Couchsurfing. CSAs. Neighborhood energy. Co-ops. Promising, hip business models are cropping up all around the country. Do they constitute the new economy we all long for, the one people have been out in the street demanding—the one that delivers social and financial benefits broadly while restoring the environment? We certainly hope so. But unless we take a clear-eyed look at what’s really going on with these new innovations, we can’t know for sure.
To better weigh the progress of innovative business models in the new economy, the E3 Network—a national network of economists focused on equity and environment—deployed researchers around the country to separate hype from reality. Armed with an analytical framework developed by our steering committee, these researchers looked deeply into how new business models function, what their impacts are, how scaleable they are, and how replicable they are.
Their case studies are all here on FutureEcon.org. You will also find multimedia stories here that introduce you to the research, and interviews with the economists about their work. Hear about Anders Fremstad’s first-hand research on couchsurfing, Kate Olson’s unpacking of the hallowed food mecca of Hardwick, Vermont, and a deep data dive on the realities of community supported agriculture, based on Mark Paul’s work in Western Massachusetts. You’ll also see stories on Marc Lee’s research into a unique Vancouver utility that recaptures heat from sewers, a comprehensive neighborhood green jobs economy growing in a low-income Portland, Oregon neighborhood, and the multi-pronged community development work taking place in Cleveland’s Greater University Circle.
Read. Watch. Share. If we are to truly build a more equitable, restorative economy, we need the engagement of everyone in a lively public conversation about living and working in the future. As economists, this is our candid contribution to driving the dialogue forward.