CUSP Work Programme
The work of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) is driven by one core research question: what can prosperity possibly mean in a world of environmental, social and economic limits? Our research programme is organised around five key themes (the MAPSS framework): Meanings and moral framings, Arts and culture, Politics and institutions, Social and psychological understandings and System dynamics.
The findings of our MAPSS research themes are drawn together through a rich portfolio of engagement across business, government and civil society. This portfolio includes a unique cross-theme case study to develop An Economy That Works. The second is a collaboration on sustainable finance with a coalition of thought leaders including the Aldersgate Group. CUSP provides the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Limits to Growth, a platform for cross-party dialogue on economic prosperity in a world of environmental and social limits. We have initiated an extended public dialogue aimed at bringing together people from all walks of life and all sectors of society to develop new visions for a lasting and sustainable prosperity. Chaired by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, The Nature of Prosperity offers a stimulating environment for discussion and a creative forum for change.
The foundation for our work is an understanding of the meanings of prosperity. The goal of theme M is to explore the moral and philosophical assumptions that underpin visions of sustainable prosperity. Critically, we seek to identify which pivotal institutions and political questions need to be addressed if ‘sustainable prosperity’ is to be achieved in practice, rather than just valued as an idea.
CUSP considers the role of arts and culture not simply as a tool for communicating sustainability, but as an inherent component of prosperity itself. Art and culture facilitate participation in the life of society and contribute to a creative and fulfilling quality of life. Our Arts theme develops the conceptual framework for this approach and explores the complex interaction between cultural prosperity, place, the quality (and availability) of employment, leisure, and the rights to self-expression.
This theme explores grassroots transitions to sustainability, alternative enterprise forms, investment models for sustainable prosperity, and the range of political institutions related to the ‘ecological state’. At one level we explore the grand narratives of political legitimacy looking at the challenge of governance in the face of constrained resources. At the micro-level, we explore grassroots initiatives for change to see how alternative ownership and incentive structures can deliver a more sustainable prosperity.
At the heart of any form of prosperity lie the desires, aspirations, needs and capabilities of ordinary people. Understanding these needs and aspirations is vital. Our research examines the contested and situated nature of people’s visions of the good life and the role of materialism in delivering (or hindering) prosperity. We explore how different understandings of social justice and fairness enter our narratives of the good life. We also look at how our aspirations for prosperity and sustainability are negotiated in different contexts and circumstances. Using both social research and psychological experiments, we explore the idea that people could have ‘more fun with less stuff’.
Achieving a sustainable prosperity requires compelling social narratives and robust economic models to deliver them. Theme S2 aims on the one hand to develop qualitative narratives of sustainable prosperity and on the other to explore the quantitative implications of these narratives through the development of macroeconomic models. Our research explores the economic, social and environmental implications of these models and narratives. We also examine the role of good work in delivering sustainable prosperity.
At CUSP we are rethinking economics. To make the economy work for everyone, politics need to ensure economic and social stability even as relentless growth in consumer demand is attenuated. We are addressing the ‘post-growth challenge’ throughout our work programme, engaging with a variety of stakeholders in business and parliament, to help developing strategies for an economy that works for everyone.
We are looking at sustainable finance from various angles—our research aims to develop a powerful new framing of investment in terms of a meaningful ‘commitment to the future’. This framing is motivated in part by the lessons from the financial crisis, where speculative, short-term investment was instrumental in undermining financial stability, and in part by the investment needs inherent in the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. Resource productivity, low-carbon infrastructure and the protection of habitats and ecosystems all demand a new portfolio of investment with new governance and facilitating conditions.
What conditions enable young people to live sustainable, fulfilling lives in cities? How do young citizens see their future? What best practices for city planning and community action can make the biggest sustainable difference? How can we help cities track progress and help young citizens flourish within the limits of a finite planet? These questions are addressed in CYCLES.
Ultimately, prosperity must offer society a credible and inclusive vision of social progress. The over-arching goal of CUSP is to contribute to that essential task. We have initiated an extended public dialogue aimed at bringing together people from all walks of life and all sectors of society to develop new visions for a lasting and sustainable prosperity. Chaired by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, The Nature of Prosperity offers a stimulating environment for discussion and a creative forum for change.
CUSP provides the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Limits to Growth. The APPG provides a platform for cross-party dialogue on economic prosperity in a world of environmental and social limits. It aims to contribute to a growing international debate on redefining prosperity and developing new measures of progress. The APPG is chaired by Caroline Lucas MP, and its membership is drawn from both Houses and all main political parties.