We are in a transitional period in world history. Signs of economic, political, and ecological dysfunction are everywhere. A new world system appears inevitable. What will it bring?
Next System Studies involve research into questions of systemic design, change, and movements – questions that ask, “Where are we going and where do we need to go? How might we get there? What must we do to get there?”
As a new area for study, one purpose of Next System Studies is to establish space, resources, and recognition for scholarship and public engagement on next system questions. Another is influencing and to some extent reorienting established disciplines around next system questions. Thus, next system scholarship involves:
Production of practical knowledge of use to policymakers, communities, activists, and others about systemic design, change, and movements;
Community engaged research uniting practitioners, students, and senior scholars in collaborative work; and,
The raising of new cohorts of community leaders, policymakers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, managers, academics, and other specialists educated in the methodology and theory of next system studies.
To these ends, current priorities for next system research and teaching at George Mason University include:
The Digital Commonwealth Project uses community designed digital technology process to produce democratic and accountable digital platforms for community wealth, economic democracy, social service provision, civic participation, climate resilience, and mutual aid. Our pilot initiative is for Virginia.
Next System coursework centered around our first two Next System Fellows cohorts in the springs of 2022 and 2023 as part of the Arlington Fellows program at GMU's Mason Square campus.
The Next System Studies Association Initiative, inspired by the success of our April 21st "The Next System System and Academy" launch, is building a global interdisciplinary network of academic and community-based scholars through workshops, conferences, teach-ins, publications, and collaborative research projects.
Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of "Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice," headlines a series also featuring Jeremy Brecher (author of "Common Preservation"), Joe Guinan (co-author of "The Case for Community Wealth Building"), Yvonne Yen Liu (Solidarity Research Center), and Melissa Scanlan (author of "Prosperity in the Fossil-Free Economy").
The original Next System Fellows leaflets posed several thought provoking questions to their readers: “Where is our society going, and where does it need to go? How do we get there, and what must we do to get there?” By posing these questions, the program implies it can provide answers to them. And perhaps it can. But essential is the pedagogy involved. By calling students to address the systemic challenges of the 21st century, the Next System Fellows program invites students to become a part of creating solutions.
On Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, hundreds of leading policymakers, innovators, community organizers, and academics came together to take up the challenge of preparing our society for a transition to a system that provides the best outcomes for all. "The Next System and the Academy: Systemic Crises, Movements, and Change in the 2020s," featured keynote speaker 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).
"To borrow from Lev Tolstoy, ‘What then must society do?’ Or to paraphrase Gar Alperovitz, ‘system change is coming; what kind of system do we want and how do we get there?’ These are the questions at the center of next system studies.”