People, planet, power

A framework for deciding how we live together and what we expect from our governments

These are NEF’s proposals for a new social settlement – a framework for deciding how we live together, what we expect from our governments and what we want to achieve for ourselves and others.

It builds on the strengths of the post-War settlement inspired by the Beveridge Plan, but moves on – because the world has changed profoundly – to offer a bold new approach to the challenges we face today.

The new social settlement has three goals: social justice, environmental sustainability, and a more equal distribution of power. All three are intertwined and must be pursued together. They tackle severe contemporary problems: widening social inequalities, accelerating threats to the natural environment, and accumulations of power by wealthy elites.

These goals lead to a set of objectives, which highlight crucial issues too often ignored in mainstream debate. Like the goals, they too are linked together and can be mutually reinforcing:

  • Plan for prosperity without depending on economic growth.
  • Shift investment and action upstream to prevent harm instead of just coping with the consequences.
  • Value and strengthen the core economy of unpaid work, everyday wisdom and social connections on which all our lives depend.
  • Foster solidarity, understanding just how much we depend on each other to achieve our goals.

Our proposals are part of NEF’s work to build a new economics that serves the interests of people and the planet, not the other way around. We challenge the dominant view that the key to progress is to deregulate markets, promote choice and competition, and boost consumption. We offer a different set of ideas that promotes wellbeing for all within the limits of the natural environment, as well more inclusive and collaborative ways of making decisions and working together. We aim to meet today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To help realise our goals and objectives, we set out some proposals for practical change. They don’t represent a comprehensive plan, but suggest a new direction of travel and a different set of priorities ‒ our contribution to wider debates about what kind of society we want for the future.

Rebalance work and time

  • a new industrial and labour market strategy to achieve high-quality and sustainable jobs for all, with a stronger role for employees in decision-making;
  • a gradual move towards shorter and more flexible hours of paid work for all aiming for 30 hours as the new standard working week;
  • an offensive against low pay to achieve decent hourly rates for all;
  • high-quality, affordable childcare for all who need it.

Release human resources

  • support and encourage the unvalued and unpaid assets and activities that are found in everyday life beyond the formal economy;
  • adopt as standard the principles of co-production so that service users and providers work together to meet needs;
  • change the way public services are commissioned to focus on outcomes and co-production.

Strengthen social security

  • turn the tide against markets and profit-seeking, developing instead more diverse, open, and collaborative public services;
  • build a more rounded, inclusive, and democratic benefits system

Plan for a sustainable future

  • promote eco-social policies, such as active travel and retro-fitting homes, that help to achieve both social justice and environmental sustainability;
  • offset the socially regressive effects of carbon pricing and other pro-environmental policies;
  • ensure that public institutions lead by example;
  • establish new ways of future-proofing policies.


People, planet, power report cover


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