Report on Austrian key workers

Die Leistungsträgerinnen des Alltagslebens or The High Performers of Everyday Life is an important new research report from the Austrian members of the foundational economy collective. They explain how Covid 19 has highlighted the importance of the key workers in foundational activities who, as the “ heroes of everyday life”, have kept things going by working through lock down, often at risk to their own lives. We can all agree that they deserve not only more pay but better lives after the, but how do we make that happen, The Austrian answer is through a broadening of the agenda of trade unions and organized labour so that they bargain not just on pay for their members but on the foundational essentials for all citizens . As in the OGB/ Austrian Trade Union Federation slogan, the aim is a “good life for all”

The body of the report is in German but English readers can find an executive summary on pages viii to xi.

FE 2.0 and new wood report

Earlier FE research focused on FE 1.0, the assembly of material and providential reliance systems developed after 1850 to meet the current generation’s essential needs and Covid 19 reminds us of the continuing importance of maintaining these systems. But in FE 2.0 we need to build new resource and conversion reliance systems which safeguard the well- being of future generations by reducing the planetary burden.

Our first major FE 2.0 report, Serious about Green, is about building a new resource reliance system, wood economy, where the carbon sequestration benefits of afforestation can be levered by a strategy of downstream value capture for higher value products. The report explains that this opportunity can only be realised through supply chain co-ordination which has been absent in Wales where strategic good intentions have not been carried through into planting and processing.

This report is also a milestone because it is produced by Foundational Economy Research Ltd, a not for profit off shoot of the foundational economy collective. This gives us “skunk works” capacity to work at pace with outside partners on strategic projects which take the foundational agenda forward.

New working paper on UBS

The arguments made by the foundational economy collective overlap with those made by other like-minded groups and individuals. The most obvious synergy is with those pressing the case for universal basic services because foundational thinkers and basic service advocates agree that individual income is not enough when collective consumption matters greatly. The UBS concept is associated with the University College London Centre for Global Prosperity which in 2017 introduced a concept which has since been significantly refined and developed. Our good friend Anna Coote, of the New Economics Foundation, has with Andrew Percy co- authored a book which provides an accessible and up to date statement of The Case for Universal Basic Services. In working paper 7 she summarises the case and explains how it relates to foundational thinking.

WISERD Foundational Economy online events Sept 2020

The ESRC funded WISERD centre based at Cardiff University organised a series of events in September 10 September to address key questions that arise from the current Covid-19 crisis and the ways in which foundational thinking can contribute to social and economic repair. These events replace our annual colloquium, which was to be held in Cardiff and has been postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Foundational Economy 2.0: Building a sustainable future

Speakers: Teis Hansen (Lund University), Lars Coenen (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences), Julie Froud (Manchester University).

The first event on the afternoon of 8th September examined the relation between the foundational economy and environmental sustainability. Specifically, how can new foundational economy approaches (foundational economy 2.0) can contribute to the well-being of future generations, help confront climate change and secure biodiversity.

Foundational Solutions and Social Justice

Speakers: Rachel Reeves MP (Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office) and Fabrizio Barca (coordinator of Forum Disuguaglianze e Diversità and previously Italian state minister without portfolio for territorial cohesion from 2011 to 2013).

The first event on the afternoon of 8th September examined the relation between the foundational economy and environmental sustainability. Specifically, how can new foundational economy approaches (foundational economy 2.0) can contribute to the well-being of future generations, help confront climate change and secure biodiversity.

The Foundational Economy in Practice: Well-being and economic renewal

Speakers: Lee Waters (Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport), Elin Hywel (Cwmni Bro) and Sophie Howe (Future Generations Commissioner for Wales).

The first event on the afternoon of 8th September examined the relation between the foundational economy and environmental sustainability. Specifically, how can new foundational economy approaches (foundational economy 2.0) can contribute to the well-being of future generations, help confront climate change and secure biodiversity.

DOLAN Community Film

DOLAN is a joint venture between community groups in three deindustrialized North Wales Valleys which were formerly major centers for slate mining. The Bro Ffestiniog federation of social enterprises in one of the valleys has a community broadcast arm which has produced this short video which explains what the Foundational Economy means to them. The community mainly Welsh speaking and they have produced Welsh and English versions of their video.

English

Cymraeg

2019 Foundational Economy Colloquium

The Collective’s 2019 Colloquium was held in Brussels on the theme of “Socio-ecological transitions: making space for the foundational”. The event was sponsored by Cosmopolis- Centre of Urban Research at the Free University, Building Brussels and Cities of Making and the organiser Sarah de Boeck  put together a full programme over the two days of 9 and 10th September which featured plenaries by distinguished academics, presentations by collective members and by guest academics and practitioners engaged with making space for foundational activities in urban places.

New foundational thinking

Short FE Film

In this short film, members of the foundational economy collective explain how and why the foundational economy matters. It was filmed at the 2019 foundational economy colloquium and produced by the colloquium organiser Sarah de Boeck.

COVID-19 UK NHS report

This report outlines how fragility was built into the UK’s hospital and public laboratory systems so that the Covid- 19 crisis was an accident waiting to happen, a normal accident.

The hospital system did not have the buffer capacity needed to absorb a pandemic surge and the public health laboratory system lacked the organisational capacity to respond to unexpected circumstances. All this was unintentionally caused by a combination of long-term funding shortages and the hyper-innovation of organisational churn imposed on the NHS and public health in the name of public sector reform.

 Beyond this critique, the report addresses remedies and the question of how to rebuild so that we have more robust health systems and more generally can re-skill the state so that it does not default onto distress outsourcing whenever it wants quick results. Renewal requires much more funding and a new approach, the care-ful practice of policy, which recognises the limits of the control paradigm – the top-down approach to policymaking that has been dominant for three decades.


COVID-19 and a Welsh community

This short report comes from the small deindustrialized town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales which through the lens of official statistics  would be described as “left behind” But a different kind of close-up knowledge was obtained from a community online questionnaire about the impact of Covid-19  in May and early June 2020. Wages are low and self-employment is precarious but family and community matter to most of our respondents (both native born and immigrants) and most felt that the lock down has brought the community together to help neighbours. At this point, business failure and high unemployment were apprehensions about the future; not the present realities they will be in autumn and winter 2020. But the survey underlines the importance of public policy on access to the foundational basics and the ned to maintain and renew infrastructure which allows families and communities to get on with what matters for them.

Residual household income

Our new working paper Cohesion through housing? argues against regional policy which aims to improve competitivity and create high wage jobs which would “level up” the UK’s “left behind places”. Per capita output measures of GVA and GDP are the standard metrics used in regional comparison. But, household income is more relevant to living standards and our paper focuses on the residual household income measure (after taxes, housing costs, transport and utilities) for owner occupiers, social renters and private renters in all the UK regions. Variation in house prices by region and by cost of housing according to tenure creates winners and losers in terms of living standards. Many ordinary places with low GVA per capita can work well enough for owner occupiers who can set low housing charges against modest wages; just as high GVA London can be purgatory for private renters paying one third or more of disposable income as rent. The implication is that regional policy needs to engage leading as well as laggard regions and to consider how the cost, quality and availability of housing and other foundational services drive living standards directly; and whether housing can be disconnected from the circuits of wealth accumulation.