Steady State Manchester launched the Viable Economy pamphlet on 9 December 2014 at the Methodist Hall. Some thirty people came together to discuss and debate the contents of the Viable Economy and what people needed to do in order to realise the vision painted in the Viable Economy.
The evening began with 5 short five minute provocations from speakers concentrating on particular themes from the Viable Economy. Robert Brown from Steady State gave an introduction to the Viable Economy identifying the 4 common threads running through of Equity, Localisation, Money and Measurement.
Gavin Elliott chair of Manchester: a Certain Future, but who spoke for himself as a citizen and parent, focused on the spatial dimension. He particularly liked the idea of a new kind of Garden City and felt that most of the ideas from a spatial dimension, such as investing in the foundational economy, would be a ‘no brainer’ and may actually be well received by decision makers at Manchester City Council.
Gudrun Cartwright who is head of Market Place Sustainability at Business in the Community but who also presented from her own individual perspective skilfully explored the area of business by using headings which spelt the word VIABLE. She said an assessment was needed of what we Value and how business could help us achieve that. We need Intelligent business leaders who understand their role in systems and are Accountable. Such business leaders would strike a Balance between the long and short term and Locate their businesses close to where they are needed. Finally we should look at how businesses are owned in order to improve Equity.
Karel Williams ,Director of the Centre for Research on Economic and Social Change at the University of Manchester said he agreed with most of the policies in the Viable Economy. However Karel felt that the key challenge for the Viable Economy could be a political one. He used the example of low cost air travel as an issue that is difficult to engage people with in the face of a right wing media that would vehemently oppose any proposal to restrict cheap flights. He accepted this was a broader problem for the greens and the left and meant that perhaps more motivational language was needed in order to connect with people. He gave the example of the 1948 government’s narrative about security (health, full employment and retirement pensions) as having mass appeal and suggested that those seeking to gain popular support for the Viable Economy need to present an analogous offer.
Finally Mike Riordan, Director at Firstmover Consulting (and formerly Head of the Greater Manchester Environment Commission) thought the moves to regional devolution, although in danger of being a techno-managerial take-over, could offer an opportunity to gain support at regional level for ideas in the Viable Economy, particularly if we were to have our “SNP moment” with broader participation in the debate. He noted that world-views differ across the Greater Manchester area, and some of these are likely to be particularly open to our thinking. We should find opportunities to talk directly with actors at the city-regional level. Employment and social care are likely to be particular areas for fruitful dialogue.
Participants then split themselves into groups to continue the discussion, focusing in particular on what elements of the Viable Economy they liked and what they felt was needed to make the implementation of the Viable Economy a reality.
Feedback from the discussions identified that people at the event liked almost everything about the analysis and policies contained in the Viable Economy (even down to the full stops and commas according to one participant!). It was concluded that the key challenge would be how to convince the population at large that the Viable Economy could work for them. People noted that a lot of people in Manchester seemed to feeling insecure about work and their futures and if the right language was used then the Viable Economy could be effectively presented as the best solution for people. People also reflected that the Viable Economy was a useful basis for planning how we might lead our lives in the event of a future crisis.
Discussions continued into the evening after the event had drawn to an official close providing Steady State Manchester with further useful reflections on what the broader impact of the Viable Economy might be.