NEF review of the year 2023

Highlights from the last 12 months

As the planet burns, the ongoing cost of living emergency must not be used as a smokescreen to row back from net zero. We are already seeing worrying signs of this, despite the palpable visibility of the impact of climate change on communities at home and abroad. NEF is leading the way in demonstrating how we can transition fairly, ensuring those organisations and people that can most afford to pay the costs of reaching net zero do so, while protecting those who cannot. Alongside this, it’s critical that there is a boost to people’s standard of living, it is unacceptable for inequality to continue to rise. Every day people pay the price whilst big business profits from the chaos. This will not only require innovative new policies, evidence and analysis, but also messaging research and organising to build power around the transition.

This is exactly what NEF has been doing in 2023, through our three missions: a New Social Settlement; the Green New Deal; and a Democratic Economy. Our National Energy Guarantee, a cost effective way to protect people from energy price shocks while incentivising wealthy households to reduce consumption, has gone mainstream. It was tabled as an amendment to the Energy Bill by Clive Lewis MP, underpinned by the Energy 4 All campaign which gained 600,000 signatures and shifted the political dial enough for a prominent right of centre think tank to propose its own version.

Like wealth, power needs to be redistributed if we are to achieve fundamental change. If people aren’t involved in the decisions that shape their future, the parameters of that future are set by those who already have power. NEF, uniquely amongst think tanks, has organisers who work on the ground to build the relationships, skills and structures that people need to shift the balance of power in their communities. In this review you will read how our brilliant team of organisers have helped people at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis to fight for and win immediate improvements to their everyday lives, while connecting them to others facing the same problems across the country to come together to fight for systemic changes.

This strategy is already bearing fruit. Housing policies to increase social housing and tax overseas investors developed with our Homes for Us grassroots alliance were adopted by Labour at its conference in October. The Lib Dems and Greens have also adopted Homes for Us proposals.

In February we launched a ground-breaking project bringing together place-based policy and practice with this new model of organising to create a revolutionary approach to transforming local economies. For the first time, leading organisations – NEF, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), Co-ops UK and the Centre for Thriving Places – are concentrating our combined resources, expertise and interventions in specific places over the long term. By working in tandem with new Combined Authorities, their directly-elected mayors and the communities they serve, we aim to demonstrate how to deliver sustainable improvements to wellbeing and provide a template for how to level up.

After five wonderful years, I am sad to say goodbye to NEF. It’s been a privilege to work with so many passionate and talented people. I want to say a special thank you to all of NEF’s funders and supporters who have made everything we have achieved together possible. At least I can rest easy knowing I leave NEF in Danny’s very capable hands and I look forward to watching NEF thrive.

Miatta Fahnbulleh, CEO

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