CATALYZING the Conversation:
Civilizing the Economy
By Dr. Mary McBride
Issue 10 Winter 2012
Catalyst was designed to test the boundaries of what we traditionally think of as design. It is meant to speak to those broadly interested in design issues, across disciplines. Our readers are interested in how our world works and they are actively exploring how we might redesign systems that are more robust and resilient. They are problem solvers and opportunity shapers. In this issue, we search for opportunities in the design of financial systems that can help stabilize, civilize and sustain our shared world. It may be unusual to think of reforming financial systems as a design project, but the current design of our financial systems is creating problems for nations worldwide. These problems need to be solved. But, how we solve these problems will shape the future of our world. How to design a financial system that operates across borders and advantages commerce, community, culture and the biosphere upon which all three depend?
Well, ideally, financial systems are designed to act as arteries flowing capital to energize and restore communities, commerce and culture and the biospheric systems upon which all three depend. Our current system is not enabling this. It is a system that needs to be re-designed as well as reformed.
In this issue, we explore the design of market exchanges in terms of capital flows and consider capital as a form of energy with restorative power. Capital is, quite literally, the lifeblood of communities. Financial systems that enable access to capital and encourage its wise use are essential for the common good.
We look at the intimacy of exchange and the role of artisan crafted product is creating an economy that is robust, but human scale. And, we examine our role as investors playing in markets that impact lives. We examine the “new normal” of sustainability reporting as a best practice which requires tracking new numbers and assessing true costs.
Viability is “the bottom line” for business and business is changing to reflect the realities of a new carbon counting century.
Join us as we follow those like Marvin Brown whose work on civilizing the economy inspired this issue. Designing a future economy will mean moving from a focus on the crisis in current markets toward a design brief for a future where capital is used to cultivate community and to enliven as well as enrich.
A new world will require a new understanding of the importance of design and how design thinking and practice can be used to shape systems as well as objects. We hope you will use your own systems to share Catalyst and to continue the conversation.