Kate Raworth's "Doughnut economics"?

From what I’ve seen of her (I saw her discussion at long now and TED talks), I also think she’s quite interesting and relevant today. I know Climate-KIC loves her too.

What I’m still wondering: She does speak a lot about growth though, while it seems to me that the general idea of ecological economics is that there’s a planetary/ecosystem boundary within which the economy “happens” and thus we need to put the general idea of growth to rest.

This aspect I find more strongly developed in Raworth who talks about “thriving” rather than growth.

I promise I’ll read Mazzucato’s book as soon as I have time (aka kindergarten opens up again). :slight_smile:

Hi @hires , hi @alberto,

Thought of jumping into the fray, for a middle-way-kind-of positioning on the topic.

I feel you Alberto, and if I was an economist I bet I would feel you more :slight_smile: . You nailed it with that last paragraph. And I don’t think anyone believes any more that help will come from above in that way.

But I want to make a point: just because what Raworth writes sounds trivial, doesn’t means it’s easy. Meaning, some times we don’t need a new theory or even actionable points. Some times we just need someone to grab a boring, 18th century club and hit the zeitgeist on the head :slight_smile: . Would something good come out of it? Who knows. But if it’s power what we’re talking about, reaching out to the maximum amount of people is a good start.

Mazzucato comes across as a deeper thinker, agreed. But judging by her presentations (the same @hires mentions), it’s still too technical. It’s never a good idea to judge by a dataset of one, but here it is anyhow: I have a doctorate and am somewhat familiar with most of the concepts she discusses, but I’m having trouble following her. She’s a whirlwind. She gives me the impression that she’s good to deploy against the Commission or the Davos crowd, but mass appeal she hasn’t.

So where does that leave us? I would say, keeping your last paragraph intact and adding: what can we learn from both of them? How to reach the maximum amount of people with the lowest of hanging fruits, of the right tree?


A new theory: no, agreed. But without actionable points… what would be next?

Anyway, my beef is not with tried-and-true theories. I love them! My beef is with implying that said points are new, and now that we have (re-)discovered everything is going to be all right. “We have figured it out, people! We need much less short-term thinking!”. OK, but short-term thinking co-evolved with our economic and cultural environment, which rewards short-term thinking. It’s not the best theory, but it’s the fittest, and if you go head to head on it you are going to lose. Or rather, I am going to lose. You (proponent of a newly packaged old idea) are going to draw great consulting and speaking fees, and end up with your own TV show. So, in this sense your theory is actually very fit, just not for changing the system :slight_smile:

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And yet, here we are :slightly_smiling_face: . Sometimes reaching out and breaking cognitive barriers en masse is the actionable point.

Of course what comes after the breaking is super important. My impression of Raworth is not so dire, but then again I haven’t been paying that much attention. It’s more like she’s been in my peripheral vision for some years now, but not in my face, which I count as good. And comments (mostly good) about her book reached me from different directions, which tells me there is something there and it appeals somewhat broadly.

Time will tell. But I’d say we have bigger fish to fry: endemic pandemics, on top of climate collapse, changing radically and permanently people’s lives all over the globe. Who decides? Who profits? How can people imagine a better future? Better human relations? (also economic, among other types)

(Lighter-but-potentially-offensive-to-vegans ending here.)

Finished pretty heavy there. Tried to lighten the mood but I only had this “the steaks have never been higher”-meme that I tried not to post.
My deepest apologies to all vegans out there.

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Hi guys!

This is my first post here.

I took an interest in this dialogue after attending the European Research and Innovation days last year, where Raworth’s concept was presented during a session on “redefining prosperity.” It is an interesting idea, likely to gain traction as multi-stakeholder collaborations are on the rise. Needless to say, certain strategies are more valuable than others.

One might say that theories will always be theories… and when positive, usually with a positive impact in practice. Nonetheless, action is action - some more effective than others.

I have had a look at the open-source coffee sorter project, awe-inspiring! It seems to be that EdgeRyders is doing precisely what the doughnut theory speaks about: transforming action towards a more holistic approach.

Although theoretical, experts increasingly recognise the thinning lines between society, economics and the environment. There is an active dialogue questioning the application of conventional economics, and whether it is time to rethink previous theories. Even radically - such as Piketty does (haven’t read his stuff myself but came across the article https://www.wired.co.uk/article/thomas-piketty-capital-ideology).

With regards to the doughnut theory, it has been introduced in Amsterdam, as a tool for transformative action. An attractive perspective for community cooperation and potentials encompassing multi-sector participation, providing leverage to (outcomes-based) projects, thriving communities, and positively taking into account the global supply chain

Quoting “Creating and pursuing such aspirational, yet science-based goals, could restore a community’s sense of purpose, mobilise diverse city stakeholders, and support residents’ health and wellbeing – all while dramatically enlivening the design of buildings, hardscapes, and landscapes.” :house_with_garden::four_leaf_clover:

“Its potential as a transformative tool will be best realised when put into practice: by a network of changemakers, bringing government, business and academia together with innovators from SMEs, start-ups, the commons, and community networks….”

Exploring the platform and hope to keep in touch on future prospectives



Hi @Gabriella, and welcome! Thank you for the Amsterdam doughnut tip, it’s good to know that things are moving even during our troubled times!

I’m not super optimistic about these kind of getting-stakeholders-together workshops, and their chances of success, though. I’ve seen quite a few of these efforts come to a halt when they run out of money or key people left, to the point that it made me somewhat cynical about it. (I’m fighting it though! :slightly_smiling_face:)

Granted, most human endeavors are like that. More importantly, there is a silver lining that’s worth gold: these kind of “green cities” bubbles leave interesting things behind, when they inevitably burst. E.g. the institutional memory of something unusual having happened - this public service talked with that one! And something clicked! - which lingers for quite some time, and even vital infrastructure which can be used by the next wave of doers.

On the other hand, I’m more of a fan of “what would you do even if no one was looking?” approach. Which is why I like Edgeryders :grinning:. In my experience, these are the efforts that persist and don’t go away.

I’m super fresh myself but I think you came to the right place - have a look around and see if you find something that catches your eye! Once again, welcome!


Welcome from me, too, @Gabriella. It will be interesting to observe the changes in doughnut Amsterdam. Are you based there? Are you involved yourself?

Speaking of cities, Milan has just made its own bold move. Hard lockdown has brought down private car traffic by 90% (and cleaned the city’s air), and they decided to allocate 35 km of streets to bicycles and pedestrian traffic. As deputy mayor Marco Granelli said,

If everybody drives a car, there is no space for people, there is no space to move, there is no space for commercial activities outside the shops. Of course, we want to reopen the economy, but we think we should do it on a different basis from before.

I have written to friends in the Milan city administration to try to get an intuition on what they are thinking.

Hi @alberto

I am based in Belgium and took notice of the model because it advocates for collaborative efforts within geographic locality joining efforts from a multi-stakeholder perspective. It has the potential to bring about a lasting impact (to different degrees) if promoted through-out a consistent value chain. It is a holistic approach that gained substantial interest from several institutions. Also, it contributes to changing mindsets in general and where widely adopted, perhaps even until it becomes a norm.

I am not involved in any of these initiatives but broadly interested in the potentials of extended value chains, in particular, the role and difference ethics can make in developing societies at large. I am not actively working with this. However, I will start a simple blog, called the “value of ethics” – just for fun, more like a hobby and something I have had in mind for some time now. It will be very basic. Eventually, it would be great to work further with these ideas.

Relationships have a significant role in the outcome. Rooted in interactions between people, I share that ethics has immeasurable value to society and communities at large. One strategy of working might be more efficient than another, but I think that EdgeRyders is making that difference distinctly through immediate community work. On the other side, co-existence means that various types of stakeholders will ultimately play a role in reducing gaps and determining the paths for relations, be it economics, environment, technology… In general, governments, industry, private-public partnerships, etc. are pivotal contributors to this process: where stakeholders impact in different ways.

The role that various stakeholders take in shaping our society can be considered ground up, a collaboration that perpetually accommodates sustainable outcomes. Hence, an ambition to do something around the concept and value of ethics for communities, but these are just thoughts. Although idealistic, perhaps ideas that can develop towards an initiative for something like “our world in potentials.”

Communities in Potentials.pdf (125.3 KB)


For what it’s worth, here are some reference points;

Michel Bauwens at P2P foundation is a supporter of Kate’s work.

She has been active in Amsterdam community (WeMakeTheCity, Pakhuis de Zwijger). Proximity and popularity probably had much to do with the adoption.


Thanks for sharing this.
Superb read!

Besides popularity, beneficial opportunities in frameworks are worthwhile considerations. It can offer collaborative strategy towards (optimised) mutual actions.

What strikes me is the technical emphasis in the study - it leaves the reader to consider design systems creating behaviour vs. design behaviour creating outcome. While targeting how to change behaviour of end-users, the latter considers how this can be done (on a different level for greater impact), altering behaviour to create favourable sustainability situations. Closely inter-linked. Perhaps, these can be thought of as (binding) parallels in techno-social exchanges.

Are both aspects important in unfolding a new type of economy?
How can these be considered in different socio & cultural -contexts so as also to gain traction in uptake?

The study speaks about the system but not the people, still it is acknowledged that “a circular economy cannot be achieved without sharing the logistical knowledge that Is presently locked up in the walled gardens of private logistics. Only by sharing each other’s input and output can partners in an open ecosystem adapt towards a real circular economy.” For this very reason, behavioural aspects should not be overlooked or solely tackled through a systematic effort.

(Further thoughts…)


The P2P study provides a substantial overview of existing resources leading up towards a new type of economy (described in their conclusion). Emerging techno-social trends are supra interesting, as much as innovation radars it serves to facilitate agents towards changes in behaviour as a result of the system. While the initiatives listed are widely beneficial - it does not question the rate at which other and/or competing technologies are developed. Nor unforeseen circumstances that make build-ups for similar tools more vulnerable taken that people are ultimately and remain the primary creators & operators of tools. Technically, it is fabulous study where value is broadly discussed but the framework does not mention for whom and why (given that is taken). It does so to an extent by explaining how tools enable behaviour around commoners. Intangible assets such as humanity and relationships between human beings are central in that people are the creators and operators of functioning systems. In this sense behavioural design becomes a tool with complementary significance.

Shifting mindsets

Schneider’s description of the P2P model, as a “paradigm-making vision for how to flip the future of the economy right side up, ” encapsulates the systematic result that influences behaviour. In its own right, the P2P report recaps a comprehensive overview of available technologies and alternative economies. On the other hand, it does this without fully addressing behavioural design: the very essence of what contributes to circulating economies, one might argue that it lacks a future-proof methodology. Individuals are the enablers and transformers of the economy. I believe that this point is understated, or at the very least vastly underestimated. The common good economy and the value flow shares livelihood, love and care are interesting concepts, accounting for value sovereignty. As mentioned in the study, recognising incentivising contributions and making participation sustainable for everyone at the very beginning of the economic process in a transparent way is essential.

In context

Taken the speed of technological development coupled with social, economic and environmental issues requires attention, while simultaneously challenging people to demonstrate flexibility, learn quickly and apply the knowledge. With regard to a wider coordination and the capacity to manage a broad range of stakeholders is pivotal : the ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner, and work in various teams while demonstrating analytical thinking. Human capacity to manoeuver and leverage resources are indispensable to maintain positive outcomes, those that re-generate (reinforce) and accelerate sustainable actions across the broader spectrum. The P2P model places emphasis on the mutual, thereby encouraging an all-inclusive method. All-the-more, perceptions and perspectives matter.

On Sustainability

This article provides an alternative (rather complementary) approach on emerging techno-social aspects, with regard to human-centric practices it discusses behavioral science as a powerful tool to direct human behaviours toward sustainable outcomes.

“Exploring the untapped potential of design behavior for sustainability is the focus of a recent expert panel [report from Nature Sustainability (https://www.nature.com/documents/design_behavior_for_sustainability.pdf)”

“Collaborating effectively in this way, however, is often easier said than done. The incentive structures in each discipline and between research and practice are very different. Even if all involved are sincerely aligned on the end goal of increased sustainability, the varied mindsets and contexts in which we work typically reward different activities and suggest different measures or proof of value.”

It continues by stating how they as a community can influence policy and inviting others to participate. Economies of scope as mentioned in the accounting for planetary survival study could consider the cognitive enterprise of people to maintain flow throughout the value chain and to encourage the footings of a sound architecture for what that may be.


In contrast to emerging trends in techno-social tools, “design of behaviour” illuminates the contributing requisite by pinpointing that “end-use behavior can determine what happens in a situation, design behavior often determines the situation itself.” Where what seems like an infinite perpetual discussion around virtuous cycles towards favourable, generative activity, it is also a signal for progress.

Research initiatives are continually touching on new horizons and valuable input to revamp current and future affairs. This means that there is a market for mobilising teams to speed up support structures and accelerate uptake of favourable behaviours… In particular, to surpass populist trends that no longer serve the greater good.


Some people I know are also big fans of the concept, but not because of the theory only, which as @alberto points out is not new, but because of a way of presenting it that is applicable, actionable.

And @ponyo, who is a friend and sustainability expert in Romania, just studied the Amsterdam doughnut and the reports for another project and concluded:

If one would need to summarize the recipe for creating a city doughnut that works, it would have to be a mix of the following ingredients: a strong foundation of sustainable and successful experiments on circularity (existing or to be created), a local vision geared towards innovative and inclusive systems, openness for collaborative work and co-creation of city programs, inclusivity of all stakeholders (even citizens, not just city officials), everything supported by competent guidance and proper follow up on all set targets.

This makes me think that the beauty of the concept would mainly work for some level of readiness of cities - track record, political championship etc. Very interesting indeed!

… and when those ingredients are there, you get good, green governance. Not clear at all what the doughnut thing adds. So you have

  • 1970s: Limits to growth. “Grow, but within (physical) limits”
  • 1980s: Sustainable development. “Develop, but in a way that does not exceed the (physical, biological) carrying capacity of the environment).”
  • 2010s: Doughnut. “Satisfy needs, but don’t overshoot the (physical, biological) limits of the environment.”

I don’t see the innovation at all.

It is not just a matter of not being creative. The innovation here is possible and needed – and in fact it has in part been done, elsewhere. I think we need innovative answers to two questions underpinning all three versions of Limits to Growth thinking:

  1. How do we define human needs? Neoclassical theory has a purely subjectivist approach: your needs are what you perceive as such. As a development economist, when I visited Cuba in the 1990s I was stricken by the fact that some of the needs listed by Raworth were addressed far better than in comparable countries (Dominican Republic, or Haiti): food, shelter, education, health care, employment. But people still tried to get around regulations: specifically, though holding foreign hard currency was forbidden to private individuals (justification: “the state needs it to cover strategic imports, such as raw materials for our industries”). Young men would approach you on the streets, trying to hustle dollars. What did they need that they could not obtain in the local currency? Simple: branded sneakers, design sunglasses, watches. Teenage status symbols. This is a fully legitimate need in neoclassical value theory. So are weekends in Ibiza, mindfulness coaches, Ayahuasca ceremonies and avocado sandwiches. What do doughnut economists think? Do we let people define their own needs, or do we have some objective method to tell needs from mere wants? Which one?
  2. Who is to meet human needs with products and services? In capitalism, by default, this would be a for-profit company. Trouble there is: in capitalism, the real action is not in meeting needs, but in creating them. The entire marketing/advertising profession is dedicated to this. This is how the kids I met in Cuba had gotten it into their heads that their lives would be much better in Nike sneakers. Again: no clash with neoclassical economics here. But if you do not want to overshoot the doughnut, it sounds like a bad idea to have an entire economic system running around creating more needs. Any thoughts?

The original Limits to Growth crowd was associated with radical thinking there. Some of those guys gave the impression to be OK with supercomputer-powered, democratically accountable central economic planning, as capitalism was clearly dependent on growth and incapable of limiting it. Industry screamed bloody murder at the original Club of Rome report. The sustainable development folks were a different story: they had heavy corporate support, and favored a system of pricing environmental externalities, creating markets or quasi-markets for them. This way, we could all go on with business as usual, but you know, sustainable.

And the doughnut proponents? Not clear. They are clearly embedded in the sustainable development framework, but in the 21st century that is almost the only game in town. In Raworth’s 2020 report there are some hints. For example, it is proposed that world income poverty could be ended by a transfer of 96 billion USD to the poorest 1.4 billion people (“0.2% of global GDP in 2005”, based on this report). As a transfer pure and simple, that would be about 6 dollars per person a year. By Western measures, those guys would still be very, very poor: the goal is of that transfer is to guarantee everyone at least 1.25 USD a day. Based on the report, I do not see the degree of radicality needed to make progress.

But without radicality, we will tweak a few things, but mostly wait. Vested interests love waiting and collecting more evidence, because, while we wait, profits roll in (and the world burns). Alex Steffen calls it “predatory delay”. And politicians tend to go along: they fear decisive actions, because it normally produces long-term benefits, but has short-term costs, and re-election needs to happen in the short term. The risk of wasting time is very real. So, before I give any new paradigm the time of the day, I need to know where it stands with respect to the twin questions of defining needs and the ways to meeting them. :slight_smile:

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Thanks @noemi for sharing my work here. To be honest, I don’t see myself as an expert yet, but I am utterly in love with how miss Raworth is expressing her view and inspires others - so, maybe a bit biassed. Buuuut I can tell for sure, upon reading her book and having met her, that she is quite modest and really interested in facilitating real change. She does say in her book that she bases her theories on existing works of other economists and thinkers, giving them full credit and admitting she drew her views from their books. I find that in general, there are very few innovative and new ideas in this world - it’s kinna the same content we have available, but we tell different stories about the same truths. Stories to ourselves and to each other.

What Kate did differently was to imagine an easier expression of an old notion: the limits to growth and ecological economy. And she’s actually using that for concrete projects. 2 years ago in Amsterdam, I was there for the first discussions between her and Circle Economy to discuss the city doughnout and in one year they actually came up with it and mapped 17 urban policies for the city. Yes, I do admit they are quite specific to Amsterdam, but the creators-the team at City of Amsterdam, Circle Economy, together with Kate are people I trust and that could spark changes in how other cities build their strategies.

I plan on following them as closely as possible to understand how easily applicable the plan is. But for now, I am quite optimistic. And, again: it is incredibly important how we express our creeds and our plans for creating a better future. To me and to the people around me that has been proven multiple times. This woman found a great recipe for the time being, let’s hope it will produce significant impact. So let’s just appreciate that and at least study the doughnout as a useful tool for communicating how our society and its economy needs to change.


It’s a seductive story, for sure. While the economic theory behind it might be redundant for economists and market experts, it seems that the doughnut is a tool that prompts (possibly again to no avail, if I read Alberto well) some action.

Probably new capitalist companies, like we see happening in food innovation. They start out meeting some needs, but they can be equally challenged - is Impossible Foods with their fake meat really providing a sustainable food? Not quite, as they are already challenged on the grounds of using GMO ingredients and other additives in their patties. So yes, if the doughnut will be implemented in a capitalist system, it’s probably that it will create new winners, and same losers. But is its net effect positive? It seems like it, at least because it engages thinking differently about the problems and offers new opportunities for some communities. All communities? Again, we will have to wait to see if Amsterdam’s process goes somewhere.

Agree… [sigh].

Would welcome inputs from others like @anncassano who in another context wrote about exclusion in the city, @Nathalia who worked with Amsterdam City, and finally @PDP @shravan who look at sustainability from the experience of working in capitalism and with capitalists, one way or another :slight_smile:

Hi peeps!

I am just reading these new inputs in the loop, and thoughts at a glance follow…

It is indeed an impressive and lofty concept, as seen before.

In perspective, where are we not as a community. ???

Are people more aware - are organisations adjusting to more sustainable solutions - looking at what is ahead and/or not- what do we as a community about it??

Next to research, is it not again momentum to act in the interest of cooperation and evolve differently form the past to address the same issues that have always been ?


That depends on the question: what is “net” in “net effect” relative to? Consider:

  1. Net effect of Doughnut = Effect of Doughnut - Effect of doing nothing
  2. Net effect of Doughtnut = Effect of Doughnut - Effect of Green New Deal (AOC version)
  3. Net effect of Doughnut = Effect of Doughnut - Effect of Green New Deal (MMT version)

1 is certainly positive. 2 and 3 could be positive or negative – that’s a complicated call to make.

But what we do know is that, in the past, calls for sustainable development have yielded little gain, whereas New Deal-type moves have had a dramatic effect. Of course, this time could be different.

And of course, none of this invalidates that doing good work on city or region is valuable. But you need to ask yourself: what is the added value of the doughnut visualization on that plan? Is anything being done that a 1980s environmentalist would not have done? Real question, I have not read the Amsterdam plan.

important to remember though that e.g in the certain groups were excluded from the new deal by design. So it also depends on where you are looking.

Yes, Nadia, it’s a thing – and here is a progress report. Keep in mind that the report is in the Guardian, a newspaper which would not be inclined to take a dispassionate approach. Still… here:

Here’s the video:



Has rigorous research been carried out on the results of the Amsterdam experiment? All we have so far is enthusiasts enthusing – and that does not demonstrate success. Maybe one year during a pandemic is not enough time to tell…

Here is a very interesting 2019 book on economics and the environment, published in mid-2019 (It is available for free download):

Laybourn-Langton, Laurie, and Tom Hill. FACING THE CRISIS: RETHINKING ECONOMICS FOR THE AGE OF ENVIRONMENTAL BREAKDOWN . Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), 2019, www.jstor.org/stable/resrep21888. Accessed 27 Mar. 2021.

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