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]
- Ongoing effort to enable high level cooperation with a shared taxonomy for the Social Solidarity Economy between several leading organizations and networks
- 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
- Global expansion and evolution of Creative Commons
Collaborative Inquiry, Research, Theoretical Development [innovation + adaptation]
- Next System Project extensive in depth new economy proposals series
- Flurry of interest in translating the cooperative model to digital platform tech environments, under the “platform coop” banner
- Communities of practice around reinventing organizations, and distributed autonomous organizing via blockchain
- New global circular economy programmes of Ellen MacArthur Foundation
- New metrics for well-being – Happy Planet Index and Global Value Exchange
Networking, Convening, Community Building [collaboration + coordination]
- 2nd annual CommonBound conference of the New Economy Coalition
- Inaugural NESI Forum (in development) neweconomyforum.org
- New Economy Organisers Network (NEON) growth
- SOCAP16 Social Capital Markets annual conference
- Resourcing a just transition – EDGE Funders Alliance 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
- Forum For The Future are just launching an innovative School for System Change
- The Permaculture Research Institute fostering a global community of practice around radically sustainable lifestyle and landscape design
- Cooperative University offering comprehensive training in cooperativism
- New collaborative intensives Good Work Institute and Synergia Institute
Grassroots Networks and Movements [commons + interdependence]
- Climate Justice Alliance inter-community organizing and transition strategy
- Global perspective on the evolution of Transition Network
- Continued international growth of Economy for the Common Good
- Fab Cities initiative linking hundreds of projects and hubs for local industry and open source hardware innovation
- Coming to recognize, understand, and enhance Degrowth as a movement
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
- Accelerating regenerative development paradigms for communities and regions
- Coalition building for progressive urban leadership via Compact of Mayors
- Finland among several countries trialling Universal Basic Income experiments
Financial Game Changers, Business Models and Funding [renewal and restoration]
- B Corporation movement – over 2000 now certified in 50 countries
- Reporting 3.0 global platform for open collaboration on public accountability measures
- Novel approaches and support for systemically aware philanthropy
- Working World peer network for cooperative lending
- Proliferation of digital ‘crypto’ economic infrastructures
Media platforms and influencers [cultural vitality + celebration]
- Broad viewership of online journalistic portals Shareable and Resilience
- Growth of newer conduits Evonomics and STIR magazine
- Crowdsourced P2P Foundation knowledge base
- Ecovillage network New Story Hub
- Beautiful Solutions compendium at This Changes Everything
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.