*This article makes use of the term Inclusive Prosperity as the English translation for the Dutch word; ‘Brede Welvaart’
In The Netherlands, the concept of Inclusive Prosperity* is on the rise. Policy makers are busy defining this concept, figuring out how to put this concept into practice and what it means for their decision-making process. Together with his colleagues at the Municipality of Amsterdam, Yurhan Kwee hosts sessions on decision-making along the principles of Inclusive Prosperity. With the input he gathers, he hopes to make the decisions needed for our Inclusive Prosperity ambitions more understandable and transparent, both for Amsterdam’s administrators and councillors as well as its citizens.
Inclusive Prosperity is about more than just money. It involves everything that people consider valuable, such as health, the quality of education, the environment, a safe living environment, and equal opportunities for everyone. It's about the quality of life in the present, and the extent to which this affects the prosperity of future generations or those of people elsewhere in the world.
According to the definition, used by the Municipality, there are 8 themes to consider:
1. Subjective Well-being
Subjective well-being refers to the evaluation people make of their lives. Consider the question, "How satisfied are you with life in general?"
The theme of Health encompasses physical illnesses and conditions, as well as mental health, living with limitations, perceived health, and self-regulation and resilience.
3. Consumption and Income
The theme of Consumption and Income refers to how income provides people with the freedom and opportunities to consume, including purchasing services and goods, maintaining a financial buffer, and shaping one's lifestyle.
4. Education and Training
Thinking about the theme of Education and Training involves the transfer of knowledge and skills, socialization, and considering the education or training experiences of individuals.
5. Spatial Quality and Cohesion
Regarding the theme of Spatial Cohesion and Quality, consider the following: a qualitatively well-designed space is a crucial precondition for the perceived broad prosperity. This includes spatial design on a functional level and with a focus on the future.
6. Economic Capital
Depending on the case, consider how it relates to:
- Human capital: the combination of competencies, knowledge, and skills;
- Physical capital: material possessions, such as machinery, buildings, and infrastructure;
- Knowledge capital: intangible assets, such as research and development, data, and patents;
- Financial capital: the financial resources of households and the government (purchasing power).
7. Natural Capital
Natural Capital refers to the stock of natural resources. Consider items such as (drinking) water, food, minerals, wind-sun-water energy, biodiversity, etc. Assess whether they are sufficiently available, in shortage, or if there is damage to these resources.
8. Social Capital
The concept of Social Capital often refers to the benefits of social networks, such as access to information and resources. This involves connections within and between groups. Positive effects can lead to trust, while negative effects can lead to loneliness.
Experimenting (with Mobility related policies) in public space
The case we used during this session is the use of experiments in public space, altering mobility or travel infrastructure. The months leading up to this afternoon, Amsterdam had put different experiments into practice (e.g. de ‘knip’ and de ‘paaltjesproef’) resulting in heated discussions, about both the success and desirability of using this method.
In a more objective manner, we used the Broad Prosperity principles to argue why its either desirable or undesirable to put such methods into practice.
The group agreed that these Amsterdam experiments, concerned with creating calmer, more liveable urban areas, score well within themes like; Health (less air & noise pollution), Nature (more space for green and biodiversity), Social capital (more space and opportunity to meet and interact), Spacial quality (less dangerous and more moving space) and education (experimenting, learning by doing, viewing urban planning as experimenting and an ongoing learning process). However, as this year’s backlash on the experiments showed, there are some negative aspects to consider. Examples of domains in which we found some negative aspects, were; Economy (decreased speed and efficiency), Consumption & Income (local shop- and restaurant-owners need to be flexible and could be victims of changing infrastructure) and Subjective Well-being (citizens feel used, disadvantaged, and there is ambiguity about the purpose).
We found it difficult to arrive at a common answer because advantages and disadvantages exist on each theme separately. However, there was a common notion that the success of this method is rooted in clear and transparent communication on the effects and goals of such experiment. Frustration should be minimized and the opposing arguments should be taken seriously. Furthermore, we discussed the difference between a ‘real’ experiment in which every outcome is a success, and a trial, which is used to test a policy that’s envisioned for future years. The one who initiates the experiment should have this very clear for itself.
While one of the strengths of this method is the need to value these different domains in a more equal and objective manner, it proved to be difficult in practice. We all had the tendency to give some aspects more weight than others. While we were supposed to set up an advice and practice with decision-making along the principles of Inclusive Prosperity, it turned out to be challenging to let go of our prior experience, prejudices and opinions on this subject. We weren’t sure whether this is always a negative thing, but it’s one of the considerations Yurhan took home in the Municipality’s exploration of this approach.
Together, we experienced the challenge of working together with a new concept and approach. It should be an ongoing practice and discussion, a collective effort. Sessions like these serve that purpose perfectly.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you want to know more about the municipality’s and Amsterdam Economic Board’s efforts on the topic of Inclusive Prosperity.