The New System Project – a three Day Conference on alternative economic solutions for a better future

Achieving sustainability seems impossible. So many different causes, movements, ideas, recommendations, things you can do, things the industry can do – where to start? And does it help if the root of the cause is not addressed?

Fact is that the current economic system doesn’t work. We need to overthink how we measure success. Growth can’t be the only goal of an economy. Not the growth of a local business, an international company, a state or a country.

International companies constantly grow bigger, the GDP of most countries is continuously rising and salaries on a management level increase every year. And yet the majority earns less, affordable housing is shrinking, buying sustainable products is not affordable to the vast majority and regulations for corporations don’t protect us against pollution. The single citizen might not be able to fight against these injustices, but a large community or movement can.

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The New System Project is an initiative who’s aim is to explore “political-economic system models that deliver social, economic and ecological outcomes”. I went to their three days conference in New York last week. We didn’t find solutions yet, but ideas were flying around everywhere. Hopefully many will remember them and the energy we all shared when we return to the real world. What impressed me the most was the positive attitude. Instead of arguing over what doesn’t work, solutions were discussed and experiences shared. It’s nice to see so many people that think the same way and not to feel like the only crazy person out there.

Among the participants were representatives from different movements, founders of coops, companies that use new models such as ‘workplace democracy’, representatives from local council, journalists and academics.

And all pictures look empty, cause I am a nerd and sit in the front rows that normal humans avoid!

There are alternatives and we need to explore them and use them for a better future.

Day 1 – Panel

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Opening Plenary – Moderator Sarah Leonard (The Nation), Gar Alperovitz (Co-chair The Next System Project), Deyanira Del Rio (New Economy Project), Frances Fox Piven (CUNY Graduate Center),  Autumn Marie (Black Lives Matter-NYC), Ed Whitfield (Fund for Democratic Communities) – left to right.

Day 2

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#RiseUp for a New Economics Curriculum – Keith Harrington (#RiseUp), Julie Matthaei (Wesley College), Jigar Bhatt (Columbia University).

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Worker Coops & City Government: From Quebec to NYC. NYCNOWC, DAWI, Green Worker Cooperative, Urban Justice Center, CFL, City Council.


Exploring New Coalitions for a Low-Carbon Future. Daniel Aldana Cohen (Urban Democracy Lab). Correlation between affordable housing near jobs and services and a low carbon footprint.


Exploring New Coalitions for a Low-Carbon Future. Kater Arnoff (New Economy Coalition). Environmentalism Racism.

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Workplace Democracy: Integrating Horizontally in the Workplace. Leadership strategies. Morgan Crawford (NASCO), Esteban Kelly (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives).

Day 2


Old Money in the Next System: Transforming Foundations and the Nonprofit Industrial Complex. Allen Kwuabena Frimpong (Black Lives Matter NYC), Michael Haber (Maurice A. Deane School of Law, Hofstra University).


Making Our Own Culture: Radical Film Production & Distribution. Christine Peng (Maysles Documentary Center), Julie Ludwig (Paper Tiger Television), Chris Bravo (Interference Archive, Muralla Media Works).


Climate Change and the Struggle for Social Justice. Aurash Khawharzad (WEACT), Mateo Fernandez-Muro (Architect).


Crisis & Opportunity: How Social Movements Enable System Change in Times of Crisis. Tamara Saphiro (NYCNOWC), Luis Alberto Casco (Occupy Sandy, Luv Custom Prints), Pablo Benson-Silva (Movement Netlab, NYCNOWC), Galdo Guerra (Occupy Sandy)

Part of the session above was material from the ‘Movement Net Lab’, a group of movement-based activists that help to develop strategies for a successful movement. Involved are for example Black Lives Matter-NYC, Wildfire Project, If Not Now, The Peoples Climate Movement to name a few. One of the Graphs I liked a lot was “The movement Cycle” graph below, that is reminds of the Change Curve used in business for project management or leadership management. The only difference in the beginning is due to the fact that that the change is initiated intrinsically and not extrinsically.

When we understand how a movement works and evolves, we can overcome burdens and be more efficient and successful.

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Each session I had to choose between four topics. I wish I could have gone to all of them, I wish there was a handout for every single one that I could take home and read about. And I hope these events spread not only in the US, but worldwide.

I have met very interesting people, collected some material for future references and am amazed once more how interconnected these movements are and how passionately involved every single person is. Foundations and movements in the US have a long tradition, mainly out of pure necessity. And if the global economy is continuing on its path, the rest of the world will benefit from this expertise.

Or these movements continue to grow and spread like a virus and an improved new system might be the ‘New Normal’…


The New System Project:
Movement Net Lab:
Black Lives Matter:
New York City Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYC NOWC):
Urban Democracy Lab:
US Federation of Worker Cooperatives:
WE ACT for Environmental Justice:
Occupy Sandy Recovery:

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