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Growth in Transition Conference 2016


Growth in Transition Conference 2016

Conference topic: How Constraints Make Us Grow – A Society in Transition

Vienna, Austria, 22-24 February 2016



Karl Aiginger, director of the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) and co-ordinator of WWWforEurope, as well as Sigrid Stagl (Head of the Institute for Ecological Economics, Vienna University of Economics and Business), WWWforEurope researcher, held keynote speeches on the first day of the conference. Karl Aiginger presented "A Social and Ecological Transformation for a Dynamic Europe"; Sigrid Stagl held a keynote on "Limits to growth and sustainable work". On the third day of the conference, WWWforEurope researcher Tim Jackson (Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey) held a keynote on "Flourishing within Limits - The Foundations for Sustainable Prosperity".

undefinedDownload Karl Aiginger's presentation (PDF)

WWWforEurope Workshop

Christin ter Braak-Forstinger (founder of PVA Advisory), Johanna Vogel (Environment Agency Austria), Claudia Kettner, Thomas Leoni (both of WIFO), Marina Fischer-Kowalski (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt), and Margit Schratzenstaller (WIFO) during the WWWforEurope Workshop at the Growth in Transition Conference 2016 (click to enlarge) © BMLFUW/Jana Madzigon

WWWforEurope researchers organised a workshop and took part in a parallel session at the conference.

The workshop "Wealth, Welfare and Work for Europe - A social and ecological transformation for a dynamic Europe" took place on February 22nd and was moderated by WWWforEurope Deputy Coordinator Margit Schratzenstaller (WIFO), featuring presentations by

The workshop provided insights in the main outcomes of the four year lasting research project “WWWforEurope” which aimed at developing a strategy for a more dynamic, socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable Europe. Inputs by experts Marina Fischer-Kowalski (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt), Thomas Leoni, Claudia Kettner (both of WIFO), Johanna Vogel (Enivronment Agency Austria), and Christin ter Braak-Forstinger (founder of PVA Advisory) were followed by a plenary discussion and questions from the audience.

An important aspect of the WWWforEurope project was the redefinition of competitiveness towards the ability of a country or region to deliver the ‘Beyond-GDP’ goals for its citizens. Furthermore the insights of the research on alternative indicators for wellbeing were presented highlighting the necessity of pushing forward the implementation of these indicator sets. The social investment perspective was introduced as attempt to respond to the current welfare state challenges. A presentation on the historical perspective of socio-ecological transitions showed that we are already in the middle of such a transition and thus should continue to foster structural change and biophysical de-growth. An external perspective on the project was provided by the fifth presentation on philantrophy and impact investing that combines social and financial returns.

During the discussion, the success of using alternative measurement systems like Beyond GDP was put into question. It was argued that the sole act of measuring does not have a meaningful effect. On the one hand it would be important to push forward the implementation of developed indicator sets. On the other hand the impact of Beyond GDP indicators should be apparent. However, it was emphasised that we are in an era of indicator oriented policy where policy makes indicator-based decisions. The panel agreed on giving more importance to the indicator “money available for spending”. In this context it was highlighted that a comparable indicator already exists, i.e. disposable household income. Moreover, the role of robots in the future of human work was discussed intensely. The questions discussed were: what will people do when robots take over a meaningful amount of work (e.g. in the care sector), who will consume the products produced by robots and how wealth is going to be distributed.

In the discussion a couple of important points were raised. Innovation was ascribed a crucial role for pushing a socio-ecological transition. Moreover, the importance of structural change (in particular of decoupling) for breaking the vicious circle between the self-reinforcing system components of population, prosperity and metabolism was highlighted. However, this cannot work without shifting the taxation of labour to taxing resources and energy use. Concerning the challenges for the welfare state, it was suggested to exclude social investment expenditures from the Maastricht criteria in order to support short term investments which will in return enable long-term savings. Social enterprises recorded a remarkable success in the last decade and are therefore considered as potentially important for implementing the social investment perspective. 

Parallel Session

Daniel Hausknost (Alpen-Adria University Klagenfurt, WWWforEurope) and Tom Kehrbaum (IG Metall Headquarters, Union Education) took part in a parallel session chaired by Stefan Gara (NEOS Vienna) on the question of "How Adaptable is our Society?"


Read the programme