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The Doughnut Economics Action Lab

Doughnut Economics, as you may well know by now, is a concept developed by Kate Raworth and explored in detail in her book of the same name.

She suggests that progress has an outer edge of natural thresholds that shouldn’t be exceeded – things like climate change and biodiversity loss. It also has an inner edge of social thresholds that communities shouldn’t fall below – like healthcare and education. A safe and just space for humanity lies between these two edges, making a ring shape.

It’s a very practical idea that can be applied at different levels. Studies have assesed many different countries and regions using the doughnut model, looking at where they overshoot or undershoot those limits. Mapping the various thresholds shows where countries should prioritise their efforts, and where progress can be made. As an example, I compared Madagascar and Britain in a recent post. Progress does not look the same across the two countries.

Because it is so practical and can be used as many different scales, the doughnut was adopted by decision makers in Amsterdam recently. Copenhagen were next, and then Brussels announced that they were going to do the same.

Applying the doughnut locally got a lot easier this week with the formal launch of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, an online platform for anyone working with the idea. An online community of practice is supported by stories, resources, a database of policy ideas and much more besides.

It is exciting to see the doughnut reach this point. The world of new economics can often get bogged down in statistics, models, theories and … well, economics. It rarely captures people’s imaginations, and that’s where Raworth’s work has really broken new ground. Despite having a floor and a ceiling, unlike any doughnut I’ve ever seen, it’s an intuitive enough idea that people can get hold of and understand. My children get it, and during lockdown homeschool, I got my son to draw up a doughtnut for the virtual city he had built in the game Cities Skylines.

The doughnut is now being used to make decisions, shape policy and transform the way that people understand progress in their cities and regions. Check out the Action Lab to see you might be able to do where you are, and here’s to doughnuts all round.

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