Doughnut economics not part of any conspiracy

By Coun. Tyler Brown
There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the city's use of “Doughnut economics”. Unfortunately, the narrative out there is one that at best has become exaggerated and at worst is being used to seed division. 

The Doughnut is simply used as a framework to review the city's policies and programs. It was developed by a British Economist, Kate Raworth, as a way to frame human activity. She identified social foundations, and basic requirements, required for all people to thrive. Things like political voice, clean water, shelter, etc. For the most part, these are all commonly shared values. We can see the impacts on our community when basic social needs aren’t met. She paired the social foundations with the ever-increasing growing body of scientific literature that shows we need to take better care of the natural environment. The goal then is the actions we take to better provide for people's social well-being while recognizing our actions do impact the environment. That goal more or less aligns with the purpose of municipalities as outlined in section 7 of the Community Charter.

A municipality is responsible for a wide array of services. It can be difficult, at times, to see how all those pieces fit together. Further, while we may not be responsible as a local government for all the issues facing our city, we do have to take stock of some of them. With limited resources,  we need to make tough decisions. What type of recreation facility to build? Which playground needs an upgrade? What changes need to occur to our street and road networks? Do we provide land for affordable or supportive housing? How do we approach public safety? What do we advocate to the Province for? The list goes on and is subject to much citizen input and demands. Council has to weigh all the inputs and make decisions. The doughnut is intended to help us weigh those decisions better by showing how any decision fits into the different values we hold as a community. No decision is perfect and there will always be tradeoffs. At the end of the day, we are deciding which values are focused on, and which aren’t, through any given project, Council term, or budget cycle. 

The doughnut is nothing new. It simply presents values in a framework that shows them together. While it may have support from different organizations worldwide, it is agnostic in its approach. There are no associated costs with its adoption. Every year a Council adopts a budget. It is that budget that is the true articulation of the values the Council is pursuing and the budget process is fully open, transparent, and decided upon by nine democratically elected individuals. 

By Coun. Zeni Maartman
Coun. Brown has articulated this topic well. 
Years ago in Nanaimo there was the Economic Development Group of which I was a member.  We spoke of how environmental and social responsibility go hand in hand with a healthy economy. This is an economic framework that aligns with these values. Look after the people and the planet. Think globally and act locally. Thank you for the opportunity to provide a response. 

Coun. Erin Hemmens
The Doughnut economic framework is just that, a framework. The framework in and of itself doesn't drive anything: there are no doughnut policies or doughnut budgets. It's a way of organizing our many (many!) city plans. The fact that it generally orients us toward achieving a society that meets everyone's basic needs while also respecting the planetary boundaries is, as Coun. Maartman points out, not a new concept. The name is completely off putting but the conspiracy just isn't there. 

Coun. Don Bonner
The Nanaimo Doughnut is our framework for making decisions – a way of organizing how we plan for Nanaimo’s future in a balanced and integrated way.

Think Globally and act Locally.   So when we are making decisions we are always striving towards a “sweet spot” (the doughnut) of meeting our needs within the limits of our social foundations and environment. We base those decisions on the doughnut model in the graphic.  

Doughnut Economics, the long and the short of it

Parpared by Coun. Ben Geselbracht
A small group has made claims about Nanaimo’s adopted official community plan being linked to a conspiracy involving the world economic forum and a globalist plot to control Nanaimo citizens. This is simply false and irrelevant. Unfortunately, some candidates are amplifying the messaging of the conspiracy theory.   This may be out of ignorance or a more unfortunate attempt to generate confusion and fear to achieve some political gain. 

What is relevant to our community are the goals we have chosen to achieve, the policies that support these goals and how we are evaluating their effectiveness.  Intelligent debate around the relevance of the city’s official community plan goals, policies and methods of evaluation are welcomed.  Shallow conspiracy theories used to discredit a two-year planning process based on record levels of community engagement are not.    

Here is some background to help voters understand Nanaimo’s official community plan and the doughnut economics framework that was used to organize it.   

The goals and policies of Nanaimo’s official community plan were updated through the Re-Imagine Nanaimo public engagement process which was the largest in the city’s history.   The policies from the city plan come from many separate past plans that were combined and updated with community feedback to provide a single unified visioning and planning document for the city.  To provide a framework to organize the document and evaluate the success of its implementation, an adaptation of the doughnut economics framework made unique to Nanaimo’s situation was developed.  

Doughnut economics is a concept that says that a healthy economy and therefore community is one that can meet the basic needs of people while operating within the natural limits of the environment.  An English economist from Leads University named Kate Raworth developed the doughnut economics framework for countries to evaluate how well their economies were performing according to measurable standards around environmental limits and basic human needs.   Environmental limits are scientifically determined thresholds for such things as GHG emissions, plastic pollution, fresh water consumption, deforestation rates etc.  When these thresholds are exceeded, basic life supporting ecological processes are threatened.   Basic human needs are things like housing, access to healthcare, access to education, access to nutritious food and political voice.  These needs are required to maintain social order an uphold basic human rights in democratic societies.  These needs are understood as the social foundations in the doughnut model and are reflected in the UN sustainable development goals.   The name doughnut is used because Kate Raworth organized the environmental limits and social foundations graphically in two concentric circles.   The outer ring represents the categories of environmental limits, and the inner ring represents the basic human needs of the social foundation.   In her graphic model a successful economy is one that utilizes resources sufficiently to raise a community above the social foundations without exceeding the natural limits of the environment, The area of a successful economy is above the social foundations and below the environmental limits in the “sweet spot” of the doughnut (Figure 1). 

When using the doughnut model to evaluate national economies, it is not a surprise that the economies of the majority of wealthy nations are not operating within their environmental limits.  Wealthy countries usually exceed per capita limits for such things as greenhouse gas emission levels, annual withdrawals of fresh water, plastic pollution, and deforestation rates of land.  This reflects decades of previous research that shows that if everyone on the planet consumed like a North American it would take 3 extra whole planets to support the demand. It is also not a surprise that many nations are not meeting basic needs of their citizens be it around housing, education, access to employment, health, and political voice etc., especially in developing nations.  In Canada, as we experience in Nanaimo, we are also falling short in providing for basic needs for such things as housing and access to health care for certain members of our society.   (see figure 2)

The call to action of doughnut economics is that society at all levels, including cities, must set goals to operate within the sweet spot of the doughnut in order to meet the big challenge of the 21st century.  The big challenge of the 21stcentury is how to meet of the needs of 12 billion people on a planet with finite resources while growing democratic rights and freedoms.

When Kate Raworth made this call to action in her book “doughnut economics” it resonated strongly with civic leaders across the globe as communities struggled with extreme weather events arising from climate change and worsening social inequity that was amplified during the pandemic.  City leaders in Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Dunedin and many other cities rose to this call to action by setting out to apply the core concept of doughnut economics to the particular situation and jurisdictional powers of their city.

Through their efforts, Amsterdam developed a city planning process, called “the city portrait,”.  The city portrait is the process by which the concept of doughnut economics can be applied to the scale of the city through a in-depth public engagement process.  Amsterdam made their city portrait planning process available for other cities to use.   Members of our city council were inspired by the tangible “think globally, act locally”  work being carried out in Amsterdam.   As we at the city were just beginning the process to update the official community plan, we moved to integrate the planning process developed in Amsterdam with our own process.  We did this to develop a series of made in Nanaimo goals, policies and key performance indicators that would align with the overall concepts of meeting our communities needs within the limits of the environment. 

Through the community input of the official community plan engagement and input from joint sessions with our city’s Economic Development Task Force,  Accessibility and Inclusion Committee, Environment Committee and Social Planning Task Force, a series of goals along with targets and key performance indicators important to the community were created.  Through two more large phases of public engagement, policies, many from previous city plans, were added to direct the work of attaining each goal.  The City’s official community plan goals and policy areas along with the targets and key performance indicators make up Nanaimo’s own unique homegrown doughnut framework.  

The Different Policy areas to meet each goal that come from parks and recreation planning, economic development, community sustainability, community drinking water planning,  the transportation master plan and may others city plans that cover all areas of city operation.   These policies are organized under each city goal:

Targets will be set for the following key performance indicators that will be monitored at regular intervals to assess whether official community plan policies are meeting intended goals.   The development of the key performance indicators is a work in progress and will be part of the official community plan monitoring plan.   These key performance indicators will make up the Nanaimo Doughnut evaluation tool to assess how well our community is doing.

Key Performance indicators

Social Foundation:

Community Well-Being and Livability

  • Chronic and episodic Homelessness
  • Rental Housing Affordability
  • Vacancy Rate
  • Mix of Housing Types
  • Food security (metric in development)

 Economic Prosperity

  • Working age population
  • Non-residential Building Permits
  • Ample and Diverse Business Opportunities

 Equitable Access and Mobility

  • Transportation by mode
  • Distance Driven
  • Access to Daily Needs
  • Growth in Nodes and Corridors
  • Traffic Injury Rate

 An Empowered Nanaimo

  • Inclusion and Diversity (metric in development)
  • Investment in Arts, Culture and Heritage
  • Participation in Parks and Recreational programs and Services
  • Public Waterfront Access
  • Pollical Voice (metric in development)

Environmental limits: 

A Green Nanaimo

  • Water Consumption by Residents
  • Household Waste Sent to Landfill
  • Number of Water Samples at Monitoring sites meeting BC water quality Guidelines
  • Area of Lands Dedicated for natural Area Protection
  • Community Greenhouse gas emissions

Applied to the city of Nanaimo, our homegrown doughnut framework allows us to graphically communicate the city’s vision, goals and policy areas.  The framework demonstrates the city’s alignment to addressing locally the big challenge of the 21st century; meeting people’s needs within the means of the planet.  Nanaimo’s doughnut framework is an example of how our city can think globally while acting locally for the benefit our community members.   Nanaimo’s doughnut framework also allows us to have a set of key performance indicators relevant to our city’s unique situation that are within our jurisdictional control.  This allows us to assess over time whether the policies within our official community plan are effective in helping us achieve our goals.   This is evidence-based policy development and follows from the saying “what gets measured, gets managed”.