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.