New Economy Working Group

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New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup) is an informal alliance of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) as an initial policy think tank partner, YES! magazine as an initial media partner, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) as an initial business network partner, and the PCDForum as an initial system design partner. The NEWGroup is co-chaired by John Cavanagh, IPS executive director, and David Korten, PCDForum president, YES! co-founder and board chair, BALLE board member, and IPS Associate Fellow. IPS serves as secretariat. Noel Ortega is the NEWGroup coordinator.

The NEWGroup was created as a forum in which to freely explore possibilities unbounded by established ideologies and conventional wisdom. The views and positions supported by NEWGroup do not necessarily represent the positions of individual participants or partner organizations.


The premise at the basis of the NEWGroup is that the economy is a means, not an end. Its proper purpose is to optimize the long-term health and well-being of those who depend on it for their livelihoods. Consistent with this premise, the NEWGroup envisions a healthy planetary system of cooperative, equitable, locally rooted, rule-based market economies.

Rooted in a system perspective, the NEWGroup defines three system conditions for living economies:

Ecological Balance: In the past 100 years, we humans have achieved a technological mastery beyond the imagination of previous generations. Yet, lacking in the wisdom of place and community that is the heritage of many indigenous peoples, the cultures we call mainstream have lost their way—forgetting the human place in nature and our dependence on the web of planetary life. To avoid the tragedy of leaving a ruined world to our children and grandchildren, we humans must reduce our aggregate consumption to bring it into balance with Earth’s biosphere and simultaneously act to heal and nurture Earth's regenerative systems.

Equitable Distribution: Social justice and fairness are foundational underpinnings of a good society. When wealth and income are highly concentrated, the majority of people are denied basic opportunities for personal and social development. A growing body of research evidence suggests that societies that share wealth and work equitably among all their members enjoy greater physical and emotional health, stronger families and communities, less violence, and healthier natural environments. They are as well more democratic and more resilient in the face of crisis. This is not a coincidence. A large wealth gap creates severe psychological and emotional stress and insecurity even for those at the top. Sharing prosperity brings greater health and happiness for all.

Living Democracy: Living democracy is true popular sovereignty—government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is the very opposite of corpratocracy and plutocracy. Most concretely, it is a daily practice of civic engagement through which popular sovereignty finds expression as part of the essential fabric of community life. It celebrates and affirms diversity, cooperation, and local decision making within a framework of individual rights, community responsibility, democratically determined rules, and mutual accountability.

Mission and Strategy

The mission of the New Economy Working Group is to support the articulation and popularization of a bold, coherent, holistic, compelling, and accessible vision of unrealized economic possibility. It thrives to make the necessary feasible. This depends on the work of multiple organizations and people around the world that are already self-organizing to:

Change the cultural story that frames the economic debate: We humans live by the stories that define our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our individual and species possibilities. The greatest barrier to the needed change is a false story that there is no viable alternative to the economic and political systems now in place. This story is being challenged through the efforts of the many groups that are engaged in popular education and media outreach efforts that are communicating a new vision of human possibility.

Create a new economic reality by building a new economy from the bottom up: The most compelling argument for an alternative path is a practical demonstration. The voice of the people is expressed most powerfully by acting to create a new reality from the bottom up. This is the work of countless groups engaged in rebuilding values-based Main Street economies of locally owned human-scale enterprises devoted to serving the needs of people, community, and nature.

Change the rules of the game: Current public rules and policies favor Wall Street interests over Main Street interests. Rules made by humans can be changed by humans. Indeed, it is our democratic right and responsibility to assure that public law and policy secure both our individual rights and our individual and collective well-being. The clearer the vision of the world we seek, the greater the ability of the many progressive groups working on policy change to prioritize policy changes that move the system toward that vision.

Working Clusters

The work of the New Economy Working Group is segmented into nine interrelated action clusters.

Here is the list of the clusters, with the issues that pitches them:

  • New Economy Story

Articulate and popularize a new cultural story of the possibility and potential of living economies that support a healthy biosphere, a prosperous and meaningful life for all people, and vibrant, democratic communities of place. We humans live by the stories that shape our shared understanding of our human possibilities. To change the human future, change stories that frame our collective action.

  • Living Wealth Indicators

Replace GDP, stock indices, and other purely financial indicators by which we currently evaluate economic performance with indicators of human health, social well-being, and ecological integrity. Concurrently identify and eliminate system characteristics that create an imperative for endless economic expansion. We get what we measure, so measure what we want.

  • Living Wealth Money System

Democratize the money system to root the power to create and allocate money in people and democratically governed communities of place. Money is an accounting chit that shapes the resource allocation decisions of human societies. Those who control its creation and allocation control the society, so place that power in the hands of those who have a natural interest in using it to link underutilized resources with priority needs to create living community wealth.

  • Shared Prosperity

Promote public values and policies that support an equitable distribution of money and real wealth to meet the needs of all. We all enjoy greater health, happiness, and security when we share resources equitably.

  • Living Entreprises

Promote a public culture and policies that favor locally owned, human-scale enterprises that are rooted in communities of place, work in harmony with natural systems, support vibrant community life, provide meaningful living-wage jobs, treat profit as a means rather than an end, and cooperate with like-minded businesses to create community wealth for all stakeholders. The purpose of business is to serve. The more fully an enterprise is rooted in the place where its owners, managers, employees, and customers live, the greater the natural incentive to create rather than to expropriate community wealth.

  • Real Democracy

Change the rules of the electoral system to replace the current political and economic plutocracy (one-dollar, one-vote rule by wealthy persons and powerful corporations) with a real democracy (one-person, one-vote rule by real living persons). Real democracy secures the right of all people, irrespective of financial means, to a voice in determining the rules that shape their lives.

  • Local Living Economies

Encourage and support local efforts to develop regionally self-reliant, energy efficient living economies that function as subsystems of their local and regional ecosystems. People with a sense of attachment to a living community of place have a natural interest in optimizing the long-term health and well-being of that community and its local ecosystem. As each community of place moves toward a balanced relationship with its local ecosystem, it contributes to moving the global economy toward a balanced relationship with Earth’s biosphere.

  • Global Rules

Support a transition to a global system of rules and institutions designed to act at the global level to ensure universal rights and protect the integrity of the biosphere and act at all levels to ensure that decisions are taken at the most local level feasible and that the rights of regions to pursue diverse paths are protected.

  • Peace Economy

Renounce war as an instrument of foreign policy, strive for regional and national self-reliance, and reallocate resources from maintaining instruments of war to meeting needs of all in ways that eliminate root causes of the violent competition for resources. In a world of scarce resources, war is unaffordable. When national economies are substantially self-reliant in their control and use of natural resources, it is unnecessary.