Opinion

How do ordinary people get to have a say in their economic future?

Published on 9 March 2018

Image of Jodie Thorpe
Jodie Thorpe

Research Fellow, Cluster Leader

A new project by IDS, in collaboration with the Economic Advancement Programme of the Open Society Foundations, aims to explore what constitutes meaningful participation in the economic sphere and how it might be enabled. And we are hoping you can help us.

Jubilee human pie chart by Paul Miller - Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

IDS and others have done a huge amount of work over the decades to make the case that ‘participation’, understood as people engaging in society and in the decisions that impact their lives, is recognised as a right held by all.

Much progress has been made.

This includes pioneering work to put farmers first, strengthening the voice and agency of small-scale cultivators to develop their own futures and hold governments and private investors to account. And work on women’s economic and political agency.

However, participation has often focused on social, civic and political issues, not on issues of economic development.

A new project by IDS, in collaboration with the Economic Advancement Programme of the Open Society Foundations, aims to explore what constitutes meaningful participation in the economic sphere and how it might be enabled. And we are hoping you can help us.

New development paradigm links economic growth to broader goals of justice and sustainability – but how will this work in practice?

Globally, the rise of extreme inequalities, environmental crisis, and escalating conflict over scarce jobs and resources, are leading many to question the dominant model of ‘trickle down’ economic growth.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set a new universal standard for development that not only contributes to economic progress, but does so in a way that links social, economic and sustainability goals, and which “leaves no one behind”.

So, while there is an emerging recognition of the need for a new paradigm that links economic growth to broader goals of justice and sustainability, there is less thinking on how this emerges in practice, and what the implications are for policymakers, private sectors leaders or civil society activists.

Clearly, there are some better known models or ways of organising economic activity which have been more inclusive. Classic cases include worker cooperatives or participatory budgeting. Participatory budgeting, for example, supports citizens to discuss critical local issues with each other and determine budgetary preferences, which then have a real impact on local government allocations. There is much learning to be had from such pioneers, to understand how ordinary people can participate in what is often seen as the domain of economic or business ‘experts’.

Newer experiments are also emerging, in response to both social and technological changes.

For example, the platform cooperative economy employs the power of technology to enable cooperatively owned online marketplaces, where drivers, cleaners or nurses, for example, offer their work for fair prices on a platform where they’re in charge.

Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) are also rooted in alternative forms of exchange and sometimes also alternative currencies. In the Pumarejo neighbourhood of Seville, for example, the Puma is an alternative currency designed to support collective decision-making, localised consumption and the redeployment of under-utilised skills and competencies.

Other cases include:

As part of our research on participation in economic advancement, we are looking for more examples like this – and we need your help!  We are looking for examples where ‘ordinary’ people have been empowered to have a say in their economic future. We are also interested in what hasn’t worked, and the learning that has been taken from this experience.

Invitation to submit examples of participation in economic advancement

We are inviting you to participate in this project by sharing examples you know where people have a real voice in economic decisions.

Can you help us?

Are you aware of examples where people are empowered to have a say in their economic future?

Please share your examples in this Google Form.

In particular, we want to understand participation in three areas:

  • Alternative forms of economic management that enable workers, consumers, communities, farmers, for example, to have a voice.
  • Citizen voice in government economic policy-making
  • Grassroots economic alternatives where people claim ownership over economic processes that affect their lives

The overall aim is to shed light on these interventions and to learn from them, helping to frame future interventions.

Download the full open call, including more in-depth information about project concepts and examples already identified.

Image: Jubilee human pie chart. Credit: Paul Miller – Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Related content