The University of Newcastle, Australia

Future Societies Workshop kicks off Memorandum of Understanding with the New Economy Network Australia

Friday, 21 June 2019

The Alternative Futures Research Network will create a new research hub in partnership with the New Economy Network Australia.

The Alternative Futures Research Network (AFRN) of the Faculty of Education and Arts has signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) to establish a research hub based at the University of Newcastle (UON).

The Alternative Futures Research Network studies and promotes alternative modes of development beyond Carbon, Capital, Consumerism and (unsustainable) Growth with a focus on the prospects of inclusive development in Australian regional areas, particularly the Hunter Region.

NENA is a network of individuals and organisations working to transform Australia’s economic system so that achieving ecological health and social justice are the foundational principles and primary objectives of the economic system.

Last year’s ‘Alternative Futures Symposium’, organised by AFRN in Sydney, instigated great interest in collaboration between the two networks. This year, the joint venture is even further emboldened by the involvement of new senior academics, Professor Duncan McDuie-Ra and Professor Simon Springer, and the prospect of extending partnership with UTS Climate Justice Research CenterInternational Centre for Balanced Land Use (ICBLU), Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), Dutch Research Institute for Transition (DRIFT), and The Next System Project in the United States.

Leader of the Alternative Futures Research Network Dr Hamed Hosseini, said both AFRN and NENA have complementary objectives.

“Within the AFRN we aim to bring together a number of leading inter/national activists, scholars, policy advocates, and research institutes from a broad range of disciplines and ideological backgrounds into a close conversation around multiple alternative modes of livelihood and sociability that function beyond the mainstream free market structure,” he said. “By collaborating with NENA we hope to bring about progressive change on the ground.”

UON’s first community-partnered participatory research hub will identify, explore, develop and promote collaborative research projects focused on building new socio-ecological and economic systems or modalities in Australia.

“Together with NENA and its regional hubs, we are aiming to create a ‘Knowledge Commons of Alternatives’ (KCA) through exploring, mapping, comparing, examining and integrating alternative modes of livelihood, governance, and sociability that transcend capitalist relations and the current crisis-prone dependence on carbon, commodities, and (unsustainable) capitalist growth,” Dr Hosseini said.

“By employing a ‘transformative methodology’ consisting of methods such as social network analysis, big data mining and analytics, in-depth case studies and ethnographies of exemplary cases, social set analyses, and critical action research we will be able to better understand the dynamism of current social transitions, predict future trajectories and empower progressive social forces,” Dr Hosseini added.

The first step in the new partnership with NENA will be a ‘Future Societies & New Economies Joint Workshop’ to be held at the University of Newcastle on 23rd July 2019. Co-founder and Director of NENA Dr Michelle Maloney will attend the workshop and said she is excited about the collaboration with the AFRN.

“This collaboration is a fantastic step forward for NENA and the University of Newcastle. I am looking forward to undertaking new and exciting research that empowers local communities to build strong, just and sustainable economies around Australia,” Dr Maloney said.

Dr Hosseini said the research agenda of the hub will be co-designed through the workshop.

“This gathering will give us the chance to decide on important management and research strategies for the new hub. We will also use the opportunity to reflect on and draw insight from NENA’s Newcastle/Hunter Regional Symposium which will be held on 13 July 2019,” he said.

“We hope this new venture willresult in a sustainable partnership between the two networks and eventually evolve into game changing linkage projects to empower our regional communities in the current and future processes of post-coal/carbon transition. We are looking forward to conducting pilot studies, and co-hosting events including a national conference, a series of proactivist-academic symposia, and training workshops in 2020,” Dr Hosseini concluded.


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