The Future Economy Initiative

In communities across the U.S., rising inequality, environmental degradation, and economic decline are inspiring bold economic innovations. New institutions, businesses, and communities determined to confront these challenges are reshaping markets for housing, food, energy, and labor in order to build a more resilient and equitable economy of the future. Many appear to be succeeding. Are they?

In spite of potential social and ecological benefits, evidence for the success of these innovations remains largely anecdotal. With little systematic economic analysis having been applied, for instance, to community supported agriculture or ecologically-minded development in low-income communities, it becomes easy to assume there are no viable alternatives to business as usual.

The Future Economy Initiative is a project of Ecotrust and the E3 Network—a national network of economists for equity and environment—that is bringing rigorous economic analysis to these new markets for food, energy, housing, and labor. Our goals are to document and study their social, economic, and environmental impacts and identify factors contributing to their emergence, success, and limitations.

We assembled a steering committee of economists to draft a prioritized framework for analyzing future economy innovations and awarded grants to teams of researchers across the country to apply the framework. The results of their efforts are encapsulated in the stories we are presenting here. We hope they will strike up a much-needed dialogue about what it will take to build a more equitable, restorative economy, and how we can nurture and proliferate the most promising models, already underway.

 

Acknowledgments

Thank you to the Compton Foundation and Kresge Foundation for their generous support of this initiative.

Meet the Steering Committee

  • Eban Goodstein, up close, portrait
    Eban Goodstein

    Founded and directs two graduate programs in sustainability at Bard College as well as the C2C Fellows sustainability leadership program. He spearheaded both the Race to Stop Global Warming and Focus the Nation, and created the National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions. His focus: the clean energy movement and global climate change. Author: Economics and the Environment, and The Trade-off Myth, Fact and Fiction about Jobs and the Environment.

  • Robin Hahnel, portrait
    Robin Hahnel

    Professor Emeritus from American University and Research Affiliate at Portland State University. He has published thirteen books translated into five foreign languages, over a dozen chapters in edited volumes, and more than seventy articles on subjects ranging from economic justice and democracy to environmental sustainability. He is best known for his work on ways to make economic decision making more participatory.

  • Thomas Power

    Research Professor and Professor Emeritus at University of Montana, where he was the Chairman of the Economics Department. His focus: natural resource and regional economics. He has authored six books, a dozen and a half book chapters, and numerous articles and reports. He has regularly testified before state and federal regulatory agencies.

  • Juliet Schor, portrait
    Juliet Schor

    Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her focus: economics of work and family. She has authored Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth; The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure; and The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need, which was turned into a film.

  • Kristen Sheeran, Executive Director, E3 Network
    Kristen Sheeran

    Oregon Director of Climate Solutions and Executive Director and co-founder of E3 Network. Her focus: climate change, environmental policy, political economy, and development. She has authored Saving Kyoto and many published scholarly and popular articles. Former Vice President of Knowledge Systems at Ecotrust.

Contact the Future Economy Initiative

  • Robin Hahnel, portrait
    Robin Hahnel

    Initiative Director
    Email Robin


    Robin is a member of the Future Economy steering committee. See his bio above.

  • Noah Enelow, black and white portrait
    Noah Enelow

    Research Coordinator
    Email Noah


    An Economist for Ecotrust’s Knowledge Systems team, Noah focuses his work on the relationship between economic development, ecosystem health, and human well-being. His areas of focus include ecological economics, valuation of ecosystem services, social-ecological resilience, and regional impact analysis.