Monday, 16 February 2009

Economics getting worse

New business models needed

It is nearly a year now since Conductive World first rang a warning bell about the implications for our common interest of what, at last, nobody denies is a major, world-wide economic recession (and may yet prove even worse).

After a long dismal winter here in the UK, today has felt like the first day of spring. There might even be a certain national lightening of the heart, and maybe for many there is, in a grin-and-bear-it sort of way, but the world economy grinds inexorably downwards around us and under us, and everybody knows it.

And in this country at least, nobody has the slightest confidence that there is anyone in charge on whom one could place the slightest trust (yes, I am aware that two senses of the word ‘trust’ are possible here: I mean both).

A quick world round up

Every days' news is another episode in the great world economics soap-opera. These are some of the things that have been in the news today.
  • In the UK, production of the Mini has been cut back (that’s the motorcar not the dress), this being done through a clumsy, brutal coup de management of a kind that denies the very notion of all pulling together in the same boat. Cheap food is doing well, so is junk food. 'Business leaders' think that the Government will have to borrow yet a further £100bn to stave of deep and profound recession.
  • In Australia, exports of wine and mining products have tumbled along with their markets, and the Government is struggling towards a financial rescue package.
  • In Japan, latest figures show that the world’s second largest economy is slipping down the tubes even faster than that of the United Kingdom. The Japanese Government is struggling towards a financial rescue package.
  • And what about Hungary? Back in October its then financial problems caused quite a stir worldwide, till everyone else realised that we all have colossal economic difficulties of our own to worry about. So Hungarians just get on with the awful problems of living. This last week has seen announcement of a fall of nearly twenty percent in industrial outcome, the exchange rate is swinging all over the place and the government is struggling over pensions and (again) reform of the tax system.

Like it or not we are all in the same boat. Whatever virtues that will be displayed by some, we should expect some pretty ugly and unworthy behaviour from others as our craft settles in the water.

And Conductive Education?

Today’s news in the United Kingdom included announcement that Leeds City Council (a big one, that) is going to cut back on its services because it just does not have the money to maintain them at present levels. It will do its best, of course, to maintain front-line services, concentrating its cut-backs on ‘back-office’ activities. The wall breached, it will not be long before other cities and counties follow through behind.

Along the way, even though the bulk of Conductive Education in the United Kingdom is charitably or privately provided, somehow or other this pinch in the public sector will still be felt, how precisely remains to be seen.

Last week the Foundation for Conductive Education boldly put up its hand and announced financial difficulties. Who next? Where?

From economics to financing and funding CE, and to new structures

I seems hardly contentious to suggest that Conductive Education cannot continue as it is. It is not just practices that will have to change, it it the business models required to fund them in the future world.

Economics are out of our hands. Ways of financing and funding specific CE programs, and the ways to to organise the 'businesses' of which these activities are apart, are not. Shaped by our environment yes, but we are human and therefore can shape our environment in return. Creating new kinds of CE organisms is one way towards achieving this.

Over the last year Conductive World has drawn attention to a number of innovative schemes and projects that have stepped a little aside from what are already ‘traditional’ CE business models. Attention will be drawn to others as they continue to turn up (as they surely will) so that everyone does not have to reinvent the wheel.

We used to think that there were only one or two ways of doing things, when there are many. There is nothing facing the conductive world, in terms of readjustment, that is not being faced by the whole economy, where there are so many new ways being advocated or tried. In so far as some of these seem sympatique and relevant, then they too will be aired here.


Here’s one for a start. Starting a new CE venture? Then look seriously at the model of the ‘romantic economy’.

Intuitively, many people running CE programs have tried to adopt something like this right since CE first started to be established outside Hungary. And many have not, having been drawn by necessity or inclination into the dominant twentieth-century model of business organisation, its very antithesis. Maybe in 'romantic economics' we have something to help articulate the sort of workplace where conductors and non-conductors might no longer exist in a state of frozen anomie, and the conceptual tools to examine places where this is happening and to articulate alternatives.

There is no need for economic determinism. There is need to harness the very considerable personal strength and powers that exist within the conductive movement, and test out business models that implement these in ways to make the very best of what we have.

What sort of organisations and what quality their operations are required to achieve this?


Bronk, R. (2009) The Romantic Economist, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Sutton, A. (2008) Economic recession, or even depression: a tipping point for Conductive Education?, Conductive World, 18 March

Sutton, A. (2008) Hungarian economy: IMF steps in to avoid collapse, Conductive World, 27 October

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