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Compassion and Transforming the Economy

22 Feb 2024

Have you ever thought about the relevance of compassion to the economy? Or even visa-versa? Few people have, but compassion and the economy have more to say to each other than might be obvious at first glance.  

Dr Katherine Trebeck

As Writer at Large at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, Dr Katherine Trebeck has written several thought pieces on the concept of a compassionate economy. Read a summary of these articles below and find links to the full articles.

Working closely with Professor Liz Grant and Professor Grant’s Global Compassion Initiative, Dr Trebeck is looking at economic decisions such as the distribution of resources, what sort of work is paid for and the provision of amenities, and how a compassionate lens might alter those decisions.

She is building ideas about a compassionate approach to the economy that is less about how individuals can become more resilient (to withstand burdens and shocks thrown at them), or empowered (to carry more burdens); and more about lessening those burdens in the first place by asking where they came from, who and what holds them in place, and who benefits from their existence?

Can compassion be something we can expect - and even nurture - in the economy?

Davi Rezende via Unsplash

Corporate scandals are frequent fixtures in the news, so it would be easy to write off the entire economy as a realm of selfishness, ego, and narrow pursuit of individual gain. But if we remember that the original meaning of the word ‘economy’ is ‘household management’, and if we take the world as our household, then we can perhaps think of the economy as a mechanism to take care of it and everyone in it.

Read the article

As world crises accumulate, there is cause to hope that changes underway will gain momentum.

Vlado Paunovic via Unsplash

Amidst the increasing number of crises playing out around the world and ploughing down on communities and individuals, there is reason to hope that the changes to the economy already showing a more compassionate way forward will gain momentum. This hope, tenuous though it may feel given the magnitude of change needed and the forces hampering progress, is premised on some deep-seated, almost ‘first principle’ dynamics. These align the need and nature of necessary change with the realities of how humans and societies best function. They could constitute what might be thought of as the ‘scaffolding’ of a well-being economy.

Read the article

Is the term ‘compassionate economy’ an oxymoron?

Tom Parsons via Unsplash

How we provide for each other and distribute resources – the essence of economy – is a terrain in sore need of compassion. Decisions taken about pay, prices, investment, and what ‘counts’ have consequences far beyond the rooms they were taken in. These decisions shape what sort of economy prevails, and this in turn shapes whether people and the planet flourish and thrive or struggle to survive.

Read the article

Find our more

To access the University’s expertise in the well-being economy, public services and financial services, and to collaborate on future research projects please contact Noreen O’Donnell, Business Engagement Executive, Edinburgh Futures Institute.