in the tradition, and how have you seen people willing to break our own sense of imagination, because it sounds so different from the way we're used to conceiving of ourselves?
Kate Raworth 12:14
Actually, funnily enough, when I came to the US in 2017, when my book first came out, I was surprised by how quickly people go, "Oh, so you're a communist." Like, wow.
Baratunde Thurston 12:21
That's what we do here. That's what we do here. It's a very binary world. You're with us or you're against us, you're a capitalist or you're a communist.
Kate Raworth 12:26
Yeah, I know now, I know. So what I aim to do in the book and in the way I present these ideas, if we just push those old isms aside, because we quickly talk past each other. If five people say capitalism, I'll bet you they don't have a common definition. If they say socialism, they don't have a common... And I like using a newer language, which is, we've inherited a degenerative world, we need to make it regenerative. We've inherited a divisive world, we need to make it distributive. Now, what kind of economy would have half a chance of bringing about these dynamics? And so far, I've found that people just go further with you and engage more in it without having to put on a big label.
Baratunde Thurston 13:04
Thank you for that. There's one of your ways in your method about nurturing human nature and some of what we've been taught is that human nature is selfish, purely self-interested. We are these rational economic actors out to optimize our financially measurable potential in the marketplace of everything, whether it's food, or ideas, or labor or love even. And so, you are proposing and reminding, I would even say in terms of the vision of return, that we can be wired and are for cooperation, mutual aid and empathy. And that's very much aligned with how we see citizen as a verb here. Once we remember, once we're prompted with this other vision of how we can be, how do we bake that back into the economics? Because the way our economic system is built only recognizes this little slice of how we show up.
Kate Raworth 14:00
First of all, I was really fascinated when I was writing the chapter in my book about nurture human nature to read economists who had done research on what effect it has on students when they're taught the model of humanity at the center of mainstream economics. First, the character, as you just said, is rational economic man. And he's never actually drawn in the textbooks, but once I drawn the doughnut and I'd realized the pair of pictures, I drew a little picture of him. You know on toilet doors, there's that little man who stands, I took that.
Baratunde Thurston 14:29
Kate Raworth 14:30
Yes, the icon. Yeah. He looks like that. He's a man. He's got no dependents. He's not raising kids, he's standing alone. He's got his own opinions and he is an independent, thank you very much. He's got money in his hand. He's holding a dollar sign. He's got ego in his heart, says, "Me," on his chest. He's got a calculator in his head. He's constantly calculating the prices and the opportunity costs. He knows prices forwards and backwards and everywhere in the future. And he's got nature at his feet. You can imagine him standing on the pinnacle of the living world, the domain beneath him.
Baratunde Thurston 15:02
Kate Raworth 15:03
There we go. And that is essentially the character that gets written into the equations and into the models. Now, researchers like Robert Frank and others in the US found that the more that students are told that he is like us, we actually become more like him. From year one, to year two, to year three of their studies, over time, students more say, economic students more say they value competition over collaboration. They value self-interest over altruism. This is what it means to be a good economic player. Now, that's devastating. We create this narrow caricature and then students actually start to mimic him. Who we tell ourselves we are shapes who we become.
Baratunde Thurston 15:49
It's predicated on that lonely man theory of the world, which is we need growth to provide opportunity. That opportunity will come at the expense of the planet. That's what we know how to do and we can't meet everyone's needs and not also throw the planet into some disarray. It's impossible, Kate, is it to meet everyone's needs and not...? There's 8 billion people. That's a lot of needs. Does it scale? I can see someone saying, okay, on a farm in Vermont, cool, cool. And an old indigenous community that's agriculturally based. Okay, okay. But we got 8 billion people who want their iPhones, want their conveniences, want their meals to show up 10 minutes before they order them. How are we going to satisfy all of those needs and still maintain a balance ecologically on this planet the way you've defined it?
Kate Raworth 16:52
Oh, okay. Right. First of what you said, everyone's needs, but then you said, you've got to have an iPhone, and my meal's going to be at the door with Deliveroo, and we it's going to have mozzarella, everyone is going to have my favorite kind of anchovy. Let's just step. What are our needs, right? As humanity, and we've had a long conversation about this internationally. Let's go back to 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It's been going on and on. We recognize that every person on this earth has a claim to food and water and education and healthcare and shelter. There are essential rights. There are essential needs that need to be met, so that we have the capability to have dignity, to participate as an active citizen in society.
And I agree to have opportunities, you just said. Now, right now, the richest 1% of people in the world own half of the world's wealth. I don't think we can take right now as a good indicator of whether or not we can do this, because this is a crazy starting point. I think there's such an opportunity to say, "How are we going to meet everyone's needs? How are we going to with appropriate technologies and smart solutions?" And there are such great ways you can do it. Let me give an example. We need to use fresh water to grow food. Now, historically we've done that with spray irrigation. You just have these hoses spraying all over the fields and it does massive waste of water. Take the same hose and you punch little holes in it and you have drip irrigation, precision irrigation. You can grow so much more food with the same amount of water or the same amount of food with so much less water.
Technology and governance and public provisioning and smart design enables us to do so much more with few resource. And then the economic question is a layer back. What economy will bring those technologies into existence and make sure that they're accessible to all? And then I'm going to go back to the very first thing you said in that question you said is we need growth to have opportunity, but I don't know. I think we need opportunity to have opportunity. And it seems like a lot of the growth that's been going on in the world is giving a few very rich white men a lot of opportunity, but many, many other people are losing opportunity of it. I don't at all think that growth is tied. I don't see evidence that growth as we know it is tied to opportunity.
Baratunde Thurston 19:21
Years ago I saw a man speak named Al Norlata, and he talked about infinite economic growth in the context of biology and said, "When we have cells that grow infinitely without end, by definition, that's malignantly cancerous and it destroys the host. But when we design that into our economy, we aspire to that." Yet the evidence is that we're destroying the host. And so, there is something not sane about the pursuit of infinite growth. I want to dig into the lab, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. Gosh, that sounds so profound and silly at the same time. What is it and how did it come about?
Kate Raworth 20:07
I see myself first and foremost as an advocate. And when I was working at Oxfam, that was when I drew this doughnut. And the reaction to it was amazing. And I had a realization that the best next act of advocacy I can do in the world is to actually leave my job here and go and write a book. And I published the book and I was just giving lots and lots of talks. And after a talk, people would come up to me and say, "I love the book and I'm doing this. I'm a teacher. It's not on the curriculum, but this is what I know my students need to learn." And I think, "Damn, I love that teacher." Counselors, mayors starting getting like, "Oh, can I do this in my town? Can I do this in my city?" Entrepreneurs, "I'm taking this into my meeting." Community members are like, "Wow, people are doing this." They started making funny glasses in the shape of doughnuts. What would the world look like through doughnut lenses?
Baratunde Thurston 20:55
Would the world look like through doughnut lenses? Delicious. I mean, how did that feel, Kate, to see people engaging with the doughnut on that level?
Kate Raworth 21:05
It still amazes me, I still have to do that. Is this really happening? Is this really happening? Am I sitting in the European Union in a very formal assembly of people called doughnut for EU? But also it was a wonderful affirmation that it wasn't a completely crazy thing to call it Doughnut Economics. Some people say, "This is a very serious model. We are talking about the future of life on earth. How could you name it after American junk food?" Okay. And I know, and I'm sorry, and I tell the doctors, I say to people, "Promise, don't eat doughnuts. This is the only one that's good for us." But the unexpected benefit of giving it this name is that a lot of people are intimidated by economics or disinterested or walk away if you say, "I'm an economist." But no one's afraid of doughnuts. You might love them or hate them, but you're not afraid.
And it just tells you this is a playful space. And so, people showed up and started playing. I realized, gosh, this is really exciting. People are starting to do it. I need to find a way to bring them together. I found a fabulous co-founder called Carlota Sanz, and I thought, "I don't want to make the doughnut Institute. That just sounds heavy and ridiculous." But when I thought of an action lab, suddenly it felt really light and playful and it really works because yes, it's all about action. I really believe that 21st century economics is going to be practiced first and theorized later. The theory is following, but the practitioners are running way ahead. And it's a lab because every practice is an experiment. It's an experiment popping up in the middle of an old system and not all of them will succeed and break through.
Baratunde Thurston 22:39
What does it mean for a city to adopt the doughnut? For example, in Amsterdam, what changed? Because they said, "We want to be a doughnut city."
Kate Raworth 22:48
Great question. The city of Amsterdam, back in 2018, 2019, wanted to introduce a policy committee to become a circular city, meaning that it will be a city where resources don't get used up and thrown away, that they get used again and again. And they told us... We were beginning to think about creating a circular economy in a very technical materials way. And we gradually realized it's not just about material flows, it's about people, it's about jobs, it's about social equity, it's about transforming how we live as well. They adopted the doughnut as the vision level of their policy. The aim is for Amsterdam to be a thriving, inclusive, regenerative city for all residents within planetary boundaries. And they followed up with goals. Saying, "We aim to be 100 percent circular city by 2050."
And I love that. That's like Kennedy, the moonshot. "We're going to get there, and we don't know how we're going to get there. The point is to figure it out by trying." But to be 50% circular by 2030, they've given themselves that goal. Now, that's, that's more exciting to me because it's within seven years now, and that's a significant shift. They had these ambitions and then they said, "Right, we're going to start exploring this through housing and construction, through textiles. Who knew Amsterdam is a denim hotspot? And through food." And said, "Let's start experimenting in these areas."
For example, in the city, there's one district where every building that's built there has to be a circular building, which means it's made of materials that have been or can be or will be reused and reusable. And that just changes the way architects design. When the regulations were first introduced, at first it's like, "Ah, more rules." But then once we actually took into account what would it mean to design in a circular way, you suddenly find you're at the forefront of your field and you're surrounded by cities like yourself who are going to need to do this too.
And suddenly you find yourself at the front and that you're going to be able to teach and get contracts and skills and spread that information to others. One interesting thing that's happened is the city of Amsterdam have had elections. And in fact, the person who was really known as the champion of bringing the donor into the city of Amsterdam, she wasn't reelected. You think, "Oh, is this going to die now?" But there are new city politicians, elected of politicians and civil servants working within the city who are committed to it, and that's been really interesting for us to see.
I'll say one more thing about Amsterdam. When I first was going there in like 2017, 2018, when my book first came out, the places I was going were public halls and theaters in the city center, the place where all the tourists go. And I was getting talks in front of an audience. And last time I went, I was out in two of the neighborhoods where tourists never go. Lower income neighborhoods, really truly multicultural neighborhoods in community centers working on the nitty-gritty of, how is this market going to reduce the waste that's generated here every day when we sell tons of fruit? It was a beautiful experience of this idea has landed. And that's a really symbolic marker. And I should say the city government adopted it, but what's really exciting as well, coming back to How To Citizen, a whole network of community organizations in Amsterdam said, "Well, we can see that what we're already doing is helping bring our city into the doughnut." So they created the Amsterdam Doughnut Coalition, which is a civic network and they, every year, hold Amsterdam doughnut Days saying, "How are we doing? I love the way you're smiling. That's the way our smile is like. Is this really happening? There's a what?"
Baratunde Thurston 26:30
It's called doughnut Days, who can be mad. You know what I mean? If it's socialism day, you're going to draw a line in the sand. Then some people are going to be very excited and some people want to be very annoyed. But it's doughnut Day, which is just a great sugary Trojan horse for new ideas to find their way in.
I'm glad you went to the coalition because I think the impetus for the first example, it sounded top down. The government declared, the mayor, the city leaders said, "We want Amsterdam to be." And to borrow another old economic way of thinking, trickle down to the people. But you also have folks in community, it sounds like, bubbling these things up. In terms of whatever you've seen in the US, are there other ways that people have taken bites of the doughnut and implemented them in their neighborhood community city levels that give us even further ideas of what that change actually looks like?
Kate Raworth 27:27
It's new in the US. It's been happening-
Baratunde Thurston 27:27
Even though doughnuts is our thing.
Kate Raworth 27:29
Even though, oh, there's so much to gain. There's so much. You have a National doughnut Day. I mean, I just can't wait till National doughnut Day's going to have a whole nother meaning.
Baratunde Thurston 27:39
It's a co-op day.
Kate Raworth 27:41
No. So in the US, right where you are, there's CalDEC, California Doughnut Economics Coalition. And in fact, they were one of the first groups to form when we launched Doughnut Economics. It's a group of volunteers who just joined our community on our platform at donoreconomics.org. Anyone could just join to be a member. We've got a map. "Who's near me? Oh look, there's 15 people and wow, wow, let's connect." Or they can post an event saying "hi," as these guys did, "Hi, we're in California. Anybody else out there, should we get together online? What do we want to do together?" So they got together and they want to change the narrative about the economy. What is a thriving economy in California? To make visible ongoing projects.
Because again, like in Amsterdam, there's so much already happening. We can weep over what's going wrong in our economies, and we can point to what's already in motion and help piece together those many fragments of a new next economy that are merging, if we make them visible, we get more of a sense of it. And then I'm going to jump to another one, which is in North Carolina, the Swannanoa Watershed. Many of these groups are forming around a city or a town or a state. And this is one that's formed like a bioregion. It's formed around a watershed, which is profoundly natural. And so they've come together-
Baratunde Thurston 28:58
Through living with nature.
Kate Raworth 29:00
... and they said, "How can we?" Yeah, nature is telling us the boundary. It's not where some colonial with a pen drew a nice straight line, and this is, but no nature's saying this is a watershed, this is a coherent ecosystem. So how do we restore the ecosystem of this place and respect the health of the whole planet? And how do we bring about social justice in this place? They are showing through solar projects, through tiny homes, through Get Out the Vote, through investing in minority enterprises, moving capital to people who have been historically marginalized from it. So it's wonderful to see it. It's just starting and there's a lot more been happening in Europe. And I think it's great proof of the power of peer to peer inspiration. So when Amsterdam began, within six weeks, Copenhagen City Council said, "Well, we want some of that. We're going to do that." People are inspired by people like themselves. They can see themselves in that story.
Baratunde Thurston 29:51
The idea of seeing yourself in the story and even the examples you've shared, we are in a season where the story has been about inflation, has been about promises of growth and a certain narrow view of what economic life looks or feels like. Do you have or have people who've picked up this approach, do they have a narrative strategy as well in terms of working with media to tell different economic stories that kind of recognize more of our humanity, not just this rational man, we're all hiding inside and letting drive the vehicles of our lives? How important is that work and have you seen people explicitly say, "We have to talk differently too and journalistically cover this differently."?
Kate Raworth 30:36
So much. So there's two. The first one is the growth narrative. And people often say, "Growth is good, so can't we just reclaim growth and say, we want something else to grow?" And I don't agree with that because I very much agree with what you said earlier. In nature, nothing succeeds by trying to grow forever and if, within our own bodies, something tries to grow, we understand that as a cancer, and we go very quiet. So why can't we take from our bodily understanding to our human body, to our planetary body, that same understanding. In nature, in our children, in the plants we grow, things grow, and then they grow up and that's what means they mature. I have 14 year old teenagers. They're both now taller than me. They've been growing two inches a year and, in fact, this is the first year they grew slightly less than two inches because they're starting to-
Baratunde Thurston 31:25
Kate Raworth 31:25
... top, yeah, whew, thank you very much. Whew. Because if they carried on growing two inches a year, like people want the economy to grow 2% a year. And by the way, that compounds, my kids aren't compounding, they're just two inches. They would literally, within a decade, they could not come in my home. Literally and metaphorically they would not belong in my home, they could not sit at my table, they would be monstrous.
Things that we care about and love, we want to see them grow. Yes, it's a wonderful healthy faze of life, but then they must grow up. So for me, it's really important to reframe that and to talk about thriving. That is health. But can I come back to the other one about who we are?
So economics, when it's taught, they say, "Welcome to economics. Here's supply and demand. Here's the market." And it puts the market in our vision, which means we're immediately, who we are is consumers or producers, we're either shopping or working or shopping or working or shopping or working. But then let's think of ourselves in relation to not just the market, but in the state and, in relation to the state, we may be a public servant, a teacher, a doctor, a regulator. You may be a resident or a citizen, a voter, a protestor, all crucial roles that we can play in relation to the state. And we should recognize that we inhabit all of these, but just this marketing state, that's the sort of 20th century ideological, boxing match of economics. And most economics goes like, "Are you a free market? Let's say fair capitalist, or your state's loving socialist. You commie, you." And it's so boring, and it completely misses two other fundamental ways that we provision for our needs and wants.
It's not just through the market and it's not just through public goods. Let's start where we all start every day in the household. That's the space of unpaid care. That's where we may be a parent, a partner, a relative, a child caring for each other, our children, our parents, sometimes both. This is the place of the cooking, washing, cleaning, sweeping, raising the kids. And that's traditionally the domain of women. And it's traditionally unpaid and under-recognized and over exploited. And so we must also name that space, the space of care.
And the fourth one, I want to add the commons, where we get together, not through the market, not through the state, but as a community, we come together and we co-create goods and services that we value. And it might be a neighborhood garden on the corner of your block, it might be Wikipedia, it might be a singing group, a reading group. And it's not a free for all. We follow rules together. There are norms of how we behave. And if you don't behave, you'll be told off or ticked off or punished, or you might even be told to leave.
I often show these four forms. There's the market and the state, and the household and the commons. And I invite people just to describe themselves. "What have you done today?" "Oh, I've been a consumer because I bought something. I'm a producer. Here I am at work. I'm a parent and a child. Actually, I called my mom and I've been in the commons because I'm going to my singing group tonight, and I've been a voter and a resident. Wow. I'm weaving through all these identities all the time." So I think it's so important to name them and then ask ourselves what kind of values and norms underpin each one of those different ways?
Baratunde Thurston 34:37
But if the journalism about the economy solely focuses on the one quarter of our presence, as members of a market, not members of a state, not members of a household and members of a commons, then it's actually not complete journalism. For us, as practitioners of just living people, it's look back over the week, "Was I a good member of the commons this week? Was I a good member of my household this week?" And not merely, we have this end of year tax ritual, but do we have an end of year commons ritual or an end of year state ritual or end of your household ritual? So there's new practices that emerge. There's new ways of talking and writing and videographing.
Kate Raworth 35:17
I have to jump in. I love the idea that you like, "Oh, I've done my tax return, Oh, but I haven't done my commons return." But doing your commons return should be a celebration, right?
Baratunde Thurston 35:26
Kate Raworth 35:26
I need to return to the commons. I did my tax return, but I'm going to return to the commons. Yeah, that's-
Baratunde Thurston 35:30
I'm going to want four doughnut Days a year. It's a quarterly celebration.
After the break, Kate Raworth on a time when the doughnut didn't quite pan out. Are there places where Doughnut Economics didn't quite work the way you'd hoped it would as someone tried to implement some piece of it?
Kate Raworth 35:56
No one has ever asked me that before.
Baratunde Thurston 35:58
Kate Raworth 35:59
Yeah. So what did happen quite early on was a lot of businesses said, "Ooh, we would love to be a doughnut business." Or, "We think we are a doughnut business. Can we be a doughnut business? Can we put that on our website?" And I just thought, "Whoa, this could get greenwashed very, very quickly."
Baratunde Thurston 36:13
doughnut washing, yeah, good challenge.
Kate Raworth 36:14
Mm, doughnut washing. So we actually closed the space for business for a long time because we didn't want it to be done in a way, we thought, "Oh, that's not what we had in mind." Because if it gets doughnut washed and greenwashed, then the concept gets really denigrated for many people.
Baratunde Thurston 36:34
And there's a lot of incentive for a business, as we've seen with DEI work, as we've seen with climate friendly, and carbon zero, net-zero, sustainable, even organic to some degree. It's PR, but it doesn't reflect the practices underneath. So are you still in that posture of businesses can't really brand themselves as doughnut businesses or where are you now?
Kate Raworth 36:58
Oh, we're definitely in a place that you can't brand yourselves as doughnut business. But what we are in and now is we've been working with a group of companies over the last year and a half, and we've created a tool and we welcome any company to use it internally and explore it. So we say, "But if you want to talk about your business and the doughnut, please don't come out and say you're a doughnut business. But we invite you to tell us, and this is where we focus on, the deep design of your business. Because here's the thing. We think that in the 21st century, the most important design is not going to be the design of your products. I mean, that really matters, right? Whether it's made from regenerative and sustainable materials, whether it's ethical in its supply chains, and its payment and care of everybody who is involved in making that product. But what really matters, beyond the design of the products, is the design of the business itself."
So number one, what is its purpose? Why does it even exist? What is it in service of in the world? Two, how does it network? So all the relationships with its employees, its suppliers, its customers, its industry allies in government. Does it live out its purpose through its networks, or are they quite exploitative? Three, how is it governed? Who is in the room when decisions are made? Who has voice in those decision making? What are the metrics of success? And how are middle managers incentivized? Does it really line up? And how does it reflect your purpose? And now we're going deeper. So we've gone purpose, networks, governance, now we go deeper to ownership. How is this company owned? Is it owned by the employees, by a founding entrepreneur, by a family for 300 years? Is it owned by venture capital, by shareholders, by the state as a cooperative? Because all these different ownership models, take us to the fifth one.
How is it financed? Where is the money coming from, and what is that money expecting and demanding and extracting? How much of the profits are reinvested in your purpose and how much are taken out for the owners of the company? Now, if we take these five design traits of purpose, networks, governance, ownership, and finance, it tells us so much about what any company can be and do in the world.
Baratunde Thurston 39:00
You've mentioned tools twice now, once with regard to businesses that want to have this deep internal design, and another for cities or communities that want to roll these out. Do these tools have more specific names or places we can find them? I just want to make sure that our listeners know where to go to find these and so they can start using them.
Kate Raworth 39:18
Yes. So the tool for cities and places, it's a tool called Doughnut Unrolled, and it's on our platform at doughnuteconomics.org. Oh, it's that English spelling, D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T, so doughnuteconomics.org. And then for companies, it's a new tool called Doughnut Design for Business, also on our platform.
Baratunde Thurston 39:38
So let's imagine a world where we've unrolled doughnuts all across the planet and businesses are more deeply and conscientiously designed to allow us to thrive within these boundaries. How does the world operate then? And I'm thinking of practical things like, do we still have a stock market, our credit cards, products that we know and use on a regular basis? Do we have poverty in this future doughnut world?
Kate Raworth 40:06
Those are three great questions. So I'm going to go and reverse order. We don't have poverty, because by definition, no one is falling short on the essentials of life. No one is left in that hole. So we have figured out a way to provision for the essential needs of everyone. But the other thing you said, it's really interesting that you said, "I'm going to go for some basics, like will we be using credit cards, and will there be a stock market?" You kind of put your finger right on it. What does this mean for finance?
Baratunde Thurston 40:32
Kate Raworth 40:32
Finance is designed at the moment with an inbuilt expectation and demand for a return. It's designed completely different to everything else on this living planet, which because of the second law of thermodynamics, deteriorates, dies, rots, rusts. But money, money accumulates endlessly. And there's a deep... I can't answer your question at a super practical level because I don't know. But I can answer it at a big existential level.
Baratunde Thurston 41:04
Kate Raworth 41:04
What would it mean for money to be designed so that it actually worked with the cycles of the living world, rather than had this utterly opposite design was expected to accumulate endlessly. And it's a really big question. And I wish this is what students in business schools and in economics departments were grappling with rather than just taking, well, of course the design of money is this way and shareholders expectations and needs are that way. And so we need businesses that cut those corners to meet them. So we need to flip it on its head. How does money come in service to life rather than life serving money?
Baratunde Thurston 41:36
I am very glad you named that. It's something that I have conversations about in my own house with my partner Elizabeth, who's an EP on this show in a company that wants to do good, but still had to exit to the markets, is going to be pulled in a direction and finance that bottom layer that you shared, even in terms of business design. Where does the money come from? If we practiced more doughnut economics, how could that help us citizen? How could that support small democracy in ways that help us thrive?
Kate Raworth 42:06
General economics will make us remember every day that I move in the market and in the state, and in the household, in the common. So yeah, I may be a customer, and I'm a carer and a child, and I'm a commoner, and I need to develop all the values and skills and attributes to do well in all of these so it makes me care about these different ways. Two, so doughnut economics brings us to this question of distributive design. So how can we create that rich life of democratic engagement, democratic enterprise, and democratic design of the places we live? How can we ensure that we invest in the health and education opportunity of every person?
Baratunde Thurston 42:43
And doughnuts help us answer those questions. I love it. Thank you. If you were called on, as you were about to be, to define citizen as a verb, what would it mean to you? How would you define it?
Kate Raworth 42:54
I would say be an action. Sometimes people say to me, "Oh, I love your optimism." And I'm like, "I didn't say that." And actually, don't be an optimist if that makes you relax. Oh, we've got this sorted. People are ingenious, we're inventive. Stop worrying. Wouldn't it? No. No, no, no, no. It's not going to get sorted. But also, don't be a pessimistic if it makes you give up and it makes you say, "It's too late and it's too hard. We're too many. It's too unequal. It's too difficult." Because by giving up, you'll make it true.
Baratunde Thurston 43:19
Kate Raworth 43:19
Be in action. And to me, when I hear that word citizen, I think it calls us into action. So just ask yourself, how do I travel and eat and bank and heat my home, and how do I invest and divest and protest and volunteer, and how do I inspire and how do I tell? To me, that is how to citizen.
Baratunde Thurston 43:40
Right on. Kate Raworth, you've been fantastic. Thank you. It was one thing to watch you do the TED Talk. It's another to engage more directly with you. And I'm so glad to see how far these ideas have come since I saw you share them on that stage, and that people are unrolling the doughnut all over the world. We're going to shift to our live audience Q&A. And I've got to start... There you are. Welcome to the stage, brother Wesley. Good to see you. Tell us your name, where you're at geographically, if you're cool sharing, and go ahead and hit us with your comment and/or question.
Wesley Faulkner 44:14
My name's Wesley Faulkner. I'm currently in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My question is that if we move to a more interconnected, circular, multiple beneficiary economy, we're not all altruistic. Some of us don't necessarily feel that they need to give, as well as receive, and so they try to hoard. What is your enforcement models? And if there is a rogue actor in this web of interconnected economies, how does it self-heal, or how does it repair?
Kate Raworth 44:44
Well, that's a great question. And the first thing that makes me think of, Wesley, is people always say make sure you don't design for your 5% of fears, that you design for the 95% of possibility. But you also have to design to make sure that systems don't get co-opted or free ridden, or abused by that because that will undermine the whole. So it's not about creating, for example, businesses and enterprises that are just altruistic and always really, really nice and doing good. It's about structuring them and designing them so that there are boundaries that prevent us from giving into that worst attribute, I suppose. We can design to lock ourselves in, to force ourselves to be free, as Jean-Jacques Rousseau would say. We're forced to be free because we've designed out the possibility of giving into our weak moment of cashing the whole thing in.
And I think this is the frontier of enterprise design. Like Patagonia, many people know is no longer owned by the founder who could have one day said, "Oh heck, it's been fun, but I'm just going to cash it all in now and sell it off." No, created steward ownership, where now it's held by an organization that's locking in the mission and ensuring that's how... And that's totally separated from dividend rights. So I think we can design enterprises that hold us to the best standards that we wanted to hold ourselves into.
Baratunde Thurston 46:05
I'm going to share a question on behalf of someone. This is Sara Hughes who asks, which applications of doughnut economics give you the most cause for hope?
Kate Raworth 46:15
So the number one thing that gives me a cause for hope is just that amazing creativity that bubbled up, the connections, that ingenuity and creativity and persistence of people to keep on reimagining. That thrills me.
Baratunde Thurston 46:29
Kate, you've been very generous with your answers, your thoughtfulness, and of course, your time. You're helping liberate us from a pretty narrow existence. Very grateful for it. Thanks for playing with us. Thanks for dancing with these doughnuts with us. Really appreciate your time, your contributions and helping us citizen.
Kate Raworth 46:45
Thank you so much. And bring on next National Doughnut Day.
Baratunde Thurston 46:51
Yes. Let's do that one. Let's do that one. I just love how Kate and the Doughnut Economics Action Lab are open-ended in their reproach. They create tools and offer support, but at the end of the day, they trust the people on the ground. Remember adrienne maree brown in our very first episode this season, trust the people, and they become trustworthy. I feel like Kate's doing that. We've been talking this season about building a culture of democracy, a dope one, and I don't think we can do that without also changing the economic environment that creates that culture. So much of what we take as day-to-day is driven by economic interests, so let's change those interests. Let's make them sweeter.
And now, it's time for some actions. As always, you can find these at howtocitizen.com, and we've grouped them into three categories. First up, Internal Reflection. Can you live a circular doughnut life? I want you to identify what you truly need to live, and then what you need to thrive. Do you have those needs met right now? What would you do with your time and your energy if you didn't feel the need to earn and spend more year after year? Next category, Become More Informed. Let's digest some doughnuts. I want you to check out Kate's TED Talk from 2018, which I got to experience live. It's amazing. Also, read her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like A 21st Century Economist. It's available in our online bookstore at bookshop.org/shop/howtocitizen. And some of those proceeds, they support local independent bookshops, so we're trying to be circular ourselves.
All right, our last category, Publicly Participate. Let's find or start some doughnuts near us. I want us all to go to the Doughnut Economics Action Lab community at www.doughnuteconomics.org. That's D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T. They've got all sorts of things on this site, a membership map, which shows groups or networks near you that you can join. For us in California, it's CalDEC, but you can also do other things, like read firsthand experiences from people all over the world who are putting the doughnut into practice. If you don't see something close to you, start an event or an action in your area. Put it on the map yourself. And check out the tools Kate mentioned, Doughnut Unrolled and Doughnut Design for Business. We'll link them in the show notes. If you take any of these actions, please brag about it online and use the #howtocitizen.
Also, tag our Instagram, @howtocitizen. I am always online, and I really do see your messages, so send them. You can also visit our website, howtocitizen.com, which has all of our shows, full transcripts, actions, and more. Finally, see this episode, show notes for resources, actions, and more ways to connect. How To Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Rowhome Productions. Our executive producers are me, Baratunde Thurston, and Elizabeth Stewart. Our lead producer is Allie Graham. Our associate producer is Danya AbdelHameid. Alex Lewis is our managing producer, and John Myers is our executive editor. Our mix engineer is Justin Berger. Original music by Andrew Eapen, with additional music by Blue Dot Sessions. And our audience engagement fellows are Jasmine Lewis and Gabby Rodriguez. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Layla Bina. Next time on How To Citizen, Kate's theory of Doughnut Economics pushes the bounds of our imagination. It asks us to play and experiment with new ways of being and new ways of relating to each other. Our next guest taps into that same energy, but this time, in the context of technology.
Ruha Benjamin 51:10
We are in many ways living in a eugenics imagination, a techno utopian imagination. We're living in imagination not of our own design. And so imaginations can be corrupting and limiting, and we don't have to wait to be billionaires to be able to create something new.
Baratunde Thurston 51:28
Ruha Benjamin, Princeton professor and founding director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab on how justice begins with imagination.
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