WHOLE | RESILIENT | LOCAL
The Next Economy is not some great green vision set out in the future, with flying buses and food delivered by hologram; the Next Economy is now. It is made of whole systems designers building companies to enhance all life. It is an increasing number of individuals and organizations focused on providing the key necessities for simple comfortable human lives and making these standard for everyone. The goal of these individuals may vary, but across the board they are in service to life, life enhancing, and their inspiration comes from clean food and water, fresh air, vibrant community and culture, and meaningful, challenging work. These companies are living their vision now, and running their companies according to these principles, analyzing the life cycle of each decision and its impact for generations, creating a lifestyle that is rewarding and inspiring on a daily basis.
They practice democracy daily at work, not just once a year. They balance their work lives with serious play, self-expression and service. Their culture is of equal importance to their financial health. They invest in their local economy and communities first. They are innovators and delight in new systems – open source, permaculture, and cradle-to-cradle-that stack functions and produce multiple yields. There is no lack of opportunity for improvement so let’s all join in and get to work making our solutions available to everyone!
Human enterprises will be designed in service to all human needs while benefiting the earth and all life. The goal of doing business in the next economy is to be of service to life while doing what you love – finding “work” so full of joy and purpose you cannot really call it work.
Growing the Next Economy are new organizations that operate with a distinctive ‘DNA’ from that of the current economy and for that DNA to propagate seems to imply a transformation of the DNA of human culture and human settlement. These are big concepts and ideas and this article attempts to provide some additional context and some examples that point towards the vision of both a transformed economy and, in concert, a transformed human culture.
The current economy (oversimplifying the many aspects of the global economy and painting it with broad strokes based on the self-evident effects of climate change, economic collapse, species extinction, gross social inequities and environmental degradation) seems to have something of the following as its underlying DNA (these all seem to be tightly correlated):
- Creation of money as interest bearing debt
- Scarcity – the sense that there is ‘not enough’
- Growth as a requirement to pay back the interest in money loaned into creation
- Growth as the measurement of success (GDP)
- Exploitation of people and planet (resources) – i.e., the externalization of costs
- Planned obsolescence
- Ownership sought after and used to concentrate earnings – e.g., intellectual property
- Economies of scale or the primacy of big – e.g., global brands, multinational corporations
- Business culture that focuses on and glorifies maximization of returns/earnings
The next economy can be envisioned as a network of locally self-reliant, resilient, regional economies where the organizations, to the extent needed, that comprise these regional economies express the following principles, from their design/incpetion, as their core DNA:
- Need-oriented – i.e., goods/services that meet human needs first (i.e., food and shelter before jewelry and entertainment)
- Accessible – i.e., affordable, or available to as many as possible
- Transparent – i.e., clear about supply chain, practices, finances, benefits, cost (e.g., true cost accounting)
- Equitable/democratic ownership e.g., could be coops; employees involved in some practice of self-determination
- Surplus reinvestment – i.e., profits are shared or redistributed
- Support of local alternative economy ecosystem (local supply chain)
- Zero waste or net benefit product design, manufacturing
- Ecosystem integration – i.e., whole systems thinking (e.g., stormwater investment, habitat for owls, etc.)
- Whole system finances – i.e., supportive of polyculture of regional currency and emergent currency models, direct public offerings, crowdfunding, living returns, revolving lending, peer-to-peer financing, gift economy, barter, etc.
- Living wage care of people
- Open source – i.e., “Growth by Replication” rather than “Growth by Accretion”
- Education embedded into product service – i.e., promote ‘producer culture’ rather than enforce dependent ‘consumer culture’
The current global economy seems to result in or arise in a particular societal and cultural condition with significant consequences on the human settlement and the patterns of ways in which humans meet their needs for food, water, shelter, space, health, education, transportation, media/entertainment – essentially everything; roughly characterized as follows:
- Dependent isolated consumerism – e.g., each person must have their own car, the nuclear family, social isolation and alienation
- Lack of trust, anonymity,
- Create waste
- Utilize money/currency as substitute for community, connection, gift or trade
- Quest for personal security through wealth and resource accumulation
The next economy seems to require significant transformations in culture in order to support the emergence of the organizations with the distinct DNA from the current systems; roughly characterized as follows:
- Interdependent, self-reliant producer culture
- Voluntary simplicity
- Balancing personal preferences/interests with prioritizing collective well being
- Trust, sharing (space, resources, gifts, etc.
- Quest for personal security through community and status of being a valued contributor
This article acknowledges that there may be deep psychological, even identity-level, mythological, conditions that enable current economic and cultural circumstance and does not ignore the importance (primacy?) of these aspects of human consciousness in the emergent transformation to the next economy. We posit that there might be a dynamic interplay between economy, culture, and social/individual psychological condition and that the achievable transformation of culture and economy today might help inform and inspire the transformation, over time, of human consciousness.
For many, concepts of ‘culture’ and ‘economy,’ might seem vague and esoteric and it might be that these notions are best communicated by stories, images and then supported with living examples of pieces of such narrative visions. Here are some examples of stories that have repeating themes of inspired visions of the next economy (each story might have pieces that are objectionable or distracting narratives, but we have found them most helpful in conceiving the cultural context for the emergence of the next economy) and corresponding culture and some examples of what exists today and what could be:
Next Economy Narratives:
- Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging
- Always Coming Home and The Dispossessed
- Pacific Edge and Mars Trilogy
- Fifth Sacred Thing
- The World We Made
- This much shorter narrative
Closer and more immediate than science fiction and narrative, are actual examples of elements or pieces (some more whole/complete/comprehensive than others) of cultural and economic transformation existent today:
- The Ecovillage Movement
- Global Ecovillage Network
- Foundation for Intentional Communities
- Sustainable R(E)volution – recent book documenting a number of existent model communities
- Ecovillage Living
- Visions of Utopia I and II – videos documenting existent ecovillages
- Cooperatives in Maleny
- The Mondragon Experiment
While these attempts and endeavors exist today, with few exceptions i. ii., most have not been conceived to model a pattern that could be replicated and adapted to urban, sub urban, and rural human settlements and be integrated into a full economic transformation to the next economy. This intersection appears to be the current edge of innovation where new organization forms and structures are emerging in concert with new cultural norms in mutually supportive ecosystem (organizations enabling culture change and culture change enabling the new DNA of next economy organizations). We look forward to seeing the innovative interdependent forms of organizations that create permanently affordable, limited equity ownership (or in trust) co-housing agrihoods with decentralized manufacturing and easy assets sharing and cooperative, preventative health care through decentralize clinics and decentralized, cooperative education and cooperative renewable energy microgrids, and more. Let’s do this!