February 13, 2017

Discussion Session 2.13.2017 – Alternative Economics

What did it feel like to design a new economic solution? What do you think is interesting about working in this way? What is challenging about reconceiving economic systems? What do you think will be needed to make new economic solutions like these feasible going forward?

Discussion Leaders: Bori Lee, Olivia Shoucair, Lisa Li and Monica Looze

  1. I think the most challenging thing about designing alternative economies is that we have to work with the economic system in place. We can’t create an entirely new system to replace the one we have, as designers we need to think about how to nudge the system in the direction that would fit our alternative economy model and think about it as a process with different stages (basically designing a transition to our alternative economy). Right now we live in a fixed economic model, so how alternative can be an economy that resides in this existing economic model?

    • I completely agree with Silvia. It is relatively easy to identify what the new values are and where these values come from, the hard part is how to transition from the existing economy paradigm to this new system. I guess in terms of designing for change, solutions need to offer plans for multiple stages of the change, as well as for different stakeholders with different values. Identifying the spot where it would cause a larger ripple effect to the wicked economy system is critical. Communication is key for gaining support and understanding toward the design proposal. People need to know the benefit of the new economy both in the short run and in the long run.

    • I found it very difficult to get my mind to think outside the existing economic paradigm. It is so entrenched in the way that I that I process the world and approach solving problems. I’ve been involved in the environmental movement since high school and one thing that my dad has always challenged me to figure out was how to make the solutions I am working on to work economically. He sees this is the way to ensure sustainability of the solution. My career has been working for double/triple bottom line companies that did better financially the better we met our carbon reduction goals, for example. I still believe that you can do well by doing good. However, once I was able to get my mind to a place to imagine totally different types of transactions, that have more holistic views of the goal of the system, it felt exciting to think about what could be possible. I agree with Silvia’s point that we, as designers, need to think about how to nudge the existing system in a new direction while still operating in the existing model. But, ultimately, I feel like we need to have a longer-term vision for where those nudging towards.

      • Agreed, Lauren. As designers, we are the ones who should be capable to gain such an understanding of a system that we might know how, when, and where to perturb it. But as others have said, when we’re talking about the economic system, so much of it is already well established and is relied on by pretty much everything else. In class, we discussed the notion of removing money from our society. But what would take its place? Almost every idea that didn’t include “money,” included “credits” or some other unit of measurement of money. One form of currency exchanged for another. By the end of the class, the idea we had would be some more elaborate form of bartering, processed by the government, as cash and money is now. Even so, difficulties were encountered. For instance, how do you tell someone how much their job will pay? In what they can “trade” for? If you include everything that one could purchase, that would be a long and ridiculous list. With more time, I’m sure something could be devised, but the idea here was to do away with a physical (or even electronic) currency and trade goods and services for what they are worth.

        Even with a plan in place, a transition seems very unlikely. If any of you have ever seen any Star Trek, it’s set a few hundred years in the future where Earth is at peace and the humans live in a money less society. While this sounds all well and good, the show never really answers why people are doing menial jobs for no money.

      • Like Lauren, prior to CMU I spent 2 years working at a B-Corp company that was driven by a social mission. Every client I worked with was either a national or international non-profit, usually in the field of international development. Prior to that, I worked for a Ugandan non-profit aimed at strengthening health care systems in Africa. While part of me was inspired by the projects I worked on, part of me also was disillusioned with the potential impact of the non-profit projects I worked on, given the economic and political climate of the areas I worked in.

        For instance, while I was in Uganda, the government passed an anti-homosexuality act. As a consequence, the CDC and other international development agencies halted funding. My co-worker, who worked on a safe-male circumcision project funded by the CDC, was out of work for several weeks. Ultimately, Uganda’s constitutional court overruled the law. However, witnessing firsthand how dependent programs like safe-male circumcision were on external funding made it difficult to believe in the long-term impact and sustainability of such programs. Moreover, witnessing just how detrimental political action could be to these efforts made it even harder to be optimistic about their ability to improve the systems they were beholden to.

        In light of these experiences, I’ve been particularly drawn to transition design’s imperative for “optimistic grumpiness”. While I’m upset when projects aimed a nudging a system fail, ultimately I find myself optimistic enough to carry on with this type of work. I’ve found that a huge part of that optimistic mindset is engaging with people of similar beliefs, and drawing from their support.

    • I agree with Silvia. I think the biggest challenge in designing alternative economies is that it requires the cooperation and buy-in of an entire society in order to be fully effective and lead to system-wide changes. As Silvia said, any type of change we can effect on a small scale will have to conform to the current systems in place. For example, Muslims generally aren’t permitted to give or take loans with interest because interest is considered a form of exploitation. However, it is nearly impossible to have financial dealings in America and not engage in interest of some kind. So one’s ability to effect change (even on a personal level, in this case) is severely limited by the current infrastructures in place. Also, there are political motivations to ensure that such changes never take place. To eliminate interest would collapse the entire banking system, and so—given the immense lobbying power of Wall Street—would be impossible to instate. There is also a very strong bias towards capitalism in the West to the extent that referring to someone as a “socialist” or “communist” is an insult meant to undermine his/her worth and credibility.

      It’s exciting to envision a world of alternative economies that benefit the *entire* society as opposed to the 1%, but that would involve changing our entire philosophies and mindsets of wealth, finance, and economics and the meaning money brings to our lives. In one of the papers we were assigned to read for Monday, Tim Kasser writes about the difference between material affluence and time affluence, and that studies suggest that “time affluence may promote higher levels of well-being” (p 100). In “Designing Change by Living Change,” the authors refer to Manzini, saying, “every successful case of sustainable social innovation so far shares the ‘fundamental characteristic’ of ‘compensat(ing) for the reduction in consumption of products with an increase in other qualities'” (p 294). Thus, perhaps if those higher levels of well-being could be made immediately evident to people, they would be more willing to accept the material sacrifices that may come with alternative economies. It would be interesting to learn if any other societies (either in history or modern times) have been able to make a dramatic shift in their economic system to any success.

      • I agree with Hajira/Silvia.

        My politics lean toward Marxism, but I am also practical. I see value in creating future scenarios and drawing inspiration from science fiction, but I still don’t see the practicality in it. Perhaps it allows us to envision a society with the “sky’s the limit” mentality, but I haven’t seen an alternative to the dominant economic paradigm that will be readily accepted OR that is easy to implement.

        If you consider the “entire society” to be the US, that’s one thing, but the level of change we’re talking about here must be worldwide, and I would argue that level of policy control beings to slip into a version of planetary fascism. I think the question we need to ask ourselves is not only how to “transition” to a more sustainable society, but also what type of political climate we want to be living in. In my view, sweeping (and quite forceful) wold-wide policy changes would be the only way to successfully implement world-wide change on the level Transition Design requires.

        Please don’t take this to mean that I am opposed to transitioning to sustainable practices – I just think we need a better plan.

      • I agree with Hajira on being mindful of the distinction between material affluence and time affluence. The relation between time affluence and material affluence is an important factor too while thinking about the constraints of designing alternative economies. To get a real feel of the constraint, I think is to talk to anyone who has had experience working in algorithmic trading, where billion dollars worth of transactions happen in milliseconds. In situations where individuals don’t have an environment to reflect, make mistakes & adapt it’s like being chained to current practices & norms. This applies to those in wall street as well as people living precariously.

        Hence any vision of alternative economics should consider forms of money and currency which can provide incentives against the time-bounded cost of better alternative social, economic and environmental outcomes.

    • I also agree with Silvia. Right now, It’s really hard for designers to jump right into the economic system to make changes. I recently researched on how design/designer can help establish an effective Corporate’s Social Responsibility (CSR) practice. The one thing that I realized from existing practice was their metal model is very much driven by the profit. It’s natural phenomena but there are so much potential if they apply/adapt how designers are solving challenges from an individual to a systemic level. Designers have an ability and metal model to craft a ‘language’ that can be spoken among all stakeholders to create a meaningful dialogue in a greater context and to build interactions with their surroundings.

    • It’s feeling both excited and tough to design a new economic solution. It’s hard to think beyond current economic paradigm under which our mindset formed.

      There is a tough work ahead and a long way to go. The saddest thing is that we realize the problem of the current situation but don’t have the ability to change, moreover, have to play under its rule. But as a designer, I am optimistic about the power of design, the self-saving/correcting ability of human being and nature. Designers serve the role to facilitate the communication among stakeholders and to pay attention to everyone’s benefits.

      I also agree with Silvia that we are going to direct the current system to shift into our alternative economies rather than creating a completely new economic system. The video Denise shared with us is a good example of changing linear development into circular sustainable development.

  2. I think related to working within the economic system in place, is mental framing put in place by the economic system in which we live. The way we frame problems and generate design solutions is influenced by our value systems. The values systems we have are highly interconnected with the economic system in which were raised and live. For instance, our notions of citizen responsibility, ownership, and even our value of human life are predicated on the capitalist system in which we live. I think this complicated the exercise, because we were likely to generate design solutions that were product and company focused. I think this is evidence of our mindset: the way we think abut problems and how to solve them is informed by capitalist values.

    • I agree with Vic that in lots of cases we tend to generate design solutions that are influenced by our value systems thus make things get worse. This is why designers have to be involved in designing new system because designers have a capability to not only set a starting point for the future (a.k.a. critical design and speculative design), but also gather people from various backgrounds and communicate with them. I think through this process of envisioning future and communication, we will be able to see the whole system and vicious circle in a bird’s eye view, get to understand complicated problems, switch our mindsets, and finally find out where to start to design new economic solutions.

      • I agree with many of the other posts here – it’s challenging to think outside of our existing economic model. And perhaps we do need an entirely new way of viewing and structuring our economic system to create better outcomes for a greater number of people. But at the same time, I don’t know if designing solutions within the “constraints” of our current system is necessarily a problem. It’s this very system that has provided all of us with the opportunity to even think about and explore how we might achieve better outcomes. In other words, because we’re not concerned with basic needs like food, shelter, safety and stability, we can focus on problems such as creating more sustainable product cycles etc.

        So while I’d agree that our current system isn’t perfect, I believe that an interesting and practical challenge is to find ways to work within our existing economic model and as Terry says “perturb” the system in order to create more sustainable and optimal outcomes for the greatest number of people.

        I’m not quite sure what’s needed to make this feasible, however. I think the beginnings of economic transition reside within B-corps and E-corps. I wonder what other incentive structures can be put in place to motivate other companies to adopt more socially responsible and holistic business models.

        At the same time, we can do a better job of educating consumers and reframing how value is perceived. For instance, I worked in the fashion industry for many years – a very resource-intensive industry that thrives on a lack of transparency in cost structures, supply chain etc. It’s been inspiring for me to see double/triple bottom line companies like Warby Parker and Patagonia disrupt the status quo. Not only have these companies created large sustainable businesses, but they’ve also given back to the communities they operate in and have made consumers more aware of—and place greater value on—how corporate profits are invested.

        By combining new incentive structures and reframing value, we could potentially provide a framework in which we naturally align corporate interests with those of society at large.

  3. As designers, we have many assumptions in the space we are designing for. This really limits us and narrows our scope of vision towards any project. And this is true when we design for alternative economic systems. We have limited knowledge of the existing systems and assume many factors of our design that will probably change the system or hope to make it better. But we can’t create new systems, we need to take apart the systems in place and discover pain points that we can try to make better. And this is something that we are also learning about in Service Design – the process of unbundling and bundling.
    I think better communication and a sense or ownership by citizens and designers will be needed to make new economic solutions feasible in the long run.

  4. In my group we were tasked with designing a new economic system for education and learning. We really struggled with this task because first we were trying to understand what is causing our current education system to fail for so many Americans. Quickly, of course, this turned into a wicked problem map as we scoped ever-larger problems within this sphere, including economic inequality, poor access to healthcare and job training. At this point, it seemed futile to try to create a new economic system within the 20 minute activity period. While I appreciate the intent of the activity, and I know my classmates and I are itching to put Transition Design into practice, I felt this over-simplified a serious problem and I wanted to dive deeper in understanding.

    I found the readings on new economic paradigms fascinating in their intent to refocus our lives and livelihoods around sustainable futures. I’ll be completely honest – I often have supported capitalist systems because a “survival of the fittest” framework weeds out bad ideas, incompetent workers and workplaces. I have felt frustrated with non-profits which are able to operate without accountability to a larger structure or economic forces. However, the theoretical free-market capitalist system, one that provides equal access and opportunity to all, does not exist. Large corporations have strong armed their way into powerful economic and political positions, and this must change in order for us to move towards a sustainable future. Although our current political climate feels bleak, small but growing movements like handmade and craft-maker economies are a symbol of what is yet to come. Corporations are increasingly getting in trouble on left or right depending on the business decisions they make (i.e., Nordstrom’s dropping Ivanka Trump’s brand). They cannot please everyone, and they will lose customers no matter what. Because craft and artisanal companies can appeal to their audiences on a personal and small-scale, they will light the way towards futures that are more local, connected and sustainable.

    • I agree with my teammate Theora that designing an alternate economy system for such a complicated issue of education and learning got really messy as soon as we stared discussing the topic. It did not take long for us to figure out that this was indeed a wicked problem at hand. The conversations brought out some of our observations from the cities we belonged to. We shared about the contrast in the education system in Berkeley and Chicago, and the issues surrounding these systems. From education system, we found our discussions connecting to various other issues of race, economy classes, pre-education of parents, urban policies and so on and at this point, we realized that in the given time frame it was impossible to think of an alternate solution that would solve all the problems. In the interest of time, we ended up presenting the most important of insights we got out of the discussion, but, issues like these would need much more thought before an alternate solution can be proposed.

  5. I have seen many documentary films talking about many global issues and they usually end up in Capitalism. When I look at the failure of communism, I used to believe that Capitalism is necessary to human society. When everyone act in selfish way, the “invisible hands” will push us to greater achievement.

    However, when I found out that Capitalism is only 300 years old which is very young comparing to human history, I started to believe that this paradigm could be shifted. I am glad to see someone like Max-Neef come out with idea about barefoot economics and his value principles. For sure, we still don’t know where to go besides Capitalism, but we need to understand that Capitalism has its own weakness and almost comes to an end. It makes us extract too much resource from earth by emphasizing on growth not development.

    As a designer, it is hard to work on the macro view of the problem. It is good to know that principles to build our mindset. I just heard a news about many states in US would like to enacted the law of “Right to Repair”. Today, if you try to fix iPhone by yourself, the warranty from Apple will become invalid. But most of time, the repairing fee is too expensive to encourage people buying the new one rather than fixing old one. You could imagine how much resources we could save by enacting this kind of law.

    • I agree with Jeffrey in that we as a society currently don’t know where we should go beyond Capitalism. It has worked for a good chunk of the 300 years it has been in place. But as we began to see and acknowledge it’s short comings, we need to shift this paradigm. Right now is the time when people are trying out other options. We need people working both on the individual level as well as the system level. It’ll take people working on different levels of the system in order to push for this shift. This is part of the core of transition design. The possible “Right to Repair” is a great example of an attempt at system level change.

  6. My group’s solution was very much informed by our current economic system. I personally found it difficult to overlook and disregard something that we take for granted while trying to design something entirely new. It is easy to forget how much of our lives are influenced by current economic principles. This in turn creates challenges when imagining new economic solutions which most of us are intimately unfamiliar with. We may understand the concepts behind a new economic system, but have never lived within such a system making it difficult to fully understand. Getting to a place where this is no longer true is not going to happen overnight, it will most likely take years to unfold. As long as steps are being made to pursue new economic solutions, they will become more and more normalized and eventually seen in the same light as current economic systems.

  7. My group (Jesse and Chirag) were asked to redesign “Income.” We found this task to be difficult and spent 75% of the time just try to break down what the current state of income is right now. We even looked to the past to see how the concept of “Income” has evolved. Then, as we began thinking of new ways to deal with “income,” we realized that every suggestion or node we put down affected something else. The challenging part about re-conceiving economic systems is that it affects many things. It links to wicked problems. I think to make economic solutions like these feasible going forward, we need to have buy-in from everyone, like Silvia mentioned. We also need to be aware that power struggles and politics do exist.

    Also, during our presentation, Theora suggested that we look up the Alaska fishing industry for suggestions on how they tried to re-design around “Income.”

    Furthermore, I found the concept of circular economy to be interesting. It explores how designing products that can be ‘made to be made again’ to power our systems. If you haven’t already, I suggest watching this video, because it really breaks down the circular economy in a visual pleasing way: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/overview/concept

    • Thank you Danise. I appreciated the video so much. As you said, it is visually pleasing but also more importantly it presents actionable ways to achieve circular economy: making it returnable to nature, recycling materials, and rethinking ownership.

      Reshaping the notion of ownership particularly resonates with me. As Peer to peer economy paper shows, current linear economy stems from false understanding that finite natural resources support infinite growth and over-protected ownership of knowledge. To make shift to circular economy, misunderstanding that we have ownership of nature and knowledges belongs to individuals should be tackled.

  8. While it is a joyful philosophic exercise to imagine an “alternative economy”, the problem is that we have an economy already in place which is predicated on continuous growth and driven by the greed of a small number of humans who run governments and corporations. Our current economic system is also self-replicating, self-reinforcing and entwined with nearly every aspect of our lives. In order to imagine an alternative economy, you must literally imagine an alternative humanity. If you imagine an alternative humanity, you must also be responsible for explaining how your alternative structure could be reached by the current real humanity.

    I think this is the primary critique I have of Neef’s philosophy, there’s no explanation for how we could possibly reach the alternative economy that he imagined. There is also no acknowledgement of the embedded forces of capitalism that will actively and powerfully resist the creation of alternative economies. Until there is an explanation for how an alternative economy can be feasibly reached, it is nothing more than a fun thought to play with.

  9. It’s very difficult to break out of the current method of thinking that is informed by the current economic paradigm. My group explored a far-future post-scarcity economy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-scarcity_economy) made possible through increasingly versatile rapid-prototyping machines (that can assemble any arbitrary arrangement of atoms, including other rapid-prototyping machines) driven down in cost to be roughly equal to the price of the raw materials themselves. I found it was difficult to communicate how different of a world this is, I think in large part to how essential and inescapable the current paradigm of scarcity is, and how centrally it has factored into every economic interaction so far in human history.

    Our imaginations limit us when we take the current for granted.

    The economic system above articulated, falling within the bounds of physical possibility will come out of the steady and exponential expansion of knowledge of the world around us. Interesting that the current capitalist system will bring about its own revolution, and its dissolution.

  10. I was also struck by the potentially overwhelming challenges involved in transitioning to an ‘alternative economy’. While I have been pondering these problems within a broad scope of systemic change, I have also been struck by how many adjustments would have to be made on a personal level. Take produce, for example. Would I be willing to give up easy access to out of season fruits and vegetables? Would I be willing to share access to appliances, such as a washing machine and dryer? In the end, a transition to a more ‘commons’-based economy would involve some sort of sacrifice. This is not to say that the benefits wouldn’t outweigh inconvenience or that the systems put in place wouldn’t be even better than before. However, I wonder how willing people would be to make a change, even if feasible, if it meant an inconvenience. I know personally I don’t want to share a washer and dryer. I have used laundromats and dorm laundry facilities and I am glad to be rid of them. Am I okay with not eating strawberries except in the summer? I’m not happy at the thought, but I suppose I would get used to it. It is not that this way of living wouldn’t be normalized after a time, but getting people to actually make a transition seems challenging even on a personal level.

  11. My group focused on education and knowledge, and this was a really interesting topic to tackle in a new lens, because we are so close to it, being immersed in an environment that is so wholly about the pursuit of knowledge. In this sense, I think it was a strength for us because we were able to access currently utilized spaces, to work with what was there to form a solution that seemed feasible. We thought of incorporating free knowledge for the community around CMU, and to provide research opportunities to students and shared access to the community around campus. With that, however, we were challenged with the specifics of applying transition theory: how much of this was a turnaround as an “integrated satisfier” (as Max-Neef says)?

    In wanting to make education accessible, the feedback we got also helped us realize that gently encouraging test beds for new ideas for transition. To be able to begin to shift mindsets and to introduce knowledge in itself seems like a two-fold process, and to push this forward, it would make sense to set up a theme that different schools within campus could contribute lesson plans to, and to encompass transition thought into different areas. In this way, designing a new economic solution for knowledge could happen with one step at a time while still keeping in mind a large-scale shift.

    • I completely agree with Tammy, My group focused on an alternate education system which was based on the pursuit of knowledge. We came up with a concept of integrating the campus fair like a fun event with education. This concept helped make education a more open and accessible to all kind of concept bypassing the wicked problems like lack of money and expensive good quality education. While doing this we realized the necessity of having intrinsic motivation for all stakeholders in this concept, be it, learners of educators. This was absolutely necessary for the solution to work. Though to have an open education or completely change the economic system for the knowledge requires time and multiple concepts to simultaneously help drive the change, ours was a small attempt to brainstorm for a possible new paradigm for education in the near future. This made me realize that there needed to be a change in the system and to come up and implement an alternative economy is a big challenge for designers, policy makers etc..

  12. Manya Krishnaswamy February 19, 2017 at 7:51 pm Reply

    I think the seeds of transition towards an alternative economy already exist in B-corps, social enterprises, community initiatives, and so on. The biggest challenge, I think, is to provide them with greater support – in terms of resources – and amplify their reach and impact. Having worked at a triple bottom line startup and been exposed to various others, one opportunity I see is for more collaboration…

    First, collaboration between socially and environmentally minded organisations that are providing similar services or ones that complement each other. By sharing their resources and networks, they sort of bolster each other in moving them forward.

    Second, partnerships (beyond superficial corporate social responsibility initiatives) between socially and environmentally minded organisations and companies with a capitalist mindset. This provides opportunity for more human values to permeate the company culture – “doing good is good business”.

  13. For those who are familiar with the idea of 4th industrial revolution (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko2esJeGsrI), this week’s discussion around economic structure was interesting. Our group was rethinking the way we participate and brainstormed around where is the instinct of participation come from and how we can address it in the scale of Pittsburgh. We found this a little bit hard because of the interconnectedness of the city. We have discussed how social communities enable people to interact in shared environments such as churches that provide services for not only the need of identity but also addressing the need for “understanding” through (i.e.) after school programs, or the need for “participation” through their space planning such their architecture. Although churches are one way to address these needs, they are not holistic and we thought about how an element such as church can be connected through other systems or how do they embrace or resist to other systems, such as national policy. Then we concluded with for a systems-level change, every element of the system should be stimulated.

  14. I really enjoyed this exercise and working with Adrian and Francis to design a new economic solution surrounding skills. One of the most interesting take-aways for me, was the realization that there a small scale, grassroots, efforts already happening for some of these sectors. Francis shared with us the Sustainable South Bronx (http://www.ssbx.org/), where they work to promote green job training and programs in the South Bronx. While this was extremely relevant for our group, the food group made me think of another grassroots initiative happening right here in Pittsburgh, 412 Food Rescue (http://412foodrescue.org/). The are taking extra food or soon to be expired food and creating a delivery option to get it to those who could benefit from the food.

    I think that taking a look at these and other efforts that are happening already, we can begin to work with and learn from them. For our group, we looked at Sustainable South Bronx and reimagined what it might look like on a larger scale, partnering with large companies and even the government to work towards a more sustainable future. Our concept focused on retraining workers in the coal and gas industries with new skills that could then place them within companies and organizations with a focus on sustainable energy. I would love to continue working on this prompt with Francis and Adrian to expand and dive deeper into the re-skillz work. GREEN TEAM!

  15. My group discussed the alternative economics of appliance and we narrowed down to focus on cellphones. As we all known, the latest version of cellphones has been kept launching. Since one nature of appliance is “new is always better.” it seems really hard to resist the desire of keeping replacing the old mobile phones with new ones. Thus, we tried to find a new angle for consumers to reevaluate what kind of cell phones they really need– the latest one, or a personalized one with functions that they will actually use.

    By providing a new type of cell phone, our design solution– the modular cell phone– enables people to combine different functional modules which they need instead of purchasing a holistic one. In this scenario, consumers won’t waste money on over-advanced cell phones. Besides that, updating of hardware can be scaled down as replacing one module, which is not only more economic, but also environment-friendly.

  16. Our group discussed an alternative economy of recycling waste. It is fun to think about alternate solutions in a quick exercise, however, I think these solutions are rooted in our assumptions of things happen. So in our particular scenario, we discussed how each apartment can be provided with unique colored bags to dump recyclable waste. This recyclable waste can be collected and used to grow fresh produce. People recycling can be rewarded according to their contribution towards either buying the fresh produce or proportional discount in their energy bills. The underlying motivator being “reward”, we tried to tackle the problem of recycling in this generation. In such a solution we hypothesize that rewards can be the perfect motivator for current generation to inculcate the habit of recycling which can trickle down to the next generation as they will be most accustomed to the idea as well as the process of recycling.

    The challenging thing about reconceiving a new economic model is the lack of research and insights that can drive action. While we did conceptualize an alternative that directly impacts citizens, there is need to think at a systemic level about strategies and practices which can make the whole system thrive and sustain itself. For example, if we talk about colored bags, what material and cost will be incurred in their production and who will sponsor it. Thinking further, more question would be about how to establish a service of collection, dumping and replacing these bags to their respective places as that would involve a new system to be in place along with human resource. I have worked on such problems before and I guess my single most important learning was to keep going forward by implementing and constantly learning from the outcomes.

  17. I never realized that it would be so difficult to think of an alternate economic system where there is nothing called money. Whatever we came up with, we reached a dead end and could not imagine how things would work if not for money, or something like it. Even if it did not involve money, it involved some form of credits or something. One form of ‘currency’ exchanged for another. By the end of the class, the idea we had was an elaborate form of bartering, with the government acting as middlemen, as is now. Even in this, there were problems. For example, how do you tell someone how much their salary is? What would it mean to buy a house? This led us to think if there had to be anything like buying and owning. What if you got things when you need them and only the kind/amount you need? I cam to believe that money is so ingrained that it is almost impossible to think of a world without it.

  18. For me this exercise was challenging (similar to the challenges expressed by Silvia/Lauren) We had a hard time in our group thinking about ways to incentivize less waste by making composting and recycling more economically viable. It was interesting to try to think freely about how to incentivize This is a problem based on the consumption habits people have with disposable goods. I thought the readings on new economic paradigms were interesting and applied to this type of exploration, but to really implement the type of changes we proposed would require a shift in the knowledge and ultimately the values that individuals hold. It felt like we were trying to solve a different problem than the one presented to us, and our solutions reflected a shift in incentivizing less trash production in exchange for more composting that would allow a person to access free fruits and vegetables–a positive trade-off but not a complete economic solution.

  19. Michelina Campanella March 21, 2017 at 12:42 am Reply

    In this class, our group redesigned an appliance – the refrigerator. In our solution, we proposed a rental system from companies for a monthly fee, which would cover the cost of spare parts of the appliance that break down during their rental period. We also talked about empowering renters with the knowledge of how to fix the appliance on their own, through videos or educational pieces that would accompany these spare parts. We deliberated over whether leaving repairs to the renter would empower people to treat their appliances with greater care, if it would frustrate them and cause more problems by leaving the appliance in disrepair, or if companies would even buy into this idea in the first place. In many ways our group couldn’t agree on the feasibility of this concept and although we settled on it, our solution felt contrived and that its life would end on the whiteboard.

    Creating new ways of doing business that are not profit or growth driven seems like an impossible task, especially when there are no economists in the room to help us. I of course agree that businesses should support the needs of human beings, and in many cases that does not involve money, but asking a company to sacrifice profit for the benefit of humanity, or starting a company yourself where profit is not a central concern, is almost ridiculous in the current state of affairs.

    Going forward, I truly think that a collapse of the current economic paradigm is what will catapult a new way of doing things. That is perhaps a fatalist point of view, but it’s very difficult for me to see how wide-spread change will happen while the capitalist regime is in place. Sure, the sharing economy is taking hold, and perhaps that is a piece of the future that is here now, but in the grand scheme how disruptive is it? My hope for the future is that alternative economies will emerge while the old paradigm dies off, so that when collapse does happen there will be alternatives to fall back on. Otherwise, my fear is that we will be blindsided and fall into a state of chaos without a plan to rebuild.

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