Economies that everyone can shape

‘The economy’ is the term we use to describe the systems humans create to facilitate the production, distribution, and consumption of the resources we need to live our lives. Housing, food, healthcare, money, jobs, education, art and culture, sports, entertainment, and the environment are all connected to the economy.

How we organise our economies affects us all, our health and wellbeing and the future of human life on earth. Yet, research conducted by Economy and others highlights that most people in the UK, and globally, feel unable to influence how the economy is organised, either through democracy or in everyday life.

Economic systems – at a local, national and global level – are currently not working for everyone in society. Whilst these systems are able to secure a very high material standard of life for large numbers of people, far too many people still cannot secure the resources they need to survive and reach their full potential.

The ability of different groups to secure their needs and shape economic systems are to a large extent shaped by systemic and historically embedded inequalities along lines of race, gender, socioeconomic status and geography.

In the coming decades we face huge economic opportunities and challenges such as recovering from the pandemic, meeting everyone’s basic needs, reducing inequality, and addressing the environmental crisis.

To meet these we need the expertise, knowledge and participation of communities across the UK, particularly those furthest from power whose perspectives are excluded from current conversations and decision making.

Economies that everyone can shape need to be organised through participatory and democratic approaches, where everyone has the power and agency to meaningfully influence decisions that affect them.

Keep scrolling to find out how we can achieve this, who can make it happen, why it would be better and what we’re doing right now at Economy.

How we can achieve it

Everyday we’re working with individuals, communities and organisations across the UK to better understand how we can build economies that everyone can shape.

Here are seven things we at Economy think are necessary from what we’ve learnt:

Who can make it happen

Creating economies that everyone can shape requires bottom up transformation at an individual and community level, as well as top-down changes in government, the media, education and business.

This kind of large-scale social change requires a broad-based alliance of individuals and organisations from across civil society and the political spectrum. Whilst they will disagree on many things, they will all see the need and urgency to create economies that everyone can shape.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, there is something you can do to contribute.

Find out more about how you or your organisation can take action with us through the ‘Get Involved’ and ‘Partner With Us’ menu options at the top of the page.

How it would be better

We don’t know exactly what a world in which everyone is able to shape the economy would look like, it’s hard to imagine and we think part of the shaping would involve figuring this out together!

But, to get you thinking about the possibilities – here are ten ways we at Economy think it could be better:

What we’re doing now

We are working with individuals and organisations across the country to build economies that everyone can shape. 

Learn more about our strategy and impact, and find out more about our current work below.

I am filled with hope about this opportunity to discuss the economy in ordinary terms. If this type of discussion group could happen in other places and situations, it would be amazing.

Victoria Park Crash Course participant

Our adult training, courses and workshops help to improve confidence and understanding around economics, empowering people and communities to engage in decisions that affect their lives. We work with grassroot groups, charities, campaigners, unions and decision makers across the UK, running workshops for their communities.

Participants come away with knowledge of economics and confidence in how to apply that knowledge to their daily lives, communities and work to create social change. By creating a generation of “citizen economists”, our sessions build individuals and communities a voice to begin to take ownership over the economic decisions that affect them.

Invite us to run a workshop or course.

Sign up to attend an upcoming event or workshop.

We work with young people in schools and youth organisations to help empower the next generation to navigate a time of profound economic change. Young people feel deeply worried about their economic future, and powerless to change it, with a distrust that their voices are heard. Yet, the young people we work with are hungry for the opportunity to understand how the economy affects them; they describe it as a rite of passage into the adult world.

In schools, we are the only provider of multi-session extracurricular interventions to provide access to economic literacy as an essential part of citizenship education (and distinct from financial capability). We also run one-off workshops and work with youth organisations serving 16-25s.

Find out how you can bring us to your school or youth organisation.

I now believe knowledge of economics is vital as it can help change my future by being more vocal with my thoughts and feelings… It’s important people my age should get something like this as it gives them the knowledge and power to make change.”

Year 12, Course Graduate

I didn’t feel like I was talking economy-economy, like in the scary way where you feel like you should have a degree. If I was on some finance program on the BBC, I would have looked like a moron. But with you guys, it’s a conversation where we’re talking about things that are to do with finances, but also to do with life.

Marianne, Contributor

Four out of five people say the economy is relevant to their everyday lives (recognising that it impacts on everything from our job to our homes and political governance), but currently only one in ten think that the media and politicians speak about it in a way that is accessible and understandable.

We run our own news and entertainment platform ( that takes a public interest approach and is modelling a new way to report on economic news. We are directly delivering demystified economic news at and through our weekly ‘What Just Happened’ newsletter. We are working with community co-producers to uncover fresh stories about the economy that are being ignored.

Find out how you can contribute to

We are building the ‘Economy Co-Produced Media Network’, a network of media partners and community contributors committed to transforming the media ecosystem by:

  • Diversifying who has a public voice on the economy;
  • Developing a popular language which bridges the currently disconnected worlds of media, economics and everyday life;
  • Ensuring more people have the means to hold decision makers accountable.

We are developing a framework for empowering approaches to media co-production with marginalised communities, enabling them to tell their stories and ideas for change.

Find out how your media organisation can access support, training and collaborate with us.

We believe economic policymaking should be a discussion about what we value and how to achieve it. That requires more citizen participation and deliberation in the media, academic research and politics. We are working with economic institutions and decision makers to explore how we can build more participatory approaches to economic decision making at local and national levels.

We’re currently delivering a six-month pilot partnership with the Bank of England to engage their Citizens’ Reference Panel and Youth Forum community members online in a vibrant and inclusive conversation about the economy.

Learn more about our training and consultancy work.

Since 2019 we have been supporting people in local communities across the West Midlands – particularly those furthest from power – to shape the economy to achieve what matters to them.

This forms part of a five year regional strategy to engage local economic decision-makers, media organisations and communities to achieve bottom-up and top-down change. It takes a place-based approach, meaning it recognises the places in which we live and work influence what we do and determine many of our relationships.

Our approach builds on existing work in the region and is led by the priorities, needs and strengths of the communities and civil society organisations we partner with. This involves:

  • Reframing what the economy is and how it relates to our lives to spark curiosity and learn about what economic issues matter to people;
  • Empowering people to lead their own conversations asking what people want, need and would be prepared to do to improve their local economy;
  • Influencing local media strategies to build engaging coverage of local economic issues that connects to people’s everyday lives;
  • Building towards more participatory forms of economic policymaking by facilitating two-way conversations between communities, economic experts and decision makers to increase mutual understanding and strengthen relationships.

If you would like to find out more about this work, or to get involved, get in touch with clare.birkett[at]

From field work to focus groups, interviews to videos, our research asks how people feel about the economy, and investigates how economics can be a positive part of everyone’s lives.

Our team are currently co-authoring two books due to be published in 2021:

  • What’s the economy? (Bloomsbury)
  • Reclaiming economics for future generations (Manchester University Press)

Learn more about our previous research.