The American Global Challenge: Aligning Economy, Democracy and Environment in the 21st Century.

Public Lecture Series:

  • January 17: System Breakdown: Economy and Democracy in Crisis
  • January 31: Can Capitalism Be Fixed?
  • February 7: The Best Democracy that Money Can Buy
  • February 21: Environment vs. Economy
  • March 7: Building the Next System: Solutions for Government, Business, and Citizens

Life quality for growing numbers of people on the planet is threatened by a set of systemic problems. The global economy is not working well for people or the environment. Economic policies across the political spectrum rely on unrealistic expectations about economic growth and resource consumption. America and many other democracies face policy gridlock, breakdowns in representation, and voter anger. How did we get here? What can be done to address these great challenges of our time? This lecture series examines the prospects for realigning our economic, environmental and political systems in light of the outcomes of the 2016 elections:

  1. economic and democratic system breakdown,
  2. can capitalism be fixed,
  3. the role of money in political reform,
  4. dismantling the environment versus economy myth, and
  5. building the next system.

Registration (available through March 6th, 2017).

The Next System Teach-In

Join the Center for Communication & Civic Engagement (CCCE) for The Next System Teach-In on April 25 from 1 to 8 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Department of Communication among others, will take place in the Walker Ames Room located in Kane Hall on UW’s Seattle campus.

Join with Affluenza author John de Graaf, City Council Member Kshama Sawant, environmental justice leader Jill Mangaliman, UW faculty, students and community thought leaders in discussion about getting to the next system.

The realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption just scratch the surface of global issues we face today. It is clear that the current system doesn’t work for the vast majority of people on the planet, and we need to work toward something better.

At the same time new ideas and movements are challenging long held boundaries of what’s politically possible, illustrated by the success of Bernie Sanders, the resonance of #BlackLivesMatter, and campaigns to block the fossil fuel economy.

In order to build a world that puts people, communities and the planet first, we need to imagine what’s possible. We invite you to help us build a learning community for realignment of the economy, environment, and democracy so that all three systems work better for people and the planet.


1 p.m. > Panel & Discussion 1 – How can the economy be equitable and environmentally sustainable?

  • Lance Bennett, Director of Center for Communication & Civic Engagement
  • Jill Mangaliman, Executive Director of Got Green
  • Nathaniel Mathews Trigg, Student Leader of Radical Public Health

2 p.m. > Panel & Discussion 2 – What local solutions can become models in a global system?

  • Karen Litfin, Author of “Ecovillages: Lessons for Sustainable Community!”
  • Melissa Young, Producer of the Films “Shift Change” and “WEconomics”
  • Christine Ingebritsen, Author of “Europeanization and Cultural Identity: Two Worlds of Eco-Capitalism”

3 p.m. > Panel & Discussion 3 – What would real democracy look like?

  • Nick Licata, Former Seattle City Councilmember & author of “Becoming a Citizen Activist”
  • Michael McCann, Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies
  • Edgar Franks, Farmworker Advocate & Coordinator at Community to Community Development

4 p.m. > Panel & Discussion 4 – Can capitalism be fixed?

  • Sarra Tekola, Climate Justice Activist from Women of Color Speak Out
  • Gillian Locascio, State Coordinator of Washington Fair Trade Coalition
  • John de Graaf, Author of “Affluenza” and “What’s Economy for, Anyway?”

5:30 to 6:30 p.m. > Networking Hour

6:30 to 8 p.m. > Rethinking Prosperity – How can we move beyond “Economy vs. Environment” and “Democracy for the Few”?

  • Jeff Johnson, President of Washington State Labor Council
  • Kshama Sawant, Seattle City Councilmember
  • Stephen Bezruchka, Thought Leader in Public Health and Inequality

RSVP here:

View the webpage for updates and join the discussion on Facebook.

Past Event: What should the next system look like – and how can we get there?

We are in the midst of systemic crisis. The realities of growing inequality, political stalemate, and climate disruption just scratch the surface of global issues. It is clear that the current system doesn’t work for the vast majority of people on the planet, and we need to work toward something better.

In order to build a world that puts people, communities and the planet first, we need to reimagine what’s possible. We invite you to share ideas related to these issues, and help us build a campus learning community.

Attend Info Session:
When: February 11, 2016, 4.30 – 5:30 pm
Where: University of Washington, Communications Building, CMU 126

Read more about the Next System Teach-In at Rethinking Prosperity.

Retrospective: New Economy Week 2015 @ Rethinking Prosperity

Rethinking Prosperity participated in this year’s New Economy Week by organizing two Seattle events: The New Economy Get-Together that brought together numerous local stakeholders and organizations, such as Yes! Magazine, Got Green?, and Pinchot University; and the screening of “This Changes Everything,” a documentary directed by Avi Lewis that was developed in parallel to the critically acclaimed Naomi Klein worldwide bestseller with the same title.   Project Fellow Deric Gruen also published an interview for the theme of Day Four, “A People’s Climate Movement,” that appeared in Naomi Klein’s The Leap blog.

Almost 200 local New Economy community members attended the events and engaged in lively discussions about the pressing challenges that stand between us and tomorrow’s economy. The five selected topics were: Good Work and Opportunity for All; Building an Economy Where #BlackLivesMatter; Democracy Versus the 1%; A People’s Climate Agenda; and Enough to Go Around.

Read More about the New Economy Week 2015 at Rethinking Prosperity
and check out photos from the events on our Facebook Page.

The New Economy Get-Together Nov. 13th

All around us, innovators are building cooperative, ethical, and community-rooted enterprises, reclaiming the commons, and democratizing and reorienting finance. We are finding new ways to share skills and goods, measure success, and meet growing human needs on a finite planet. At the same time, our growing mobilizations in the streets are building power to resist and replace unjust systems. Through all of these efforts, a movement is emerging that could change our society and the world. Join us to meet other advocates and practitioners, build a shared narrative, and strengthen the emergent local network for systemic change.

The New Economy Get-Together is a flagship event of the national New Economy Week 2015. Now in its third year, and for the first time with a Seattle event, New Economy Week 2015 will challenge us to explore what systemic change really looks like. We hope that by drawing attention to big ideas and concrete examples of real solutions, we will expand the public conversation and what’s politically possible, bringing us closer to a just, sustainable, and democratic society.

(READ MORE and REGISTER at Rethinking Prosperity).

“This Changes Everything” Film Screening & Discussion – Nov. 10

Join Rethinking Prosperity for the screening of This Changes Everything! The documentary directed by Avi Lewis was developed in parallel to the critically acclaimed Naomi Klein worldwide bestseller with the same title. Both the movie and the book provide a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political system.

This film screening is part of the 2015 New Economy Week. Please also check out our 2015 New Economy Week Seattle flagship event: New Economy Get-Together on Nov. 13.

This Changes Everything presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.

ADVANCE REGISTRATION is required as space is limited. (SEE A TRAILER and REGISTER at Rethinking Prosperity).

Richard Wolff Captivates Rethinking Prosperity Audience

On Tuesday, October 27, 2015, renowned economics professor and radio host Richard Wolff addressed an audience of about 100 students, faculty, and members of the broader Seattle community at a guest lecture organized by the Center for Communication & Civic Engagement‘s Rethinking Prosperity project. In his presentation, Wolff provided an overview of what he views as the problem we are facing and the economic history that got us to this point. Today, Wolff noted the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, for example, is $1 million while at the same time 10-15 million Americans are looking for work as the capitalists have abandoned us by moving their production where wages are low.

What do we do about this problem? “If you don’t change the system,” Wolff insisted, “you don’t solve the problem.” So how do we change the system? The alternative to our current economic structure that Wolff suggests is to democratize the enterprise. Bringing democracy to the workplace where we spend most of our time would enrich the goals of business to include more than only the profit motif. And this is not a new idea. Spain’s seventh largest corporation, Mondragon, which is a co-op in the Basque region, illustrates how this idea could be implemented on a large scale. If you missed the lecture, you can view the full lecture and photographs from the event at Rethinking Prosperity.

CCCE to host discussion with economics scholar Richard Wolff

Rethinking Prosperity, a project of the UW’s Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE), is hosting a public discussion with renowned economics scholar, radio host, and writer Richard Wolff.

For the past 35 years, Wolff as a Professor of Economics (University of Massachusetts-Amherst, New School University) has shaped the academic as well as the public discussion about the capitalist economy and its alternatives. He has written numerous books, including the groundbreaking publication Democracy at Work, which inspired the creation of a nonprofit organization dedicated to showing how and why to make democratic workplaces real. In addition, Wolff hosts the weekly hour-long radio program “Economic Update,” which is syndicated on public radio stations nationwide, and he writes regularly for The Guardian and In this presentation, Wolff will discuss the fundamental change away from capitalist enterprises that is needed to reverse the growing economic inequality, corrupted politics and ecological self-destruction that we are facing today.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Communications Building, Room 120
RSVP (required):
*This event is free and open to the public.

Following the talk, there will be an intimate dinner with Prof. Wolff to continue the conversation. Space is very limited and a minimum donation is requested. For more information, contact

Bennett Receives Humboldt Research Award

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation granted Prof. Lance Bennett a Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in research. Prof. Bennett will utilize this research award to develop a project tracking the global flows of new ideas about how to better harmonize the economy and the environment. This project has emerged from the Center of Communication & Civic Engagement’s (CCCE) newest learning community: Rethinking Prosperity (

Rethinking Prosperity is a thriving learning community attracting faculty and students from several departments, as well as engagement from community organizations. The idea began as a spinoff from a series of courses Prof. Bennett has offered in the past few years on the conflicts between economic growth, consumerism, and the environment. To learn more about the project, check out the project website:

Humboldt Research Award winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany.

Capitalism v. Environment

Founder and director of Alternative Radio (AR), David Barsamian joined Rethinking Prosperity on May 19 to discuss capitalism and the environment as well as the role of the media in front of a diverse, intimate, and lively audience of faculty, students, and community members. Arguing that we have not been good stewards of the earth because of the dominance of the profit motive, Barsamian emphasized that we are heading towards an iceberg of environmental crisis and catastrophe-a collision course comparable to that of the Titanic. Thus, radical action is required to change the course. And in this process the media, he noted, is not staining itself with glory. Instead of informing us about serious topics, such as going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can only trust the media to sell us products. By excessively reporting on topics, such as the Patriots’ deflated footballs, the media functions as a weapon of mass distraction from what is really important, Barsamian argued. The range of opinions reported in the media goes from A to B, not A to Z. Due to the lack of debate and opinions in the media, it is the job of alternative media to create alternative narratives and spaces for dialogue. The change that is needed, Barsamian told the audience, has to come from the bottom. It is the media consumers themselves who have to connect the dots because the media will not do it for us. After his presentation, a lively discussion ensued. Alternative Radio is an independent weekly public affairs series based in Boulder, Colorado. It is broadcast on over 175 radio stations in across North America. On his radio program, Barsamian has interviewed Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, and Edward Said, among others.

Read more about the event…