A persuasive vision of a future economy

Bristol Pound 2A summit is a nerve-racking affair for those organising it. I imagine it’s not too unlike organising a wedding.

At 9am on day one of the two-day Bristol New Economy Summit, the room began to fill to capacity as our excellent facilitators Angela Raffle and Peter Lipman donned their headsets. They asked us to prepare for a journey and to take responsibility for ourselves and make the most of the opportunity this coming together of diverse but similarly motivated people presented.

The first speaker Kate Raworth took the stage and soon had the delegates enthralled. Doughnut economics is one of the most elegant descriptions of why we need to change the economy we have and gives the principles that should underpin the new economy we have started to create. It is obvious to many that the economy we have now is not sustainable environmentally or in terms of how increasingly unequal it is, but it is hugely productive and we all depend on it. Kate made as good a case as I have seen for how we resolve the dilemma human societies have created.

From that point on the summit developed a powerful sweeping narrative. We heard about how happiness and equality are new measures for economic performance. The growing force of the co-operative movement in the UK. About emerging technologies that will to allow us to organise differently and even create money without the need for interest on debt. All this can be done despite the old economic power structures. With little change to the current system we can use our influence as investors via our pension funds to call major corporations to task.

It was a persuasive vision of a future economy – more connected, democratic, using peer to peer and sharing relationships to deliver the needs of individuals and communities, a flourishing of independent businesses and social enterprises in Bristol and cities across the world. A great shift in who owns the economy with informed participation and greater political engagement.

Many people present were optimistic about the ways we can reorganise. I share that optimism. Over the course of two days I have found a renewed sense of commitment to what I am doing but also to explore new relationships and experiment with new ideas in my work. There is so much at stake.

Together we can avoid the worst-case scenarios of orthodox, growth based economics – international trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) should be stopped, as MEP Molly Scott Cato reminded us.

When we started the Bristol Pound we thought we would help out some independent traders on struggling high streets around Bristol, but now it seems we are a small but important part of helping to change the world. The fact that many people are already exploring alternative ways of living and organising which offer other possible futures makes me feel less afraid to help create the community, the city and a world I know is possible.

The Bristol New Economy Summit brought together many good people with whom I share a set of deeply held values. Some of them were with me in Bristol last week but it is more clear than ever that there are many millions more who also care about creating an economy for the common good and with whom I share a common cause.

Photo by Images_of_Money


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8 years ago

Sounds like a lot of like minded people talking amongst themselves but I suppose that’s in the nature of such a summit … these things are always an echo chamber where scepticism isn’t allowed to intrude. A bit like the current state of the Labour party!

“A great shift in who owns the economy with informed participation and greater political engagement.” Really? Reeeeeaaaalllly? You don’t think Bristol is ‘ahead’ in these issues because it maybe strategically doing pretty well in economic terms and there’s quite a bit of cash circulating in the economy anyway which can be captured? I wonder what the steelworkers of Cleveland would think if you offered them a “local currency” or told them how “happiness and equality are new measures for economic performance”.

At best these ideals and directions are a small, marginal concern which impacts on a relatively small number of people and which makes consultants who operate in this field feel better about themselves and their own ‘impact’. At worst its a dangerously deluded utopian ideal divorced from the reality of international economics and realpolitik.

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