Strategies for a New Economy Summit at Bard College
by Paul Kando
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – On June 8-10, 500 people attended the first-ever Strategies for a New Economy Summit on the Bard College campus here. Organizers called it a watershed moment in the shift toward supporting a new economic system that serves human well-being and operates within planetary limits. Hosted by the New Economics Institute (NEI), the conference mobilized a new movement by gathering thought leaders and practitioners to cross-pollinate ideas and actions across a multitude of existing initiatives — from worker-owned cooperatives to community-based currencies, local economies, living wages and more.
“Our current economy pits commerce against climate, but we are in the midst of a great transition, crowd-sourcing a new economic system that regenerates our environment and empowers people,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said in his keynote address Friday. On Saturday the crowd was treated to a concert and conversation by musician Peter Buffett, son of investor Warren Buffett and author of “Life is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path To Fulfillment.” Both keynote and concert were open to the public, which filled Bard’s ultramodern theater to capacity.
“It is a myth that we are stuck with this dysfunctional, growth-obsessed, too-big-to-fail economy. The truth is that we have all the tools we need to transform our economy into one that serves human and planetary well-being,” said Gus Speth, founder of the World Resources Institute, former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a NEI board member. He outlined 10 steps we can take now to build a new economy.
Other presenters included Heather McGhee, director of the Washington office of Demos; Rebecca Henderson, professor at Harvard Business School; Gar Alperovitz, political economy professor at the University of Maryland; Aisa Gravitz, executive director of Green America; Will Raap, founder and chairman of Gardener Supply; Michelle Long, executive director of BALLE; David Orr, distinguished professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College; journalists David Brancaccio (Public Broadcasting) and Andrew Revkin (New York Times); Bob Massie, president and CEO of NEI; Steward Wallis, president of the New Economy Foundation, London; Maria Mercedes Placencia, undersecretary of the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion of Ecuador; Rafael Betancourt, senior associate of the Canadian Urban Institute and professor at Havana Polytechnic Institute in Cuba; Robert Braun, president of the New Economics Forum in Budapest, Hungary; and many more.
The three-day event featured over 60 workshops and sessions organized around 10 thematic areas: Banking and Finance, Measuring Well-being, Messaging and Media, Responsive Government, Local Economies, Ownership and Work, Production and Consumption, Sharing the Commons, Transforming Money, and Vision and Modeling.
“The conference sold out six weeks in advance, a testament to the energy and enthusiasm around the New Economy movement,” said Bob Massie. “To meet the overwhelming demand to participate in this groundbreaking event, NEI decided to create a handful of ways people across the country and around the world could participate virtually.” Plenary sessions and selected workshops were webcast. Short interviews were conducted with key speakers throughout the conference. Resource pages, posted on NEI’s website, highlight the best research and best practices as background material on each of the 10 strategy themes, including videos of conference workshops and papers of the speakers. People not present could follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter as well.
The full conference agenda may be found at www.neweconomicsinstitute.org/conference. The resource pages, a treasure trove of information, including video presentations, may be accessed at www.neweconomicsinstitute.org/conference/resource/index.