The People-Centered Development Forum (PCDForum) is the legal name of our organization. We trace our origin to March 1987, when more than a hundred leaders of non-governmental organizations and other development professionals from forty-two countries met in London for a Symposium on “Development Alternatives: The Challenge for NGOs.” Participants concluded that conventional development has failed and that officially favored prescriptions disempower and impoverish the majority of people and destroy the environment.
It became evident to many of us that the leadership for change would not come from the World Bank, the IMF or official agencies that remained committed to failed prescriptions. Change would depend on voluntary citizen leaders acting outside the establishment.
The founders of the PCDForum were among a then small and lonely band that stood up to challenge the prevailing growth-centered economic development mode. Recognizing the need for a global support group, we launched the PCDForum on January 1, 1990. Our office was in the Makati financial district of Manila, Philippines. A few months after our founding we released Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary Action and the Global Agenda authored by David C. Korten, to carry our framing message to the world:
The human burden on the earth’s ecosystem already exceeds sustainable limits. Growth-centered economic policies increase this burden, accelerate the breakdown of the earth’s regenerative systems, and intensify the competition between rich and poor for the earth’s remaining real wealth. The result is a three-fold human crisis of increasing poverty, environmental destruction, and social disintegration. Growth-centered development must be replaced with a development that strengthens the self-reliant capacity of people and communities to better use their own resources to meet their own needs. Because official aid agencies are captive to internal structures and imperatives that serve the flawed logic of growth-centered development, leadership for change must come from citizen volunteers motivated by life-centered values rather than conventional economic and political rewards.
From 1990 through 1997 the Forum maintained an Information Service that distributed path-breaking think-pieces to cooperating publications around the world. By the end of 1991, the Forum had signed on 86 leading intellectual activists from 31 countries to as contributing editors who made regular contributions. By the end of 1997, some 200 people had served as PCDForum Contributing Editors at one time or another. They were, however, no longer a lonely and isolated band and the PCDForum Information Service no longer fulfilled a distinctive role.
Recognizing that the issue went well beyond the dysfunctions of myopic official aid agencies that the United States is the primary driver of the dysfunction, we moved the Forum’s office from Manila to New York City in 1992 and gradually began to focus our attention on the institutions of corporate globalization.
In 1994 we joined a parallel conversation with a global group of activists who formed the International Forum on Globalization (IFG). For nearly 10 years, the IFG served as the leading voice of a growing global citizen resistance against corporate globalization.
The PCDForum launched When Corporations Rule the World, by David Korten in October 1995. It become an international best seller and opened the Forum’s access to radio, television, and mass print media reaching millions of people. The second edition, which was released in April 2001, documented the global resistance movement that emerged subsequent to the release of the first edition.
It became increasingly evident that although resistance against a destructive economic system is essential, it only slows the damage. Change depends on active citizen engagement in building alternatives. To this end, the Forum took a lead role in establishing YES! Magazine dedicated to advancing awareness of positive alternatives and assisting individuals in finding their place of contribution toward their realization.
In March 1999 we released The Post-Corporate World:
Life After Capitalism, which applies principles derived from the study of living systems to the creation of economies that serve life rather than money. This led to our contribution in 1991 to founding the Business
Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) to support local organizers in rebuilding local economies grounded
in living system principles.
A few months later, the historic November 1999 Seattle protest against the World Trade Organization (WTO) by a broad alliance of labor, religious, environmental, youth, peace, women’s, gay and lesbian, human rights, sustainable agriculture, food safety and other groups marked a defining moment in the emergence of what eventually became known as global civil society. Successful disruption of the WTO negotiations inspired millions of people around the world to participate in similar protest actions in an expression of global solidarity.
In 2005, we launched The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community to put these events into a larger evolutionary and historical context. We focused on communicating and mobilizing around the Great Turning framework until the global financial collapse of September 2008. The collapse focused global attention on Wall Street excesses and opened an unprecedented window of opportunity to address the need for economic system transformation.
We launched the 1st edition of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth in January 2009 to make the case that reforming the Wall Street system is not an answer. It must be replaced. We simultaneously joined with the Institute for Policy Studies in DC, YES! Magazine, and BALLE to form the New Economy Working Group to further develop the New Economy framework and advance its implementation.
The updated and expanded 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy was released in June 2010 as a report of the New Economy Working Group.