Building local mini-economy within planetary limits

Growth is an end in itself, dictates the current economic model. For only growth would keep our economy going and be indispensable to further sustainability. At the same time, our planet is being depleted by this drive for green growth.

Is it time to abandon economic growth as a social ideal? And then what are workable, more social alternatives?

Shifting values

New economic mindsets shift the focus to an economy, aimed at restoring ecological and social values. Some examples include: Doughnut Economics, Post Growth and the Purpose Economy.

More and more business owners are opting for sustainable operations. They settle for less financial gain to do valuable work with positive social and environmental impact. The rise of the commons movement, housing-, energy- and food cooperatives, as well as social initiatives in health and welfare, show that people want to stand together for values other than financial gain.

Achievable and real alternatives

New economic models offer different perspectives for considering the economy as part of a society. They offer tools to make that economy more equitable and sustainable. Yet the new economic thinking is still often dismissed as unrealistic and unachievable. Only by trying out these theories in practice can we demonstrate that these are real alternatives.

New economic thinking, New economic acting

To experiment with new economic theory and models in practice, the Amsterdam Economic Board has started the New Economic Models exploration. In April, we introduced the living lab project “New Economic Thinking, New Economic Acting” at the Marineterrein in Amsterdam. In this we work on socio-economic experiments, together with AMS Institute, AHK Culture Club, And The People, Bureau Marineterrein, Kennisland, The Next Speaker and the knowledge coalition ‘Art, Tech & Science’.

The Marineterrein is the ideal place to do this because it is an official experiment site. Moreover, companies located here are often already working on circular and social projects. Cultural institutions and organisations at the Marineterrein, in turn, can represent what thriving without economic growth could look like and fuel our desire for a new economy.

Socioeconomic experiments

We’re exploring what it’d mean when we’d shift the focus from quantitative to qualitative growth. We’ll monitor expected and unexpected results with our partner AMS. This is how we and the region will learn what it takes for a local economy to thrive if it acts within planetary boundaries. Now we are working on four socioeconomic experiments:

  • Neighbourhood cooperative

    Establishing a neighbourhood cooperative, in cooperation with Kattenburg and Wittenburg, two districts bordering on the Marineterrein. A neighbourhood cooperative creates local jobs by hiring locals. This keeps work in the neighbourhood, stimulates the local economy and increases social cohesion.

  • Steward owned Marineterrein

    For now, no one lives at the Marineterrein. It does, however, house 52 organisations. Together with these organisations, we work to create a fair and sustainable long-term, mission-driven business model that contributes to a local mini-economy that trades within planetary boundaries.

  • True pricing

    Together with entrepreneurs at the Marineterrein, we are experimenting with the impact ‘True Pricing‘ has when it comes to making choices for what and how we consume, by including hidden environmental, animal and human costs in prices for consumer goods at the Marineterrein.

  • Sharing space

    Making better use of the (office) space at the Marineterrein, by offering the space to local residents outside working hours for neighbourhood recreation and hosting economically homeless people. The more efficient and effective use of space should directly contribute to the liveability in and around the Marineterrein and increase socioeconomic equality.

Join us in our living lab!

Our old economic system is environmentally, socially and even economically unsustainable. New economic theories show how it could be done. At the Marineterrein, we put innovative economic theory and models into practice, through our New Economic Models exploration . We show that things can be fairer, more social and more sustainable. Everyone is cordially invited to experiment with us in our socio-economic living lab. Please send an email to Erik Lückers.

This is an updated version of a previously published article (in Dutch) on the living lab project ‘New Economic Thinking, New Economic Acting’.

14 June 2024

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