reRoute Opening Plenary

Pathways To A New Economy

With the rise of diverse perspectives or concepts like the sharing economy, cooperative economy, social and solidarity economy, green economy, and others, what do we mean by the New Economy and how does it relate to this growing body of alternative approaches? Communities across the U.S. and around the world are dealing with extreme wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, and chronic economic stagnation showing little signs of meaningful rebound beyond a growth in stock prices.  As such, what role can the new economy play to catalyze innovative solutions inclusive of race, class, gender, and other historical divisions while fostering the type of economic, social, and environmental transformation so desperately needed today? 

When we think of the new economy can we consider it a movement and what steps must we take to push us in that direction?  Can we create a space where businesses find common ground with community organizations and social movements, where a financial system puts local development above speculation, where decision-making power rests with those affected by larger forces, and where ownership over productive assets are more distributed and democratic?  This panel is intended to open a conversation about the relationships between the diverse ideological and strategic approaches that coexist within the New Economy space in an attempt to expand possibilities for collaboration, increase inclusivity, and meaningful dialogue on how we build a future together.


David Wood directs research and field-building work on responsible investment for the Harvard Initiative On Responsible Investment.  He currently manages projects on RI strategy with pension fund trustees, mission investing by foundations, the changing landscape of community investing in the US, and impact investing and public policy. Prior to joining the IRI he taught the History of Ethics, including the History of Economic Thought and Human Rights, at Boston University. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Johns Hopkins University, and serves on the Board of Directors of US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

Maliha Safri is an assistant professor in the economics department at Drew University, and has taught and published on political economy and migration.  She has published articles in Signs, the Middle East Journal, edited book collections, and most recently a piece in the Economist’s Voice titled “The Economics of Occupation.” She has also been involved with popular education seminars and courses with activists for twelve years with the Center For Popular Economics, based at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and has been active with worker cooperatives in the NJ and NY metropolitan area.

Ed Whitfield is co-founder and co-managing director of the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC). A long time social justice activist, Ed had been involved in labor, community organizing and peace work since the late 60‘s when he was a student activist at Cornell University. He was the chairman of the Greensboro Redevelopment Commission for 9 years and formerly board chairman of Greensboro’s Triad Minority Development Corporation. In his work with F4DC, Ed helped initiate the formation of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project (SGEP) and their annual CoopEcon conferences aimed at networking and training among people interested in developing a cooperative new economy in the US South. He has visited and studied worker cooperative activities from the Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, OH to the massive Mondragon Cooperatives Corporation in the Basque region of Spain. For Ed, helping people in communities engaged in meaningful, democratic, just, sustainable and productive activities is a key motivation. He is currently helping to provide technical assistance to a group of people living in an urban food desert struggling to develop of a community owned cooperative grocery store. Ed is also deeply involved in conceptualizing and spreading the idea of democratic ownership and the reclamation of the commons.

Alexa Bradley is a Program Director at On The Commons. As part of the organization’s leadership team she works to support community solutions rooted in the commons principles of collective stewardship and equitable use of our resources. Her current work includes a focus on the Great Lakes Commons Initiative, a broad organizing effort to catalyze a cross border citizen movement to put human need, ecological survival and democratized decision making at the center of the Great Lakes governance. Alexa Bradley has worked as an organizer, facilitator, trainer and popular educator for over 25 years, with a particular focus on linking community organizing to broader social movement strategies.

Atlee McFellin (Moderator) Atlee McFellin is a Co-Founder & Principal of The Symbiosis Center LLC where he specializes in the creation of innovative economic development strategies and programs.  He is also the founder and President of Inge’s Place: The Space for Innovation; a 4,000sqft co-working space in his hometown of Battle Creek, MI fostering entrepreneurship and collaboration amongst small non-profits, microenterprises, and the creative community. Inge’s Place, named after his grandmother, is also the home of the BC New Economy Initiative, a loose network of organizations working together to create economic opportunity for the local community. He is also on the Board of Directors of the New Economics Institute (soon to be New Economy Coalition), a national network of diverse organizations building a new economy from the ground up.

Dru Oja Jay is a writer, organizer and web developer living in Montreal. He is a co-founder of the Media Co-op, a network of grassroots reader-funded journalism cooperatives, and of Journal Ensemble, a french-language newspaper cooperatively owned and operated by freelance journalists. He sits on the boards of both organizations. He is also co-author of a book, Paved with Good Intentions: Canada's development NGOs from idealism to imperialism, a report, Offsetting Resistance: The effects of foundation funding from the Great Bear Rainforest to the Athabasca River, and many articles and essays. Dru's organizing has centred around on combatting damaging extraction projects like Alberta's tar sands in solidarity with affected Indigenous communities -- within a climate justice framework. His current writing is focused on how to move toward a sustainable, cooperative society.