With Covid in remission, our series of annual international conference resumes. This year in Turin from 13-15 September, Filippo Barbera and the organisers are bringing together Italian practitioners and academic researchers from many European countries for a conference in Turin. The theme is social innovation and public action and more specifically what can we and others learn from considering and comparing different approaches? The conference aims to develop shared answers to these questions by focusing on the actors who drive change, the organizations and business models that sustain change and the places where alternatives can be focused and momentum can be generated.
The programme lists the plenary speakers, including Chuck Sabel and Fabrizio Barca as well as the many Italian community activists and local organizers who are presenting in thematic sessions which mix researchers and practitioners in thematic sessions with simultaneous translation from Italian to English and English to Italian. Although in person places are limited, all are welcome to join on line if they register using the eventbrite click through on the programme.
New Italian book: between profit and well-being
What is the state of the foundational economy in Italy? Perhaps large financial players are less deeply involved in the management of essential economic activities than in some other European countries. However, the Italian public sector is increasingly weakened by austerity policies and budget constraints, and the entire foundational economy is traversed by the logic of investor capitalism, which involves public entities as much as private actors. The seven sections of this book show how all this has developed, in different ways and to varying extents, in seven key sectors: education, health, care, water distribution, retail banking, local public transport, housing. Each section considers the sectoral implications of the pandemic and the relevance of new National Resilience Plan, before paths for radical innovation are envisaged.
In the spirit of the Foundational Economy Collective, the book was collectively authored by about 30 scholars, and it is edited/introduced by Joselle Dagnes and Angelo Salento.
It can be downloaded from the publisher’s webpage: https://fondazionefeltrinelli.it/schede/prima-i-fondamentali/
New Belgian book: social ecological transition
In their new book The Essential Economy: An Engine for Social-Ecological Transition David Bassens and Sarah de Boeck have updated foundational analysis for a Belgian audience. They argue that the global Covid-19 crisis tmade Belgian society’s daily dependence on a number of economic sectors painfully clear. Healthcare, education, public transportation, food, energy and water, and housing were quickly recognized as “essential sectors” that needed to remain “open” during recurring periods of lockdown. Either to control of the virus, or to ensure the social reproduction of households. What was essential suddenly became the subject of public debate. Consequently, the crisis is not only a moment of urgent political action. The crisis also invites us to debate what kind of economy we want and to what end. This book argues that the essential economy can be the basis of a renewed social contract between citizen and state from which a socially just and ecological transition can be launched.
The book can be seen on Academic and Scientific Publishers.
International book: reclaiming economics
Here is the latest book in the Manchester Capitalism series: It’s a settling of accounts with mainstream economics by radical researchers from Rethinking Economics, the international movement which came out of the University of Manchester at the same time as early foundational economy research. The new book argues that we need to diversify, decolonise and democratise economics. Reclaiming the knowledge so that we can address humanity’s pressing challenges develop the skills and tools to build modern economies which do not reproduce harmful inequalities
Here again is a collectively authored book with Joe Earle as one of the three named authors. Joe was a founder member of rethinking economics, worked as a foundational researcher and remains involved in Welsh activism while currently CEO of Ecnmy.
The book can be seen on the MUP site:
New edition of FE book: Adaptive reuse
The foundational project is a body of thinking and doing which develops by reworking earlier statements of position. One of the frustrations is that critics and commentators seize on earlier formulations without recognising how these are now qualified by a process which the French architects Lacaton and Vassal would call “adaptive reuse” of the original schema. Thus the 2018 Foundational Economy book develops and builds on positions in the original 2013 Manifesto while the new 2022 edition of the book reprints the original text but adds a substantial new preface which references the work of the past few years and explains how this body of recent work adds, transfers and reuses foundational argument and evidence. The concept of adaptive reuse can be used to understand a bricolage reworking of systems and policies and this challenge will be taken up in an all new English book on household liveability in 2023 .
View the book on the Manchester University Press (MUP) website.
In foundational thinking, places are where essential economic and social needs come together and are met. But, in a time of nature and climate emergency, these immediate needs must be met within planetary limits as part of a social-ecological transformation. Richard Baernthaler’s research report on Atzgersdorf, provides some indications about how to gain majority political support for this kind of transformation project. The ideals of the “15-minute city” can be transposed into the local setting of an unremarkable district town on the edge of Vienna where citizens can see the everyday convenience of shorter journeys and active travel.
Read the report here
After 100 years of deindustrialization, the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in a North Wales slate valley could be condescendingly described as a “left behind “place. Using survey evidence and the Italian concept of “restanza”, this report emphasises that the people of the town and valley are attached to their own place and its social networks so that staying behind or returning after graduate education is a positive choice not the default of the less capable and ambitious. The economic policy question is then reframed in foundational terms: what provision of essentials will empower restanza and enable young adults to stay? Survey evidence shows that affordable housing is just as important as jobs.
Read the report here
SMEs in the Welsh food system (August 2021)
This independent report provides a pioneering analysis of a foundational reliance system which challenges romantic preconceptions about local food and alternative distribution systems. One crucial problem in the system is that the number of SMEs has not increased over the past decade while micro firms generating low incomes have proliferated. More purchasing of local food is no solution because the Welsh food system is heavily dependent on imports and exports to England and the EU when Welsh farm producers are narrowly specialised in meat and livestock. SME processors need access to volume demand which can only come through supermarket chains and food service distributors which compete aggressively on price so that they offer suppliers narrow financial margins which make SME expansion difficult. Hence the report’s policy recommendations to refocus Welsh Government policy around more infrastructural support through food parks and innovation centres and to offer public contracts which encourage locally owned food service distributors to stock more Welsh lines.
This year’s foundational economy conference is a three-day online event from Tuesday 7th to Thursday 9th September organised by the WISERD Research Centre at the University of Cardiff. Our theme is ‘Foundational renewal – Transforming reliance systems in the wake of COVID-19’. The opening plenary on the good working life is by Hilary Cottam who many of you will know as the author of the Radical Help book on welfare reform. As you can see from the attached programme, we then have sessions over three days with speakers from the collective and guests from Britain and Europe. As usual we mix academic and practitioner speakers. The conference closes in a session with Lee Waters, the trouble making politician who has driven Welsh Government commitment to foundational renewal and is now Deputy Minister of Climate Change.
Information about the event can be found on the WISERD website Foundational renewal – Transforming reliance systems in the wake of COVID-19 | WISERD which also has the link to booking your Eventbrite ticket. Foundational renewal: Transforming reliance systems in the wake of COVID-19 Tickets, Tue 7 Sep 2021 at 10:00 | Eventbrite . There are a number of ticket options available and you can either book for all three days, or just for individual days.
The Welsh government has now published Small Towns, Big Issues. Our independent report broadens the frame to look beyond declining town centres and analyses three small towns in their hinterland. It highlights how mass automobility and permissive planning have since 1980 allowed edge of town development and out of town commuting. Hence the difficulty of realising the current planning ideal of compact centred towns with active travel and overlap of live/ work/spend. The report draws on official statistics and on big data from mobile phone usage and property transactions. These highlight the business model problems which limit in town redevelopment and the easy profits which incentivise edge of town development; they also establish the continued advantage of town centres as places of sociability which have much longer visitor dwell times than edge of town retail. The report concludes with an argument about how imagination, organisation and new business models could address the embedded problems of Welsh towns. Policies on edge of town use and development are here as important as putting together the business model conditions which will allow urban alliances to deliver a stream of social renewal projects.