For me everything started by reading Riane Eisler’s books that were translated into Italian, discussing them with my mother, exchanging ideas and other books, and dreaming of a new economic system that adequately value the most essential human work: the work of caring for ourselves, others, and our Mother Earth.
I followed up attending the inspiring Caring Economy Advocates Program with the Cohort Elephant team and organizing an exciting event with my family in Milan, North of Italy, on Saturday 24 June 2017. It was a loving, interesting, and empowering discussion for all of us. I’m happy to share with you what we have discovered during our journey, what materials and resources I used to organize this event and my goals as a Caring Economy Advocate.
To prepare my presentation I used the ideas and presentations we discussed during the online seminars as well as the materials and resources available in the advocates toolkit and I took as a point of reference in particular one of Riane’s book, The Real Wealth of Nations. To give you an idea, below you can find the presentation agenda prepared for the Milan event:
- Where we Find Ourselves: Why Resistance Is Not Enough
- How can I tell Where I am on the Domination/Partnership Continuum?
- What becomes Visible when we look at our Economy through the Domination-Partnership lens?
- The Real Wealth of Nations: Connecting the Dots between Care and Prosperity
- The Caring Economy Campaign
- How can we take Action for a Caring Economy
We started our meeting pointing out that in our inextricably interconnected world none of us has a secure future so long as hunger, extreme poverty and violence exist in our world and we accepted Riane’s invitation to explore the caring economy’s prospective. To this purpose I introduced to my family the Domination/Partnership systems and caring economy principles. Thereafter we used the Domination/Partnership Continuum Handout available in the advocates toolkit to assess where we are in the Domination/Partnership continuum.
This exercise helped us reflect on how our life would be different if the work of care and caregiving were socially visible and economically valuable within our economy. In my family, caregiver work has always been considered the most precious work we like to do. It is an act of unconditional love. It brings infinite energy and strength. It allows us cultivating human potential, sustaining and respecting all our capabilities and contributions, allowing us to be our best. It's nothing less than a miracle. However, we realized that the work of care takes a lot of time and when each of us carries out this activity in both the market and non-market economic sectors (parenting, household, taking care of each other, studying, volunteering, caring older people and children, social worker, teacher) earns a low salary or does not earn at all. More in general, we think that with the appropriate economic policies in place and existential security, people would:
- enjoy the equal freedom and responsibility to decide what to do with their own lifes,
- develop a new set of skills to be mindful and connect with the universe,
- learn taking care of themselves, the others and nature, and
- enhance individual and collective happiness.
Things like resilience, compassion, empathy, respect, confidence, hope, courage, curiosity, initiatives, creativity and well-being would naturally thriving producing human development and social wealth.
Then we explored the six foundations of a Caring Economic System and agreed with the idea that the economic systems are human creation that can and will change. We wondered what kinds of qualities, activities, services, and goods do we want to give high economic values to meet our authentic human needs and what kinds of economic inventions do we need for the construction of a more caring, effective, innovative, and sustainable economic system that helps us to promote hierarchies of actualization and meet the social, economic, and ecological challenges we face.
We used the useful handouts What is Wealth? to reflect on what things in our life bring us most fulfillment, happiness, and well-being, and we realized that social wealth is our top priority. In our life we hold most valuable things like happiness, peace of mind, and opportunities to choice how to invest our time. We agreed that is the work of care that grows the real wealth we all enjoy.
Later, we tried to figure out why the natural, household and community sectors of the economy have been economically invisible and our life-giving work so devalued for so long even though these are the activities that make possible all other types of work. We realized that an outdated gendered system of values has made the work of care invisible and agreed with Riane that to construct an economic system that responds to the enormous challenges we face in the new knowledge-service era, we must give visibility and value to the work of caring for people and nature.
Now we were ready to enjoy the video of the Caring Economy Campaign. We agreed that the first step to contribuite to a caring revolution is to change the conversation about economics to include the term caring and to raise awareness of the economic importance of caregiving.
We asked ourselves how we can practice awareness in our everyday life to foster a partnership culture and agree to:
- help each other in educating ourselves and implementing what we learn in our familiy and community,
- read and give as a gift Riane’s books, and
- talk to our friends and colleagues about caring economy.
- My mother is a writer with an incredible imagination and will use what she is learning to create new stories.
At this point, I gave some of Riane’s books to my family and shared some materials to continue our conversation.
Eventually, we explored which policies, rules and practices of business and government can support the emergent caring economic system and looked at some examples of:
- policies that provide support to the women and men who do the work of care in both market and non-market economic sectors,
- investment in high-quality early childhood experiences at home and in school; and
- the new set of measures of economic health called Social Wealth Economic Indicators or SWEIs, introduced by a Report of the Center for Partnership Studies published in 2014 which informs us that care work yields a significant economic value.
We agreed with Riane that the economic double standard is reflected in and perpetuated by economic measures that falsify the costs of uncaring policies. These measures blind people to the huge benefits society derives from the essential work of caring, be it in families, businesses, or society at large, and give a distorted picture of what are economically productive activities. Indeed, we can’t expect fundamental changes in either economic indicators or policies unless there is greater awareness of the hidden assumptions and values that keep us locked into a dysfunctional economic paradigm.
We understood that there is a close link between the presence of poverty and the undervaluation of care work, and the fact that worldwide poverty and hunger disproportionately affect women and children is neither accidental nor inevitable. It is the result of political and economic systems that still have a strong dominator stamp. It is not a question of money, but a matter of values.
At the end of the day we gave a look at the executive summary of the SWEIs Report available in the advocates toolkit to learn that the devaluation of caring and gender double standard not only impacts women but the whole social and economic system. Now it makes perfect sense for us to think that the status of women can be a better predictor of general quality of life than Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.
As Riane wrote in her book, we always have a choice:
- we can keep complaining about greed, fraud, cutthroat business practices, daily stress of unsuccessfully juggling jobs and family. We can tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do about policies that damage our natural environment, create huge gaps between haves and have-nots, and lead to suffering.
- Or we can join together to help construct a saner and more caring economics and culture.
We have chosen to join you because we believe that as we become aware of better possibilities, we can change how we think, feel, and act and when a sufficient number of us change our beliefs and actions, our culture changes.
I’m enjoying reading your blog posts and thank you so much Riane, Sara, Ann who are facilitating the Caring Economy Advocates Program and all of you for this wonderful journey!