I was fortunate enough to attend the Economics of Happiness conference 2018, in Bristol on the 19th and 20th of October. This series of international conferences are hailed as an ‘antidote to anger, contraction and despair’. I was immediately struck by the energy and optimism on display by delegates and speakers – and by the diverse group of people assembled.

The conference brought together UK and International speakers including Andrew Simms, Michael Shuman and Helena Norbeg-Hodge (full list here https://economicsofhappiness2018.org/speakers/) who took part in panel debates and led workshops.

The conference started on Friday with a series of events. I attended ‘What role is there for big business in an Economics of Happiness?’ at St.Georges (incidentally this was the first public event in the newly created event space) which was the final event of the day. The format was a panel discussion consisting of Helena Norberg-Hodge, Andrew Garrad and Andy Street. There were some interesting views on the role of business from Andrew Garrad, especially in moving towards green energy production.

On Saturday there was a morning plenary chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby, where six speakers presented on various topics

  • Why do we need Wellbeing Economics? – Liz Zeidler
  • Economics of Happiness – Helena Norberg-Hodge
  • Cancel the Apocalypse – Andrew Simms
  • Localising Finance – Michael Shuman
  • Farming for People, not Profit – Colin Tudge
  • The Future of Cities – George Ferguson

The speaker that caught my attention most was Colin Tudge who spoke eloquently about current profit driven faming practice and how as well as being unstainable it is also wasteful and unproductive. You can see him speak here at the 2017 Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, about food, farming, and enlightened agriculture.

The panel was then opened up to the audience and a lively debate ensued. There were some interesting comments/questions on class and diversity form the audience.

Following a short coffee break I attended a workshop called ‘A Local Future for our Towns and Cities.’ With George Ferguson and Peter Macfadyen.

The stated aim of the conference was to kick-start critical debates about the global corporate economy and on explore alternatives that benefit society as well as the environment. It didn’t disappoint….

You can find resources from the conference here – https://economicsofhappiness2018.org/resources/


David Viney is Administrator and Communications Officer at Localise West Midlands