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Whose economy? Exposing the trickle down myth

Posted by Katherine Trebeck Senior Researcher

3rd Nov 2011

Glasgow housing estate

Anti-poverty policies that focus on economic growth, to the detriment of social cohesion and sustainability, are doing little to eradicate poverty, even in one of the world's richest nations.


Oxfam recognises that the issue of poverty is one of distribution, and has increasingly begun to explore how this plays out in a rich country context.  In Scotland, this has encompassed taking a long, hard and critical look at the waves of regeneration and economic development policies, action plans and strategies that have been rolled out over many decades.

We have been examining the different priorities and have noted a growing gap between what these policies purport to deliver and the priorities of the communities themselves.

This has revealed some uncomfortable truths - that economic growth has done little to address the heartbreaking and unacceptable levels of poverty in Scotland, that too many communities have been marginalised by economic shifts, that economic growth largely premised on shops and retail brings little to communities of what they really want, and that the inequalities in wealth and health are getting worse.

Clearly, trickle down is not working, and an economy is being created that is not delivering for a large and growing number of people.

Oxfam wanted to look at these issues in more depth, so we joined with the University of the West of Scotland to drill down deeper into a range of issues relating to the Scottish economy, communities and our environment.

The result was a series of seminars that delved deeper into the issues raised in the Whose Economy? Winners and losers in the new Scottish economy discussion paper originally published by Oxfam in January 2011.

The 'Whose Economy?' seminars brought together experts to examine key developments that have influenced the livelihoods of communities in Scotland and, from the perspective of vulnerable communities, explored the implications of structural changes in the Scottish economy. The focus of the series was to question what kind of economy is being created in Scotland and, specifically, for whom?

The 13 seminar papers and related presentations and videos are available to download from this website. To view additional videos and presentations, visit the Whose Economy? page of the UK Poverty Post blog.

But the seminars were about more than just the papers: they were rich, wide ranging and often angry discussions about the issues raised, or not raised, as the case may be!

In the next few months Oxfam will be releasing a paper that gathers together both the outrage and the optimism of the 'Whose Economy?' discussions. It draws on both the views of participants and the experiences of our programme partners, using their example to set out a better way of doing the economy that takes as its starting point the (not verbatim) observation of one of the Whose Economy? participants:

'Your economy is rubbish, we'll do it ourselves'...


Useful links

UK Poverty Post page on the seminars

Invitation to the seminar series (from the main Oxfam website)

Blog post written by Katherine Trebeck

Senior Researcher

More by Katherine Trebeck

Katherine Trebeck