We need System Change! But what is “The System”?
“Changing the system” is a call we hear more and more often. In our context, it usually means shifting away from environmentally harmful economies based on growth in production and consumption. But growth-based capitalism has its roots in a deeper system – in addition to exploiting nature, it also exploits people through systems of white supremacy, patriarchy and (neo)colonialism.
Hot or Cool Institute’s report Economies that Dare to Care suggests that the antidote to exploitative systems is “Caring Societies”. The research is part of our project in partnership with SERI, Climate Outreach and Global Action Plan UK, together with a Commission of 30 global experts on diverse aspects of care.
At our May Funders for Sustainable Living workshop, Sylvia Lorek (SERI) previewed the key findings of the report, and Susie Wang (Climate Outreach) introduced the ongoing research on Strategic Communication of care, justice, and climate. Kate Power (Hot or Cool Institute) highlighted the vital role of philanthropy in supporting deep systemic change.
“I wish there was more discussion on the decolonial perspectives in the care debate in the northern philanthropic spaces.” – Quote from workshop participant
The report suggests that the various crises our society faces are in fact partial perspectives on one systemic crisis that requires holistic interventions.
What is a Caring Society?
Caring Societies promote the care and well-being of all non-human and human life, according to need and regardless of race or gender, with fair access to natural resources in healthy environments and within planetary boundaries. They are built on equal rights and a fair distribution of power, redressing the existing system of oppression.
A Caring Society is thus a gender-just and equitable society, with sustainably low-carbon emissions and low resource use. In a Caring Society, care activities are supported with time and resources, shared fairly, valued and given status, and celebrated as the basis of well-being.
It represents a paradigm shift away from competitive, unequal societies based on economic growth, profit seeking and capital accumulation.
This might sound utopian, but the report suggests that we can start building towards transformation by taking action today – within this system. One example is the need for better pay and conditions for care workers: this is essential. But so is the need for a cap on individual overconsumption by the richest in society, so that we reduce our societal environmental footprint, while increasing social justice.
“I like the deep thinking about alternative ways of organising our economy and society around care.” – Quote from workshop participant
Calling all funders for eco-social systems transformation!
Funders are key to the theory of change: philanthropic funding can support practical experiments and policy advocacy that transcends the mainstream agenda on both climate and care. At our workshop, the project’s current funders shared their excitement about care:
Lina Fedirko, ClimateWorks Foundation:
This care-centered economy work is emerging at the right time, because as we start to transition away from fossil fuels, the immense resource intensity of the clean energy system we’re trying to build and its scale is coming into question, and with it, a strong push back to new extraction for metals and minerals. I think the question of how to move beyond the mindset of endless extraction has to start with the conversation about how to move beyond excess consumption, and that’s where ‘care’ provides an entry point.”
Jo Swinson, Partners for a New Economy:
“The word ´economics´ turns people off right away – even though economics is actually about people, about us. The word ´care´ is something people understand: it gives us the feeling of something important and valuable. It has positive associations and can engage people in thinking differently about the economy.“
Mark Conway, Stanley Center for Peace and Security:
“Policy change relies on engaging people with a positive vision of the world we want in order to build the underlying structures we need. The Care-centred approach galvanises these visions, and values the things that our current system does not value.“
Moving forward together: Forum for Caring Societies
The Forum for Caring Societies will be launched in September, to promote radical eco-social transformation, with care as the guiding principle. It will set an agenda for collaboration grounded in the decades of work undertaken by ecofeminist, decolonial and Climate Justice researchers and activists.
The Forum will amplify existing initiatives and build the social and political mandate for change.
Care to join us?!
If you are a funder, researcher, practitioner, or activist interested in Caring Societies, we would love to connect with you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Power convenes Funders for Sustainable Living, an open network promoting ambitious action for radically equitable and sustainable ways of living. It sounds depressing, but it’s actually a lot of friendship and fun!
If you are a funder curious about the connections between equality, ecology and society, feel welcome to join a future workshop: email@example.com