Our lives are dominated by an economic system that fuels inequality, makes our jobs and homes more insecure, and hastens environmental breakdown. Support for this system is crumbling, which places us at a moment of both great danger and opportunity. Disaffection with political and economic institutions has unleashed the forces of the populist right, but also created a once-in-a-generation chance to define and build a new economy.

Some people are building this new economy right now in the places they live and work. From workers’ cooperatives to community-owned energy they are shifting wealth and power to people and their communities. But while our zombie economic system stumbles on, all that energy will continue to be blocked by an outdated set of economic rules and institutions.

We work with people igniting change from below and we combine this with rigorous research to fight for change at the top

For more than three decades, the New Economics Foundation’s mission has been to transform the economy so it works for people and the planet. We celebrate – and help to enable – the new economy springing up from below, but we also know that it needs support from above, including a state that prioritises people’s wellbeing and a healthy planet over a misplaced faith in free markets and competition. Therefore we work with people igniting change from below and we combine this with rigorous research to fight for change at the top.  

We conduct original, rigorous and creative research to support our policy development strategy for the new economy. We apply sector-leading quantitative and qualitative methodologies and practices, whilst learning from and giving voice to the people and communities we work and campaign with.

Working at the heart of a growing ecosystem of organisations and institutions, NEF aims to create a new economy that by 2040 works for people and within environmental limits. We are guided by six principles:

  • A thriving and healthy environment at the core of the new system: living within environmental limits and reversing climate change is a core purpose of our economic model and the institutions that guide it.
  • Better and more equal living standards: the basics for a decent quality of life (basic income, housing, health, social care, education and childcare) are guaranteed for all and provided collectively, and income and wealth inequality are reduced with improvements in wellbeing, regardless of class, race or gender;
  • Greater common and co-operative ownership: common ownership of public goods, essential infrastructure and services is the norm with more businesses, assets and technologies in co-operative, mutual or employee ownership;
  • Progressive businesses: private companies are incentivised to act for the long term and public good, with social and environmental responsibility and strong voice and power for workers built into their business models;
  • Decentralised, active state: an active and enabling partner state that is significantly decentralised with strong local institutions that are rooted in and accountable to the communities they serve;
  • Empowered and active communities: citizens are democratically engaged in the economy, with greater power to act collectively and make decisions within their communities to improve their lives.

Our work with communities making change on the ground tells us it is not enough to hand down policy solutions from above. We aim to democratise the process of policy making itself – through popular education, participation and organising. The policy solutions we develop must be shaped by the lived experience of those on the sharp end of the old economy, and build on the positive changes we can unlock on the ground now. To ensure this, a simple and distinctive approach runs through all of our work:

  • We bring together new economic analysis with the lived experience of people on the ground: We will provide a better understanding of today’s complex problems and of people’s lived experience by putting our economic and analytical skills at the service of communities and institutions seeking change in specific places.
  • We enable others to develop new economic solutions: Working in partnership with others striving to build the new economy, with small businesses and local institutions, we will mobilise our organising, co-production and campaigning skills to convene and support the development of the new economy in practice, taking change as far as we can in specific places.
  • We learn from new economics practice to develop radical policy ideas: Drawing on our grassroots organising and inspired by the practical approach of partners and allies, we will build a policy manifesto for a new economy and mobilise people to advocate and campaign for change at the national and systemic level, shifting the barriers to local economic transformation.

The rules and institutions that shape our economy are not forces of nature beyond our control, but have been designed by people. Over the past 40 years they have been redesigned to work for corporate power and wealthy elites. We can change them again, but only if we build power together. Our aim is ambitious, yet urgent: together we can change the rules to protect the planet, build a more equal society and give everyone a say in how the economy is run.