Mapping the transition to a new economy

Mapping the transition to a new economy

This bog first posted on New Start regeneration magazine. 

Recently New Start featured a blog championing a manifesto for local economies which covered many ideas of relevance to a new initiative, the Real Economy Lab, a collaborative investigation exploring and mind-mapping a practical, sustainable, equitable new economy as it unfolds around the globe.

Anyone following the kinds of themes covered by New Start will be aware of the increasing array of practitioners and thinkers working towards a new economic system and a more sustainable form of development and regeneration. Some of the most innovative things going on around the world in this space are happening in cities, often grassroots led and sometimes facilitated by enlightened local authorities.

From citizen-activists taking control of disused housing in east London, factories in Argentina or whole areas as with the Co-operativa Catalana Integral, participative budgeting in Paris and Porto Alegre, the Quebec Social Economy, Build the City, Transformap, the Commoning and Transition Towns networks, citizens are taking control and creating a new economy out of the ashes of the old.

As Professor Gar Alperovitz, a leading thinker and practitioner in this area, recently said: ‘Just below the surface of media attention literally thousands of grassroots institution-changing, wealth-democratising efforts have been quietly developing.’

Citizens are taking control and creating a new economy out of the ashes of the old

But despite all this great work going on around the world, it’s hard to see how this plethora of work fits together into a broader ecosystem, let alone a coherent progressive force pulling in the same direction. How do the ‘tribes’ within this ecosystem relate to each other? How does the practitioning link or not link to various schools of thinking about how a new economy could function?

Without such an understanding its perhaps no surprise that there is little in the way of a concerted progressive movement working together to create to new economy. There is a feeling that if we could all point in the same direction we might be able to do what the shock doctrine regressives did so successfully in ensuring neoliberalism succeeded for so long.

In this context, the Real Economy Lab is focused on helping emerging global movements working towards the development of a new economics to connect the dots and help ensure their impact can be greater than the sum of their parts.

Our first, and current task is to create a mind-map of the international new economy ecosystem. Funded by Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer and supported by Transition Netwiork and Nef, we are currently undertaking a survey of hundreds of ‘tribes’ around the world who are part of that new economy ecosystem. The survey will seek to understand how groups and organisations carrying out these efforts can be mapped, what their connections are, what matters to their work and how they trying to achieve their aims.

The aim of the lab is to build a participatory platform which provides a unifying picture of the projects, ideas, movements and networks offering viable alternatives to the faltering status quo, and to present this as a compelling case for wider strategic collaboration, coordination and support by all stakeholders.

The platform will be an evolving online ‘brain’ featuring what’s going on in the new economy world with dynamic infographic visualisations built by the Metamaps team in the US and the Real Economy Lab team in Bristol. Imagine an evolving multi-dimensional map of ideas, principles, practices, and locations of everything going on in the ‘new economy’ world. Imagine being able to user-generate idea-maps relevant to your own inquiries. Or being able to see where tribes stand on a set of core principles for the new economy.

These mind-maps might suggest areas where more emphasis or a change of direction might be needed by tribes or networks. And anyone will be able to interrogate the mind-map to see links or gaps in practice or thinking, differences of opinion, opportunities for collaboration and requirements for funding. The platform will also act as a hub for dialogue, debate and strategising across the new economy space with collaborative decision making software, blogs, wikis, webinars and a whole host of other features allowing ideas from across the new economy world.

The next phase of the Lab will be to launch the online platform and support the development of a convergence alliance of new economy thinkers and practitioners supported by a number of major international foundations that are now taking a keen interest in supporting new economy work.

We’ll be celebrating this new economy and regeneration phenomenon at a the US Better not More Edge Funders summit in Baltimore in April and at a major New Economy Summit we are running with Bristol Pound and Bristol’s Mayor George Ferguson in October as part of Bristol’s Green EU Capital 2015. More news to follow on that event soon.

You can read more at and contact Jules at

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