Let’s do a thought experiment together. Imagine 20 or 30 years from now, we get to live in a different kind of economy, a “beloved economy.” Define the word “beloved” in whatever ways you see fit. How does an alternate economy look to you? How do we build an economy that is inclusive to everyone? What do you think should change in the way we work?
For the past seven years, Jess Remington and Joanna Cea, two visiting scholars in Stanford University’s Global Projects Center, have asked these kinds of questions to hundreds of people with different backgrounds, age, political identities, and careers. In their book talk “Beloved Economies” last Tuesday afternoon, they once again asked these questions to the audience, engaging them all in a space of future re-imagination.
“Beloved Economies” started as a collaborative research initiative with the guiding question: “Why are we trapped in exhausting and harmful modes of working, and what is possible when we innovate out of them?” During the research project, Remington and Cea collaborated with many other professionals and academics in the fields to endeavor to find the answers. Ashby Monk, Executive Director of the Stanford Research Initiative on Long-Term Investing, and Eugene Eric Kim, Founder of Faster Than 20, are two collaborators in the material of the book. Monk and Kim sat together with the two authors in the Otero lounge for an intimate discussion of the research project and how the book came as a product of this seven-year endeavor.
Remington asked the audience to share their answers from the thought experiment, inviting people to engage in the work of imagining a new economic system. Similar themes, varying from a community of care and mutual aid to a world of arts and creativity, came up from audience members’ responses.
Remington tied these answers together back to the book “Beloved Economies” and explained the ways we as a society can generate a new definition of success, rooted in well-being rather than productivity. The metrics of success can be measured with our happiness instead of materialistic achievements. In addition, with his experience in investment, Monk encouraged investors and anyone with the intention to invest to think more consciously about ways to include senior citizens and people with disability in the growth of an economy.
The book also offers a framework for such ideas to be turned into actionable items. “There are seven practices in ‘Beloved Economies’ that we focus on: share decision-making power, prioritize relationships, reckon with history, seek difference, source from multiple ways of knowing, trust there is time, prototype early and often,” Cea said.
The research team applied the very first practice in their process — sharing decision-making power — as the team operated as peers and groups instead of a hierarchical structure. These practices require a commitment to learning and growing with each other.
Kim analogized this commitment to the act of running: runners feel good running because it has been built into their muscles as a habit. While these practices are unfamiliar to business management, they have the potential to transform the way companies work and change that integral habit.
When one of the audience members asked how the group could expand this model to the greater economy with specific actions, Kim answered, “Modeling is already an action. It’s the first step.” The research team is still collaborating with each other beyond the publication of the book to build frameworks toward a futuristic and beloved economy.