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How to Make a Difference

Three ways to engage in the New Economy: Change the story, create a new reality, change the rules

Submitted by: David Korten

Posted: Aug 15, 2011 – 04:43 PM EST

Series: New Economy 2.0

Tags: new economy, economy, impact, community, wall street, sustainability


By David Korten

As part of the New Economy 2.0 series

For those of us already engaged in bringing the New Economy into being, daily news headlines provide ample reason to feel discouraged. Even major successes seem insignificant relative to the scale of the disruption wrought by the death throes of the Wall Street system.

It is essential to step back from time to time. Take a breath. Look out beyond the immediate horizon to gain perspective on the less visible but inspiring phenomenon of millions of people engaged in building the foundations of local living economies all around the world. Read their stories in YES! Magazine and reflect in awe and wonder at this epic phenomenon of human commitment to transformation.

If you are new to the movement and looking for ways to engage, you might begin by declaring your personal independence from Wall Street. Join the voluntary simplicity movement by cutting back on unnecessary consumption. Shop at local independent stores where possible, and purchase locally-made goods when available. Make similar choices as to where you work and invest.

Pay with cash at local merchants to save them the credit card fee. Do your banking with an independent local community bank or credit union that will invest your money back in your community. Coop America provides a useful free Investing in Communities guide.

If you are drawn to engage with others, keep in mind there is no magic bullet solution and no one individual is going to resolve the dysfunctions of Wall Street’s misadventures by his or herself. The key is to find opportunities to contribute that fit your distinctive skills, passion and connections.

I recall the counsel of a wise elder who told me in my youth, “It is possible to tack a sail boat into the wind, but only once it is in motion.” Get started with the opportunities you find near at hand. Be open to new possibilities and let your engagement evolve naturally over time. In the words of Myles Horton and Paulo Freire, “We Make the Road by Walking.”

Be prepared to stay the course. I decided to devote my life to changing the world in the last term of my senior year of college in 1959. I was just 22 and armed with little more than youthful enthusiasm. I began to make a meaningful contribution in 1992 at age 51. I began to really find my stride at about age 70.

The “Three-fold Change Strategy” I outlined in How Change Happens provides a useful framework for focusing your energy.

  1. Change the Story. Keep in mind every transformational social change begins with a conversation around a vision of possibility. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage in conversation about the realities of Wall Street, the difference between phantom wealth and real wealth, and the nature and possibilities of the New Economy. Consider inviting a group of friends or neighbors to discuss Agenda for a New Economy. The Living Economies Forum website provides a group discussion guide and links to other New Economy 2.0 discussion resources, as does the New Economy Working Group site. Join or form a Resilience Circle for mutual education and support in dealing with the economic crisis.
  2. Create a New Reality. Get involved with groups like the American Independent Business Alliance, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and Transition Towns that are working to create a new economic reality on the ground.
  3. Change the Rules. Get involved in political action campaigns that support the transition to living indicators, community-based financial institutions, an equitable distribution of wealth, living enterprises with living owners, real markets and real democracy, self-reliant bio-regional economies and global rules that favor people power over corporate power. These are the “Seven Interventions” outlined in New Economy 2.0 blog No. 20. Join the American Dream Movement, which is mobilizing support for the Contract for the American Dream—a visionary New Economy policy agenda.

Here is a useful checklist for assessing the potential contribution of initiatives that reach out to others. Does it:

  • Communicate a vision of possibility?
  • Develop new connections between people who share common interests?
  • Create and expand liberated social spaces in which people experience the freedom and support to experiment with thinking and acting in creative new ways?
  • Provide a public demonstration of the possibilities of the New Economy?
  • Build a support base for constructive policy action?

If your initiative contributes to any one of these, then it is probably making a positive difference in the world.

Don’t be discouraged if the world looks much the same tomorrow, despite your heroic effort today. It took 5,000 years to create the culture and institutions of Empire we must now put behind us. It will take a few years and the contributions of millions of people to bring forth the new cultures and institutions that will set us free.

About David Korten

David Korten (livingeconomiesforum.org) is the author of Agenda for a New EconomyThe Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and the international best seller When Corporations Rule the World. He is board chair of YES! Magazine, co-chair of the New Economy Working Group and a founding member of Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).

About New Economy 2.0 

Visionary economist David Korten introduces a national conversation series, New Economy 2.0, on CSRwire Talkback based on his acclaimed book, Agenda for a New Economy, 2nd edition. For the next several weeks, Korten will summarize the main points and key lessons of each chapter of his book, leading from a dissection of what went wrong in the “phantom wealth Wall Street economy” to the presentation of a vision of a world of real wealth Main Street economies that support strong middle class societies, honor real market principles and work in partnership with Earth’s biosphere.

New Economy 2.0 envisions an economy in which life is the defining value and power that resides in people and communities. It contrasts with the popular New Economy 1.0 fantasy of a magical high-tech economy liberated from environmental reality and devoted to the growth of phantom wealth financial assets.

This exciting, new series is co-published by CSRwire and YES! Magazine.

The arguments presented here are developed in greater detail in Agenda for a New Economy available from the YES! Magazine Web store.

Readers: In what ways are you making a difference? Share it on Talkback!

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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