Voices of New Economies – an Interview with Portia Sam

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By Alicia Tallack

Portia Sam is the Program Coordinator for Miscellany, a social enterprise that operates two thriving thrift stores and a variety of women and youth focused programs in Vancouver, BC. For Portia, the idea that a business can viably integrate revenue with community-based social programs just makes sense. In fact, she doesn’t think business is sustainable if done any other way.

Portiaheadshot In your view, what are some key elements of "new economies"?

There are many elements that make up how we run our economies in ways that work for communities. Two of the ways that Miscellany works, is through the idea of ‘conscious capitalism’, and through integrating community connections into our business practices and our daily routines.

  • Conscious capitalism: This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to make money – we do. It means that we want to make, and use, money in a way that is conscious to the needs of our direct community. There are a lot of microscopic examples of how we do this, such as recycling in a responsible way, and taking time to help people find out where they can properly dispose of materials that we can’t take, like mattresses. If you take the time, you can work in a way that your community approves of. We let our interactions evolve naturally, and then we take a closer look at how we want things to continue evolving.
  • Community connections: Conscious capitalism is impossible without recognizing that communities depend on each other, and that people matter. There are specific ways that we are touching our community; through networking with health, policing, and employment groups, for example. They know we are there and open to training people. A big part of what we do is train women for work experience when they get out of prison. As far as I know, there is no government program or stipend for this; it is simply not a priority to them. But we know different. We use our profits to pay for this program because we know that this is important, and we partner with women to give them a chance to break the cycle.

What are some ways that you listen to your community in order to genuinely connect?miscellanyfinds_header1

We do this in several ways, and it largely depends on what is needed. We listen directly, one-on-one, but also have some business-wide practices in place. These work together, so that we can respond to what people need. For example, we have gift certificates that we give to transition houses, where they give it to the women as needed. They usually give it to women as they are transitioning from the house into second stage housing, and they use it to buy things to set up their new home. When they come in, they are equal to anyone else in there. It is ultimately a thrift store, but it has been organized by our volunteers to feel like a boutique. So when a woman comes in with a gift certificate, she doesn’t feel like she is getting leftovers, she is getting quality items that are useful. Our donors recognize that just because a woman is marginalized, that doesn’t mean that she should have the dregs of whatever we can give her. And when we don’t have what she needs, we take the time to connect her with trusted organizations that do.

We also work with PLEA, a community courts service program for youth that have been in the system. We offer basic training for youth that have never had training or a job, that don’t know how to dress for a job, or how to talk to customers. These kids haven’t had anyone watching their backs and lifting them up, telling them that they can do it. They have been in the system, and we work with them to overcome their obstacles. They are usually very ready for this. They are willing to do whatever it takes to change their lives. It is really empowering to work with them and to see this. They show me how amazing humanity can be.

Can this type of connection scale up within cities?miscellanyfinds_web.001

Yes I think it definitely can. It scales up beyond one business by being part of standard policies and business practices. Integrating the expectation that through connecting with other groups around you, we are all stronger. For example, over time we have connected with the community-policing group, and they come to us when they know of someone that needs something that we can provide, like sleeping bags or blankets. They are always telling people that we are great to them – but we’re not; we are just enacting an important part of a social enterprise. Our mission is to take what we are given, and re-invest it in things that matter, in a responsible way. That is an idea that can easily go beyond our thrift store.

To me, a social enterprise is simply a business with a social element. It could involve training, which is our main thing, but it is more than that. You take the profits, and you put it back into social programs that ultimately contribute to a stronger economy overall. I don’t see any reason that all traditional business can’t move toward acting like a social enterprise. You still make a living and feed your own family, but you give back to humanity at the same time. Instead of making money for the sake of it, we can make money to help others, which in turn helps us. Everyone is better off because of it. If even a third of our businesses became social enterprises, we would solve a significant portion of our problems.

What does real wealth mean to you?

Real wealth is truly having the opportunity to give back. Building a sustainable business that promotes social programs and having the ability to develop programs that are suited to what your communities’ needs are.

Related links:

- Miscellany
- Social Enterprise Canada
- Conscious Capitalism 

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Social justice entrepreneur Portia Sam is the program coordinator of Miscellany Finds thrift store for social change. With decades of experience in business management and a dedicated passion to conscious contribution for community sustainability, Portia combined her talents to create a thriving resource to meet the diverse needs of a vibrant community. Portia is proud of the foundational programs Miscellany offers.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

 

Voices of New Economies: Todd Scaletta

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INTERDEPENDENCIES REQUIRED FOR SUSTAINABILITY
By Todd Scaletta

Our world is based on nested dependencies (see work by Bob Doppelt, Peter Senge as well as Bob Willard). The environment is all-encompassing with society being nested in the environment and in turn business being nested within the environment and society.Toddimage

I have often used a quote from Björn Stigson, former President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) – it is as follows: “Business cannot succeed in societies that fail. Likewise, where and when business is stifled, societies fail to thrive.”

Societies can fail due to economic, social and/or environmental reasons so a balance and a relationship among these elements needs to be understood in order to achieve real wealth creation today and for future generations.

Being a father of three children, I tend to have a future-oriented focus. What will the world be like in the years ahead for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

I am fortunate that my role at Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) allows me to explore, develop and test forward-thinking ideas that can help position the accounting profession to effectively address sustainability issues. As Peter Bakker, current President of WBCSD, has famously stated on numerous occasions “Accountants will save the world.” The competencies of professional accountants can be invaluable to organizations seeking to be more sustainable.

I had the fortune of meeting Paul Hawken, author of “The Ecology of Commerce”, and I asked him: “Do sustainability issues need to be measured in order to be effectively managed?” Paul’s response was “Yes, they need to be measured in order to be managed but they do not need to be  monetized in order to be managed.”

Organizations, no matter their size or the sector in which they operate, can benefit by focusing on sustainability. The practice can help to better identify and understand key risks, opportunities and stakeholders. Effective measurement then allows the organization to determine if its goals are being achieved.

I live in Winnipeg and the city provides an excellent example of a sustainability effort. A website that was developed with resources from the International Institute of Sustainable Development and United Way Winnipeg is called MyPeg (www.mypeg.ca). This website provides the user with economic, environmental and social data about Winnipeg in order to track and inspire transformation to a more vibrant and thriving city. Having the necessary data accessible in order to measure and manage sustainability initiatives is critical for success but what is ultimately required is action. However, to achieve the goal of a more vibrant city, the strategies and visions of residents, community groups, business leaders, politicians and others must align.  Society, business and the environment are always interconnected.

For many organizations, taking that first step toward sustainable practices and management is often difficult. I am glad to be part of a profession that is actively trying to help organizations focus on sustainability and effectively address the challenges that lie ahead

.Toddheadshot

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CPA Canada’s Director for Research, Guidance and Support

Todd Scaletta, MBA, CMA, FCMA, C.Dir has over 30 years of management accounting experience in various sectors including construction, education, financial services, not-for-profit and real estate.

Todd leads the conceptualization, formulation, and distribution of Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)’s research related to sustainability. Todd represents CPA Canada on the Accounting Bodies Network (ABN), International Federation of Accountants Committee (IFAC)’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB), and the Consortium for Advanced Management – International (CAM-I) Sustainability Interest Group.

He has written articles on sustainability from a management accountant’s perspective and has presented at several international conferences throughout North America on the subject of environmental sustainability.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

Voices of New Economies: Charles Montgomery

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VOICES OF NEW ECONOMIES - AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES MONTGOMERY
By Alicia Tallack

Charles Montgomery has travelled around the world to better understand what it means to have a Happy City, how we can build it by focusing on what makes us truly happy, and how it changes everything when we do. This concept is a key part of the shift towards economies that work for people and the planet, because when we build cities around happiness, we are simultaneously building an economy that works for us as a whole.charlesmontomerypicture

What are some key elements of New Economies?

First up: new economies must value happiness and wellbeing, rather than relying on cold, hard GDP as a guiding objective. I think this is a reasonable transition, because the reliance on GDP as a measure of societal success was an invention itself. More than 200 years ago, when the intellectual elite of the Enlightenment concerned themselves with the pursuit of happiness, economists pronounced happiness unmeasureable, and concluded that since we can’t measure good and bad feelings, policymakers need to rely on what people spend their money on to tell them what makes people happy.

Now, scientists have studied human wellbeing, health, and happiness, and they’ve discovered two things: First, is that peoples’ self-reports on their own happiness correspond to physiological states in the human body as well as public health outcomes; Second, we can correlate these self-reports with all kinds of economic, societal, environmental, and health, contributors. So we now have the tools to move on from this simplistic idea of what it is to succeed as a society.

Another element driving new economies is that we are starting to measure things that really matter. We used to measure GDP, or products moved, or vehicle speeds on our streets; now, policy makers and the rest of us are considering things like life satisfaction, job satisfaction, health outcomes, and the most important ingredient of human happiness, resilience, and productivity, which is social trust.

Social trust is the most powerful ingredient of human happiness, but it is also a key driver of economic productivity, community resilience, and health outcomes.

Cumulatively, the previous two points add up to this one – new economies are social and collaborative, rather than individualistic and proprietary. This acknowledges that the most powerful driver of human happiness is social relationships. It is positive relationships along with social trust together that keep our communities resilient, healthy, and wealthy. These relationships also drive our economy.

How do we work toward fostering these types of genuine social relationships?

The most powerful tool for fostering social trust is the face-to-face encounter. So, while the internet and social media have been helpful in creating and broadening our social networks and in building useful connections, psychologists are finding that online connections are almost never as deep, honest, supportive, and trusting, as those that happen in person.

How does this relate to cities?

This is why the way we design our cities is so important. Cities mediate all of our relationships. We spent the better part of a century building cities that disperse people and destinations far away from each other. Now we know that this dispersal corrodes what geographers call social interaction potential, which is the ability for people to meet face-to-face. Fortunately, we’ve started to embrace complexity and connectivity in our cities. We’re recognizing that the mixed-use, walkable, connected, neighbourhood is not just a healthier place, but also a more social place, and a more creative and economically productive place.

Should we try to measure happiness? If so, how?

This is the great challenge. We have to avoid the trap that the high modernists fell into a century ago. We cannot rely on one measurement of success. It is tempting to want to use one survey question, such as a question about subjective wellbeing, like “how happy are you?” as the measurement of success of any initiative or place.

While we can learn from these surveys, we must not use any one measure to guide us, because human well-being is as complex and layered and multidimensional as our cities themselves. What we have done with Happy City is to draw lessons from all of the social sciences, and from great cities around the world, and then empower people at the local level to use those tools and create places that meet their needs, and are inspired by their own hyperlocal, complex, organic, nuanced, version of the Happy City.

For example, my team and I worked with the citizens of Mexico City to do a Happy Neighbourhood Audit of a contested neighbourhood called Doctores, and the participants stopped us part way through the process, and told us that our model needed a serious tweak to work in Mexico. We asked what they meant, and they pointed out that on our happiness framework we use in Canada, we don’t emphasize safety and security. In Canadian cities, security is no longer people’s first concern. But in Mexico, security is everything. It consumes people’s nights, days, and political passions. It shapes their worldview. Interestingly, while they were driven by a concern for security, they still suggested the same sidewalks, streets, parks, and interventions that we heard from Canadian, American, and European participants. There are some things that are always part of the conversation, but the local context matters. They taught us that no matter how robust a theoretical model may be, the local experience always trumps the global approach.

What does "real wealth" mean to you?

This is a question one has to take personally. I would say that real wealth means I have what I need to stay strong, connected, and challenged, while thriving. The foundation of that, is always going to be my relationships with other people.

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Charles Montgomery is an author, urbanist and creator of transformative conversations about wellbeing in cities. His award-winning book, Happy City, examines the intersection between urban design and the emerging science of happiness. Collaborating with the Guggenheim Museum and other entities, Montgomery has created experiments and design methods that help participants alter their relationships with their cities, and with each other. His writings on urban planning, psychology, culture and history have appeared in magazines and journals on three continents. Among his numerous awards is a Citation of Merit from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for outstanding contribution towards understanding of climate change science. He lives in Vancouver and Mexico City. Learn more at www.thehappycity.com.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, paces, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

Voices of New Economies: Alex Wood

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Voices of New Economies - An Interview with Alex Wood
By Alicia Tallack

For Alex Wood, Senior Director, Policy and Markets at Sustainable Prosperity, the concept of new economies is directly aligned with that of green economies.

AlexWoodheadshotCurrently, Alex is working on the Sustainable Prosperity Framework project. Focusing on the three pillars of environment, economy, and society, the Framework is designed to create a new vision for what a sustainable, competitive Canadian economy might look like in the coming years. That vision, which will be developed with leaders from business, civil society, and academia will form the basis of a sophisticated communications effort that will engage and inspire Canadians. 

What are the key elements of "new economies"? 

The Sustainable Prosperity Framework will focus on three elements:

  1. Sustainable – When defining green or new economies, there is a tendency to emphasize new forms of economic development and new sectors that have a lighter footprint. Our take on this, is that the definition can and should be recognized in the Canadian context, but we also need to bring in the ‘brown’ (non-sustainable) models of industry in our economy, to shape their future in a way that lightens their footprint. This is about how and who you engage, and why. We find a negative reaction when we discuss sustainability in traditional sectors of our economy (especially the extractive sectors), so we need a definition that includes these sectors and defines for them the opportunity that a more sustainable and competitive economy presents.. We want to focus on building out the greenest green, and engaging the “brown” green, to see how they can all contribute to our long-term sustainability.
  1. Competitive – This tracks closely with the sustainability point, which looks at how we build an economy on the back of a growing greenest green sector. If we’re going to continue to extract resources and use our natural capital, how do we do that in a way that sets us up for long-term competitiveness? A focus on sustainability in those sectors that is driven by innovation, that improves our competitiveness globally, and create solutions that then drive sustainability is important. As they focus on their models and solutions, they become more competitive. Sustainability then makes a business case because it can be competitive.
  1. Inclusive – We wrote our green economy white paper 2 years ago, and since then, there has been an increased focus on the social dimension of the green economy in global discussions. The basic assumption is that even if you choose to green your economy, there are choices that promote better social outcomes versus other options. Social outcomes such as economic opportunity, inclusivity, and improved economic benefits for aboriginal communities are all critical. The steps that Canada takes to create a sustainable economy can’t lead to worse social outcomes. The policies and solutions in the green economy must have concern around social issues embedded in them.

How does this relate to cities?

Our framework project will have a substantial component focused on cities. There will be three likely elements to this: cities, innovation, and investment. When it comes to cities, you have a platform that allows you to integrate policies, public, and private sectors. This is a huge opportunity – cities give us a platform on which we can say look at this city, its infrastructure, transportation, natural capital, etc., and think about how you can transform this into something more sustainable. The other dimension of this, of course, is that over 80% of Canadians live in an urban setting. So engaging Canadians in a positive, affirmative, our discussion of the green economy needs to describe what that looks like in an urban setting.

What happens in cities is what will determine the course of our sustainable economy.

What is your perspective on the recently launched Ecofiscal Commission?

There is a personal thread running through Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission for me, which dates back to work that I did 10 years ago on the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, as the project I managed was on ecofiscal reform in Canada. I worked on that for four years, and it had some profile and success, but the Ecofiscal Commission has really taken that discussion to a completely different level. This is important, because it points out the significance of communications around this. We have known for some time the economic and environmental arguments for ecofiscal reform, but coming from “us”, it hasn’t always translated the way it is now. When it comes to shaping economic decisions, people with backgrounds like mine (coming from the environmental side with an economic background) need additional voices of support in making the economic case. So the Ecofiscal Commission is a very exciting opportunity to do just that.

What does real wealth mean to you?

The word “wealth” provokes a personal response, and makes me think about a holistic definition of wealth, not just the economic part. Most of the time, my default is to think on the macro level, and to think of what wealth is in Canada. Often, we communicate about this based on concepts that are not well grounded, and that are hard to base in personal experience. As an economist, I’ve got a set definition of what wealth is; but as a human being, I’ve got a broader definition. For me, that definition is rooted in a set of experiences and a set of values that shape our experiences and our choices all contribute to this.

Real wealth is about a more holistic definition of a well-lived life.

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Alexander Wood is one of Canada’s leading experts on the green economy.  Alex has over twenty years’ experience working at the interface of the environment and the economy, with a particular focus on the development of market-based policies that contribute to a sustainable economy.  He has worked in the non-profit (WWF), public (NRTEE), private (TD Bank Financial Group), and is now Senior Director, Policy and Markets at Sustainable Prosperity. Alex is a graduate of the University of Toronto (B.A.) and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (M.A.)

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks. 

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops. 

Voices of New Economies: Pallavi Roy

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New Economies and the Energy Sector
By Pallavi Roy

PallaviRoyKey elements of new economies include:

  1. Resourcefulness: Utilising unused resources, seeing opportunity in what was traditionally considered waste
  2. Disruption: breaking down the old and creating better brighter solutions
  3. Increased citizen engagement, participation and access

Energy sector and the collaborative economy

Decision-making in both public and private sectors has moved in recent years to ensure the inclusion of a variety of stakeholders. As Arnesteine said in her 1969 paper, ladders of citizen power “Citizen participation is citizen power”. This shift in attitudes towards citizen participation has been characterized as a rejection of the top-down policymaking approach: “Sustainable development cannot be imposed from above. It will not take root unless people across the country are actively engaged.”

Collaboratively owned and managed energy projects represent the highest rung of citizen control and an important stakeholder serving as the voice for citizen mandate. While the conventional system of energy provision usually involves highly centralised energy infrastructures with end of the line dependent consumers, locally and cooperatively owned facilities for energy production can constitute a substantially differing model of energy provision and distribution.

This empowers its members to become producers, and to not just be traditional consumers. Recently, liberalisation of energy markets as well as feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from renewable sources introduced in several countries has opened up new actor roles and markets accessible to citizen groups. With the possibility to sell their electricity to the grid as independent producers or even to act as utility companies selling directly to customers, collaboratively owned energy projects are becoming market actors in their own right.

As someone coming from India, energy has always been an issue of prime importance and concern. Millions of people still don’t have access to regular and assured supply of electricity and cheap assured supply is a frequent election campaign promise. Traditionally the burden of providing electricity and power supply is rested on the government, who has not been doing a great job of it. The idea of consumers owning their energy supply, having a say in the choice of energy source and management of facilities is quite liberating.

Cities and energy and new economies

New economies are exciting prospects for cities, to re-define and re-develop ourselves in the face of different challenges. Estimates suggest that hundreds of million people will be added to urban populations over the next 10 years, leading to major demands on resources, particularly energy. Thus, smart city designs equipped to handle the demands of increased urbanization need to be built. Energy security is of prime importance and plays a significant role in the urban landscape, as cities are heavily dependent on assured supply of energy for development. Energy sector, which has traditionally been highly controlled, has immense potential to be revolutionised through new economic practices.

New economic practices in the energy sector have the following potential impact on cities:

  1. Increasing the renewable energy sources in the energy mix thus reducing GHG emissions
  2. Moving towards an energy supply that is more assured yet not fossil fuel based
  3. Increasing citizen participation in energy planning and policies
  4. Creating more resilient cities and communities

Real wealth

Real wealth means the understanding that growth for the sake of it is undesirable and that a triple bottom line approach is more beneficial in the long run. Real wealth means not falling in the trap of consumerism and competition. On a personal level real wealth indicates the ability to have a fulfilling life, one with choices and the ability to make informed decisions.

Related links:

A ladder of citizen participation.Strategies for sustainability: citizens and responsible environmental behaviour.Understanding smart cities

The role of public participation in identifying stakeholder synergies in wind power project development: The case study of Ontario, Canada

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Pallavi Roy is a recent graduate from Ryerson University with a Masters in Environmental applied science and management. She is currently working at CultureLink Settlement Services as a Metcalf Sustainability Intern. Her project aims to bring an environmental focus to settlement work, thus making the environmental movement more inclusive for newcomers, and the settlement sector greener. Pallavi is an environmental researcher and community activist with interests in sustainability, energy policy and community engagement. She is passionate about sustainability issues of urban life and is active in the community promoting adoption of sustainable lifestyle choices. Her previous work experience includes various not-for-profit organisations in Toronto, such as Jane’s Walk, Toronto Green Community, Foodshare, and The David Suzuki Foundation.

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

Voices of New Economies: Mike Sandmel

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This blog is part of the 'Voices of New Economies' series within Cities for People - an experiment in advancing the movement toward urban resilience and livability through connecting innovation networks.

The Voices of New Economies series is collectively curated by One Earth and The Canadian CED Network.

This series is an exploration of what it takes to build the economies we need - ones that work for people, places, and the planet. We are connecting key actors, finding patterns, noting interesting differences, and highlighting key concepts and initiatives. Together, this series offers insights into the new economies movement as it develops.

What do we mean by "The New Economy" and what does it have to do with cities?

By Mike Sandmel MikeSandmel

It's important to be clear about the language we're using. Certainly there are new economic arrangements being formed in various places and at various scales, and those innovations are important to think about as we imagine the future economy. But when we talk about the "New Economy," we're talking about the next political and economic systems that we need to build to displace the dominant economic paradigm (a.k.a. corporatism, capitalism, neoliberalism... depending on who you're talking to) that is driving inequality, instability, and and ecological crisis worldwide. And we're trying to have that conversation in the context of social movement and economic history.

Key principles of the New Economy

As a network, New Economy Coalition is interested in pragmatic experimentation and is open to a range of perspectives when it comes to the details of exactly how such a system would work, but we're also united by some strong underlying principles.

  • We believe the New Economy needs to be restorative to people, place, and planet. That means getting beyond the kind of thinking that says we can grow our way out of problems at the expense of the natural capital and social capital on which our communities and our society depend.
  • We also believe the New Economy should operate according to principles of democracy, justice and appropriate scale. This means reclaiming the concept of the common good and introducing democracy into economic life from the local to the global, rather than concentrating power in the hands of political or corporate elites.
  • Finally, we believe in a just transition, which means we can't get to the New Economy we need without centering the leadership, needs, and vision of those who have been marginalized by the current extractive economy.

When we apply that lens to the real world, and look at the kinds of work that our members are doing, we see that the individual practices in the New Economy -- things like cooperation, democratic management of the commons, and more holistic views of wealth -- are not actually new at all. Yes, people are using technologies and legal innovations to make this stuff accessible to new audiences but ultimately we're building on practices that have been used by marginalized people for centuries as a means of survival and it's important to honor that.

How does this relate to cities?

Cities are, in so many cases, the fertile ground where seeds of a New Economy are starting to sprout. Here in the US, our federal government hasn't exactly built much of a reputation for being able to do bold and innovative things lately. On the other hand, we've been seeing really exciting developments in cities across the country. We often point to the impressive Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, which are certainly worthy of the attention that they get but there's so much more happening. In Boston, where our main office is located, we've seen an incredible ecosystem of organizations in low-income communities come together to build a growing, affordable, largely community-owned sustainable food economy. In the capitol of Mississippi, Cooperation Jackson made community wealth building the defining issue of their mayoral campaign and are continuing to lead the charge.

In Buffalo New York, community organizers are engaged in a sophisticated campaign to redevelop their neighborhood while creating living wage jobs and building green permanently-affordable housing. In the city of Boulder, Colorado, campaigners recently won a huge victory driving out a private-utility owned coal plant and replacing it with a new green municipal energy utility.  The city of Chattanooga, in Tennessee, is now home to the nation's fastest internet speeds thanks to a municipally owned broadband network.

These are just a few of the more dramatic examples. We're also seeing major cities raising their minimum wages, divesting their pensions funds from the fossil fuel industry, investing in co-ops and community ownership, embracing participatory budgeting, and much much more.

To talk about system change and building a New Economy in the face of the stagnation and regression of our national politics may seem naive.  However, to call for anything less than system change in the face of urgent and growing social and ecological injustice would be insufficient. I'd argue that this is all the more reason to look toward cities as a critical place where radical demands can be met with pragmatic and transformative possibilities.

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Mike Sandmel is the Manager of Coalition Engagement for the New Economy Coalition. Raised by politically active Unitarian Universalists, Mike began organizing as a high school freshman working on a successful town wide living wage campaign. He graduated magna cum laude from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study with an interdisciplinary BA in ecology and economics. He founded and managed the NYU Bike Share, the first ever bike-sharing program in New York City. He was a 2011 Morris K. Udall Scholar, an exchange student in political economy and economic history at Stockholm University, and authored an honors thesis entitled "Populism In The Anthropocene: A Study of Climate Change Politics at Occupy Wall Street.” He has served for two years on the steering committee of SustainUS, a youth-run NGO that advocates for sustainable development at the UN level. He has taken part in delegations to UN negotiations in Rio de Janeiro and Doha. His writing has appeared in Grist, Common Dreams, Waging Nonviolence, Nation Of Change, N+1, and Alternet as well as Andrew Revkin's "Dot Earth" blog for the New York Times.

 

Why Cities Can (and Should) Lead the Sustainable Consumption Movement

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 From October 29 – November 1, 2014, researchers, policy experts, municipal governments, and NGO representatives from across North America gathered in the host city of Eugene, Oregon at a workshop sponsored by The Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI) and the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network (USDN).

The Role of Cities in Advancing Sustainable Consumptionworkshop was a unique opportunity to examine what action cities can take to promote sustainable consumption at the community scale. The workshop was attended by Vanessa Timmer, Bill Rees, Jennie Moore, and Rosemary Cooper on behalf of One Earth / Cities for People who also participated in early design of this workshop and are active in the follow-up documentation and working group. The workshop idea originated at the meeting of the North American Roundtable on Sustainable Production and Consumption (NARSPAC).

Further details (including the workshop agenda, list of participants, and selected presentation slides) are available here on the City of Eugene’s workshop.

SCORAI posted an overview of the workshop and links to the videos on their website here.

The recording of a follow-up webinar organized by the West Coast Climate and Materials Management Forum is available here.

Videos of all the key presentations and plenary sessions can be found here.

The following article is from our friends at Shareable.net; the original can be found here.

Why Cities Can (and Should) Lead the Sustainable Consumption Movement
By Cat Johnson – originally 9 December 2014

Cities may be our best hope for making meaningful progress in the area of sustainability. Cities are where most people live, they're more nimble than national governments, and there's a more direct connection between city officials and citizens. When it comes to moving ahead with sustainable consumption, cities could be a driving force.

In October, sustainable consumption experts gathered at The Role of Cities in Advancing Sustainable Consumption workshop in Eugene, Oregon to explore this possibility. Hosted by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI), and the city of Eugene, the workshop brought together city sustainability staff, academics, and NGO representatives (including Shareable's Neal Gorenflo) from around the United States. The Eugene event was the first of its kind and an important step in starting the conversation about the role cities play in sustainable consumption.

Last week, several workshop attendees participated in a webinar discussing their takeaways from the event. Webinar panelists included Babe O'Sullivan from the City of Eugene; Maurie Cohen from SCORAI; Brenda Nations from USDN; and Terry Moore from ECONorthwest. The webinar distilled a thought-provoking event showcasing many different perspectives down to its essence. What follows is a summary of lessons learned.

What’s the Problem?
The problems caused by over-consumption include natural resource depletion, unhappiness, growing inequality, and climate change.

The starting point is this basic fact -- the growth imperative of our economic system is fundamentally at odds with our finite natural systems. We need to refocus on individual, family, and community well-being and spread the message that sustainable consumption does not mean going without. Rather, it means better quality of life for everyone. To address inequality, we need to shape the economy for more equitable access to resources.

We need to rethink government’s influence on consumption. A growing economy is seen as a healthy economy and governments support economic growth. Shifting to sustainable consumption is seen as a threat to local business.

To move forward in meaningful ways, we need more data, measurable goals, and outcomes around sustainable consumption. Cities can be, and in some areas already are, leaders in sustainability as they are able to produce on the ground results. But there is a lack of tested practice. There needs to be cross-sector research and support for local action to find effective leverage points.

Phrasing
A challenge the sustainable consumption movement faces is in the phrasing. What’s the definition of sustainable consumption? What is sustainable? What's wrong with consumption? We need to get clear with what it is we’re talking about. How will we know if it’s sustainable?

Which part of consumption are we trying to get rid of? At the workshop it was suggested that we create a one-sentence description of sustainable consumption, such as: Creating human and ecological well-being by transforming the economy so that it serves what we value.

The Role of Cities
Cities are positioned to make systemic change through policy around housing, economic development, wage and worker issues, institutional purchasing and more. They can frame sustainable consumption for a local audience, create balanced and proactive regulatory mechanisms around the sharing economy (which means not getting caught up in debates about Airbnb and Uber but seeing the bigger picture of the sharing economy as a tool to create healthy communities and environments). What’s the significance and role of the sharing economy and maker movement in sustainable consumption? Cities provide countless opportunities for grassroots sustainability and sharing initiatives.

We can conceptualize cities as metabolic systems that assimilate resources, process them in various ways, and then expel byproducts and other wastes—and create policies from that perspective. We need to look at the ecological footprint of cities. Even Vancouver, which we consider one of our most sustainable cities, is at more than twice the per capita biocapacity.

Sustainable consumption is at the heart of the challenge of city governance. City governments have long been about creating well-being for their constituents through ensuring public safety and public health. They go about these tasks under the umbrella of upholding public welfare

Some think sustainable consumption is something city governments should not be involved in, but city governments have been involved with all kinds of public well-being and regulatory activities for a long time.

Picking Up the Pace
The US is behind in the sustainability movement. In Europe, they are creating national sustainable consumption plans. In the US, developments on this front have been slow in coming. Reduced, or even different, consumption practices raise anxieties about economic growth and the maintenance of preferred lifestyles.

Beyond Tech
Sufficient progress limiting greenhouse emissions and addressing other sustainability challenges cannot be achieved on the basis of technology alone. Singular reliance on technology deployment has numerous consequences in the form of rebound effects and other unanticipated side-effects. We need to begin to consider absolute reductions in resource utilization from a system perspective focused on different consumption domains (food and food waste, energy, transportation).

An Economist’s Perspective
We tend to discount the future too much in economics. By making short run solutions we don't give enough scope to long run systems. Environmental abundance allows relief from external costs, but that’s changing. A growing population, plus growing average per capita consumption, means total consumption is going up and we have a problem.

When things get unstable, efficiency is not the greatest idea. We need to slow down and think about what obstacles are out there. Simplification and redundancy is what gives resilience, and that is not the same as efficiency.

We are not at the whim of markets. We can set the rules for markets. We can make the market serve what we value. It’s about making markets pay attention to full, long-run costs.

Facing Facts
Bringing our consumption practices into the sunlight creates difficult political obstacles. We need to put on the table what those obstacles are and not sugar coat them or sidestep them.

Sustainable consumption is one of the more important tasks that city governments should be working on. We’re not going to make significant progress if we stay on “soft” solutions such as green consumption. Most of us would acknowledge that consumption is the gorilla in the room and we have to get serious in achieving real, meaningful reduction.

Next Steps From the Workshop
Participants are creating a one-page summary tentatively called the Eugene Memo. This will be a guide for how to best frame the issues for local leaders. It will list opportunities for sustainable purchasing research, provide literature review on key drivers for city strategy, and offer research proposals such as the negative effect of regulations banning clotheslines.

Sustainability experts and officials need to create a toolkit to filter and prioritize the most important actions that would have the biggest impact; and there needs to be cross-sector work between researchers and agencies.

Big Picture Perspective
We, as consumers and business owners, take a short run perspective There’s a difference between consumption and investment and we need to start doing more investment. We also need to deal with social fairness. Normal market vaguaries make some people winners and some people losers. Under this model, the distribution of resources will become more and more unbalanced. It will create a social unrest that will manifest in a number of ways.

Flip the Script
To engage stakeholders at the local government level we need to stress the idea of well-being. It’s an effective way to educate people about the effects of their lifestyle and buying habits. It’s not about deprivation or going without, but understanding what it is to have enough. It’s important to have optimism and focus on the positive changes we want to see.

After the basics (shelter, clothing, food, water) are covered, well-being is less dependent on material goods. This needs to be a central part of the sustainable consumption movement. As Terry Moore explained during the webinar, “After the conference, I didn’t talk about sustainable consumption. Instead, I said, ‘Living my life in a way that will be better for me, my family, my community and my planet.’”

Photo credit: SCORAI

Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

Caring Economy Webinars with Riane Eisler – 14 & 22 Jan 2015

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Learn about the Caring Economy movement: On January 14, 2015 for The Caring Economy Starter Course and on January 22, 2015 for Counting Care In: An Introduction to Social Wealth Economic Indicators.

We all know the profound impact that care and care giving work have on human development and well-being, but in order to shift our patterns of investment, we must also be able to show the value of care in economic terms.

The Caring Economy Starter Course is a free 60 minute webinar with Riane Eisler that introduces the Caring Economy Campaign and shows how you can be a part of a growing movement to finally make visible the dollars-and-cents value of the work of care and caregiving that forms the essential foundation of our collective prosperity.
REGISTER

Counting Care In is a free 60 minute introduction to Social Wealth Economic Indicators  - new measures of prosperity that highlight the economic value of social well being and high quality human capital.

The SWEIS provide business and policy leaders a powerful new tool to support them in building a more equitable and sustainable economy.  Find out how SWEIs provide the evidence-base you need to make the case for caring policies such as paid parental and sick leave, caregiver tax credits, better pay for care workers and educators, and increased investment in early childhood care and education.
REGISTER

Questions? Please email Ann at annamberg.cps@gmail.com
Download the flyer

Shaping a New Narrative for a New Economy – Webinar Dec 8

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December 8, 2014, 11:30am – 1:00pm (PST)

What role does narrative play in shaping economic life? How must the current narrative change if we are to have a viable human future and an economy that works for all, including Living Earth our home and source of nurture? What will it take to discover and establish a new narrative in the public mind? If this is an exploration you are interested in please join us!

You are invited to join a MaestroConference conversation with two visionary thinkers, David Korten and Otto Scharmer, whose current books challenge the foundational assumptions of established economic thought and call for a dramatic restructuring of our economic narrative and institutions. (All you will need is your phone to join this conversation. You will not need to be on a computer!)

The conversation will be hosted by master convener and gifted facilitator, Charles Holmes. Attendees on the call will have a chance to discuss their views in small groups and field questions to David and Otto.

While there is no charge for this December 8 web event, registration is required for access to the conference line.

Click here to register

Vancouver Climate Risk Forum – Dec 5

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On December 5th, the Vancouver Climate Risk Forum will build on similar events hosted in Seattle, Boston, and San Francisco, and bring together local leaders and investment professionals to talk about the impact of climate risk on our pensions, cities, foundations, churches, and other public institutions.

Scientists and organizations like the International Energy Agency are warning investors that most fossil fuel reserves need to stay buried if we hope to avoid the worst effects of global warming. At the same time, more than a trillion dollars a year over the next 36 years must be invested in clean energy if we hope to limit warming to two degrees Celsius.

The Vancouver Climate Risk Forum looks to accelerate this transition to a safer, cleaner economy by supporting local institutional investors looking to manage climate risk and engage with companies to improve their practices on clean energy and carbon.

The forum consists of a daytime program tailored to investment professionals and decision makers, as well as a free public panel in the evening, with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn as the keynote speaker.

Register to attend the Vancouver Climate Risk Forum
RSVP for the evening
public leadership keynote

To learn more, visit:  http://www.vancouverclimaterisk.ca/