One of the imperatives of the transition to a green economy is to expand the current narrow definitions of development to include well-being of people and the environment. A well-being economy is one that has at its core, the awareness of the challenges that society faces and provides tools and strategies to address these according to context. This drive for a well-being economy arises at a time where growth policies have only exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor while depleting the earth’s natural resources at an alarming rate. The well-being economy also calls for more inclusive and democratic forms of participation in the economy. It is said that no enduring economic, cultural and political transformation has been achieved without a solid constituency demanding and enabling that change – changing the narrative and the power base.
It is on this basis that the WE-Africa Lab, a group of 28 African thought leaders from eight African countries from across sub-Saharan Africa launched in November. The We-Africa Lab is comprised of policymakers, social entrepreneurs, academics and development practitioners among others. The Lab, gathered in Cape Town in November 2016 for its inaugural meeting, in a process that is designed to last for 1 year, comprising of three physical meetings in any one of the participating countries.
The We-Africa Lab is convened by GIZ, WE-Africa Network, and the African Centre for a Green Economy. The inaugural 4 days meeting in Cape Town, yielded very exciting outcomes, with the team split into smaller groups of 4, focusing on specific topics that will be explored over the next 12 months, to collectively drive the goal of achieving a wellbeing economy in Africa.
The Lab was designed as a form of deep dialogue capable of triggering personal transformation, which can only become a driver of change if connected with collective leadership and strategic action. The three levels – personal, collective and strategic – are essential to developing transformative actions that are sustainable over time and with significant outcomes and impact. Too often good ideas are not implemented, because people struggle to organize effectively or fail to alter the structural constraints hindering social change.
Through dedicated sessions focusing on personal transformation, collective action and strategic thinking and through a forward-looking orientation based on the skills, experiences and initiatives already developed by the participants, the Lab aims to inspire leaders across the African continent to lead sustainable change and generate ripple effects throughout society.
The next Lab meeting will take place in May in a country yet to be decided, in the meantime the groups will continue to develop their independent projects and collaborate online with their colleagues until the next meeting.