Blogs >> Building a new economy with head, heart and hands: Jonathan Dawson

Building a new economy with head, heart and hands: Jonathan Dawson

jonathan dawson

It is congratulations time again for yet another graduate from our economics Masters programme who has landed a plum job.

Rob Shorter, one of last year’s students has just been employed by Kate Raworth and her team at the doughnut economics lab in Oxford as ‘Communities Lead’. He is the second person to have passed through the Changing the Frame module (part of the economics Masters programme) to have been engaged by Kate.

Rob follows in the footsteps of a distinguished cast of players to have passed through the economics programme over the nine years of its existence en route to careers that are deeply in service to people and planet.

To name but a few (and with apologies to the many not mentioned), Yannick Beaudoin, Director General for Ontario and Northern Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation; Nick Loosley, founder of Everybody Eats, a dining initiative established in response to New Zealand’s issues with food poverty and food waste and winner of the Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year 2020; Yuval Stav who among multiple other achievements has created Israel’s first responsible investment firm and leads a team working in the Western Negev Municipalities Cluster.

Anat Haas works in the Israel Association for Community Centers (IACC) and leads a program for increasing community building skills among community centers and municipalities, and supports the co-creation of community initiatives; and Chris Tittle, a graduate from the first year of the programme who is a ‘barefoot attorney’ and Director of Organizational Resilience at the Sustainable Economies Law Centre in Oakland, California

There is a trend worthy of note here – none of these folk, nor to the best of my knowledge any other graduate from our Masters programme, labours under the professional label of ‘economist’.

This is fascinating and reveals something both about the education they have received at Schumacher College and about the state of the economics profession. I would describe the education provided here as based around collaborative, systems thinking and problem solving that recognises that the creation of regenerative economies is as much about an inner journey of values and consciousness as the outer journey of systemic and institutional reform.

Perhaps given this, it is not so surprising that our graduates are not drawn to employment in the conventional economics sector. Here, the abiding fixation with markets, money and mathematical modelling leave little space for the kind of creative and multidisciplinary approaches that we encourage at the college.

A related insight is that while there are some economists who are doing genuinely ground-breaking and paradigm challenging work – Tim Jackson, Ha-Joon Chang and Yanis Varoufakis immediately spring to mind – much of the most interesting work in the field is being done within other faculties. David Graeber and Jason Hickel are anthropologists; Elinor Ostrom was a political scientist; Daniel Kahneman a psychologist. 

The fact that these latter two were awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics gives hope that the stranglehold of neoliberal economics may be loosening. There is a whole new way of approaching the study and practice of economics that stands in sharp contrast to the still dominant, market-based form.

It is generous, irreverent and playful, challenging of convention and core assumptions, prepared to look for inspiration and ideas across and beyond faculties and disciplines. It begins with the recognition that wellbeing and flourishing have a cultural and spiritual as well as a material dimension. It insists that the transition to a qualitatively new economy must engage all our faculties - heads, hearts and hands.

Jonathan Dawson is the programme lead for MA Econonmics for Transition and MA Regenerative Economics.