(My column for July 2016 – in which I give myself a softball interview…)
Q. So, Skip, how was that “CommonBound” conference you told us about last month – the one about “new economics”?
A. Awesome! Fantastic!
Q. Lots of people?
A. Yes, a thousand or so registrants, with a very substantial proportion of young adults. I talked to a staffer from the New Economy Coalition, which sponsored the conference, and she said they had not anticipated such a strong response, so they were very pleased. I met folks from all over, as far away as Malaysia and Australia. There was also a broad range of classes and occupations represented, from forward-looking venture capitalists to community activists.
Q. What was your main “takeaway”?
A. A very strong sense that now is exactly the right historical moment for this kind of exploratory thinking, that the time is ripe for change. The old models don’t work anymore – we have new circumstances and challenges that Marx and Smith and the other classical economists and theorists couldn’t possibly have foreseen. So it was very reassuring to see that so many people have been thinking along the same lines that I have been, and coming up with similar conclusions.
Q. Any discussion of the American presidential race?
A. Not much that I heard – except to cite the situation as an illustration of the need and the desire for new alternatives. (Of course, there were plenty of t-shirts for Bernie Sanders to be seen.) In fact, now that I think about it, I saw surprisingly little focus on using government, legislation, or political policy as tools for economic change – the emphasis was definitely on grassroots, on-the-ground, practical actions, and on communities taking on more responsibility for their own well-being.
A lot of this community-based action, by the way, is taking place in rural areas. There was an entire track of workshops dedicated to “Building the New Economy in Red and Rural Communities,” and Appalachia as a region was well-represented. In one workshop, conducted by folks from the Highlander Center in Tennessee, I learned about a website called Beautiful Solutions (https://solutions.thischangeseverything.org/) that is a database of “new economy” ideas and programs, and it’s a delight to browse through.
Q. What was the best moment for you?
A. The final workshop that I attended was a conversation with David and Fran Korten. Fran is the publisher of the fabulously hope-giving magazine called YES!, and David is a best-selling author whose latest book is called Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth. Their work is the main reason that I got interested in this subject in the first place, and it was a special treat to be able to talk with them and express my appreciation personally.
David left us with a question to contemplate, and I’ll leave it here for you to think about as well:
“What is the story that you seek to change?”