New Economy Washington: A Path Forward

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By Deric Gruen, Marcy Bowers, Misha Werschkul

Despite important policy changes like a higher minimum wage and universal paid family leave , the economic rules continue to divide us, privileging a few, while immigrants and people of color, households with lower incomes and wealth, and small businesses bear disproportionate weight of an economy that’s bringing everyone down. We can and must work better together in support of a shared vision of an equitable and regenerative future that meets the needs of all communities within a healthy environment.

From September 2018 to June 2019, leaders from Front and Centered, the People’s Economy Lab, Poverty Action Network, and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, supported by a grant from the Progress Alliance of Washington, asked our partners and base to consider what must be done.  We met with an advisory committee of labor, communities of color, small business advocates, and economic and environmental thought leaders; reviewed case studies of campaigns; and interviewed and facilitated conversations to identify the elements to advance long-term, systemic transformation in our economy.  

Our vision is to build an economy that is rooted in democracy and self-determination, is sustainable and equitable, and creates shared economic well-being. This is a fundamental reorientation away from an economy rooted in growth, commodification, extraction of labor and resources, and exclusion based on race and gender. We envision a Washington where all people’s fundamental needs are met, including having free time for important things like family and participation in community life. Where all work is dignified, rewarded, where all workers have a voice at work, and where everyone can afford to live a good life. Where the air, water, and land is clean and healthy.

To accomplish this vision, we must stay true to key principles of equity, transformation and regeneration. That if we understand the history of our current economic system and define and believe in our own vision, make privilege, oppression, and equity explicit, build consensus starting with the base, and create and sustain a state-wide cross-silo movement built on trust,  experimentation, and learning we can create the conditions for success.

But we also need to address persistent tensions, like the need to urgently address immediate harm facing communities versus the need for long term systems change or the need to build a large, broad coalition  versus staying nimble and adaptable.

There was clarity that we need to move forward on several fronts to achieve transformation, and a transition that is just.  We identified the need to:  

    • Form backbones to convene across silos within and between movements affected by the economy.

    • Build the bigger we, organizing statewide, training leaders, and aligning strategy.

    • Change the story of how the economy is perceived, and build belief that we can do something about it.

    • Build the new economic models, not dependent on the rules in place today, and learn from practice.

    • Change the rules that maintain this system and that can support a new vision, working across issue areas.

    • Move the money, divest from the extractive, exploitative economy and invest in self-determination for communities most impacted

Critical to each strategic area is the ability to bridge silos. Communications work must serve organizers, organizing must be aimed at policy, policy must be responsive to those on the ground doing the work.

These findings are currently informing planning and actions of the core organizing group, the advisory committee, the project funder, and our communities.  We need to coordinate these actions to ensure the movement is bigger than the sum of the individual parts. We also need to ensure all strategies have sufficient capacity to succeed.  We want you involved, for more information contact: deric [at]