The New Economy Coalition (NEC) is the latest project of long-time social activist Bob Massie. Its purpose is to bring together the countless environmental and social justice organizations that are working towards creating a ‘new economy’ together into a cooperative group that will foster and support collaboration.
The NEC broadly defines this ‘new economy’ as “an economy that is restorative to people, place, and planet, and that operates according to principles of democracy, justice and appropriate scale.”
Massie believes that successfully bringing together the various groups that are working towards this broadly defined new economy can help, what is currently a very fractured movement (if it can even be referred to as a movement), overcome some of the obstacles presently hindering change. The implied assertion is that the energy and capacity is there, but affective organization and collaboration has so far been absent.
Massie is ideally placed to lead this group. He has been central to the success of three major entities to date: the Global Reporting Initiative, CERES, and the Investor Network on Climate Risk. However, rather than rely on traditional coalition-forming tactics, he is employing an innovative plan that seeks to ensure that the diversity of the NEC will be a strength, not a burden.
The obvious problem in bringing together organizations with so widely varying backgrounds and aims is getting them to agree on specific objectives and strategies. Instead of trying to agree on specific goals and approaches at the beginning, as is usual in such groups, the coalition will focus solely on the extremely broad aims of working towards environmental responsibility and social justice. This will circumvent the hazardous process of agreeing on details, which can ruin a group of this kind before it ever gets off the ground. Of course, this also leaves an element of ambiguity that makes it difficult to tell exactly what the group’s impact will be.
Massie’s group is best described as a “network-server”. The group itself will not be a united force taking focused action to bring about change. It will instead work on “uniting efforts, amplifying grassroots work and identifying opportunities for collective action.”
The NEC has already recruited well over a hundred members, including organizations as diverse as Friends of the Earth and Patagonia. Undoubtedly, it will face problems of conflicting agendas despite its novel approach. A conflict has already emerged between members focused on social justice and income inequality and those who are more concerned with environmental sustainability. However, its flexible strategy focusing on common ground, combined with Bob Massie’s leadership, makes the NEC a force worth watching.