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What is Prosperity?

Published: Wednesday 19 May, 2021

Professor Henrietta L. Moore and Dr Nikolay Mintchev

What is Prosperity? That is the question posed by Professor Moore and Dr Mintchev in the latest IGP working paper. It is not about just uncovering what prosperity means for people, but to challenge the structural features of the economy and the values upon which they are built. A redesigned prosperity opens doors to innovative ideas and new practices allowing us to tackle inequality in novel ways. To interrogate how systems change and how knowledge is shared they begin with three points of reference: the value of the economic in our lives, the purpose of sharing knowledge and the means of operationalising change.

The authors argue that prosperity is about the relationship between individual lives – their quality, aspiration and purpose – and the larger systems and constraints within which they are embedded. Can we live rich and fulfilling lives within the constraints of our planetary resources? The pursuit of constantly augmented growth is not sustainable in the context of limited planetary resources, nor does it provide us with appropriate pathways for addressing today’s pressing challenges. But even the current crisis has had little impact on such realisations for policy formulation – case in point being the UK Government’s latest ‘plan for growth’ to ‘build back better.’ This will do little to address the lack of prosperity of individuals and communities with regions and nations.

A redefinition of prosperity is less concerned with aggregate economic wealth and growth, and more attentive to the things that people care about and need – secure and good quality livelihoods, good public services, a clean and healthy environment, planetary and ecosystem health, a political system that allows everyone to be heard, and the ability to have rich social and cultural lives.

The IGP’s work on redefining and building pathways to prosperity is part of this broader ecology of initiatives, but its value lies in four innovative approaches: the first involves working with local communities to understand what prosperity means for them in the context of lives lived; the second entails situating these local understandings within the structural features of the economy, infrastructure, public services provision, and systemic social and political inequalities; the third consists in developing pathways to sustainable prosperity based on novel understandings of how complex systems change; the fourth situates the mechanisms for change within new forms of collaboration and governance.

Read more about the IGP’s approach to redefining prosperity in the What is Prosperity? working paper

Image credit: Brad Switzer on Unsplash

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