Transitioning to caring economies through transformative community investment

How to transition to more fair and sustainable economies has become even more of a pressing issue in these times of climate crisis, pandemic, environmental degradation, and global inequalities. These largely human-caused problems are propelled by what many economic geographers and political economists identify as Western ideas of competition, individualism, and a ‘man vs wild’ mentality that continue to drive traditional economic models.

Scholars are calling attention to fundamental issues embedded within classical, profit-driven economic systems. Communities and governments are beginning to hear their call, seeking transitions to different ‘holistic’ economies that prioritise wellbeing over economic growth. Indeed, Aotearoa is seen to be leading the way through ‘wellbeing budgets’, the Living Standards Framework, and the Unite against Covid-19 campaign. But there is still more mahi to be done. Despite calls for kindness and reform, child poverty and homelessness are still high, environmental wellbeing is declining, and partnerships based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi are often stalled by political agendas.

In this exciting new Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, Associate Professor Dombroski will investigate community organisations that are already on the ground and engaged in the types of economies that care about social change. ‘The Transitioning to Caring Economies’ research programme will begin with case studies in urban areas, farming, composting, and co-housing. Then studies with diverse communities that include Māori and Asia-Pacific-based community organisations will be conducted. The programme will partner with communities investing their time, energy, and finances into transformation. Associate Professor Dombroski seeks to understand the kinds of people, practices and organisations that drive and emerge from such investment. The programme will also build on these partnerships and findings to co-develop a way forward by accounting for investments of time and energy in terms of social and environmental wellbeing. Through this collaborative, socially engaged approach, Associate Professor Dombroski’s research will enhance the prospect of economic change by highlighting and championing those who care about human and planetary wellbeing.

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