WEST MIDLANDS NEW ECONOMICS GROUP – HOW IT STARTED
In 1994 George Heron, a supporter of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) who was also a member of Birmingham Green Party, had the idea of forming a local group that would shadow the then powerful Economic Development Committee of Birmingham City Council.
He circulated the idea to all the NEF supporters living in the West Midlands and an inaugural meeting was held in which a constitution of an unincorporated voluntary association was adopted. Since the structure of the NEF did not allow for branches as such, it was agreed that WMNEG would be independent of but sharing the values and interests of the NEF.
A small management committee was formed to plan the programme of activities and George was its Chairman until he moved to Manchester in 1997. Paul Baptie took the chair for a short period followed by Alan Clawley. A website was created and contact with supporters was maintained by email.
Meetings of supporters were held on the first Saturday of each month at various meeting rooms in Birmingham city centre until 2016 when a new pattern of midweek evening meetings was adopted. The normal pattern was to invite a guest speaker to open the debate on a chosen topic that had been previously advertised followed by lively discussion that was kept more or less to the point by the Chair.
The aim was to reach a consensus by the end of the meeting and to agree on some follow up action such as writing a letter to the papers, responding to one of many government consultations, sending a delegate to another organisation, or writing an article for posting on a friendly website. When consensus was not achieved, for example on a precise definition of ‘New Economics’ it was agreed to differ. Members retained their existing political affiliations and commitments and were not expected to toe a hard line on what the group believed or to feel obliged to support any action that emanated from the discussion. A list of meeting topics can be found in the Appendix.
The monthly meetings gave members a much-valued opportunity for self-education and over the years they became increasingly well-informed and articulate about the complex economic issues that affected Birmingham and the West Midlands. A website was set up many years ago: http://freespace.virgin.net/alan.clawley/, but is said to be no longer supported.
The odd new link for this new site (https://goodmorningamericaword.wordpress.com/) is due to it being taken over from a US-centred one which failed.