How the UBI simulation game works

This article shares some of the news from creating the alpha version of the UBI game.

The general set-up

Continue reading “How the UBI simulation game works”

UBI Simulation Game

Some results from alpha testing of the Universal Basic Income simulation game

Together with the Swedish Sustainable Economy Foundation I am developing a Universal basic Income “Business Game“. The idea is to take a simplified, fictive country and play around with various aspects of UBI to learn by doing.

We are into the first alpha testing phase and have produced an overview dashboard to look into what sort of figure we are interested in following as the game progresses

Conditions: raise VAT, lower taxes on wages, start raising UBI, reduction in workforce.

The above run was a force run to see how raising taxes and lowering numbers in work looks in the system. As you see the state gets less to spend on services as income declines. Maybe not so interesting. The next run looks at raising UBI from under minimum standard and just raising VAT.

Conditions: raise UBI from under minimum, raise VAT.

The second run added spending power of UBI takers to the dashboard. If you raise VAT you lower spending power. Interestingly – in the simplified model at least – you get MORE state income and the UBI takers do not get lowered VAT. This gives us a hint that it might be possible to raise UBI and Universal Basic Services, although the UBI eats away at the money available for social costs.

Modelling like this raises many detailed questions and it is a difficult task to make the game engine simple enough to handle in a game situation ( so that you learn basic principles) and complex enough to give a feeling of “real life” (so it feels authentic enough).

Let me know in the comments if there is any logic I am missing or any metric you want to see on the dashboard.

Click here for more articles on the UBI simulation

Time for everyone to talk circular economy

Our analysis of signals of change in the world tell us that there are major changes being called for.

Eliminate poverty – we already decided

The Sustainable Development goals set a new precedent for human development and it is still sinking in that the majority of countries in the world have signed up to eliminating poverty (SDG1) and hunger (SDG2) and eliminating threats to the environment.

Supporting links:

The Sustainable development goals website

Universal Basic Income and Universal Basic Services are being tried and debated as a route to achieving SDG 1.

Supporting links: Article in the Independent on University College of London Report.

A new Green Deal proposes massive investment in a new USA

From the Democratic party, the New Green Deal is the boldest proposal to come from the US for a long time – it will aim to eliminate poverty, create green jobs and transform the technical infrastructure of the US to a circular economy

Supporting links:

The Circular Economy is central to achieving the SDGs and the New Green Deal

The idea has been with us for a while, and it is slowly becoming more and more apparent that nature works in a circular way and society needs to fit in. The possibilities are huge, from green, dignified jobs for all to eradication of pollution to a better life for future generations.

Supporting links: Learn more about the Circular economy at this online school.

Heavy fees on things that pollute like fossil fuel can be a blessing

We are noticing how more and more economists are realizing that a heavy, increasing fee on fossil carbon could stimulate the economy rather than slow it if the fees are paid back to taxpayers. Some estimates point to 70% of citizens being better off under the scheme as those who use fossil fuels are ofter the wealthiest.

Supporting links:

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Five ‘Rs’ of Circular Economy- Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair and Recycle

Great rundown of the circular economy by my colleague Kabir who helps with the union of wastepickers.

Stories of Waste and Waste Workers - Live Blog of Hasiru Dala

Have you ever pondered over the role played by the neighbourhood- cobbler, electrician and tailor in recovering resources and reducing waste? Most of us have never even noticed them. If I say that they like wastepickers and recyclers are going to be the pillars of ‘Circular Economy’ envisioned by economically advanced countries, will you believe me?

I am assured that your first question will be ‘What is circular economy?’

According to the authors- Peter Lacy & Jakob Rutqvist of the book ‘Waste to Wealth- The Circular Economy Advantage’, ‘

Shifting to a circular model means changing our linear economy’s supply logic. We will need more renewable energy, more biomaterials and biochemical that can degrade safely, and more technical materials like metals that are designed to use recovered secondary material and for low cost end of life recycling, effectively closing the manufacturing loop. We need components designed for reuse and products…

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Shop your way to fossil freedom

Sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg is asking good questions like “why are we doing nothing about climate change?” She tells it like it is as we stand unmoving – no group wanting to give anything away. Unions rightly take the stance that workers should not pay with lowered standards. Some want to play with small tax adjustments to see the poor OK.

The New Green Deal says “never mind the economics of it – we’ll just invest in the planet we want.” That is good, but you need to make sure people have the money to pay for those new high speed rail services and electric buses.

So. No easy solution? Perhaps there is.

Continue reading “Shop your way to fossil freedom”

The three cycles of the circular economy

Renting out your car, selling second stuff etc. is part of the circular economy but there is more. Firstly, things from nature need to circulate – food waste goes to compost goes to soil goes to food- for example. And trees go to wood to waste wood to fibre board to fuel maybe. And things come from the earth, like metals and they are made into, say, raw iron, then steel, then a product, then scrap, then more steel, and so on.

The biological, monetary and technical cycles of the circular economy

Most people take a narrow view of the circular economy, seeing it as renting out your car, selling second stuff etc. All true, but there is more to it. Firstly, things from nature need to circulate – food waste goes to compost goes to soil goes to food- for example. And trees go to wood to waste wood to fibre board to fuel maybe. And things come from the earth, like metals and they are made into, say, raw iron, then steel, then a product, then scrap, then more steel, and so on.

But money needs to go round too. Forget government hoarding surplus – that only removes money from the economy. We need the workers to get good wages so they buy stuff from factories that make good profits that pay good taxes and wages and so it goes round.

Many people react to the idea of people spending more because they think business will extract some stuff and dump others and leave the earth exhausted and polluted. They will. Unless there are either strict laws or stiff fees to stop them. So the circular economy will make it very expensive to extract or dump. And that is where the first and last invoice come in. In the life of a material, be it iron or sand, for example, the first invoice (paying for extraction) is the start of a long chain of invoices that the circular economy continues as long as possible. It puts dumping or burning off – the last invoice – and delays it in time. And the economy is rigged to reward them.

So, there are the basics. If you want to learn more about the three cycles, do look up the relevant course in our online school:

We are a long way off from the true art of the deal

Everyone knows, don’t they, a good deal is where a cake is sliced up evenly. If the other gets too much we get too little. Wise leaders and experienced negotiators think differently. If are to come out of this Brexit situation in a good way we need to give our trust to these wisest leaders and sharpest negotiators. And we need to think differently. Radically.

Stephen Hinton 2016, photo Maj-Lis Koivisto

Everyone knows, don’t they, that we we Brits need a good deal from Brexit – one that is good for us and does not give the EU an advantage over us? A bad deal will mean everyone in the UK gets a drop in standard and the EU will rise, doesn’t it? Well, not everyone thinks that. Continue reading “We are a long way off from the true art of the deal”

Case Study: Bringing citizens closer to sustainability in creative ways

trianglePLACE: Stockholm, Sweden, the office dealing with Cultural Affairs

SITUATION:  Stockholm is a forward-thinking city when it comes to sustainability. Helene Mårtenson from the office of cultural development explains the challenge;

to inspire citizens to a sustainable life-style by communicating substantially in new, creative forms.

FRAMING QUESTION: How can cultural institutions like libraries and theatres engage citizens in sustainable development?

See the Video below of the follow-up at the end of this post.

SOLUTION:  Engaging Stephen Hinton as environmental “creative consultant” the suburb of Farsta, Stockholm installed in the lobby outside the library and theatre a “sustainability kiosk” and embarked on filling the kiosk with ideas, events and other creative approaches.

A first sketch of the sustainability kiosk


  • Suggestions box  for ideas and questions
  • Brochures from local organisations with environmental focus
  • A round Farsta environmental walk – get to know your suburb’s environmental assets and concerns first hand
  • A social network connected to the kiosk – sign in and join the debate
  • A environmental story telling  corner for the younger ones
  • A set of “what’s its all about” cards – with environmental information relevant to the suburb for groups to use to get discussions going
  • Planned sessions and activities include
    • “Doctor Environment” who will sit and listen to symptoms and dish out “prescriptions”
    • A giant plastic foot that represents fossil emissions of C=2 from the city
    • A request for  early retirement written in a letter from “Mr Oil”
  • A mini- lecture corner for local organisations to invite people in to present their environmental activities


Trees help bring the conditions of peace – if you know how

Guest Post by Rishabh Khanna.
This year’s Right Livelihood Award carries an important message: if farmers using simple techniques can restore hundreds and thousands of hectares of degraded land in Africa then there is hope we can feed the world. We may, however, need to ditch some deep-rooted ideas. At Vi I Skogen ‘s Award Seminar in November, recipients Tony Rinaudo and Yacouba Sawadogo presented Agro-foresty to an enthralled and enthusiastic audience.

The standard practice of clearing trees to make fields for farming brings unintended consequences. The 1980 drought left Niger in a serious food crisis that led to some farmers encouraging tree growth to retain water in the soil. Tony Rinaudo, started by sharing the startling fact, that an increase in 1 percent of organic matter in an hectare of land increases the water holding capacity of the land by 144,000 liters. In Niger he said they were able to double the crop yield by simply adding trees in the landscapes. He explained to the audience that rather than planting trees, the focus is on pruning, selecting and protecting the trees that are already trying to grow.

He demonstrated to the audience how he prunes trees to encourage them to grow better, be healthier and all the dead roots and shoots can be used as a fuel by the local community.

Quick demonstration of pruning to invigorate tree growth (and get firewood)

Tony said that the key to successful agroforestry movements is to give them the permission to use their forests with education on how manage their land in a sustainable manner. Farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is not owned by Tony or any other organization; it needs to be owned by the farming communities.

When he was asked by his own deeper purpose, and why he moved to Niger, he shared his story of his childhood from Australia. As a young boy, he was burdened by enormous inequality between the rich and the poor. He prayed to God to be put in a place where he would be useful. In the early 80s, he had the calling to go and work in Niger. He started encouraging and supporting bringing tree growth back. At first there was an enormous push-back from the village, as the assumption in those days was that trees and crops don’t go together. The famine of 1984, made things personal for Tony.

At first 10 people from 10 villages to start planting 40 trees per hectare, this grew to 500,000 hectares as it came under the food for work program. Later, when the government incentive was removed 25 percent continued with the practice.  Those farmers who did this practice noticed bumper yields in their land. Thanks to organizations like World Vision andWorld Resources Institute, there are now more than 24 countries where farmers practice FMNR. In 2012, at meeting in World Agro-foresty  Centre in Kenya, they shared that such a movement would spread across the Sahel.

The government in Niger realized their mistakes and has now integrated Agroforestry in their national strategy. The division between forestry and agriculture is artificial and can be at the root of drought and poor productivity. Niger understands that it is incumbent on government to create an enabling environment. And it does not take a massive investment in technology: with few resources Tony and his team in Niger have managed to restore 5 million hectares of land in 20 years.

Yacouba Sawadogo discovered theAgroforestry model of farming 45 years back and had similar success to Tony’s in restoring the land. In the follow-up panel discussion, Yacouba’s son said that tenure and user rights are essential as this is a very long-term process. Gender too, is big challenge in Burkina as most of the land is owned by men, so women can be in a very difficult position. This practice of Zai is spread all over west Africa including in Niger, Mali, Burkina and Guinea.

The potential is huge: trees are not only water retainers. When it comes to ecosystem services, some trees recycle nutrients and some trees can be used in the management of pests. They all sequester carbon. This area of Agro-foresty as provider of ecosystem services is inadequately studied.  

A lot of work waits to be done; according to World Bank there are two billion degraded hectares of land in the world. In terms of soil carbon, Agro-foresty is said to reduce 2.14 tons of CO2 per year per hectare.  There is a lot more research needed on the socio-economic benefits of Agroforestry, too. In terms of building resilience, there is one study that showed that FMNR practices have already reduced the risk of flooding in 2,783 hectares. This workshop truly inspired me to learn more about Agro-foresty methods, FMNR and how it can be applied in other contexts.

Rishabh Khanna, Initiatives of Change, (IofC)  focuses on the individual and the connection of personal transformation and global change. IofC looks for the synergies of change; encourages people to find their purpose, their connection to the world and to be a changemaker.