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[Ed. note: Western Massachusetts has long been at the forefront of visioning and building a different type of setup for our communities, our economy, and our democracy. So it is with great excitement that we received the news from the E.F. Schumacher Society in Great Barrington that they are reconfiguring themselves and partnering with the UK’s New Economics Foundation to establish The New Economics Institute. These times scream out for a new economics, from the theoretical level down to the very bills we keep in our wallet, and the E.F. Schumacher Society has crucial experience across that entire spectrum.]

Building a New Economics Institute

Over the past year we have all watched in amazement as the old economy unraveled before us—banks failing, established corporations seeking bankruptcy protection, unemployment increasing, climate change progressing unabated, and governments nervously printing currency hoping to buy their way out of these problems. The urgency of shaping a new economy—one that is fair and sustainable, that functions within ecological limits, and takes into account people and cultures throughout the world—has never been clearer.

A successful transition to a new economy in which people and the earth have a higher priority than financial return will require a restructuring of institutions and governance frameworks; changes in values and behavior; hard decisions; and decisive actions on the part of individuals, communities, civil society, firms and governments throughout the world. If such a transition is to be successful, it will need to be rooted in robust systemic analysis, employ effective hard-hitting advocacy, and offer proven, practical solutions. In addition, it will require a coherent and encompassing narrative that is both compelling and accessible and that draws together the various components of a complex picture in such a way as to stimulate and support action at all levels.

Parts of the new economy are already known and underway.

What is needed now is some entity to bring these various organizations and individuals together, to frame a common story, to tell it in multiple voices, to strategize the steps towards implementation, and to take collective action to achieve the transition.

We see a New Economics Institute as a collaborative, open, inclusive, value-added think tank working closely with existing organizations and research programs to:

– Identify and fill gaps in knowledge;

– Package together various presently isolated strands of work into a coherent and encompassing narrative;

– Present these so as to achieve maximum impact on public and political debate, individual and business behavior, and public policy;

– Support existing organizations by building the profile of a coherent new economics; and

– Build a network of fellows from partnering organizations to engage in specific projects, research, or campaigns.

Building a New Economics Institute

In Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered economist Fritz Schumacher drew from a broad palette to develop what he called “an economy of permanence.” He wove together culture, society, ecology, scale, technology, and governance as necessary and related factors in shaping a new economy.

The E. F. Schumacher Society in the Berkshire region of western Massachusetts has a thirty year history of building on Schumacher’s interdisciplinary approach to economics—stewarding his library and archives, providing a venue for new voices in the field, convening conferences, publishing papers, and transforming ideas into action through model economic programs in its home region. It is gaining extensive media recognition for its work on decentralizing and democratizing the institutions of land, labor, and capital.

In its twenty-two years of work similarly borne out of Schumacher’s thinking, the New Economics Foundation (nef) in London (www.neweconomics.org), has developed an impressive record of applied research and public policy initiatives at the local, national, and international level. nef is acknowledged by British media as the voice of a New Economics. Its diverse campaigns have gathered organizations together in common cause and have bettered the lives of people in small villages around the world and in the neighborhoods of bustling European cities.

The E. F. Schumacher Society and nef recognize that their combined fifty-year history of providing the theory and application of a new economics on both sides of the Atlantic, uniquely positions them to contribute to the building of a new initiative. Accepting this responsibility, the Schumacher Society is partnering with nef to form the New Economics Institute, a US based organization. We will keep you informed of developments.

A friend commented that what she likes about the proposed Institute is that it is addressing multiple issues from one root source—the transformation of our current economic system. That engages and inspires her, as it does us.

We welcome your support.

For more information, visit www.neweconomicsinstitute.org


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