The Challenge

Current global economic models threaten basic human needs, social equity, and the life support systems of the planet. Critics of these models often promote sustainability solutions that focus on greening existing economies. These strategies are winning some battles, yet ultimately losing the fight to create economic and social prosperity within planetary boundaries. The challenge for policy makers and citizens, alike, is to rethink our approach to the economy to yield a more enduring prosperity.


Economic models that work  for more people, within planetary boundaries

Rethinking Prosperity is a civic engagement project to identify and communicate economic models that work for more people, within planetary boundaries. We explore new ideas and effective communication strategies through learning communities that bridge the classroom, research, and civic arenas. We track local, national and global conversations about prosperity driven by sustainable and equitable economics. The goal is to enable stakeholders, from citizens to policymakers, to find common ground, develop strategies, and take action on economic ideas for sustainable societies.
  • Searching for Promising Ideas
  • Finding Practices That Work
  • Developing Communication Models
NEXT EVENT: Richard Wolff on Economic Justice, Sustainability & Transition Beyond Capitalism
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Video Poster



Rethinking Prosperity identifies and communicates about economic models in two streams:  1) Yesterday’s Prosperity and 2) Prosperity Today, Prosperity Tomorrow.  Within these streams we explore the fundamentals of economic systems, specifically: production (including natural resources/energy, labor/jobs, and capital/finance), distribution (including  politics, ownership, equity etc.), and consumption (including income, wealth, waste, etc.). We add a third, and overarching fundamental, purpose, recognizing that Yesterday’s Prosperity failed to ask the most important question and because true prosperity requires engaged citizens defining purpose at every step.

Yesterday’s Prosperity

Prosperity Today,
Prosperity Tomorrow



The Conversation Online

The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE) at the University of Washington, Seattle is uniquely positioned to integrate the core elements of learning, research, and public service that define this program.  Our Faculty, Student, and Community Team led by CCCE Director Lance Bennett, have the expertise to communicate new ideas effectively, and our network of advisers and fellows ground and inform our work.  These partnerships and projects, from local to international aim to build civic capacity and create a new generation of change agents.


  • Testimonial

    Lance Bennett

    Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, Professor of Political Science & Communication

    About Lance Bennett

    Lance Bennett received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1974, and has taught since then at the University of Washington. He is the Director of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication. Bennett has lectured internationally on the importance of media and information systems in civic life. His current research interests include: press-government relations and the quality of public information; communication and the organization of social movements; transnational activism; citizenship and youth civic engagement, digital media and political participation, and modeling the organization of technology enabled crowds.

  • Testimonial

    Deric Gruen

    Center for Communication & Civic Engagement Fellow

    About Deric Gruen

    Deric Gruen (MPA University of Washington) joined the team in 2014 as a Center for Communication & Civic Engagement Fellow.  He is the Rethinking Prosperity Project Manager.  Deric is a Fellow at the Sightline Institute and the Emerging Leaders in Energy and Environmental Policy network (ELEEP) a transatlantic program of Ecologic Institute and Atlantic Council. Deric was the Director of Sustainability for Bellevue College, winner of the national 2013 Climate Leadership Award, where he led campus, curricular, and community leadership initiatives.

  • Testimonial

    Caterina Rost

    Teaching & Research Assistant, Political Science

    About Caterina Rost

    Caterina Rost (M.A. University of Leipzig, M.A. University of Washington) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. Her dissertation compares the trajectory of the idea of sustainable development in the German and American policy discourse. In addition to having assisted Prof. Bennett in teaching the undergraduate lecture “Media, Society, and Political Identity” multiple times, she is centrally involved in organizing Rethinking Prosperity events and conducting research.

  • Testimonial

    John de Graaf

    Center for Communication & Civic Engagement Fellow

    About John de Graaf

    Author, filmmaker and Executive Director of Take Back Your Time ( Fifteen of his documentaries, including the popular special, AFFLUENZA, have been broadcast nationally on PBS. His books include the best-seller AFFLUENZA: THE ALL-CONSUMING EPIDEMIC, now in its third edition, and WHAT’S THE ECONOMY FOR, ANYWAY? His work and speaking engagements involve exploration of the intersection of happiness, work-life balance, consumerism, health and sustainability. He has taught at The Evergreen State College and helped develop the UW Summer School Class “What’s the Economy for, Anyway?” in 2007.He is a co-founder of The Happiness Initiative ( and recently served as an advisor to the government of Bhutan as it development its Gross National Happiness project proposal for the United Nations.


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