David Korten, LEF December 2011 Report

This has been a breakthrough year for the economic transformation movement. Occupy Wall Street, which launched on September 17, 2011 in New York’s Liberty Square broke through the corporate media filter to focus national and global attention on Wall Street as the leading source of systemic malfunction. It has created a space for a long overdue public conversation on the economic issues we have been working to bring to the fore of public consciousness for the past two decades.

Our Primary Institutional Partners

The three institutional partners we helped to found and continue to support—YES! Magazine, BALLE, and the New Economy Working Group—align with the three elements of our change strategy. Each has made major advances during the year.

  1. YES! Magazine: Changing the Framing stories of the culture. YES! is now a recognized major player in the independent media world. It responded immediately to Occupy by featuring its stories on a special section of the YES! website. This led to a YES! partnership with Berrett-Koehler Publishers to publish the first book on the movement in the record time of two weeks from the moment of decision to books rolling off the presses and shipping to bookstores. It achieved instant global distribution through B-K’s electronic publishing network and is already in translation in Chinese and a number of other languages. I continue to serve as YES! board chair.
  2. BALLE: Creating the new reality from the bottom up: This has been a major capacity building and positioning year for BALLE. It assumed the network learning facilitator role that we have talked about for years by launching a highly successful series of retreats in which its network leaders share the lessons of their experience. BALLE is now positioned to significantly increase its reach and influence. I continue to serve on the BALLE board.
  3. New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup): Changing the rules to support the emergent new reality: NEWGroup is an informal partnership of the Institute for Policy Studies, YES! Magazine, BALLE, Living Economies Forum, the Democracy Collaborative, and the Institute for Local Self Reliance, plus Gus Speth. NEWGroup formed around the framework in Agenda for a New Economy. We continue to build and refine the New Economy policy agenda as we reach out to engage a widening circle of influential progressive groups through a monthly series of New Economy Transitions webinars on system choices relating to the money system, economic indicators, jobs, equality, the Van Jones/Move-On American Dream movement, education outreach, and ending corporate rule. Coordinated by IPS, John Cavanagh and I continue as NEWGroup co-chairs.

NEWGroup issued two major reports during the 2011. How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule, sets forth an agenda for creating a New Economy money system. It directs attention to the crucial choice between a Main Street money/banking system in which the power to create money resides with communities supporting people in making a living and a Wall Street money/banking system in which that power resides with Wall Street financiers seeking to make a killing by playing financial games that create money without creating anything of real value. Jobs: A Main Street Fix for Wall Street’s Failure, lays out a New Economy jobs agenda.

Both reports are positioned to help frame national debates on the devastating dysfunction of Wall Street control of money/banking/finance and to support policy interventions relating to Wall Street and jobs. I was the primary author of the money system report and co-authored the jobs report with John Cavanagh. Both reports were promoted by our movement partners thru social media, blogging and press outreach.

Web and Media Outreach

In 2010, we completed the integration of the pcdforum.org, davidkorten.org and greatturning.org websites into a single professionally designed Living Economies Forum website, which gives us a much stronger, deeper, and more sophisticated web presence. It introduces viewers to our Great Turning and New Economy frameworks and guides them to the rich resources of the YES! Magazine, BALLE, and NEWGroup websites. We are actively putting out our messages on Twitter (@dkorten & @thegreatturning) and Facebook.

We completed a very successful blog serialization of the 2nd edition of Agenda for a New Economy during 2011 distributed and promoted jointly by YES! Magazine and CSRWire.com. We continue our outreach through media, conferences and webinars, but have become increasingly selective in accepting speaking invitations that require travel.

We are also getting our message out through interviews featured in a number of video documentaries, including the “Economics of Happiness” produced by Helena Norberg-Hodge, which premiered in Seattle this year. David Brancaccio is planning a theatrical release in 2012 for an expanded version of “Fixing the Future,” a PBS special that features an interview with me connecting the various community initiatives the documentary features.

I also have appearances in several other documentaries currently in production, including: “The Big Fix,” “Money and Life,” “Into Eden,” and “ReimagiNation.” And I have contributed articles to a number of print publications. My greatest influence is often through what I call light touch/high leverage interventions in informal advisory roles with leaders of key progressive groups. The November-December 2011 issue of Utne Reader named me one of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”

Priority for 2011

The US finance/banking system created after the Great Depression empowered communities to create financing in response to local needs and opportunities. This led to an unprecedented period of prosperity and the vibrant economy that created the U.S. middle class and made the U.S. the envy of much of the world. The neoliberal agenda of the late 1970s and 1980s dismantled that system, shifted the power to all Street, decimated the middle class, and facilitated the excesses that brought the 2008 financial crash.

Instead of using the crash as an opportunity to restore system integrity, the U.S. Treasury and the Fed orchestrated a bailout to restore business as usual.  This was followed by a feeble Congressional effort to constrain some of the worst of Wall Street excesses to limit future damage and delay the next crash.

Wall Street recovered; Main Street has not. The too big to fail Wall Street Banks have grown even bigger and more confident that they can pretty much do as they like and depend on government to bail them out with tax payer money when their reckless bets go wrong. No one is asking: What is the purpose of the money/banking/finance system? How must it be structured to fulfill that purpose? How can we use the next collapse to advance the urgently needed restructuring?

Getting these questions into the thinking of progressive leaders and thereby into the public conversation in the lead up to the 2012 election is currently our top priority. The potential for success rests on a broad national consensus that spans the political spectrum: No More Bailouts for Wall Street Banksters. I hope Occupy Wall Street may create the opportunity to advance such a conversation. I introduced the topic of Occupy participants as a guest of Occupy organizers on their first web outreach “crowdcast” on their Federal Reserve Awareness Day.

There is scattered evidence that the Occupy Movement is inspiring an explosive growth in local citizen initiatives aimed at disrupting and challenging the legitimacy of Wall Street institutions, while accelerating efforts to create Main Street alternatives. The broadly distributed leadership and radically democratic consensus processes of the Occupy Movement provide something of an experimental laboratory for learning and evolving tools for radically democratic processes of decentralized self-organization by people dedicated to being the change they seek.