HOW WE GOT HERE
The E. F. Schumacher Society was founded by Robert Swann and Susan Witt in Western Massachusetts. The Schumacher Society has played a pioneering role in the development of community land trusts and local currencies in the US and also continues to serves as a major hub for New Economic thinking, as well as local action, in the tradition of E. F. Schumacher.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) was formed by environmentalists, economic justice activists, and heterodox economists in the UK to provide a home for economic thinking that challenged the free-market fundamentalism of the day. NEF has gone on to become a leading global voice for ideas like alternative economic indicators, social return on investment, timebanking, community development finance, and more.
Shortly after the start of the financial crisis, leaders from both NEF and the E. F. Schumacher Society recognized the need for an organization that could help bring systemic economic alternatives into the mainstream in North America. They collaborated to create a new organization called the New Economics Institute. Around the same time, The New Economy Network was founded by a diverse group of individuals and organizations seeking to amplify their collective impact in service of a just and sustainable economy.
In the spring the New Economics Institute held its first major event, the Strategies for a New Economy Conference at Bard College under the leadership of new president Bob Massie. This was just a few months after Occupy had opened up a unique space for a conversation about system change and the energy was high among the practitioners, activists, and thinkers (many of whom were New Economy Network members) who gathered to discuss visionary paths forward.
A few months later the New Economics Institute and New Economy Network merged to create the New Economy Coalition, a new organization focused on connecting and amplifying New Economy organizing across the US and Canada. The Schumacher Center for a New Economics was formed as a separate organization to continue the enduring research, education, and regional economic development projects of the E.F. Schumacher Society.
NEC started inviting organizations to participate in the coalition. We held our first New Economy Week, launched our youth and student regranting program, and held a national gathering for young people called ReRoute: Building Youth and Student Power for a New Economy. 2013 also marked several important developments in our organizational reprioritization of the need to center the experiences of communities on the frontlines of a broken system. The capstone of this process was the launch of our Racial and Economic Justice Initiative.
In the midst of a year of building our network, growing our regranting initiative, listening and learning from many movement communities and seeding new partnerships and collaborations, NEC convened our network, along with over 700 allies, in Boston for CommonBound: Moving Together Toward a New Economy. After the conference, we held our first annual member meeting to inform the programming and resources that NEC provides its members. Having successfully navigated the launch of NEC, Bob Massie moved on to pursue leadership on sustainable economics outside the organization.
NEC took important steps in strengthening the Coalition, creating new membership materials and a new website, growing and developing our programming, and welcoming new leadership with new executive director Jonathan Rosenthal. We also held our first convening of grantees and our second annual member meeting in Philadelphia, PA.
NEC continued to develop collaborations and shift to an network lead by its members. We held our second Commonbound conference in Buffalo, NY, partnering with over a hundred organizations to convene 900+ new economy thinkers, leaders, and visionaries for our largest gathering yet. CommonBound was followed by our third annual member meeting where members identified their most pressing needs and formed working groups to share skills and launch shared initiatives. In 2016 we also strengthened ties with allied movements by supporting campaigns and leaders such as the Climate Justice Alliance, the Movement for Black Lives, and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
NEC members continued connecting through working groups and on collaborative projects. Members launched Lumen - a new network communications and email system, designed two collaborative communications campaigns #NowWeOwn and Our Money, Our Vision, Our Chicago, and built an online Resource Library with over 150 new economy-related resources. Members also began work on a Policy Platform to detail the network’s policy vision and highlight new economy policy successes, and NEC launched a new fellowship in collaboration with the Media Consortium and The Laura Flanders Show: the New Economies Reporting Project.
NEC has over 200 member organizations and hosted CommonBound 2018 and the Annual Member Meeting in June in St. Louis. Members encourage NEC to focus more on depth vs breadth in the membership, spurring a membership pause and a new “Member Buddy” system pairing staff with members. NEC also launches year two of NERP, including a Movement Voices Fellowship for NEC members. NEC offers space for communicators in the network on monthly #FinalFridays calls. NEC’s Executive Director Jonathan Rosenthal steps down and four staff members share leadership as Interim Executive Directors.
NEC’s Rural Electric Cooperative working group develops and publishes the REC Organizing Toolkit. NEC launches all-member calls to discuss timely new economy topics and spur member collaborations, starts a Strategic Plan process to map out our vision for the next few years, and convenes in Arden, NC in September for our 6th Annual Member Meeting. NEC’s Policy working group launches the NEC Policy Toolkit (in Fall/Winter 2019), a culmination of two years of network collaboration.