Building the new economy: activism, enterprise and social change

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One perspective of the New Economy Conference

August 16th and 17th, Sydney from Robin Krabbe

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I very much enjoyed this conference in terms of the enthusiasm for all things related to the ‘New Economy’. There was much talk about the “Sharing Economy”, the Social and Solidarity Economy etc, in short for a new economic paradigm that recognises us not as operating best as competitive isolated individuals, but as cooperative and social.

Other themes although somewhat of an undercurrent was a split between the ‘Community Currency’ camp, and the ‘Cryptocurrency’ camp. The latter are sceptical about the power of small groups, instead preferring to rely on technological solutions (and very passionate about them!). Sadly there is a lack of firstly awareness of community currencies (CC’s), or where there is awareness, misconceptions about the potential power of CC’s. Old perceptions of LETs schemes that have failed, or ones confined to small groups trading tarot card readings for aromatherapy still unfortunately persist.

On to the talks – they were divided into themes of on the first day, care, law and our relationship with the natural world. Notable presentations included Katherine Gibson and Amanda Cahill, both pointing to different economic paradigms that highlight the role of communities in well functioning socioeconomic systems.14022358_329273414129913_2807206244601193959_n

The themes on the second day was work, exchange and money. These were the themes I addressed in my talk, which was based firstly on how our economic systems became maladapted particularly due to the decline in meaningful work, and the decline on social relationships, being two vital basic needs we have for health and wellbeing. Research shows when we have less opportunity to engage in meaningful work and positive social relationships, we tend to compensate by seeking other ways of achieving motivation, such as consumerism, drugs and alcohol, seeking power over others etc. Sustainable Wellbeing refers to rediscovering the internal motivation to engage in behaviours that sustain one’s own health and wellbeing, that of others and the health of the planet. CENTs has great potential to restore the main vehicle we have for positive social relationships; that of fair or equal exchange.

Then Alison Bird, Annette Loudon and Russ Grayson did a great combined talk. They firstly covered the history of LETs/Community Exchange in Australia. One very interesting aspect that was mentioned was that particularly in the case of Blue Mountain LETs, which at one stage was extremely active with lots of members but it then declined. The theory put forward for the decline was that before the advent of the internet, what made LETs successful was that they had lots of market days. These would have been instrumental in people meeting face to face and building trust. One unfortunate aspect of the internet is that it cannot replace face to face relationships.

Another interesting session on the second day was Work and Play –the fact that some of us are lucky enough where the line is blurred between work and play. While it was not explicitly discussed, there was some reference to a Universal Guaranteed Income, which would allow us all to do the work we enjoy doing without having to worry about where the money comes from to pay the bills. My personal opinion however is that we would still need an initiative like Community Exchange to ensure the work that needs to be done is done, and that everyone contributes to the best of their ability to that. All in all it was a very inspirational conference with lots of great discussion about the direction we need in to address inequality, climate change and other deeply complex problems.

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http://www.neweconomy.law.unsw.edu.au/