My first encounter with the New Economics Foundation was over twenty years ago. A nervous new graduate, I came for an interview to be NEF’s office manager. I’d never worked in an office, or managed anything, but I had long admired NEF, so I somehow blagged my way in. I had a great chat with them about the state of the world, but unsurprisingly, they chose someone who, er, knew how to manage an office. (Incidentally, on the subject of rejection, have a look at this brilliant blog by Nick Hopwood. It would do us all good to be less coy about rejection, I think.)
Roll on a couple of decades, then, and you can imagine how pleased I am to become a Trustee of NEF. Their founding belief – that economies must be controlled by people, not vice-versa – has never been more relevant. NEF works across a bewildering array of issues, from fish and fossil fuels to health and housing, but its core argument is remarkably consistent: in their words, they want “an agenda for people to take more control over the decisions and resources that affect their lives today and a plan for how we can all begin to change the whole system tomorrow”. Hence their Brexit-busting slogans about taking real control. This blend of practicality and radicalism is what makes NEF special.
I have no doubt that this is the way we will make the breakthroughs we need in my own area, climate and energy. Reacting to the referendum last year, I blogged on the dangers of ‘policy by stealth’, in which we try to cut carbon and transform our energy system without people noticing. As I said then, we cannot and should not decarbonise our economy or protect our natural environment without involving and engaging people. So I’ll be looking to NEF for brilliant ideas on a people-powered future. And I might even offer them some words of wisdom on office management.