This interview is with Sonya Rifkin, co-director and co-founder of the Community Democracy Project, which began in November 2011 in Oakland, CA.
The fact that America needs radical change is as clear today as the path to that change is difficult to envision. For political economist Gar Alperovitz, these dual problems inform his new book, What Then Must We Do?, which attempts to outline the potential strategies and tactics that could, in fact, perform that change.
The economy is big news, and a big worry. But there are as many economies as we need. There are global, national, regional, and neighborhood economies. There are economies for greed, destruction, and exploitation, as well as for generosity, creativity, and love. And there are as many types of money as we need to operate these economies.
As the gift economies spread beyond villages to large regions, money was invented to make sharing easier. So, taking control of money again to make it serve communities, begins at home.
Since the financial collapse began in 2008,Wall Street bankers’ claims to being the smartest guys in the room—hard-working innovators with billion dollar ideas and the will to execute them—have been proven all too right. When it comes to stealing the accumulated wealth of the American people, no group in living memory has proven to be so ceaselessly creative, so ruthlessly efficient at turning public wealth into private cash.
“Open data” — the philosophy and practice of making the data collected by government agencies freely available to the public — is critical to increasing citizens’ engagement with their governments.
UPDATE: We've summarized much of the series this article is part of in a new report, Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders. Get your free copy here today.
Our democratic system is based on the idea that citizens play an important role in how government decisions get made.
Without citizen participation, democracy doesn’t work. Our founding fathers were meticulously clear on this point. We must all share in the effort of making sure government works as we want it to, and assume the responsibility of taking action when it doesn’t.
The famous patriot and founding father Thomas Paine once famously said:
My feet are completely blistered, my bones are sore. I'm dehydrated, bruised and beyond exhausted. I've spent four days on the streets of Chicago, running through streets and alleys, cameras strapped to my body, frantically trying to take in as much information about the protests surrounding the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday.
For two days, world leaders gathered in Chicago to discuss what tens of thousands of activists described as the world's largest game of Risk, where the stakes amount to life and death for citizens around the globe.
I spent the day last Monday at the United Nations by invitation of the Bhutanese government (along with about 600 other guests). The event was called “High Level Meeting on Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.” I thought, “It must not be very high-level if I am invited.” Nonetheless, there I was among 600 activists, economists, NGO workers, bankers, et al from around the world, listening to speeches by prime ministers and Nobel laureates. Except for the monks, I was the only man not wearing a necktie. But that wasn't what disturbed me about the meeting.