Forging Questions for a New Economy

At the Tufts New Economy meeting on October 8, Marcy Ostberg employed an intriguing technique to spark a collective brainstorm about our conceptual goals for this semester. First, she divided us into groups, then read out a relevant statement, in this instance “A just and sustainable world is not economically viable,” to which we had to form questions according to these simple rules*:

  • Ask as many questions as you can
  • Don’t stop to answer, discuss or judge questions
  • Turn statements into questions

Once completed, each group had to decide on three questions that it thought were the most important (lively discussion allowed!). Using oversize flip-chart paper, our two groups whittled down the thirty or so queries to a pertinent six**:

  • What does just and sustainable mean?
  • Who decides what just and sustainable means?
  • Can we salvage the just and the sustainable that currently exist in our economy?
  • Does just and the sustainable only work at a small scale?
  • What are the obstacles to viability and how can we overcome them?
  • How do we initiate change?

We hope to use the questions above to help us prioritize our thinking and our objectives for the semester.

*A variation of the “Question Formulation Technique™.“ For more information, visit

**If you are curious about the other questions we posed, here are a few to keep in mind:
How do you define” economically viable” – is it the be all end all? How do we quantify viability – can we use other metrics – should we quantify? Who suffers? What is the breaking point that will catalyze change – do we need to hit rock bottom – what is rock bottom? Do many small economies = one big economy?


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