Our world is powered by ideas. The last 100 years have seen the rise and rise of the idea that ‘growing the economy’ is THE thing that politicians, businesses, and citizens (or consumers) need to focus on. Its success, I would argue, is largely about brilliant branding.
Those that have designed and sold our current ideas about the economy have singularly focused on one word – GROWTH. And what a word! It embodies everything that is healthy, forward looking, verdant and natural. Who wouldn’t want growth, and who would argue against going all out to achieve it forever? Like all good branding campaigns this ‘old’ economy has kept it simple and drilled it home.
As we move deeper into the 21st century, there are a growing number of voices questioning this very last century idea of economy. They point to the vast inequalities in how the benefits of the growth in wealth have been distributed. They highlight the unfathomable impact that exponential growth of consumption has had on our planet. They reflect on how almost nothing in nature keeps growing indefinitely, bar deeply destructive phenomena like cancer cells.
New solutions to these challenges, new ideas, models and tools are out there. Indeed my own organisation, Centre for Thriving Places has been developing such ideas and new ways of doing things for over a decade. Yet most of these ideas are still largely in the margins. Could this also be down to branding?
We in the ‘new’ economy do not collectively have ONE idea, one voice, one word, one rallying cry. From the Doughnut model to the UN’s sustainable development goals, from Extinction Rebellion and the climate crisis, to community wealth building, cooperative ownership and Future Generations legislation. There are ideas aplenty, but when faced with so many paths to choose from, it can simply be too easy to choose the well travelled path of driving GDP growth.
Is it time to take the EGO out of the new economics movement?
What all these ideas have in common is WAY more than what divides them. In one way or another they are all asking us to consider:
Are our investments, our decisions, our policies and plans, our projects and our busy-ness helping people, places and planet to thrive – now and for generations to come?
At CTP we constantly see the paralysis that this complexity of ideas is creating in towns, cities and communities across the UK and beyond. We have put down our interest in spreading ‘our model’. We are actively working with local governments, local communities, charities, funders and businesses to say ‘we don’t care what we call it, nor whether our branding is badged over the end result… we care that you embrace this new economic thinking, the ideas, the solutions, the new ways of driving for a better world, and we’ll help you adapt and adopt any of our work to fit with any or all of the other models’.
Whether it is the North of Tyne Combined Authority, whose wellbeing framework is powered by our data and research, but designed around Carnegie Trust UK’s SEED model. Or whether it is collaborating with the Future Generations Commission in Wales to make it easy for places across the principality to measure, understand and improve wellbeing for every citizen now and way into the future. We are partnering with CLES, NEF and CoopsUK to use our data tools to deliver their community wealth building models, collective ownership hubs and so much more.
So this is a rallying call. Let’s not fall into the old economy model of competition. Let’s bother less about whose ‘name’ is above the door when this change comes about.
Let’s learn from what worked for the old economy and keep it simple – let’s replace growth for growth’s sake with growing what matters, and make it easier for the trickle of change to turn into a tidal wave. Regardless of the idea that brings people to this new economy, the tools can be combined, adapted, adopted and embraced in every corner of this country.
Only together will we consign the ‘old’ economy, with all its destruction of lives and habitats, to history.
Liz Zeidler, Chief Executive, CTP
• To find out more about how CTP and many of our partners, such as WEAll and NEF have already helped design this future economy, with the tools and support in place to help deliver it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org