Zero Carbon Streets: Cambridge Doughnut Economics Action Group

This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 152.

CamDEAG is a community group working on the Cambridge Doughnut Project. Earlier this year, they approached Camcycle in recognition of the fact that transport plays a significant role in the health and wellbeing of our region – not only with regards to the environment but also in helping people to access jobs and so on. Group member Helen Mulligan outlines what they are aiming to achieve.

Living life within the Doughnut

The Cambridge Doughnut is a tool for transformative action, inspired by the work of British economist Kate Raworth. CamDEAG’s initial aim is to create a Cambridge City ‘portrait’ to show where the city is operating within safe ecological and social limits, and where it is underperforming. The intention is to expand this to include greater Cambridge in the future.

The Cambridge Doughnut envisions a socially-just world in which the essentials of life, such as access to nutritious food and decent housing, are afforded to all. The Doughnut’s social foundation (the central area of the doughnut) sets out the minimum standard of living to which we all have a claim. The Doughnut’s ecological ceiling comprises nine planetary boundaries within which we must live to preserve a stable climate, fertile soils, healthy oceans, a protective ozone layer, ample freshwater and abundant biodiversity on Earth.

Kate Raworth says: ‘Between the social foundation and the ecological ceiling lies a doughnut-shaped space in which it is possible to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet – an ecologically safe and socially just space in which humanity can thrive.’

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut model

The doughnut portrait [of Cambridge] is a mechanism to guide decision-making … we see it forming an important part of the region’s zero-carbon agenda

Once completed, the Cambridge Doughnut will be made into an online, interactive dashboard of performance indicators by which to measure the health of our local economy. The Cambridge Doughnut will show where the city is operating within safe ecological and social limits, and where it is underperforming. The doughnut portrait will not itself provide solutions but is a mechanism to guide decision-making for key players in the city by helping them identify effective approaches and priorities. As such, we see it forming an important part of the region’s zero-carbon agenda. We hope this resource will empower individuals with the knowledge they need to transform the area as employees, business owners, volunteers, students, educators, voters, activists, consumers and other agents of change. Beyond being a dashboard of performance indicators, the Doughnut will also contain stories that provide depth and texture to our understanding of local challenges and opportunities for flourishing; a list of local initiatives, policies, social enterprises, and movements that are creating or have created transformative change in one or more areas of the Doughnut; and short-term targets to hold key institutions accountable.

As a group, we are building relationships with local government and other key organisations to help deliver this vision for Greater Cambridge as a more just and environmentally sustainable region. Currently, Cambridge City Council is leading the way: we are working together to construct a City Portrait – a holistic snapshot of the city and one that serves as a starting point for big-picture thinking, co-creative innovation, and systemic transformation (rather than as a comprehensive assessment of the city). We are working with them to investigate how the ‘portrait’ might be used as a tool in council policy and decision-making.

We are keen to partner with organisations with similar values that are also seeking to address the issues of economic inequality, social justice, climate change and environmental degradation. You can support the initiative in a number of ways, e.g. through data sharing, funding, feeding back on our project plans, and sharing our initiative with your members. Individuals can also get involved by joining the voluntary community action group; joining one of our upcoming events; encouraging your organisation to get involved, or simply stay in touch with progress by registering your interest on our website’s Join Us page.

  • Support Camcycle’s work with CamDEAG by telling us about how you think cycling can help us keep within planetary boundaries and tackle social inequalities.
  • Register your interest in contributing stories, targets or initiatives at cambridgedoughnut.org.uk/join-us to be notified when the ‘Digital Doughnut’ is open for public input.