COVID-19 has severely impacted economies around the globe and exposed the fragility of our foundational reliance systems. While the pandemic has demonstrated the limitations of healthcare systems, the lockdowns have placed a heavy strain on various other foundational sectors, including care, education and food provision. At the same time, the introduction of economic recovery plans and the disruption of global supply chains have reignited efforts to oppose austerity and re-localize value creation. The new challenges arising from this conjuncture only add to the pre-existing crises of nature and neoliberal capitalism, manifested by climate emergency, worsening inequalities, and a lack of social governance. To confront these challenges with a social and ecological transition, the foundational economy requires a substantial renewal driven by new ways of thinking and collaborative action.
This conference will contribute to this renewal through dialogue between researchers and practitioners. With the importance of the foundational economy already established it focuses on exploring how it can be rebuilt, enhanced and sustained in response to the new and old challenges magnified by the pandemic. The aim is to both reflect on fundamental questions, such as how the foundational economy can contribute to a good life for everyone (and how we should study this) and discuss the achievements and challenges of concrete projects, such as place-based social experiments, governance measures and civil society movements. Invited speakers and discussants will share their scientific insights and practical experiences from across the foundational economy and outline a range of alternative and innovative practices – from Wales, the UK and abroad – that may point towards a more just and sustainable future.
The conference involves three days of panel sessions, each day revolving around a central theme:
- We start the first day by exploring fundamental questions about what constitutes a good life, how the foundational economy factors into this and how we should go about researching and discussing it.
- On the second day, the conference addresses the critical practical issues of funding and governing the foundational economy. This includes a reflection of how the provision of foundational services can be secured outside the logic of fiscal austerity, such as through new tax systems or universal basic services. It also involves thinking about the role of different state structures and scales of government in enabling people to gain democratic control over their foundational systems.
- On the third day, sessions will focus on concrete transitions within material and provisional reliance systems and places. Besides outlining the current state of these systems, speakers will present and analyse innovations, approaches and experiments from across various locations that can address the renewal of the foundational economy.
In a concluding session, we turn our focus onto Wales – where the conference will hopefully take place in person – to debate how the insights we gained over the past days can help foster the kind of transformative governance that is able to drive the foundational renewal we need.