What is Doughnut Economics? A New Way Forward

Kate Raworth and a visual representation of Doughnut Economics

In the throes of the major historical events of recent memory, many of us have embraced the idea of slowing down.

We’re tossing hustle and bustle aside in favor of intentionality and sustainability, carefully untangling our worth from our performance and productivity.

We’re meditating more, making our silly little smoothies, taking hot girl walks, setting boundaries at work, and doing all these new things to sustain ourselves and find healing.

It’s working, right? Much to our chagrin, these structural lifestyle changes make us feel better and allow us to thrive, all while decreasing our output.

So what if we took those guiding principles of regeneration and used them as a template for a new economic model?

What is Doughnut Economics? 

The Doughnut is a concept that was first published by Kate Raworth in 2012 and quickly gained popularity. And even though the entire world has yet to catch on, the Doughnut might just be the model to satisfy the cravings of the greater good.  

The concept outlines a new economic model to bring us into the 21st century. It displays two concentric rings, setting boundaries for both social foundation and planetary limits, ensuring that humans have the essentials, all while remaining within the Earth’s ecological ceiling. 

Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL) describes it as such: “Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive.”

Visual explanation of doughnut economics, showing shortfalls on the inside of the doughnut, overshoot on the outside of the doughnut, and "the safe and just space for humanity" in the middle of the donut
Illustrated adaptation of the Doughnut Economics visual explanation by Johnathan Huang for the Goodnewspaper

Raworth’s model does not outline policies, as all societies cannot be summed up in one political approach, but it does serve as a new economic mindset.

The Doughnut prioritizes regenerative and distributive design as we face complex climate change and socioeconomic fallout. It encourages nations to stray from endless GDP growth (also referred to as no-growth or slow-growth economies), and move toward a cooperative way of life.

Mass production and overconsumption have led to both a shortfall for social foundations and an overshoot on negative environmental impacts. Perhaps, Raworth believes, the growth has to stop eventually, and in its place, we can appreciate balance. 

“Progress on this goal isn’t going to be measured with a metric of money,” Raworth said in her 2018 TED Talk. “We need a dashboard of indicators.” 

Those indicators include what’s at the center of that doughnut — essentials like food, water and shelter, social connectedness and justice, ecological regeneration, and dynamic exchanges of goods, services, and labor. 

This dashboard of indicators also includes what’s outside of the doughnut — our overshoot — showing climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss, and more. 

The goal is to provide humans with the means to thrive, all within the means of the planet. That’s where the frosting and sprinkles are.

In that energetic, strategically designed center of the doughnut (or, if you’re an “Everything, Everywhere All At Once” fan, perhaps an everything bagel) is opportunity and hope.

“Doughnut Economics recognizes that growth may be a healthy phase of life, but nothing grows forever,” the DEAL website states. “Things that succeed do so by growing until it is time to grow up, mature, and thrive instead.” 

How do we implement Doughnut Economics? 

So, how does the Doughnut look in practice?

Nations around the globe are already experimenting with new ways forward.

Countries like Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands use immense solar power per person. Major cities like London are working within the concept of circular cities to be both energy efficient and community-centered. 

The Doughnut can, of course, take shape through these city, or even nationwide projects, embracing efficient urban planning, legislation, and green growth goals, but DEAL encourages large systems-based thinking for big-picture solutions.

“Doughnut Economics recognizes that economies, societies, and the rest of the living world, are complex, interdependent systems that are best understood through the lens of systems thinking,” the DEAL website states. 

DEAL encourages those practicing within the Doughnut model to align with strategic principles: aligning with the goals of regeneration and distribution, seeing the bigger picture, nurturing human connection, and aiming to thrive, rather than to grow.

“The Doughnut’s boundaries unleash the potential for humanity to thrive with boundless creativity, participation, belonging, and meaning,” Raworth ends her TED Talk.

“It’s going to take all the ingenuity we’ve got to get there. So bring it on.”

A version of this article was originally published in The 2022 Money Edition of the Goodnewspaper.

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Article Details

March 8, 2023 10:32 AM
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