Summer 2023 #42

B Corp: The certification that won’t save the planet — Michael O'Regan

“B Lab claims it is leading a revolution, building a movement, and creating B Corp communities across the globe. Adopting activist language, such as referring to themselves as ‘Movement Builders,’ they have sought to attract ‘purpose-driven’ leaders to transform the global economy.” But researcher Michael O’Regan argues that, as it stands, B Corp will not and can not force the radical change required to organisational culture, ownership models, manufacturing processes, or supply chains.

Flatpack Democracy: Was it either? — Peter MacFadyen

“It turns out that a gung-ho ‘ready, aim, fire’ approach is hard to maintain, and certainly hard to replicate. There is a depressing pullback to the norm in many aspects of council activity. Even new councils with radical potential have often been drawn back into ‘all stand for the Mayor’, the more interesting ideas get lost in bureaucracy, and before you can blink the old men are back running the show.”

Interview: Claire Dunning on Nonprofit Neighbourhoods

“The legacy that the book traces runs from the 1950s all the way to the present, following a general consensus from the top and below, that private local groups can and should play a significant role in urban governance. That's had mixed consequences. I think we can celebrate how these relationships have decentralised and diversified American governance, but also discuss how they have also really constrained our ability to solve public problems by shrinking down the scale and depending on really limited organisations to solve problems that are structurally far beyond their borders.”

Extract from Nonprofit Neighbourhoods by Claire Dunning (University of Chicago Press)

“An entire field of intermediaries, technical assistance providers, and con­sultants now exists under the realm of community development. The lan­guage of partnership and a vocabulary of business pervade the social sec­tor, and the presence of elite donors, civic leaders, and volunteers keeps  emergency services afloat.”

Democratic Business Series Interview: Where's the Evidence? — with contributions from Phil Tulba (The Ubele Initiative), Chris Cowcher (Plunkett Foundation), Campbell McDonald and James de le Vingne (Ownership at Work), and Co-operative Development Scotland

For this interview – part of our Democratic Business Summit series – we speak to a range of advocates in local government, business federations, foundations, and think tanks to get their perspective on the evidence gap and how we can make a stronger case for transforming business.

Municipal Power: Local initiatives for public-good energy transitions — Rowan Mataram

“The past decades of increased liberalisation in the energy system has resulted in minimal investment into the energy infrastructure needed for renewables, vast profit for energy company CEOs and shareholders, and millions living in energy poverty, all of which demonstrates that public, community and commons ownership is fundamental.”

Small is Beautiful – but is it still relevant? — Peter North (University of Liverpool), Fernanda Vidal & Juliana Diniz (Escola Schumacher Brasil and Instituto Desenvolvimento Regenerativo), Tim Crabtree (Wessex Community Assets), Dan Gregory (Common Capital), Bronwen Morgan (University of New South Wales)

E.F. Schumacher’s hugely influential work Small is Beautiful was published in 1973, weaving together philosophy, environmentalism and economics to propose a human-scale economics. But what does ‘small’ mean today in the context of hyperconnectivity, rampant consumer capitalism, dehumanised economic systems, and ecological crisis? In STIR’s upcoming Summer Issue, in recognition of the book’s 50th anniversary, we are inviting a selection of writers and practitioners to reflect upon its continuing influence, and/or where you see its limitations today.

Demanding Democracy: Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century — Carne Ross

To celebrate a decade as a quarterly print magazine, we invited Carne Ross, a writer and thinker on new forms of economy and democracy to meet the demands of the 21st century, to deliver the inaugural STIR lecture, in Manchester in May 2023. In this issue, we’ve published an edited version of the lecture.

“I want to put forward a broader notion of what democracy should mean, and should be; to argue that we cannot simply see it as voting and parliaments and politicians. We need a system that means we can flourish and live together in peace and fulfilment, safely within the planetary boundaries.”

Project spotlight: Artisans Cooperative — Valerie Schafer Franklin. 

Valerie, a leather crafter based in Oregon, US, was involved in the #EtsyStrike of 2022, whereby sellers went ‘on strike’, and encouraged customers to boycott the site, to protest the increased fees and worsening seller conditions on the Etsy platform. As the energy from the protest petered out, however, Valerie and others wanted to create an alternative, and formed Artisans Cooperative, a crafting co-op giving the power back to the makers.

Review of Free & Equal by Daniel Chandler — Maxwell Jeffery 

In 1971 the political philosopher John Rawls published his seminal work A Theory of Justice. In a time of political crises and social divide, Daniel Chandler argues in his new book that Rawls’ principles for achieving justice in society are the framework needed to revive a moribund political system and restore faith in liberal and democratic ideals.

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