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Initiating Dialogue on Complex Economic Issues

Last week, the staff at the  Schumacher Center for a New Economics’ New York City office returned to Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street has been based for over a month. We brought a selection of the thirty years of Annual E. F. Schumacher Lecture pamphlets to contribute to the growing OWS library on new economic issues.  And we had a chance to speak with participants.

As occupations spread across the country and world, those following reports are familiar with Occupy Wall Street’s democratic approach and reluctance to commit to an absolute set of demands or goals. The movement expresses a deep frustration with complex, systemic problems—rising inequality, lack of corporate accountability, social immobility, environmental degradation—problems not easily solved by one-step approaches. No clear leader is emerging to address these issues, no clear answer is before us, leaving us no clear picture for the future.

Indeed, Occupy Wall Street seems more like a call for dialogue then a push for specific change. Rather than advocating short-term, band-aid solutions, the occupiers are emphasizing the multitude of problems, the embedded and persistent nature of their existence, and the necessary patience, thoughtfulness, and discussion required to solve them.

Schumacher Center for a New Economics has long been engaged in this discussion. We are excited to continue this shared conversation at the Thirty-First Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures on November 5th in New York City. In addition to speakers Gar Alperovitz and Juliet Schor the event will include “Voices of Today’s Youth: Occupy Wall Street and Youth for a New Economy,” a panel comprised of Occupy Wall Street participants and other student activists.

In a recent working paper, panelists Charlie Maxwell Young and Rina Kuusipalo write:

To really get to the root of perhaps the most fundamental issue pulling the strings of all society’s efforts—finance—we must confront the concepts of money and banking not as something detached from activism, but as something we can radically transform to serve the real public interest and finance the transition to a more sustainable society. We need a framework for finance that is more diverse and plural, more stable as well as democratic, and promoting the flourishing of people.

Banking and financing is one of multiple topics that need to be explored in transitioning to a new/equitable/green/sustainable/resilient economy. Occupy Wall Street has garnered unprecedented attention to this and other economic issues. As the movement’s influence grows and develops, we are eager to see how the work of the  Schumacher Center for a New Economics can clarify and enhance that of Occupy Wall Street’s, and how Occupy Wall Street’s work can enhance ours.

“Strategies for a New Economy,” a conference planned for June 8-10, 2012, at Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York will be an occasion to shine a spotlight on many of the positive efforts underway to reshape our economic system.  Conference topics include:

  1.   Modeling the New Economy: Shared Prosperity within Planetary Limits
  2.   Measuring Well Being: Alternative Indicators of Wealth and Progress
  3.   Banking and Financing a New Economy: Scale, Criteria, Innovation
  4.   Re-building Local Economies:  Engines for Resilience
  5.   Re-imagining Ownership: Coops, Stakeholders, Corporate Structure
  6.  Transforming Money: Structuring, Issuing, and Valuing New Mediums of Exchange
  7.   Sharing the Commons: Identifying, Allocating, and Restoring
  8.   Messaging a New Economy: Education, Media, Public Campaigns
  9.   Forging Justice for All: Economic Security, Equity, and Jobs in the New Economy
  10.  Empowered Youth: Mandating a New Economy
  11.  Responsive Government for a New Economy: Politics as if People and Planet Mattered
  12.  Moving Beyond Consumerism: Plenitude, Sufficiency, and Mindful Consumption

Add your voice to the growing dialogue. Continue to create viable solutions region by region. And do mark your calendars for June 8-10, 2012.