In a year chock full of surprises, contradictions, warning signs, and increasingly vocal calls for systemic change, it is easy to overlook the many ways that new economic paradigms and practices are cropping up in everyday awareness as an essential vector of the immense transitions underway. The current volume of not just academic debate but all around constructive, collaborative development and coalition building is unprecedented in history. Micro to macro, mainstream to innovative extreme, left, right, top, bottom: economics – and society at large – is ripe for innovation and creative disruption; many are heeding the call.

With all the energy and inspiration pouring into this arena, we have to ask: what’s the cumulative effect? How do we take stock now? How are outcomes adding up to substantive change at the level of whole systems,  affecting large populations and long term events? How might we assess our rate of progress on broadly espoused objectives like social justice and environmental sustainability? Are we beginning to see non-linear network effects and positive feedback loops that accelerate every contributing effort that much further?

While it may yet be too early to cite major tipping points or a viral spread of breakthrough alternatives, what we can say is that a great many sub-systems are shifting dramatically and evolving rapidly. These small islands of newfound coherence within an ecosystem that is stretched far from equilibrium may increasingly serve as catalysts of a much wider transition, to adopt a key insight from complexity theorist and Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine.

Real Economy Lab was launched over two years ago to help facilitate convergent innovation in this space, bringing projects and organizations together with tools, processes, knowledge, and relationships to create greater combinatory effects and impact. The Lab continues with our work to make sense of what is arising, helping to curate collective knowledge and to connect the dots allowing participants to build shared understanding and coordinate action on practical steps for positive change.

What follows is a showcase of some of the most striking and significant developments we’ve encountered over the last year or so, divided roughly into categories by praxis. Many of these initiatives are represented on our mapping already. Others, we’d like to include soon. Surely there’s more that have escaped our attention so far, well worthy of consideration. Let us know what you think may be missing!

Each area of activity below corresponds to one of the overarching themes identified in our analysis of the global ecosystem of change. Click the link for each Theme label (in brackets) to view a map of corresponding attributes via Kumu’s interactive tools.

Open Data and Information Technology [transparency + accountability]

  • Data4SDGs connecting large data sets and analytical tools to support attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • Open mapping tools and linked data platform Transformap

Collaborative Inquiry, Research, Theoretical Development [innovation + adaptation]

  • Flurry of interest in translating the cooperative model to digital platform tech environments, under the “platform coop” banner

Networking, Convening, Community Building [collaboration + coordination]

  • Inaugural NESI Forum (in development)
  • New Economy Organisers Network (NEON) growth
  • SOCAP16 Social Capital Markets annual conference

Education, Capacity Building, Knowledge Sharing [awareness + education]

  • Schumacher college continue to grow an uniquely broad catalog of holistic learning opportunities for appropriate economics, celebrating a 25th anniversary last year

Grassroots Networks and Movements [commons + interdependence]

  • Fab Cities initiative linking hundreds of projects and hubs for local industry and open source hardware innovation

Political Actions and Platforms/Parties/Coalitions [democratisation + decentralisation]

  • First meeting of the EU Commons Assembly with representatives from many countries and organizations
  • Rise of reform-oriented pro-social political parties in Iceland, Catalonia, elsewhere

Financial Game Changers, Business Models and Funding [renewal and restoration]

Media platforms and influencers [cultural vitality + celebration]

  • Broad viewership of online journalistic portals Shareable and Resilience

Ultimately, the above may count only for a scratch at the surface of what’s unfolding globally. New ideas and new initiatives are popping up constantly, making it hard for anyone to stay concurrent and clear headed about the nature of the changes at hand. We’re doing our best to make things easier by providing the kinds of tools, processes, and data to address this complexity and engage in constructive, collaborative conversation and action. Through the Real Economy Lab it is our intent that anyone can place themselves on the map of change and see what meaningful opportunities and gratifying connections are within reach.

We hope to be moving forward in several exciting directions in 2017 with the Lab and as always, welcome your thoughts and feedback about how things are working or could be improved.