The Next System and the Academy: Systemic Crises, Movements, and Change in the 2020s

What are the duties of the academy to society in this period of transition?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT

Our lives feel precarious. Many of us are anxious about the future. And our ability to respond effectively to the social, economic, political, climate, ecological, and human crises of these times is undermined by a widespread sense of crisis fatigue. Into this moment enters a new government in Washington that has promised to “Build Back Better.” But should we build back better only from what the last president called the “American carnage” of recent years, or must we also find ways to overcome the mounting crises of recent decades?

A rising tide of community-based movements and initiatives offer the possibility that from this period of systemic decay may emerge a next system that is more democratic, sustainable, and just. Join us for a meaningful discussion among leading policymakers, innovators, community organizers, and academics working to prepare our society for a transition to a system that provides the best outcomes for all.  

Featuring keynote U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (2nd CD, WI), Kali Akuno (Cooperation Jackson), Dr. Gar Alperovitz (Democracy Collaborative), Dr. Amy Best (George Mason University), Dr. Diane Fujino (UC Santa Barbara), Peter Knowlton (UE General President, retired), Dr. Ben Manski (George Mason University), and Mike Strode (U.S. Solidarity Economy Network).

This discussion is timely in part because George Mason University is now the first academic institution to offer courses, community-engaged research, and other programs in next system studies. Next system studies involve the study of next system design, systemic movements, and system change. Together we will move beyond identifying and critiquing problems. Join us.

Keynote: Representative Mark Pocan

Rep. Mark Pocan, photo from Rep. PocanCongressman Mark Pocan (2nd CD, Wisconsin) is the co-founder and Co-Chair of the House Labor Caucus, where he works to advance the needs of the labor movement, combat the issues facing working families, and connect legislators directly with unions and union leaders. He is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus. In the 117th Congress, Representative Pocan serves on the House Appropriations Committee and three of its subcommittees, as well as on the House Education and Labor Committee.

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Panelist: Kali Akuno

Photo source: U.S. Solidarity Economy Network  Photo text: Kali Akuno of Cooperation JacksonKali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson and co-editor of “Jackson Rising: the struggle for economic democracy and black self-determination in Jackson, Mississippi.” Akuno served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. 

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Panelist: Gar Alperovitz

Photo source: Democracy Collaborative  Photo text: Gar AlperovitzGar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. For fifteen years, he served as the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. Alperovitz is the co-chair of The Next System Project, a project of The Democracy Collaborative and is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Atlantic among other popular and academic publications. 

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Panelist: Peter Knowlton

Peter Knowlton, UE General President, retired

Peter Knowlton was a member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) for 34 years until his retirement in 2019. He first became active in the labor movement in the late 1970’s as a union cab driver, rank and file activist, and organizer in Minneapolis, MN and one of the leaders of an unsuccessful effort in the early 80’s to transform the 600 worker Yellow Cab Company into a worker owned and operated cooperative. He joined the UE as a Field Organizer in the mid-80’s, became President of the UE Northeast Region in 2001, and elected UE General President in 2015. As UE was a predominantly manufacturing union he was actively involved in numerous plant closing fights and efforts to save and transform workplaces, often times with an eye to worker owned enterprises. A lifelong political activist he has been active in the anti-war and student movement, environmental, and Native American solidarity movements. He lives in the town of Dartmouth on the southern coast of Massachusetts.

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Panelist: Mike Strode

Mike Strode, U.S. Solidarity Economy Network

Mike Strode is a writer, urban cyclist, facilitator, and solidarity economy organizer with the Kola Nut Collaborative residing in southeast Chicago. The Kola Nut Collaborative is Chicago’s only time-based service and skills exchange (otherwise known as a timebank) providing an open platform for mutual aid, community organizing, and network weaving. Prior to launching the Collaborative, he worked with Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living to develop the Healthy Food Hub, a food sovereignty initiative which connects farmers in the historically Black farming community of Pembroke Township to food insecure communities throughout Chicago. The Collaborative recently launched their newest initiative to develop a network of Chicago-based facilitators trained in a method known as the Offers and Needs Market in order to embed this resource sharing practice within local organizations. Strode also serves on the boards of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network, Dill Pickle Food Co-op, and Co-op Power.

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Academic Response Panelist: Amy Best

Photo source: CHSS George Mason University  Photo text: Professor Amy BestAmy L. Best is Professor of Sociology and Chair in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University. Her research focuses on the study of youth, identity formation, culture, and social inequalities, with a particular interest in how gender, ethnicity, sexuality, race and class differently shape the social experiences of contemporary American youth. She is interested in qualitative and feminist approaches to social research and program evaluation. Best is author of “Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture” (2000 Routledge), which was selected for the 2002 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award and “Fast Cars: Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars” (NYU Press 2006), and editor of “Representing Youth: Methodological Issues in Critical Youth Studies.” (NYU Press, 2007). Her most recent book is “Fast Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines and Social Ties” (NYU Press, 2017), which was selected for a 2018 Morris Rosenberg Award by the DC Sociological Society.

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Academic Response Panelist: Diane Fujino

Photo source: Fund for Santa Barbara  Photo text: Professor Diane Fujino

Diane Fujino is a professor of Asian American Studies and former director of the Center for Black Studies Research at UC Santa Barbara. Her research examines Japanese and Asian American radical history as shaped by Black Power and Third World decolonization. Her latest books are, "Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake," and "Black Power Afterlives: The Enduring Significance of the Black Panther Party."  Her earlier books focus on Yuri Kochiyama, Richard Aoki, and Fred Ho.  Fujino argues for a racialized gendered analysis of Yuri Kochiyama’s leadership, situated as “centerperson leadership” in, "Want to Start a Revolution: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle." She has been featured on Democracy Now!, KPFK, KPFA, WBAI, NPR, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribute, Hyphen magazine, Rafu Shimpo, and community and scholarly venues. Fujino is currently organizing with a new project, Cooperation Santa Barbara.

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Moderator: Ben Manski

Photo source:  Photo text: Professor Ben ManskiBen Manski is Assistant Professor of Sociology at George Mason University. He studies the participation of ordinary people in the deliberate constitution of their societies. Manski’s work takes in social movements, law, politics, climate and ecology, and the corporation, focusing on democracy, democratization, constitutionalism, next system studies, and he has published widely on these themes. He has a JD from the University of Wisconsin (2005), a PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara (2020), and is an Institute for Policy Studies Associate Fellow, Next System Project Research Fellow, and a Critical Realism Network Associated Fellow. Manski founded, co-founded, or helped instigate many pro-democracy mobilizations and organizations, including the Democracy Teach-Ins (1996), 180/Movement for Democracy and Education (1998), Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution (2004), Move to Amend (2010), Wisconsin Wave (2011), and the Global Climate Strikes (2014). He practiced public interest law for eight years and managed national non-profit organizations, direct action campaigns, and political campaigns and parties for twenty five years.

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