‘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:
Reframe ‘the economy’ to highlight that it is about more than money. It is interconnected with our communities and the environment and we all play many roles within it: workers, consumers, citizens, owners, investors, savers, parents and carers to name just a few.
Diversify how knowledge about the economy is created and what knowledge is valued, so that it better explains the economic experiences of different groups in society whose needs and priorities are currently not represented in most economic research.
Transform the way that economics is communicated across our media, politicians and civil society. Bringing focus on how it relates to our everyday lives and finding innovative, engaging and accessible ways to have conversations about the economy.
Embed economic literacy (the knowledge, skills, and confidence to understand and shape the economy) and economic citizenship (how to contribute to public economic discussion, decision making and problem solving) as a core part of school education for all young people.
Facilitate inclusive public conversations which allow societies and communities to effectively deliberate on economic values, goals, opportunities and challenges to inform effective and legitimate collective action.
Develop ‘everyday democracy’ in economic-decision making in government, economic institutions, and businesses so that people can participate in making decisions which will impact them, and decision-makers are more responsive and accountable to public values and priorities.
Decentralise resources and power to communities and support them to define, shape and develop local economies. This includes agreeing priorities, identifying strengths and assets, building resilience and developing capabilities and leadership.
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:
All personal financial decisions take place in a broader economic context and people will have the confidence and knowledge to navigate that context effectively, as well as a greater ability to shape it.
Diversity, social mobility and social capital
Spreading access to economic knowledge, skills and confidence more widely across society will improve social capital for those currently furthest from power. In turn increasing social mobility and widening access to a range of influential and well-paid careers.
Everyone’s unique economic experiences and insights will be valued and incorporated into economic research to help us better understand and improve the economy.
Ownership of our own and the planet’s collective future
Reduced barriers to participating in economic decision-making will better harness everyone’s energy and creativity to solve economic challenges such as environmental collapse, inequality and poverty, financial instability, preventing pandemics and caring for our elderly.
Effectiveness of economic policy
Increased public participation and deliberation enables policymakers to develop a better understanding of problems and policy options. It highlights areas of support, where better understanding and buy-in of policy can lead to individual behaviour change e.g. increased saving for pensions. Similarly, it will highlight specific areas of disagreement, where the possibilities for compromise can be explored.
Inclusive, reasoned and respectful public conversation about economic values and goals will increase understanding of others and foster compromise, in turn reducing political polarisation and increasing social cohesion.
Increased economic literacy and better public debate will make it easier for people to make independent informed judgements about which political parties best represent their economic interests and values at elections.
Trust in and legitimacy of decisions
Increased interaction between people and economic institutions will enable government and economists to build better relationships with communities. Over time this will increase the trust and legitimacy people feel in economic institutions and decision making which affects them.
Sparking our collective economic curiosity
Getting past the association of the economy with money and stress we can see that it is connected with all sorts of everyday things we care about, as well as the big questions about how the world works. Sparking that economic curiosity in everyone would change the world.
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.
1 Accessible economics educations and training
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.
2 Equipping the next generation
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.
3 Delivering public interest economic news
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 (ecnmy.org) 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 ecnmy.org 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.
4 Build the Economy Co-Produced Media Network
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.