TRANSIT asks for permission for the placement of cookies

Social innovation narratives towards a new economy

October 10 2016

Who is driving change towards a new economy, how and where is this change initiated? That is what we explored during a drizzling Friday afternoon, at the IABR-2016-next economy.

A mixed group, brought together by DRIFT, IHS and the Sustainability Institute Stellenbosch, was immersed in the world of social innovation and its transformative potential for a ‘new economy’. Harvesting from the research project TRANSIT, participants were guided in a lecture, an interactive role-play and group discussions about different roles and narratives.  

Discovering initiatives & different narratives of change within the new economy 

The session focused on sharing insights from the research on how these different translocal initiatives create narratives of change on new economies. Flor Avelino kicked off with an introduction (full PDF), describing four ‘narratives of change’ of new economies: (1) ‘social entrepreneurship & social economy’ (e.g. The Impact Hub and Ashoka), (2) ‘degrowth & relocalisation’ (e.g. Global Eecovillage Network and Transition Network), (3) ‘collaborative economy’ (e.g. Fablabs and Hackerspaces) and (4) ‘solidarity economy’ (e.g. Basic Income Earth Network and participatory budgeting). While these narratives share a critique of the current economic system, they have different ideas on what needs to change, who drives the change, and on how, where and when such change comes about. They have a different problem analysis and hence, different solutions.

Four ‘Ideal type’ meta-narratives on new Economies and illustrative social innovation-networks.

Role playing game: living in the new economies

After the introduction, the event moved on to an interactive role-play game, guided by Tim Strasser, from rootAbility. In this game, participants were invited to embody and experience roles from the current economy and roles from the narratives of change on new economies.

Everybody had to choose a role in the current economy and tune into it, feel the role and interact with the other actors, from the chosen perspective. They were asked to think what kind of people are in the current economy, what movements they would engage in, how they feel in that role and what conversations/interactions they would have with the others.

The next step was to choose a role from the four aforementioned narratives of the new economy, based on their thoughts and experiences. The room was divided in four, each area corresponding to one narrative and participants divided accordingly. Yet again, after getting in touch with their role and owning that paradigm, participants were encouraged by Tim to interact, start a dialogue and observe the kind of conversations that spark from that interaction.

Lastly, people were invited to let go of the previous role and shift to another perspective, by choosing a different narrative of the new economy, from the identified four. They migrated to a different area of the room and tried once more to embody the new role, manifest within it and interact with each other.

After the game, participants had mixed reactions and conclusions. One participant noticed the complexity and variety of roles to choose from, another observed that they all feel interconnected. One person noticed that from choosing different roles, different courses of action derive. For instance, one role might cause a feeling of despair at the realization that challenging the status quo requires a lot of energy to get people on board, while another role, as a happy member of a subculture might just bring peace within the limits of that community and less desire to change the entire world.

Participants managed to open their mind and prospective to unfamiliar dimensions and surprisingly, they were faced with experiences different from their expectations. Someone noticed that this game felt like a safe space to be whoever you want and say whatever you want. At the same time, another participant noticed that the transition between these roles also shattered the doubts whether someone is capable of embodying a very different persona.  

Searching for visual representations: Tweeting about the new economy

The event ended with a working group exercise, in which participants were asked to focus on finding images and/or objects that represent the new economy and construct a social media message for Twitter, with the picture and the following hashtags: #neweconomies, #neweconomy. Groups of people walked around taking pictures of objects they thought represented the new economy. After this activity, each team shared their pictures and reasoning behind them on Twitter. 

Cracks forming as the new imparts its pressure on layers of the old. #neweconomy @TransitSI

We realised that maybe the new economy is not that new; maybe it lives in the informal, because there are already many initiatives out there. When we went looking for an image to represent the new economy, we noticed the floor, which is made of…coffee. There’s a hard layer of concrete merged with this layer of coffee that is already peeling off. We thought this is a good metaphor for how different narratives are influencing each other.

To change the system learn to see through other people's eyes. #neweconomies @manon_klein

In searching for an image to illustrate our perspective, we thought about social issues and the fact that you need to understand the context, the place and what’s going on, in order to give good answers to a problem. It’s hard to develop new ideas and solutions, because you need to know where somebody is coming from and that’s what the glasses are for: another point of view.

Other tweets:

A new world is not only possible, but on a quiet day I can hear her breathing – Arundhati Roy

#neweconomies are people focused & ecologically sound. #abundance #respect. Change is rooted in place #noblueprints.

Transition to #neweconomies -The mirror as a rear window and reflection of my connection to the future in the present @TransitSI

Still to be named, Our narrative of change on #neweconomies lies somewhere between rocks, snails and the galaxy.

In the end it was concluded that many of these new economy initiatives criticize each other for not being radical enough, wondering how the other really contributes to change. New economies create new social relations and generate shifts in power relations, which in turn brings a lot of struggle. Cooperation is not the only thing necessary between different movements, but also debate and constructive conflict, because friction helps boost transformations.

Do you identify with a narrative of change? Tweet us @TransitSI, using #neweconomies or #neweconomy


Stay informed. Subscribe for project updates by e-mail.