Watch Richard Heinberg’s keynote address at the Resilience, Resistance & Regional Equity Convergence.
The New England New Economy Fund was founded to support the needs of the local movement for a new economy in New England by: a) fueling the activity of local groups with direct grant funding to support community-based projects, programs and leaders; b) ensuring the sustainability of local efforts by providing skills-building opportunities and technical assistance; and c) building the capacity of local groups by supporting an emerging learning community of local groups through gatherings and network-building activities.
The Fund is a collaboration of New England Grassroots Environment Fund and the New England New Economy Transition (NET) program of Institute for Policy Studies, on behalf of the local, state and regional initiatives working to build a new economy.
Action is needed now in New England and beyond to ensure that residents have continued access to livelihoods, food, health care, transportation, energy, and other basic needs. Action is also needed to adapt to the “new normal”; that is, a world characterized by more extreme weather events, rising sea levels, higher costs of energy, resource shortages, and financial instability.
Across the region, hundreds of local initiatives are taking on the task of building community resilience and shaping a new economy that works for their community. As a web of networked, locally-rooted economies grows, support for the grassroots groups creating these building blocks is essential. Whether it is crafting an community education series, keeping a big box store off their main street, starting a time bank, creating mutual aid networks, starting up a cooperative business, or circulating a local currency, community groups are finding myriad ways to come together in the face of economic uncertainty created by an unjust global economy. They are resisting the forces of globalization and building viable economic alternatives that are based in renewed relationships with each other and the earth.
Fueled by volunteer time, collaboration, and a shared vision, these groups are deeply motivated and committed to building the next economy that benefits all neighbors, not just those with privilege. These groups are finding ways to bridge divides of race, class, and language in their communities, and many are inspired by the insight that equity is intrinsic to true resilience.
Partners: The NENE Fund collaborates with its Partners and other organizations to advance the new economy movement. Our partners resonate with the thinking behind the Fund and commit to engaging in outreach on its behalf. Current formal Partners include:
- Center for Economic Democracy
- Co-Op Power
- Transition US
Interested in supporting the New Economy Fund? Interested in support for your New Economy project?
Check out the slides from our webinar with Betsy Leondar-Wright of Class Action for tips on creating a cross-class community initiative. (Due to technical glitches with the GoToWebinar software, a recording of the webinar is not available.)
Also check out Betsy’s groundbreaking new book, Missing Class: Strengthening Social Movement Groups by Seeing Class Cultures.
Here is a short list of resources to consider for further reading, discussion and training:
On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, New England NET hosted a webinar with the Cooperative Development Institute about bringing co-ops to your community.
Watch the recording:
Rob Brown is a Cooperative Development Specialist and the Director of CDI’s Business Ownership Solutions (BOS) program. BOS works with business owners to help them consider whether conversion to a co-op would meet their needs, and with employees and community members to facilitate conversions to worker and/or community-owned cooperatives. Formerly, he was the Maine Housing Program Specialist in CDI’s NEROC program. He has a background in community organizing, communications, non-profit and for-profit business development, and public policy development and advocacy. Rob studied economics and public policy at the University of Maine and College of the Atlantic, specializing in rural and community economic development, and has completed the Maine Association of Nonprofits’ Executive Leadership Institute. He has founded several non-profit and for-profit business organizations in Maine, and, nationally, was a William Jefferson Clinton Distinguished Lecturer at the Clinton Presidential Library and School of Public Service, a founding member and Steering Committee member of United for a Fair Economy’s Tax Fairness Organizing Collaborative, and a member of the National Skills Coalition’s Leadership Council. Most recently, Rob was the founding Executive Director of Opportunity Maine, a statewide organizing, research, and advocacy nonprofit focused on education and workforce development, energy policy, and economic development.
Matt Meyer is a Housing Program Organizer under CDI’s NEROC Program and a Cooperative Development Specialist focusing on Southeast New England and has begun to offer consultation for the formation of new group-equity housing cooperatives in the Boston area. He has a diverse background as an organizer and has worked extensively in leadership training and development at a national level. Matt is nearing completion of the CooperationWorks! Cooperative Development Certificate Program, a 120-hour training. He is also a founding board member and organizer of a Boston-based housing cooperative.
By Sarah Byrnes & Orion Kriegman
On Wednesday October 8, one hundred people gathered at a church in Jamaica Plain, MA, to consider: Can New England Feed Itself?
The answer is yes, New England can feed itself – halfway. Food Solutions New England’s Food Vision, a rigorous analysis of New England’s history and natural resources, claims that our region could produce at least half of our own food if we farm three times as much land (up from 5% to 15% of our landmass) and shift from a “Business as Usual” diet to the “Omnivore’s Delight.” In a different scenario, called “Regional Reliance,” the Vision finds we could produce 70% of our food within our six states. Either of these scenarios represents a vast improvement over the current system, where only 10% of food is produced regionally.*
But before we get any further, it’s important to remind ourselves why we want regional food. “If we want a local or regional food system,” says Brian Donahue, the evening’s main speaker, “it’s important to ask: Why? What values are we truly serving?”
Brian is a professor of American Environmental Studies at Brandeis and a sheep farmer. He is also a lead author of A New England Food Vision, and he answers his own question by explaining that a local/regional food system does a better job at providing healthy food for all, supporting sustainable farming and fishing, and supporting thriving communities. These are the core values of the Vision.
So let’s get specific. In the Omnivore’s Delight scenario, New England would produce:
- all of its own vegetables (half of which would be grown in small plots in urban and suburban areas),
- half its own fruit,
- some of its grain and dry beans, and
- all its own dairy, meat, seafood, and other animal products.
We would continue to import grain for our animals and ourselves, tropical fruits like bananas and oranges, and items like sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, and spices.
The Vision makes use of New England’s natural strengths, such as pastureland for cows and sheep, orchards for apples, and bogs for cranberries, while acknowledging that it is quite difficult to grow grain here. Grains are also a relatively good food to transport – they are comparatively light weight, store well, and can be sent on barges to local ports.
The Omnivore’s delight scenario also acknowledges that few people will be inspired by a diet that has no oranges, coffee, chocolate, or sugar, and so creates a Vision that still allows for these imports. Rather than push people to sacrifice and give up specialty items, Omnivore’s Delight offers an attractive alternative that could be enhanced if real crisis requires us to push further toward regional reliance.
There’s value to imports beyond simply taste, according to Brian. He noted that historically, when people have relied exclusively on a small area for their food, they suffered periodic cycles of mass starvation. The lesson is that in order to be resilient, a food system must be linked to other regions through trade. No matter what the future holds, Brian argues, New England would do well to import some food.
Listen to the event’s introductory remarks from Orion Kriegman
Listen to Brian’s remarks:
How Farming is Like Baseball
In order to achieve this vision, we will need a lot more farmers. To make this point, Eva Agudelo of the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) asked the audience if anyone was familiar with baseball. Everyone raised their hand (except the one Brit in the audience), though no one in the room was a professional baseball player.
Eva made the point that every American, if thrust onto a baseball field, knows the basics of what to do: swing the bat, run the bases, etc. “Farming should be like that,” says Eva. “Only the most ambitious and talented people will ever be full-time, professional baseball players—or farmers.” But there are many other levels of involvement, from Little League to the City League to Triple A. If every American knew the basics of farming—as in, how to “run the bases”—and many were good enough for minor league farming, we’d go a long way toward producing the food needed for the Vision. (Not to mention how much fun we’d have digging in the dirt and making fresh strawberry pie.)
Listen to Eva:
What’s in that Fish Stick?
The Food Solutions New England Vision relies on seafood for protein. There’s no way around it. But Brett Tolley pointed out that the seafood in the Vision isn’t anything like the fish stick you encountered at your school’s cafeteria. Brett is the son of a fisherman, and when he was in school he found these fish sticks not only disgusting, but “somehow embarrassing.”
To make matters worse, Brett’s Dad told him that the “fish” in the fish stick probably came from “very far away,” while the fish he caught here in New England also went someplace “very far away.” And in fact 90% of the fish we eat in the United States is imported from other countries, while most of the seafood caught in New England doesn’t stay here.
We have an enormous, and enormously important, task ahead of us if we want to revive our fisheries and ensure living wages for fisher-folk. Luckily, the folks at Brett’s organization, the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, are working on this. You can read more and get involved at their website.
Listen to Brett:
Is 50% Enough?
After the event wound down, the buzz in the room centered on a question many were uncomfortable asking publicly: is 50% really enough? It’s a big question. Food Solutions New England has their reasons for landing on a 50% Vision, but the conversation is far from over.
There is widespread agreement that the “Business As Usual” food system needs to change. And in fact it will change, as pressures from a changing climate, resources shortages, and economic instability create a new landscape here in New England. The Vision offers us an opportunity to educate ourselves on what is possible for New England even as things shift, and to dream about what is desirable.
Furthermore, a vision can provide some guidance for getting to the system we want, but getting there will take the collaboration of millions of New Englanders. That’s why Karen Spiller, the evening’s final speaker, urged us to make the Vision a living document. She reminds us: “We all have a lot to offer to make this a living vision, building it together, and enjoying it together.”
Listen to Karen:
Like anything else that’s going to be sustainable, our food system must be a labor of love. Luckily, growing food and catching fish have long been enjoyable ways of life for New Englanders, from the native inhabitants to today’s permaculture and urban agriculture enthusiasts. If we continue in this spirit of experimentation and enjoyment, and help others find their roles in the emerging system, then we’re on the right track.
* The percentages come from the number of cultivated acres required for various diets – for example, in the Omnivore’s Delight, half the acres under cultivation would be in New England, and half elsewhere, thus 50%.
On Thursday, October 16, 2014 New England NET co-produced a webinar with the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) about “community resilience.” We discussed how we can all live well now and into the future, given the challenges of a hurting economy, climate change, resource shortages, and political paralysis.
Across the nation, grassroots organizers are working to create resilient systems for food, energy, transit, health, livelihoods, education, and much more—systems that will be able to weather the coming shocks of a rapidly shifting economy and climate.
In order to create resilience, people are coming together as communities, finding their inner passions, using their skills, and trusting each other. Truly resilient systems must be equitable, creating wellbeing for all across boundaries of race, class, language, and income. This work requires and enables us to reconnect with each other, repairing the torn social fabric we inherited.
Tina Clarke – Certified Transition Trainer & member of Transition Amherst
Lisa Fernandes – Organizer of the Portland Maine Permaculture group, & Director of the Portland Resilience Hub
Carlos Espinoza-Toro – Director of Community Organizing for the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition
Sarah Byrnes – Co-Director of New Economy Transition (NET) New England Program at the Institute for Policy Studies
More about the Speakers
Since becoming a Certified Transition Trainer in 2008, Tina has worked with over 120 Transition communities, given 42 of the official Transition weekend courses in the U.S. and Canada, and provided hundreds of Transition presentations. Prior to doing Transition work full-time, Tina had been a trainer, program director and consultant for 25 years, supporting and guiding leaders in over 400 local, national, regional and local organizations. In Washington, D.C., she directed citizen training programs for 17 national faith communities, and she directed Greenpeace USA’s national citizen Activist Network. After moving to Massachusetts she directed the Veterans Education Project, the Western Mass Funding Resource Center, and a training program on personal financial management. She founded and led campaigns on energy, environmental justice and toxins for New England Clean Water Action. Most recently she was a consultant with 350.org, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and the Sustainability Institute. Tina has an M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a B.A. in Urban Studies from Macalester College, and is certified for mediation and consensus decision-making facilitation. Her passive solar, Platinum LEED, low-toxic, largely locally-built “Power House” won the Massachusetts utility company-sponsored competition, the Zero Energy Challenge, and the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s 2010 Zero Net Energy Award http://www.ZeroEnergyPowerHouse.com.
Lisa Fernandes organizes the 1700+ member Portland Maine Permaculture group and is the Director of its non-profit home, The Resilience Hub. She is a trained facilitator and permaculture designer who believes that the strategies of resilience-building, re-skilling and re-localization are among the best we have for creating vibrant communities and for navigating future challenges. Lisa sits on the boards of the Eat Local Foods Coalition (ELFC), the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast and on the Grantmaking Committee of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund. Lisa participates in the Portland Mayor’s Initiative for Healthy Sustainable Food Systems. She is also active in the Cape Farm Alliance, Slow Food Portland, Portland Food Coop, Hour Exchange Portland and is a Master Food Preserver and Master Composter. Lisa attended Boston College and The Evergreen State College and has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including a stint owning a software design firm with more than 100 client companies across the region. Lisa and her family are actively converting their 1/3 acre property into a demonstration site for resilient and abundant “post-carbon” living.
Jamie Capach is the Secretary and Assistant Web Editor of Transition Keene Advocates. She worked for seven years in community access media before moving to Keene, NH to study Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University New England. Her professional and volunteer activism has included marriage equality, transgender liberation, shutting down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, organizing community forums on affordable healthcare, and repealing the death penalty in New Hampshire. For the past three years, Jamie and her family have lived without an automobile and have relied on public transportation, bicycles, ridesharing, and the Monadnock Time Exchange to get where they need to go.
Carlos Espinoza-Toro is the Director of Community Organizing of the Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition. He provides critical support to the implementation of transition initiatives through engaging with diverse groups, building trust, and addressing the tensions between systemic thinking and on-the-ground development. Before joining IPS, Carlos worked as a Program Manager at the MIT Community Innovators Lab bringing together volunteers, community members, government officials, nonprofit directors, and academics to develop and implement neighborhood development programs to improve the lives of disadvantaged communities. Carlos holds a Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sarah Byrnes is the Co-Director of the New Economy Transition in New England, a program of the Institute for Policy Studies. She supports the local “Jamaica Plain New Economy Transition” pilot program and work to enhance the resilience of the New England region as a whole. Sarah also coordinates the network of Resilience Circles, small groups focused on mutual aid during this tough economy. Sarah has collaborated with many grassroots groups around the country to build community and enhance resilience, and has written about the importance of mutual aid, relationships, and community connections in activism and organizing. Before coming to IPS Sarah worked with Americans for Financial Reform, Americans for Fairness in Lending, the Thomas Merton Center, and the Center of Concern, and she has degrees from Boston College and Harvard Divinity School.