Project Management in a Doughnut World

With the release of her research paper and subsequent book entitled “Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist”, Kate Raworth proposes a completely new approach to economics, and in doing so is spurring a movement away from the old economic paradigm of “GDP growth is good” as the only measure of corporate and national growth

Instead, Kate urges CEO’s, CFO’s, Economists, and all leaders to look at economics as a doughnut, and to take all strategic decisions with this in mind (watch her TedX talk here

This model proposes the “sweet spot” for humanity (and economies) to be the area of the doughnut between the Social Foundation to which all humanity has a right, and the Ecological Ceiling of the capacity of Earth to support humanity.

Using this model, businesses and nation states can set targets to reduce the numbers of people in their sphere of influence who are below the Social Foundation and reduce the impacts they are having on the Ecological Ceiling, instead of merely focusing on the zero-sum model of economic growth at all costs. The doughnut provides a balanced model for society to use as we struggle to balance our needs against the planet’s ability to provide for our ever-increasing numbers.

How does this apply to project management you might ask? Well, it is highly relevant as a guideline to organisations to build their project portfolios in line with the model and ensure that their projects are geared towards the goals of the model. This model enables a greater degree of measurement of business Key Performance Indices which are often only geared towards ensuring growth in profits (e.g., customers, staff, suppliers, shareholders, and – for more progressive companies – the environment).

The Business Case for each project could use elements of the model as key success factors to justify why the project should be undertaken. If the project fails to achieve the goals of the model (by worsening any of the measured elements), it should not be undertaken, or the business must do something to redress the imbalance.

The KPIs of the model can be used to audit the performance of nation states, corporations, and businesses, to hold them to account and provide a globally understood and supported “Dashboard” for each entity.

Imagine a world in which the governments of all nations adopt this model, and it filters down into the commercial realm through tax or policy incentives.

Imagine a world where projects are only undertaken if they reduce the numbers of people below the Social Foundation or reduce the degree of excess of the Ecological Ceiling wherever possible (or both!).

Just imagine!