On October 26th, fresh out of Living the New Economy, I had the distinct honour of speaking at Science World in Vancouver as part of TEDxKids@BC. The audience of 400 was a mix of children as young as 8 years old and a great deal of adults as well, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share why I thought that our economy (and world) would be much better off if only we retained more of our inherent childhood genius.
You can watch the video of my talk here, or read on below for a modified version of my talk geared to a somewhat more mature audience:
If you’ve grown up in the Western world, chances are you’ve played a game of Monopoly before.
I played a lot of Monopoly growing up. For me, Monopoly was more than just a game – it was one of the first life experiences that I ever had dealing with money – and I mean really dealing with it. Not merely getting the odd coin from the Tooth Fairy and using it to buy candy, but raking it in, investing it, speculating with it, winning it, tragically losing it, dominating with it and being dominated by it. It wasn’t real money, of course, but while playing the game it certainly felt real enough. I felt the dopamine hit when I passed Go and collected my $200, felt a rush of Schadenfreude whenever someone succumbed to my well-monopolised rental traps, and tasted the bitterness of injustice and loss whenever I in turn succumbed to the traps laid by my opponents.
During the In the Room sessions at Living the New Economy on October 16th and 20th, you may recall that at the centre of the circle, in addition to someone recording each session, was an artist busy capturing our conversations in words and pictures.
That amazing artist is Corrina Keeling - yes, the very same Corrina Keeling that sent shivers down our spines with her voice and guitar during the opening evening!
Placemaking workshop exercise: Portland Village Convergence (Photo: Sara Dent, Creative Commons)
It’s appropriate and exciting that the 2nd Annual Living the New Economy conference kicked of with two events featuring Portland place-maker, Mark Lakeman. It’s no coincidence that these workshops, and so many of the other LNE events, manage to tie together the themes of economy, public space (or the commons) and the idea of place. Indeed, public space, place and local economy are mutually enabling entities in any city.
Lakeman, who founded the Oregon’s famed City Repair group, has a keen eye and engaging mind when it comes to issues of public space and the practice of community engagement. His work brings an anthropological sensibility to ‘placemaking,’ infusing it with his study of other cultures and settlement patterns.’ (If you’re unfamiliar with the term, New York-based Project for Public Spaces describes placemaking as “both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region.” In practice, it’s about designing spaces - streets, blocks, intersections, squares - that are human-scale and people friendly).
The links between public space and economic activity are as old as cities themselves. On a macro level, the genesis of the earliest cities was coincident with the establishment of forms of economic specialization, the growth and expansion of trade networks, and fundamental changes in the way natural and social resources were utilized.
More specifically, patterns of urban form – the shape of settlements (be they villages, towns and cities) have, throughout the ages and across different cultures, reflected the prevailing economic realities of the time and place in question. In turn, these patterns have shaped the nature of economic activity – either possible or realized. It’s a relationship that is as present in ancient Mesopotamian cities, as it is any modern, highly-zoned metropolis.
This relationship is also manifest in the finer grain components of settlements as well, and in particular in the more visible and accessible parts of the city – namely its public spaces – its streets, squares and plazas.
The word ‘economy’ comes from the greek words Oikos and nomos – which, co-joined, became oikonomia, meaning ‘household management’. While we often hear references to maximizing profit and wealth in the context of “the economy”, originally the term was more grounded. It was about living within ones means, or about parsimony and thrift.
In a sense, the idea of a “new economy” – which is the premise of our Living the New Economy event – is about adding new energy to some of the older ideas of economy. As cycles go, we’re trying to reinvigorate age-old ways of thinking about managing resources, fostering exchange and enabling a form of sustainable prosperity for everyone… a prosperity that focuses on strengthening community and the planet.
This isn’t about a new age flight of fantasy though. Alternatives to the present economic system abound. They come from traditional practices of exchange, are alive and well within the co-operative movement, are active in the sharing economy, in crowd-funding, and in the notion of ethical investing (although this term sometimes gets used in a somewhat questionable fashion).
We recently asked a few self-described practitioners of “new economy” what the term meant to them, and why it was important. Here’s a few quotes:
It's about co-creativity, it's about community, it's about crowdsourcing models, new currencies and new ways of collaboration, utilizing our technology to harness a larger collective potential.
New Economy draws on the idea of co-creativity, which fosters abundance - since wealth is not only what you have, or will receive, it is what you are willing to give.
What is ethical capital? It’s social capital. Networks and connections. These are the ultimate renewable resource – and their use actually increases productivity and output.
But an economic system that’s better for people and the planet won’t just be about these ideas… it will be about your ideas as well. Come down to Granville Island between October 15 and October 20 to connect, collaborate and shape the New Economy. Join us for a ‘new’ marketplace full of dynamic speakers, workshops and opportunities for exchange!
Photos: Our sponsor MODO with one of their shared hybrid cars and bike racks. Car sharing fills a little niche in sustainable transportation systems. What do YOU share?
The Hackspace in Vancouver, which shares space, tools and know-how to put means of production into people's own hands.
During the City of Vancouver's year of reconciliation, have you heard about Indigenomics? It's First Nations' perspectives on the economy & business, based on concepts such as thinking 7 generations ahead. So essentially, it's (truly) sustainable and ecological economics.
Ashoka's Changemaker Showcase. Do we need alternative ways to create value for our communities? What do the new pathways look like? Listen to different perspectives on these questions and have a few drinks!
Friday, Oct 18
Pan-professional Forum creating statements of TRUTH for long term decision making at the policy level. This is serious business!
We've realized that this Vancouver event is not alone in its attempt to build momentum and create this groundswell of a movement towards an economy that works for us, humans; yup: that's an economy serving you & me.
October is shaping up to be the the single most intense month of organizing to accelerate the transition to a more positive and sustainable future in human history, both here in Vancouver and around the world. Read on for a taste of what else is happening this fall!
SFU Public Square: 100 Community Conversations on the future of the BC Economy, culminating in a summit in early October
We are thrilled to announce the second annual Living the New Economy in Vancouver! Join us this year for a 6-day confluence of events, people and ideas to explore, understand, remember and catalyze the deeply interconnected nature of our world.
Learn why the economy is not separate from people and the natural environment; how working across disciplines and differences can unleash rogue waves of positive change; and why, if the problem you're looking at seems too hard to solve, perhaps what you need is a bigger problem.
This ain't your daddy's conference, where you listen to people talking and then go home. This is a confluence, a place for many streams to meet and become a coursing river.