Community Economies

Community Economies

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Community Economies research and practice seeks to bring about more sustainable and equitable forms of development by cultivating and acting on new ways of thinking about economies and politics.

Building on J.K. Gibson-Graham’s feminist critique of political economy, this approach challenges three problematic aspects of how “the economy” is understood: seeing it as inevitably capitalist, assuming that it is a determining force rather than a site for politics and transformation, and separating economy from ecology.  The approach of community economies sees the economy as comprised of diverse practices and as intimately intertwined with planetary ecosystem processes. In a complexly determined world, change can be enacted in multiple ways. We are energized by the possibilities that this framing of economy affords.

One of the key organisations advocating for the community economies approach, is the Community Economies Institute:

“Seeking to catalyze social transformation, we are developing a new language of the diverse economy, activating ethical economic subjects, and imagining and enacting collective actions that diversify the economy. For us, these actions comprise a “post-capitalist politics.” We do not place “the economy” at the center of social change since for us there is no privileged “center,” nor one determining dynamic of transformation. We believe in starting where we are, building other worlds with what we have at hand. Our particular focus is on identifying, gathering, and amplifying ethical economic practices that already exist—and that prefigure “the world we want to live in.” [1]


Community economies research helps people to understand the contributions they make to an economy via diverse economic practices that are not often recognised, documented or even valued. It recasts the economy as a site where democratic deliberations and collective actions take place in formal and informal settings, involving market and non-market exchanges and various forms of labour, enterprise and place making activities. This reframing is laid out in Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming our Communities Opens in a new window(2013, University of Minnesota Press), a book written for a popular audience by J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy.

Using ‘action research’ methods that involve community members as researchers, community economies research aims to initiate change leading to social transformation. The impact of this research is experienced alongside the formation of alternative livelihoods such as community enterprises.



Further reading:

J.K Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healty,  “Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming our Communities”

Visit the dedicated website for ‘Take Back the Economy’ and explore teaching tools, community information and more