Participatory Economies


The current economic models are not working. We need to find forms of economic development that are environmentally sustainable, democratically governed, pro-equality, and meet people’s real needs.


3.1. MaoriRammedEarthHousing

(Maori rammed earth housing project)


The goal of IfE’s Participatory Enterprises Project, or PARTICEN, is to help facilitate and make widely available viable, sustainable, democratic, pro-equality economic alternatives. We will provide public leadership toward these alternatives through strategic analysis, information resources, networking, and advocacy for new economic models. In addition, we will help to facilitate community-initiated projects and then connect them with partner organizations, experts, and sources of financing needed to get their project off the ground.

Read more about PARTICEN here.


Why do we need a new approach?

Today’s global neoliberal economic system tends to generate ever-increasing inequalities, and elevates profits over meeting human needs or protecting the environment. But historical experiments with equitable and democratic economic systems, from centrally planned economies to communes, have often met with failure for a variety of social, political, economic, and environmental reasons. Microfinance approaches have been widely praised as an anti-poverty strategy that empowers women, but recent studies indicate that micro-scale individual entrepreneurship is not usually viable, and often further locks people into poverty.


What do we need to consider as we make the transition?

We need to identify viable, sustainable, democratic economic approaches that can generate more equitable outcomes, reducing the level of poverty and economic inequality in the world. Viable economic alternatives must be widely discussed and openly debated, examples of past and current pro-equality economic approaches assessed, new economic approaches modeled to predict their outcomes, and careful experiments implemented to test the best ideas in real practice. The economic models we support will also need to consider protection of human needs and well-being, environmental and sustainability concerns, democratic decision-making, provisions for stability of the economic system, incentives for innovation and hard work, feedback to ensure responsiveness, and cultural compatibility in different societies.

The most effective models may take a hybrid form: community-based enterprises that are democratically and cooperatively run on behalf of workers, consumers, and community members, and yet are also responsive to market forces through innovation, competition, and periodic failures. We have no intention of reinventing the wheel. We will take models from every useful source, especially those with good track records, and discuss and adapt them.

Read more about the models under discussion here.


Let us know if you would like to get involved!  Email us at