Distant city in the fog

Doughnut Economics and Systems Thinking: An interview with Kate Goodwin

Gerry Gaffney Design thinking, Equity, Government, Justice Leave a Comment

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Gerry Gaffney

This is Gerry Gaffney with the User Experience podcast.

My guest today is a designer, researcher and systems thinker. Originally from Perth, Australia, she subsequently was based in Melbourne where she earned a Master of Science degree in Information Systems. She has also worked in London, in the USA and in Sydney, and she’s currently based in Berlin.

Kate Goodwin, welcome to the User Experience podcast.

Kate Goodwin

Thanks Gerry. Nice to be here.

Gerry

Incidentally, you’re the second Goodwin we’ve had on the podcast. We had Kim a few years ago.

Kate

Yes. I have actually received LinkedIn contacts thanking me for the book and I’ve had to point out that it’s the other Goodwin.

Gerry

The other K Goodwin.

First of all I’ll remind listeners that as always a transcript of this episode is available at uxpod.com, but your recent article on Medium entitled Designing the Doughnut: A Story of Five Cities piqued my interest. And that of course is about Doughnut Economics. And perhaps you could start by telling us a little bit about Doughnut Economics.

Kate

Sure, absolutely. So at its heart, Doughnut Economics is a new economic model for the future and it was proposed by an English economist called Kate Raworth. And she first published it in 2012, and it’s really been gaining traction across the globe in the last 18 months or so.

And at its heart it’s a holistic and visually simple model, a 2D sketch of a doughnut, essentially, which is where the name comes from. And it proposes an alternative vision for humanity in the 21st century. And basically it’s urging us to move beyond traditional gross domestic product growth- focused economic models of old, and it’s really serving as a compass and not a map for what might be possible. And the model really wants to get us to see the complex interconnectedness between economies, societies and the rest of the living world.

And it really asks us to see the bigger picture, to nurture human nature and reconsider the notion of growth and change our goals as we collectively address the complexities of living in the 21st century and the challenges we face. And what’s really important about Doughnut Economics and what I’ve really been struck by as I’ve come to learn it as well, is that it seeks to introduce this economic thinking in a way that everyone can grasp. It’s very accessible. And that can also be a criticism of some, you might say, who are a bit more versed in economic theory and so on, but it certainly has had significant and quite astounding cut-through with lots of different people who are not from economic backgrounds. And what I find interesting is that it’s smuggling in systems thinking without labelling it as such and making these concepts really accessible to everyone.

I just wanted to point out why it’s called a doughnut actually. And it’s because it looks like one, so it’s basically two concentric rings and the middle ring is a social foundation and it’s life’s essentials that no one should fall short on. So things like food, energy, housing, health income, and work, social equity, gender equality, and so on. And then the outer ring is the ecological ceiling, like planetary boundaries protecting our life support systems that we mustn’t overshoot. And they are things like climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification.

Gerry

I found the book quite interesting. And coming from a well-respected economist made it so much more powerful as well. And, you know, the fact that she talked about GDP having been something that, a goal that we had fallen into and, you know, when she goes over the history of economics about how various economists have dropped the goal of economics from their thinking in order to sort of treat it as a machine. And, you know, as if it were sort of a scientific, a science, which it isn’t, and that was really interesting that gross domestic product has become the thing that we measure and we did get hooked on growth. It’s funny because it feels like had she written the book 10 years previously, it would have been just, you know, ignored.

Kate

Yeah. And I really do… As I was reflecting on this to speak with you today, I was really thinking, you know, it’s come into the collective consciousness in the last year or so at a time where we’re very much reconsidering about what’s really important. And there has been a shift towards the recognition of the importance of social cohesion and connectedness, the recognition that things are very much intertwined in terms of our societies, the rest of the living world and so on. And that this constant sort of focus on growth at all costs is not a sustainable prospect. And I think that’s one of the things about the Doughnut that really sits differently is that it’s saying that in between those two concentric rings I spoke of before, that’s the safe space and just space for humanity to thrive and, and Kate and the Doughnut group use that word “thrive” very importantly, because what they’re saying is the model is about thriving, not growth alone. It’s not just about unending growth. It says, okay, growth is healthy, but it isn’t forever. And that at some point it’s about growing up and thriving instead. And I think that that’s it’s really striking in terms of the, the difference.

Gerry

Tell us why you were motivated to write this article and obviously we’ll include a link to it or people can just obviously just Google the title, which we’ll read out again at the end of the session today, but what motivated you to write it?

Kate

So, because I’m a curious designer researcher type, I’m very interested as to why people do the things they do. And I treated this as a bit of a personal design research activity to understand how grassroots groups tick and how they convene when there’s this kind of decentralized models and, and how we look at the way in which we shape these collaborations and how the very shaping of those inform the sort of things that are possible to do together. And so, because I have been sitting here in Berlin now for just on 15 months or so I’ve become a friend of the Berlin Doughnut group. And I’m obviously still connected to Australia and I’m curious about what’s going on there, it struck me that all these groups were facing very similar challenges but were very like, oh God, this is something we’ve got to work out for ourselves. You know, what are we doing wrong? What do we do next? And so on. And I thought it would be interesting to do a comparative piece and see where there are similarities and differences and how people are experiencing the formation of these groups. And then maybe the other groups can take some kind of comfort in knowing that others are going through these challenges, and maybe it can help the other groups to know where to start. It might give them a foot you know, like a bit of a leg up as to where they might be able to begin and to be aware of the fact that when you start out, it is going to feel quite complex the way you’re going to have, you’re not going to know exactly who has agency to do what, or you might be sitting there thinking, you know, where do we start, or, you know how do we keep momentum going and so on.

And so, and it was also to help the Berlin group that I’m part of, because I saw these challenges here and I wanted to, to come up with some proposals about where they, they might go. And one of the things that came through was about the role of funding and how that really changes the game when it comes to these groups as well. Because you suddenly go from being a volunteer group and with some people giving their all and really, you know, showing up every day and trying to make some inroads, but then thinking, well, how is this sustainable? You know, I’ve still got to pay the rent. I’ve still got to feed myself, I’ve got family and so on. And so I work much more closely these days, or at least I’m intending to work much more closely with these community led initiatives of change. And I’m super curious about the dynamics. And so that was why, and I thought this might be the time to, to be sharing that kind of story more broadly.

Gerry

So you’ve had, I think it’s fair to say a bit of a journey from traditional UX if such a thing exists into systems thinking, into community projects. And now the whole doughnut thing. I mean, was that, did you plan that journey or was it accidental and is it something that’s got relevance for other designers?

Kate

It certainly was I think a consciousness that arrived over time where I was doing lots of these user experience and service design projects in government and in justice and so on, and…

Gerry

Wasn’t that fun!

Kate

[Laughter.] And we had some great times Gerry, and we learned a lot and, yeah, there’s a lot to reflect on, right? But what really struck me when we were doing that work is when you’re working in these systems, where there’s very present things around power and, the hierarchical models and all the sort of different dynamics that are going on, I felt at some point that if we’re just coming up with a technological solution, if we’re coming up with a new platform or we’re coming up with a new app or something like that, surely we must be missing a huge swathe of other factors. And is that responsible, you know, like if we’re not addressing those things are we, you know, can we, can we be saying that we’re going about these things in an ethical and thoughtful way?

And so I went off to System School. I went to the School of System Change in London in 2019, and did a six-month base camp then, part remote, part in person. I was interestingly the only designer in that school, in that base camp, I should say. And the other people were working in say sustainability at Marks and Spencers, or, you know, working inside The Children’s Society as operational managers and so on. And so I sat there and I thought, this is very interesting. There’s a ton to learn from all these other roles and organizations and so on. And it really just blew open my mind as to how much there should be to consider. And I learned about, you know, the ideas of complexity theory. I learned about thinking about futures, thinking about transition design and so on. And it really was like a layering up of all the practice and experience that I’d had previously.

And it was something I was, I deliberately did at a time where we were doing a system practice collaboration with RMIT university in Melbourne. And so I did it in parallel so that I could draw down the learnings into the projects, but likewise draw the project back up into the peer learning with my group. And then since then, I’ve just seen things in a much bigger way. And I guess the, the new challenge is trying to work between those two levels. So working still at that very strategic level and the 10,000 foot view or whatever we call it. And then also the pragmatics, you know, actually making, making things happen and getting stuff done. And that’s a constant tension that that I really feel in this kind of work too in that as we try and work with these communities and try and help them find ways move forward, we’re also as a design practice trying to find where we fit in, you know, and how we hold space for others, how we visualize complexity, how we help others to navigate those things and so on.

And this system practice is very, it’s very personal. It’s very interconnected, you know, it’s the whole, it feels so different from where I started in design school all those years ago, learning typography and how to to build websites in Cold Fusion.

Gerry

[Laughter.] Cold Fusion, my God, I haven’t heard that term for a long time.

So do you think that UX designers should think about systems and should they get involved in systems thinking and how should the average UX person who is, you know, maybe working as a lone practitioner, a lowly paid lone practitioner in an organization, how can they get involved in systems thinking in the first place?

Kate

Sure. Okay. Well, the first thing is there’s a saying from Maureen O’Hara who was the co-author of Dancing At The Edge, an excellent book saying ‘No solo climbing.’ So the first, the first thing is that it’s very important I think with this kind of work to join a community where you can discuss these very, you know, complex and sometimes overwhelming ideas with other people who are also on this learning journey. And that means people of all varying levels, whether they be other people at the beginning of understanding systems thinking through to those that have been doing these things for a long time. And I refer to people such as Ray Ison, for example at the Open University and, you know, reading books, like they have an excellent book called of The Hidden Power of Systems Thinking, which I think everyone should read as a starting point.

I should add Open University has been doing this stuff for 50-odd years or something like that. So they’re also a good place to look for these kinds of things, but also to join communities of practice, where other people are talking about these things in more practical terms. Cause I think that’s what we’re all hungry for is when we’re trying to understand, as a UX designer or someone who’s trying to transition into learning more about this. You know, where do my existing skills and capabilities plug into what the systems thinking stuff is? And so that might be, oh, I’m someone who’s excellent at sketching. You know, different, whether it be narrative, you know, storyboarding narratives or kind of trying to articulate things in more visual ways. I think there’s a whole lot of tools that we have as user experience designers that we can bring to the table that serve very well and complement very well the idea of systems thinking where you’re basically trying to articulate complexity and interconnectedness in a way that others and ourselves can make sense of.

And so that could even be trying out different methods. For example one of the first things I was exposed to when I went to the System School as I call it, is we learned how to do like causal loop diagrams and so on. So a feedback loop that was something I had never done before. That’s very different from the sort of diagrams we’ve been asked to do in the past. We’re familiar with doing things like customer journey maps, service blueprints, that kind of thing. And suddenly you’re being asked to think about different elements and causal factors and downstream and upstream flows and so on. And something we were encouraged to do from the start was just, just do those things as a practice, you know, on a regular basis, just take a type a certain topic or something and just sketch out some loops and see how things fit together and start to shift your thinking as to how you express things.

And basically just keep practicing and trying out these different methods, you know, because even though another template we were given access to was like multi-level perspective template, for example, you’re thinking about landscape nice and regime, and you’re thinking about different factors. These are just tools I’d never used before. And then we could bring them in behind the scenes on projects that we were doing. Back when I was at Paper Giant in Melbourne, you know, we had these canvases and things at our disposal, so we could try them out with our peers and say, okay, let’s give that a go. And does that make sense? And how does that help shift or change the nature of the conversations we’re having ourselves and with our clients and with other people in the community has been doing this work.

And something that’s was extremely powerful and, and that sticks with me was when we did the Supporting Justice project in Melbourne in 2019, we helped create a system map. It was a collaborative activity with the Centre for Innovative Justice, and as designers, mapping out the complexity of the criminal justice system for people with disability, and then showing that to different stakeholders in the justice system, police, correctional facility, judges, magistrates and so on, it was so powerful and transformative that they actually saw that visualized. So as UX designers, that’s, that’s what we have in our toolkit, right? The ability to actually do that translation exercise, where you’re able to dive into understanding complex notions through research through, through different forms of engagement, qualitative and quantitative, perhaps, but I think these things feel more, much more qualitative to me, interestingly, and we can translate it in the way that other people can make sense of. And I think that’s our, hopefully our super-power when it comes to bridging these things.

I would say practice, practice, practice, and it feels hard. That’s my experience too.

Gerry

And I guess you’re implying that it is the case, do you think that a UX practitioner who studied system design would be able to apply these in their day-to-day work in straight UX?

Kate

I think you’d have to be a little bit careful about how you feed it in, because what I’ve learned is with systems thinking you have to smuggle it in. So Ray Ison and Ed Straw, I heard a podcast from them talking about this in the context of their book. They said the thing with systems thinking is you have to smuggle it in and then once it’s in and people have been doing it, you announce the smuggle and you announced yourself as the smuggler. And I was like, that’s great. That really makes all the sense to me because if you suddenly turn up with your colleagues or even your clients and say yes, we’ve been doing customer journey maps, you know, for the last two or three years, and that’s been great and everything, and we can see, you know, what’s going on there and all those things and who the actors are and so on. And then you say, and suddenly now we’re going to move to doing feedback loops and causal loop diagrams and thinking about different perspectives and so on.

If you just turn up with that one day and don’t sort of set up the conditions for it, you’re probably going to lose them. And so I would suggest finding subtle ways of bringing it in. And so the way, one way that worked really well with the Supporting Justice project was we had this giant system map. It was literally 2.5 metres wide. You couldn’t send it by email and nor should you, I should add. It’s definitely something you should talk through with people, but we took elements of that and made them into scenario cards for example, this is just one simple example where we could talk to the different leverage points inside the system matters to three different areas of possibility that we might be able to change in the justice system to address the disrespect and so on of people with disability.

And we brought that into a workshop with the magistrates and the, and the senior lawyers and so on and asked them to use those scenario cards to explore future possibilities. And we did like a round robin style exercise to do that. Now, to me, that is, you’re considering the experience of the participants of that workshop in how they are engaging with complexity, because you’re, it’s an information design exercise. So rather than, you know, possibly in the past we would have said, okay, we’re going to do a workshop together to explore features and priorities of an app or something like that. You’re now thinking about designing the collaboration moment with these different stakeholders and how you’re going to bring in something that has a systems thinking angle behind it without telling them that that’s what they’re doing. And then that’s when I thought it was really powerful because they, one of the lawyers, or I think at one of the senior workers from one of the community legal centres said, ‘That scenario that you brought in and the way you asked us to work on that possibility exercise,’ he said, ‘that was so much more tangible for me to think about then reading a hundred page report, you know?’

And I thought that’s the power of the design here. And particularly when we think about user experience, let’s think about the participants of these groups and their experience. It’s not just about getting people in a room and saying ‘Go.’ It’s so much more intentional and thoughtful now. And that’s, I think so much more now about collaboration design and organizational design and all of the ways in which we shape what we shape in these exercises as facilitators has a very direct bearing on how they make sense of things and then what comes out of that. It’s been quite a transformational reflection, I think in, in our practice, or in my practice anyway.

Gerry

Okay. We kind of got side-tracked there into systems thinking and system design, but it was, it was to good purpose. Now to come back to your article, and again, it’s entitled ‘Designing the Doughnut, A Story of Five Cities.’ The five cities are Melbourne, Sydney, Berlin, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Are they exemplary in some way or what was the rationale for choosing them?

Kate

Well, Berlin, because I live here and, you know, I have a vested interest, obviously in how this group ticks as someone who is trying to support that. But, particularly with Amsterdam, Amsterdam are held up as the very first example of an official doughnut city, if you like. And they are constantly contacted and are always the sort of, you know, go-to for like, how did you establish yourselves and so on. And so they’ve been on a journey over a series of years to this point. And I think that’s one reason I chose them as well as to show that these things do take time to establish as well. A lot of the, where they are now and the things that they are achieving has not happened overnight. So that was one of the reasons for Amsterdam. And they also have a strong tie to, to one of the older people in the city as well. And so it was also a demonstration of how a Doughnut Coalition, which is what they’re called is connected in some way to the political you know, to that particular sector of the city and so on and to see what those relationships are.

Gerry

And in fact, you said, you said at one point, I think, in the article that there was the, the, the Amsterdam Coalitie or whatever it’s called that it was, it was it was misinterpreted as being a political party. Is that a risk that these things run?

Kate

Yes, it is. Yeah, that was one thing that actually came through in the research was it’s people do, can confuse the language with something that might sound a bit like a political party. And so the Amsterdam Donut Coalition has been incorrectly interpreted in that way. That was what I was told. And then it’s also, you know, are these things movements, you know, are they, are they initiatives and so on? And so the choice of label for what these groups are calling themselves is also very critical. And I think language and interpretation of things, particularly also in how things translate is so nuanced and sensitive in these groups too. That’s what I’ve observed. It’s very interesting. One thing I noted was that for example, Regen Melbourne, okay, so you’ve got Regen in there and then Melbourne, but it doesn’t say anything specifically about the doughnut and the doughnut is one of the first projects they’re exploring as part of their doing the doughnut city portrait.

And so they’ve given themselves a name, which in my impression gives them some room to move and doesn’t sort of fix them into one particular theory or someone, and doesn’t sound necessarily like a political party. You’ve then got Brussels… Brussels call themselves the Brussels Doughnut. And then Berlin is Doughnut Berlin. And in Sydney, I believe you’re sort of exploring this Regen Sydney as a bit of a replication of the style of Melbourne. Yeah, but the choice of the different cities. So I wanted to pick cities that were globally distributed, to sort of see where there were similarities and differences, maybe by culture or by geography, or by, maybe where different cities are in terms of how they approach these participatory co-creation-style projects. And also to see where there’s differences because of the way the political systems operate and, you know, and the sort of level of interest, and you might say capability and competency inside the different levels of government for doing this kind of, for thinking in these ways and doing this kind of work. So it was very much by design to have, and I wanted four cities to start with, and then Brussels came as a bonus. And so then I was like, okay, great, now I’ve got, you know, three cities in Western Europe, plus I’ve got these two in Australia. So, and I, and I also thought the doughnut is a global, the whole notion of the doughnut is it’s about interconnectedness between societies and so on. So let’s see where there is a connection and, you know, parity, you might say between very distributed places. But also I should note that these are in developed, you know, top-tier kind of developed somewhat wealthy nations.

Gerry

That’s what Kate Raworth calls the WEIRD societies. WEIRD is ‘wealthy, educated…’ something, I can’t remember what it stands for.

Kate

I can’t remember either. [Laughter.] [Western educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. – Ed]

Exactly. And so I’m conscious that it’s not as, it’s not an all-encompassing sweep across other places. And so, you know, when I was talking to people about this, they said it would have been interesting to do this say in Latin America or something like that. And yes, it absolutely would be. But it was supposed to be a starting point and a sharing at a moment where I found people were getting a bit frustrated and caught up with the same issues. And, and that’s in talking to people in Australia and also talking here, it’s like, how do we form? And, you know, how do we, how do we make progress and where do we go from here and so on. So it was a point in time to take stock of that and to, not propose answers by any stretch, but just to reflect back,

Gerry

Did you have a long-list of cities or were these the five that you had?

Kate

No, they were the, they were the starting point. I think it just, it originally, I was going to, I’m trying to think how it originally even came about. It was because I was chatting to Alice Howard-Vyse in Sydney, and was like, oh gosh, what’s going on in Sydney? What’s going on in Melbourne? You know, and it kind of just snowballed a bit from there. Plus it was also, you know, I’m seeing other cities in this global doughnut movement, this one of a thousand Slack groups I’m a member of. And you know, seeing all the other cities and there, you’ve got people from like California, you’ve got others in the UK, you’ve got other people coming on from Ireland and so on. And I thought, you know, where do you draw the line? But I thought let’s, let’s just start with a few and see how they, how they resonate. And I think the other split that came through in, in the ones I spoke to were the ones that were funded in the ones that weren’t, and what that enabled in terms of this group possibilities and an ability to move you might say,

Gerry

I guess your reference to funding there brings me to a question. I’m wondering what’s different… What, different structures are the cities using farther donors and endeavours?

Kate

Sure. Yeah. So Amsterdam is, is funded until the end of this year. And that enables them to have, I think, like one full-time person supported by two other people…

Gerry

Funded by whom, Kate?

Kate

I think it is funded by the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam, I believe, and of which Kate Raworth is actually also a… associated. I can’t remember her exact title, but she holds a position with the university. And that enables them to do active collaboration with researchers, students, freelancers, and so on. And they have quite a lot of room to move. But what is interesting about that funding is because it did not come from the government and it came from the university. It enables them to absolutely work with the government and work with other actors, but it enables them to be at enough of an arm’s length to be critical, and also to be not particularly biased in terms of where they, where that funding came from.

And I think that was a point that was importantly made when speaking to Amsterdam

Brussels are actually a consortium with the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. So economics action lab is based in the UK and they are the official HQ of the Doughnut Economics group you might say. They hold a community network globally and, and so on. And so DEAL is the acronym is, are in a consortium with the Brussels doughnut. And that project was actually established by a group called Confluences, who support co-creation projects in the Brussels region. And that one is actually funded for nine months and supported by the regional government. So that’s different from Amsterdam because it has a government support to it. But also they act, I would say from my observations also somewhat autonomously, you know, and I think that’s important with these groups because fundamentally when they’re challenging things around purpose and governance and you know, the way in which things are shaped in the first place as to the kind of outputs they produce, there’s going to be naturally some difficult questions and things asked and difficult topics raised, which are going to be challenging to different actors. And that includes obviously government actors too.

Regen Melbourne are a steering committee of, I think about four different members from sorry, five different members, I should say, from four orgs. So you’ve got City of Melbourne, a group called Small Giants who brought Kate Raworth out to Australia, at least virtually, the Coalition of Everyone, Circular Economy Victoria, and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation who were actually the body that funded that initiative. And that’s a five-month funding thing where they are required to provide a report and so on at the end of that. But what they see that as is, it’s not the end. It’s not like, okay, here, job done. You know, we, we did some things, let’s move on. They see it is the starting point for others to take on board and sort of the core of a theory of change you might say for how the city might go about doing things.

And so for example Circular Economy Victoria, who are part of that group going to be pressing forward with using the doughnut to guide things around socio-technical transitions in the city and so on. And so it’s an ongoing dialogue really. Even though the funding is kind of ending at a certain point.

Interestingly I said, what happens when the funding runs out and, you know, what’s next? And I think the answer for these city so far that were funded were like, well, we hope that it continues, but we just don’t know, you know, and that’s the other thing too, because people have maybe stepped away from their jobs or at least they’ve now got their feet in two different or three different camps doing this work. And then what happens when that changes… So the longevity of that too, and you also think about this Doughnut Economics and so on is about longer-term thinking and looking at things in different ways. How what’s the continuity of that? That’s a big question, I suppose, for everyone.

Berlin and Sydney are not funded yet. They are exploring funding opportunities or in the case of Berlin I’m aware that they recently received a small portion to do some small exercises and so on. But at the moment, they are both on a very voluntary basis where you have motivated actors coming in saying, okay, I have an interest, for example, in circular economy, looking at new ways of waste disposal and so on. And you’ve got others who are working more in activist corners and so on, those who are more politically connected and so forth, who are just basically saying the time is now, and we’ve got this model on the table that we can work with, what can we do with it? But there is definitely this desire to have some kind of support or resourcing there to be able to sustain the initiative and to sustain the energy because this stuff is time consuming. And there can be a sense of, you know, guilt of not doing enough, but equally then giving too much of yourself and so on. So that’s, they’re the things that I heard about as I spoke to these different people.

Gerry

There’s a danger, isn’t there with these sorts of things that initiatives, you know, they can become very niche and end up having very little influence in the real world. Do you think that’s a risk with these five cities and their initiatives?

Kate

Yeah, I think so because it’s about who’s involved in these things as well. So I know having sat in on some conversations and being privy to a few things, there is a sense of at least in Berlin anyway, we’ve been over this before. We’ve tried this before, you know, what’s so different about this time? Why should we believe in it this time? There’s also sometimes concern that it might be politically motivated or that it might come from some alignment to some kind of ideology or something. So there’s the danger in that case that it could be maybe pigeonholed or not taken seriously by some actors and so on. There’s the danger of, you know, what we call doughnut washing, which is basically where organizations might suddenly jump on board and say, we’re a doughnut, you know, flag-waving crew.

And that is something that DEAL, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab is very wary of. And so they’re, they’re taking careful steps as to how this is done with organizations because the way in which people enact Doughnut Economics as a model is the direct reflection of Doughnut Economics to the world as a brand, you might say, so if it’s misappropriated by a certain group and something poor comes of that experience, then that is what people will interpret as to the model and so on. So they’re being very careful and it’s basically brand awareness, you might say, in a very marketing term. And I think the danger that it won’t, you know, the danger is not the right word, finding traction with the right people and getting them to shift their way of thinking and so on is no small task.

And so a lot of this has to do with getting in the right ears of the right people, comes down to relationships and social capital and so on. So then you might, then you start to think of the usual things, okay, well, who who’s connected due to education, power, privilege and so on. And there’s a danger of the, this initiative also just being run by the, you know, what we might say, the usual suspects, where are the, where are the more diverse communities and actors and so on in this as well? So there’s the risk of it being still quite narrowed and still quite constrained by the usual things that the care around who’s involved in shaping city plans and so on. But the good news is that the initiatives are aware aware of this. So they’re asking these questions. So in the global doughnut movement Slack, there’s a discussion thread about this, and it’s something else, like I mentioned in the article, there’s an awareness that it’s completely lacking and that it’s required and, and, and to have more diversity and inclusion it’s not really being addressed particularly well anywhere to be blunt. And in Australia, there was a question even asked by the Melbourne group, for example, is the doughnut model even appropriate if we think about Indigenous context and in Indigenous knowledge systems and so on in Australia, is it even the right thing? And so the good sign of that is that these groups are also willing to do critical thinking and are attempting, at least it seems to be aware of these things and do something about it as to how they’d make those steps forward. That remains to be seen.

Gerry

I guess it’s an interesting challenge and, you know, I don’t, I didn’t want to sound negative and, you know, asking that question that, you know, you had a very positive framing at the start of your article, you said that cities are re-imagining the health of our communities and our planet, or the planet, which is a very positive thing to be involved in. And those risks are something I guess, that just have to be, we have to be aware of, and we have to manage.

If listeners are interested, how can they get involved in an initiative in their city? Or how can they perhaps help establish one if it doesn’t already exist?

Kate

So the first port of call would be to go to doughnuteconomics.org. And you can share that link as well, if you like, and that is the global community that is supported by the Doughnut Economics Action Lab.

Gerry

Is that doughnut in the in the English, the British spelling or the US spelling?

Kate

D O U G H. So Doughnut Economics.org. And that gives you a nice rundown of, of how it works. It tells you about the different ways of thinking for Doughnut Economics, the principles and so on. And then you can also see lots of stories and articles that tell you about what different initiatives are doing around the world. There’s a Slack as well which I’m not sure if that’s publicly published on there, but it’s, as I said before, it’s a growing community. So it’s somewhat more, you know, the collaboration chat whereas the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, as I understand it right now is a platform for sharing and so on. And then the groups individually organized themselves behind the scenes. But I think definitely start on that website because then you’ll be able to work out what’s going on in your city and who’s doing what, and a lot of the cities are now also doing like book clubs and things as well.

Because one of the things about Doughnut Economics is that people really latch onto the model, but then how do they dig deeper and actually understand how it works? And I’m one of those people. And so, you know, there’s courses that are being run as well. Kate Raworth is running soon an online masterclass and foundations of Doughnut Economics and so on. And so I think it’s, it’s about throwing yourself into it a bit to understand it somewhat more and realizing that that learning has to come from yourself rather than someone telling you, what to do and where to go with it. It’s something that people need to take on board and work out what they want to do with it.

Gerry

So in five years’ time that people would be talking about Doughnut Economics or will it be, you know, yesterday’s news?

Kate

[Laughs.] I would like to think that they will be talking about it in terms of saying, we really did find the way to bring about very genuine community-led initiatives. And we really have found ways to bring together diverse actors. And Doughnut Economics was a vehicle for that because it had such cut-through and actually did get people thinking differently. And it had big supporters behind it who were willing to make it happen and look at where we are now, you know, and we’ve made some inroads into that because one of the most powerful things about the model that I always see is when you put the different countries together and you see where the people at the top tiers of the development network are with very high standards of living have everything covered in terms of essential life needs, but are completely blowing it out over the planetary boundaries.

And then you have other countries that are not doing so well. And it would be interesting to see hopefully that shifts over time and people do better pointed it and say in five years, this has changed significantly, and this is how it was done with this thinking, but it’s going to require all of us to think differently about how we go about these collaborations and so on. And I think that’s the biggest thing is that we’re quite stuck in our existing models and ways of going about things. And it’s really hard to let go of that. So hopefully in five years, we’ll have loosened up a bit and been willing to step into the ambiguity of things somewhat more, that that would be a seismic shift, I think, for many of us.

Gerry

Okay. And the article is called Designing the Doughnut: A Story of Five Cities. Obviously we’ll include a link to it on uxpod.com, but you can also just Google it and find your way to it just as easily.

Kate Goodwin, thanks for talking to me today on the User Experience podcast.

Kate

It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Gerry GaffneyDoughnut Economics and Systems Thinking: An interview with Kate Goodwin

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