Solutions for Economics, Environment and Democracy

SEED

To address integrated and systemic issues in democracies, economies and the environment, Rethinking Prosperity is developing cross-boundary communities of knowledge that are more prepared to interface with democratic institutions, and to overcome political and economic barriers to moving to new systems.  We named this project SEED and what follows is a short description:

Problem statement:  Democratic failures, economic stagnation and inequity, and ecological collapse

Quality of life for growing numbers of people on the planet is threatened by a set of integrated, systemic problems in the economy, environment and democracy. But most parties and politicians continue to promote failed models based on growth at any cost, externalizing social and environmental burdens.

Vision:  New economic models for people and planet

Quality of life for growing numbers of people on the planet is threatened by a set of integrated, systemic problems in the economy, environment and democracy. But most parties and politicians continue to promote failed models based on growth at any cost, externalizing social and environmental burdens.

A small, distributed group of scholars and activists are starting to ask and answer tough questions, such as: what levels of economic production and consumption are realistic, and how can movements be more effective? They are developing ideas aimed at equity and quality of life, and levels of production and consumption that our planet can sustain.

Challenges:  Monopolized debate, isolated alternatives

Neoliberal market solutions dominate political conversations about economics, environment and democracy. These failed ideas and repeatedly aired fears stem from well-developed political networks across the globe that fill media spaces and advance bad policies that create economic and political turmoil. Meanwhile, democratic reform movements face resistance from established parties and interests, and fail to mobilize broader engagement among publics caught up in more immediate issues and economic crises. Despite incremental victories, the environmental movement continues to lose the fight for a more sustainable planet. The activists calling for changes in these areas of environment, economy or democracy too often operate in separate spheres, promoting reforms that fall short of systemic change.

Opportunity:  Connective Action

To address these integrated, systemic issues and overcome barriers to making change, we need to build cross-boundary communities of knowledge prepared to interface more effectively with democratic institutions.  Today, cutting edge progressive movements and parties are experimenting with the logic of connective action, using technology to flatten hierarchies and engage citizens in dialogue.  These large action networks often emerge as technology equipped Networkcrowds that occupy public spaces, but they tend to be chaotic and short lived.  Many NGOs are developing broad coalitions that engage large publics in various issue sectors. Connective communication networks are helping to organize the hybrid movement-parties that are emerging in nations as different as Denmark, Spain and Portugal. While efforts are filled with good ideas, they need to be better coordinated and scaled up.

Proposal:  Systems Thinking Meets Smart Political Organization

A key element currently missing from this political picture is a widely accessible information + action network for generating, sharing, and aligning ideas across issue sectors and diverse, geographically dispersed communities.  SEED will be a think-do network for economics, environment and democracy that uses information technologies to improve the scale and coordination of communication, public engagement, strategic action, and learning. This smart platform will connect an international network of thought leaders, advocates, and practitioners to share and assess ideas and action experiments operating in local, national and international arenas. The aim is to build creative visions, develop practices, assess successes and failures, and spread organizational models that interface effectively with democratic institutions.

 Impact

SEED will reshape political institutions and policies with democratic approaches that work for people.  It will engage democratic institutions and challenge the dominance of neoliberal, elitist, grow-at-all costs economics and politics, integrating and spreading ideas on economic, environmental and democratic systems that are fair, representative and sustainable.