What does REconomy look like … in the United States?
By rob hopkins 19th June 2015
In 2014 the United States was amongst those that joined forces as an international network focusing on REconomy which is now 11 countries strong. These hubs have been assessing the potential to initiate some REconomy-type activity in each place. They have been developing some top level strategies needed to progress this work. Together these hubs are exploring questions including: How is the economic situation being felt in these countries? What are they doing and planning to support this work regionally? How are they evidencing that a new economic system is possible?
The network of hubs focusing on REconomy is keenly focused on peer-to-peer learning. Learning with those already ‘doing’ in the USA is proving critical to Transition United States. So partnership work with like minded organisations in the USA is developing very effectively, as is evidence of what is working through some inspired enterprises.
The failures of the current economy are encouraging many Americans to pursue alternative angles to the “American Dream,” and there are exciting new economy developments across the country including a rise of cooperatives, urban farming, community power projects, and more. Many of those efforts came together in June 2014 for the first New Economy Coalition Conference in Boston. There’s also a strong social justice movement in the USA that seems to be at a tipping point in some areas, with opportunity to combine part of all of several movements.
Leading up to this conference Transition US participated in a series of interviews and conversations with new economy leaders across the US, which was compiled into a report by the Post Carbon Institute, Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement: Voices and Reflections from the Field. This report provides some amazing insight into the new economy movement in the USA. Fascinating, encouraging and moving.
“In terms of the national discourse, we understand that there’s an issue of climate change and an issue of inequality…to address inequality sometimes it’s said that we just need to “grow the pie,” but that conflicts with the need for ecological sustainability… We need to raise the bottom to meet basic human needs, but also bring down the top (by restructuring the money system, worker ownership, and new forms of ownership).”
Noel Ortega, Institute for Policy Studies from Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement: Voices and Reflections from the Field
Transition US is raising awareness of REconomy, building new partnerships with aligned organisations, supporting Transition leaders to develop REconomy locally, and with more funding they plan to do more including producing an economic blueprint in California. A lot of the national support is based online such as teleseminars and social media.
To help show the positive impacts of those already reaching out and doing more around positive enterprise, Transition US has gathered some amazing case studies. You’ll have to wait for their report for the full 20 (and suspect they could have added loads more) but here are 3 to get you going:
Cooperation Jackson is multi-layered plan to support economic democracy in Jackson, Mississippi, and the surrounding area, using as a foundation a network of cooperatives and other worker-owned, democratically managed enterprises. In the state with the highest percentage of Black residents as well as the nation’s highest poverty rates, Cooperation Jackson seeks to foster democratic participation and establish a degree of economic independence, in particular for working class Black people. The network of cooperatives enterprises currently being planned includes child care, urban farming, arts and culture, a café, and recycling. In addition, Cooperation Jackson’s Sustainable Communities Initiative will start an eco-village housing cooperative, based on a community land trust developed and operated by Cooperation Jackson’s Community Development Corporation.
Colorado HealthOp is the state’s first non-profit health insurance cooperative, which launched in 2013 with the support of federal funding through the Affordable Care Act. In its second year the cooperative had more than 14,000 members, and was able to cut premiums on its mid-level plans by an average of 10% compared to other health insurance providers. Under the Affordable Care Act, Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans (CO-Ops) are required to find new ways to reduce costs while improving health. Colorado HealthOP offers its members three free primary care visits annually, incentivizes good health practices with less-expensive benefits, and offers free generic drugs to some of its members with chronic conditions. The co-op is governed by a member-elected, 11-person board.
JP Cleaners is an inspiring example of what’s possible when a community comes together to help an existing enterprise transform to better serve local needs. With support from Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition (JPNET), a Transition Initiative in Boston’s Jamaica Plain Neighborhood that received a grant to help transition a traditional dry cleaning service (which commonly use the toxic chemical perchloroethylene) into a nontoxic wet cleaner immigrant-owned, JP Cleaners were able to raise $XK through a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of purchasing the green cleaning equipment. JPNET sees this as a win-win for their efforts to build a cancer-free economy in their Boston neighborhood, at the same time supporting existing local businesses that provide livelihoods to many of JP’s residents.
“Particularly for certain kinds of cancers, it is clear that environmental pollutants play an important role—one that people can do something about. Historically, most attempts to take action on this issue have focused on closing down offending businesses or cleaning up messes created in the past. But no neighborhood with high unemployment wants to push out jobs or raise costs on small, locally owned businesses.”-Yes! Magazine article
So how is this work going to move forward? Transition US has organised their REconomy work in four different phases, with each additional phase assuming Transition US secures increased financial resources for implementation. Each phase allows for a regional as well as national focus to keep momentum within the country and critically at a local level.
- Phase 1 assumes no additional financial resources,
- Phase 2 assumes some funding for local Transition Initiatives to implement REconomy in their communities but little or no additional funding for Transition US,
- Phase 3 assumes funding for a Transition US REconomy coordinator position, and
- Phase 4 assumes funding for a Transition US REconomy coordinator position and funding for local Transition Initiatives to implement REconomy in their communities.
As in every country in the world, let alone the 11 countries explicitly exploring REconomy where they are, there is lots to do and each step is both exhilarating and challenging. But it is amazing when you look how much is already been done, how many partnerships being formed and how much learning will accelerate all this.
“REconomy brings a unique and important lens to the emerging US new economy movement. REconomy is a framework for placing social equity, environmental sustainability, and community resilience as central pillars of the economy we wish to create. Economic transformation in the United States is no small endeavor, but it’s vital to our survival as humanity on this planet. We’re excited and grateful to be able to use REconomy as a tool to support Transition Towns across the US in building vibrant local economies that truly serve people and the planet.”
Marissa Mommaerts, Transition US
For more information about Transition http://www.transitionus.org/
For more information about the national hubs working together on REconomy http://www.reconomy.org/reconomy-in-other-countries/
If you would like to tell those working within Transition what REconomy is like where you are let us know.