updated: October, 2021
Concerned about increasing wealth inequality, climate change and financial instability, Steady State Manchester believes an alternative approach to economic development in the city and region is essential so that all can live well and within planetary limits. We encourage organisations to actively pursue the ‘Viable Economy’ for a safe and good future for us all. A Viable Economy (and society) will involve:
- Re-localising food and other production in and near to the city, providing decent green jobs and more income equality.
- More security for us all because the environment is protected from further destruction.
- More secure access to goods especially food: we will be more resilient should there be climatic (e.g. floods) or financial shocks.
- More money staying local and more control over savings and investment.
- The city’s wealth being used for needed developments, for example energy efficient, affordable housing and invested in other local, green and ethical enterprises
- Balance. Some sectors must grow, (e.g. renewable energy) and some must shrink (e.g. fossil fuels, aviation, private motoring, arms manufacture).
- The focus is on the things we want the economy to deliver, rather than growth for growth’s sake (GDP or GVA measures).
- Less unnecessary consumption and a new culture of solidarity and participation.
- Less exploitation of the majority world while keeping open channels for communication and learning globally.
This can be achieved by making decisions in terms of a “Safe Operating Zone” for humanity (for more information, see http://bit.ly/1kh6iU6)
Our first major report, In Place of Growth explores and explains these points while beginning the hard task of working out what this would look like at a local level (by which we mainly mean city and regional). Our pamphlet, The Viable Economy, explores these ideas further, presenting the outline of a positive policy framework.
We advocate for a steady state society and economy (through research, hosting events, lobbying and other activities), we act for it in a variety of ways and we connect people and organisations who want to work for a fairer, safer and more socially just city. Find out more about our ideas by browsing this site. A good place to start is with Our Publications page.
In addition to our general work to clarify and explore economic, social and ecological interconnections (for example on the decoupling debate, on sources of investment money and on the prospects for a politics more attuned to the Viable Economy) our work is organised into the following broad areas.
1) Income equality. An economy that does not grow (whether as a result of planning or recession) can no longer pretend that inequality is not a problem because “all boats are rising”. We have worked with local organisations on the pay policies of local government in Greater Manchester, pioneering the argument that public services can encourage greater equality through their procurement policies – that is by influencing their contractors and suppliers. See our report HERE.
2) The replacement economy. Some sectors of the economy must grow, while others must shrink, and for reasons of resilience and the emissions reduction it is imperative that supply chains are shortened wherever possible. We have focussed on food as a key area and as a kind of lens to understand aspects of the local economy and its supply systems. We have worked with organisations in Manchester, including the council, on an integrated strategy for sustainable food and against food poverty. We have also contributed to the Low Carbon Economy work of Manchester’s Climate Change action plan, Manchester a Certain Future. We have also looked at economic dependence on Manchester Airport and the merits or otherwise of big infrastructure schemes like High Speed Rail (HS2).
3) Finance and alternatives. We recognise that money and the way it is invested is a big influence on the kind of economy, and society, that we live in. We have lobbied local government to consider the ecological and social impacts of its investments and those it has an interest in. Following our attempts to encourage the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) to take a more ethical approach to its investment strategy, we are delighted that nationally, Fossil Free UK which includes Friends of the Earth (FOE), is campaigning for local government pension funds to divest from fossil fuels and we are part of the Fossil Free Greater Manchester campaign directed at GMPF.
We have explored ways of unlocking under-utilised resources in the Greater Manchester economy, including a community loyalty scheme to recognise people’s contribution to their community. As with all our projects, did this work with a number of other interested organisations. We have also critically examined other proposals on monetary reform and we support moves to establish a regional community bank.
4) Changing the conversation about the economy. We have argued that measures like “Gross Domestic Product” (GDP) or “Gross Value Added” (GVA) tell us little about the performance of the economy, but their use encourages the treadmill of endless, pointless expansion and consumption. We have reviewed alternative ways of measuring economic, social and ecological well-being.
5) Our region. We enter into debates about economic, social and environmental policies in Greater Manchester and beyond, for example, City-Region devolution (“DevoManc“), and developments in local social and economic policy (housing for example).
We are also connected with campaigners and thinkers nationally and internationally who are exploring and promoting the viable economy under headings such as degrowth, steady state economy, solidarity economics and post-development.
Here is a short (3 page) chapter describing SSM’s work in context:
Building consensus for another possible economy at municipal level
see also SSM People
Objects for a Viable Society and Economy
This was an experimental session at our 2021 AGM. We share objects that reveal some aspect of a viable society and economy. The video has only been lightly edited but suggests and interesting alternative method for communicating what we are about.
After Fossil Fuels: The Viable Economy
Systems Change Alliance interview SSM’s Carolyn Kagan and Mark Burton
Steady State Manchester’s Mark Burton and Carolyn Kagan speak at Preston New Road Fracking site gates, 11 March, 2019
Here is the URL: https://www.facebook.com/tinalouiseuk/videos/10161600803155258/
And here are slides and notes from another talk we’ve given recently:
Against the Tide: Advocating Degrowth and a Viable Economy in Manchester
Steady State Manchester
Given on: Tuesday, 26 March, 2019
An implausible idea underpins mainstream economic thought and policy, that the economy can continue to grow forever. It is implausible for straightforward physical and ecological reasons: the planet is finite, and so are its resources and the places where waste products can be sunk. Today we see this in the existential crisis of carbon dioxide pollution bringing the threat of uncontrollable climate change, among other eco-system dangers. Moreover, endless growth does not bring universal prosperity nor happiness. Criticism, however is easy. It is more difficult to figure out what the alternative will entail, and how to get it to happen. We explore the limits to growth, the drivers of growth and alternative approaches, at the macro-economic and local level, drawing on our own work with Steady State Manchester to explore and promote a post-growth, viable economy and society for the city-region.
Steady State Manchester: ‘Becoming Global’
For an idea of how the local and regional focus of our work relates to global challenges, see this video interview with Judith Emanuel and Benjamin Irvine, which was produced by the Manchester University College for Interdisciplinary Learning for a course entitled ‘Becoming Global’:
See our 2 page leaflet
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being involved.