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The latest news on The Next System Project
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July 29, 2015
Dear Friends and Supporters,

Welcome to the Next System Project’s summer newsletter. We’d like to take this opportunity to report on the public launch of the project, share some of our most recent work, and highlight activities we have planned for the near future.
In this Newsletter:

Our Public Launch

Three Short Films 

Looking Ahead

Further Reading

Our Public Launch

The Next System Project went public on March 31st. We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who joined us in making the launch a success. From Laura Flanders of GRITtv and the panelists on our national launch webinar, to the co-sponsoring organizations of that webinar and all our friends and allies, a great many people contributed their time and energy to putting our call for a broad conversation on systemic change on the map.

The outpouring of support we received has confirmed our belief that there is major interest in genuine alternatives to our failing system – and huge potential to develop more.

The project met with an explosive response:
  • A diverse group of leading activists, academics, labor leaders, policy makers, progressive business people and environmentalists signed our short public statement on the systemic nature of the crisis and the need for systemic solutions – and they have since been joined by many thousands more.
  • Fifty thousand people viewed our short promotional film on the project, and we have reached tens of thousands more through favorable coverage in progressive outlets like The Nation, Grist, Upworthy, The Leap and YES! Magazine, and many more.
  • Our national launch webinar attracted over twenty co-sponsoring organizations, from National People’s Action to BALLE and CODEPINK, and over 3,000 people participated or have viewed it since.
  • We are building an extensive mailing list and strong followings on social media.
  • Many allied and like-minded organizations and initiatives, both in the United States and in other parts of the world, have been reaching out to us to explore partnerships and collaboration.
Thanks to all of our supporters, the initial modest investment of time and resources has paid off and we are now looking to capitalize on the tremendous interest and energy unleashed by the launch to put in place additional staff and programs capable of moving the project to scale. 
Three Short Films
We are producing a series of short films dealing with different aspects of the systemic challenge our country is facing. The first three have already been released, and we encourage you to view and share them. Additional films are forthcoming, and will eventually be gathered on a dedicated page of our website, currently being developed, to be launched in the fall.
Systemic Racism
At a time when the structural dimensions of racism are gaining more widespread media attention, we kicked off our film series with the issue of systemic racism. In the film PolicyLink’s Angela Glover Blackwell, who participated in our national launch webinar on May 20th, describes the ways in which communities of color are subjected to hyper-surveillance and the predations of police violence. She observes that once poor people of color end up in the criminal justice system, it is almost impossible for them to get out—a fact that points to the urgent need for systemic solutions. While many individuals “may not carry personal racism,” she concludes, “that does not keep the system from operating in a racist way.” 
Twin Crises of Climate and Inequality
In our next film, Boston College economist Juliet Schor describes the twin structural crises of the present political-economic system: climate change and inequality. Under the traditional paradigm, addressing one problem only serves to aggravate the other: to attempt to deal with inequality through ‘growth’ exacerbates the problem of emissions (which are closely tied to economic activity) and thus accelerates climate change. Shareable profiled this film, commenting that in the face of this challenge “some of the country’s best minds, including Schor, are working to define a path forward.” 
The Historical Fight for Civil and Economic Rights
Described by Common Dreams as “a stunning new short video,” our most recent film features MIT professor Phil Thompson, who connects economic and racial justice through the struggles against slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, and the exploitation of undocumented workers. Each of these movements envisioned an economy no longer based on dehumanization. Next System Project supporter Danny Glover praised the film, declaring: “We must know our history in order to create a better system!” Musician and activist Tom Morello encouraged people to watch the film for a “quick history lesson” on “race, class, prison and you.”
Looking Ahead
Participation: We continue to receive a steady flow of communications asking how people can participate in the project and support its goal of deep systemic change. We are currently investigating mechanisms and platforms that will allow for participation in the project and its activities in a variety of ways, and are in conversations about technology that may assist with this goal.

Activism and Organizing: At the same time we are exploring partnerships with prominent activist organizations capable of mobilizing campaigns on the ground so that we can help “bring the future into the present” and begin working towards systemic change. We are particularly interested in the notion (developed by André Gorz) of identifying key “non-reformist reforms” that may offer immediate avenues for engagement with the deep structures of the present system. To this end we will be working with others to co-create toolkits, curricula, and other materials for use in communities across the country to promote practical action for systemic change.

Research and Debate: We have begun delineating and commissioning research for a series of papers and reports on “next system” issues and are looking into calls for papers and perhaps even an essay competition on alternative systemic design. We are also in conversations with several research networks with greater capacity and substantive expertise than our own in some critical sectors and issue areas. Watch out for a webinar series, beginning in the fall, aimed at facilitating in-depth discussions of particular themes and aspects of the system question.

Teach-Ins: Beginning in spring 2016, we will also be seeking to revive the tradition of the teach-in on U.S. campuses. Our hope is that on selected campuses students, faculty, and community members will come together to explore the need for system change and how it pertains to a “next system” of higher education and to relationships between institutions of higher learning and their neighboring communities. Our aim will be to test how best to organize a range of coordinated teach-ins on the systemic crisis and systemic solutions on a number of campuses, beginning with a first wave this year and then building up over time. As a first step, we’re looking to hire a National Coordinator of Teach-Ins on the Next System to help us develop these plans and put them into action. The deadline for applications for this position is July 31.

We have also been developing a detailed strategic plan for the project over the next three years as well as continuing to work to put in place the required resources. We’ll be back in touch as we further develop our programming, including new films and publications, webinar discussions, and the approaching launch of our full project website, which will feature a range of materials on political-economic alternatives and systemic change.

One thing you can help us with: We would very much like to know of any activities you might have begun with a view to opening up discussion about system change in your area. Please let us know of study groups, film screenings, local reading groups, etc. – any and all things that you may have done that could be of interest and encouragement to others. You can contact us at nextsystem@democracycollaborative.org
Further Reading
In the meantime, if you’re looking for some summer reading, our friends at the Capital Institute recently released their Regenerative Capitalism Framework and accompanying White Paper, while Richard Smith, a Next System Project signatory and leading eco-socialist thinker, has published his new book Green Capitalism: The God that Failed.

Another system change straw in the wind: British journalist Paul Mason has a forthcoming book on Postcapitalism. The article he published in the Guardian earlier this month, “The end of capitalism has begun,” garnered a gigantic readership (according to the paper’s Editor in Chief) while also receiving 350,000 shares over social media. 

Finally, the New York Times last week published an opinion piece by Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M. Hanna on “Socialism, American-Style,” and the surprising prevalence of large-scale public ownership of capital in conservative “red states.”

Best wishes,

Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth

Co-Chairs
The Next System Project
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