Partners for a New Economy:
it feels possible, now
What would a new economy that serves the future be, look and feel like? Who must be part of this new economy, and of making it happen? In September 2022, the funder collaborative Partners for a New Economy brought together 90 thinkers, funders and change-makers working in myriad ways across different places and systems to transform our economies. In this encounter you’ll hear dreams and reflections from some of those participants, painting a collective picture from an expanding field of a new economy that allows all people and nature to flourish, and how we might start building it.
Made by Jo Barratt with Gemma Mortensen, Iris Andrews, Lily Piachaud, Hadeel Elshak and Sophie McKechnie and featuring the voices of, amongst others, Alexander Barkawi, Fran Boait, Kelly Clark, Leslie Harroun, Indy Johar, Immy Kaur, Till Kellerhoff, Lynda Mannson, Melissa Mean, Johannes Nuutinen, Alastair Parvin, James Vaccaro.
The rules, assumptions and institutions of our current economy were made by us. They are not fixed, they are not immutable. We can remake them.
At its core, economies are fairly simple. It’s about how we produce, it’s about how we distribute our resources, and there’s clearly many ways of organising that.
A future economy is one where inequality is addressed. And the base of all human standards and all human rights is raised.
It would be an economy that emphasises values such as fairness, participation, solidarity, and care.
To expand individual opportunities so that as many people as possible can live their lives in as close alignment as possible with their values and hopes.
In the morning, I would drop off my toddler at nursery. It would be free. I could ride my bike to work and there wouldn’t be any cars on the road. I might open a newspaper or go online and read the news and the headlines and I would hear about climate reparations being made to the global south and I would hear about inequality falling.
Even though we may have different currencies in different countries, we’ve got the same concept and frame of reference for money, which is odd. We don’t necessarily have the same frame of reference for value.
It’s about co-production, making, building deeper and slower layers of shared infrastructure and culture.
Healthy food, clean water, clean air, safety, art and beauty. Not just being alive, but actually thriving.
I think we’re also talking about a shift from highly centralised hierarchical institutions to the idea of the state as a kind of platform, providing infrastructure and frameworks within which power is much more distributed and federated.
The root of this is, I think, a kind of different theory of moving from the idea of the private discrete world to an entangled civic world where everything entangles everything else.
Nature would be protected, yes, because it’s beautiful. But also because we recognize humanity’s dependence on thriving nature.
It would centre the values and principles of many non-Western traditions and indigenous peoples across the world.
We would be operating in a economy that is able to prioritise the long term and to ensure that our businesses work within planetary boundaries.
It’s an economy that is much more resilient than the one we have today to withstand disruptions and shocks.
Rather than having cycles of deterioration, would have cycles of mutual enrichment, would have upward spirals of symbiosis. But that would be something amazing and intentional about planning and looking to a future where we can actually make space for the arrival.
We must now do what is needed, not what is possible and what is needed is a total and complete transformation of the economy.
We need to all step forward and step back. We need our best selves to be doing the work to make it happen, and we need to leave the other parts of ourselves outside this work.
It ultimately needs new contracts, new agreements. So there’s new contracting, which is about just agreeing different things.
I believe there’s an urgent need to grow the tent of people and institutions that jointly drive this agenda forward. Top level objectives that many people will agree on even if they disagree about the path to get there.
Everybody has to be part of it and everybody should be able to benefit from it, both in terms of wealth, but in terms of wellbeing as well.
We should work much more closely with other social movements, so the climate movement, different human rights movements, to actually learn from their experiences to coordinate our efforts with them to build momentum and build different mechanisms of solidarity.
I think the timeline of change is the thing that’s least in our control and what’s gonna happen over the next decade or so is that many of our old systems are going to fail, even on their own terms. Either suddenly or continuously to a point where it becomes intolerable. More and more people are gonna start looking around for lifeboats, for new ideas and new systems that can fill the gap left behind by the collapse of the old ones.
Certain paradigms don’t seem to work anymore. So never let a crisis go to waste. It would be foolish to not also use this as an opportunity to implement the transformational changes necessary.
You know, I have a lot of hope and courage that gains will be made, but I’m always looking at the vision. I’m always in the future. For me, those bigger system changes feel quite out of reach right now.
We have a lot of important voices saying all the right things. I don’t believe that actions have followed those public statements, but I do believe it’s only a matter of time until they do. There has been syllabus change and there has been curriculum change, but at the periphery, rather than in the Citadel. And I can see like these kinds of incumbents that we’ve built around the Citadel flourishing, and yet the heart of where power flows, where people flow is yet resistant to change. Although there have been very piecemeal changes and 10 years later, maybe the periphery, these encampments will have grown, kind of thriving enough that they would sustain enough of an alternative that would not necessarily be called the alternative. It would just be a stream that exists alongside the old stream.
I think we can’t wait for the future. I think we need to start practising the new economy now as if it already existed. In many respects, I think it already does.
As consumers, we are essentially casting votes for the kind of world we want each time we buy something. We have a choice in how we spend our money.
We need to rethink the way leadership is given, the way power is shared, the way decisions are made, there is no one that is more worthy or less worthy of being part of the future, including nature including icons or ideas like the planet, like the future.
Many views, many futures, many goals would be possible. Not a single goal. Decided by a few people, a single moment in time.
There should not and will not be a project led only in specific pockets of the society. Most of us need to have a say and have a role in how economies are transformed.
We need to get past this idea that there are good guys and bad guys and realise that most of the time, not always, but most of the time, what you’ve got are good people tied into bad systems. So it’s incredibly important that on a personal level, everyone feels invited to this future. Not just the powerless, but also the powerful.
The economy of the future would be built by everyone, but it would centre the voices that have been most marginalised, most ignored, most trampled on, most extracted, at the heart.
I think teachers and writers and communicators have a responsibility for bringing it about as much as the policy makers or the business planners or the workers. I think there’s an ecosystem in which all of these different laws feed into each other.
Tell the stories differently about ourselves, about others, about value.
I would love to see a bigger space made for some of these younger voices who I think are really the hope for the future.
There’s so many vested interests mobilised against change, and what we can do feels so small. But maybe we just need to think about scale in different ways, being diverse, distributed, but connected. The next big thing could be lots of small things and what it feels like, what we need is, a kind of age of mass experimentation, minimal viable experiments where we can try things out, remix and rewrite the rules.
A lot is possible and I believe that by 2030 we can be at a point where many trajectories on the issues we jointly care about, point in the right direction.
It feels possible now. All of this feels possible if we just decide that’s what we want and we decide to do it collectively. Some magnificent melodious transcendent orchestra, everybody playing their instruments together and creating something of beauty. I do believe it’s possible.