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Next System (4/21)

The Next System and the Academy: Systemic Crises, Movements, and Change in the 2020s

Featuring Rep. Mark Pocan, Kali Akuno, Gar Alperovitz, Amy Best, Roberto Clack, Diane Fujino, Emily Kawano, & Ben Manski

IMPORTANT: For zoom link, you must register in advance:

Our lives feel precarious. Many of us are anxious about the future. And our ability to respond effectively to the social, economic, political, climate, ecological, and human crises of these times is undermined by a widespread sense of crisis fatigue. Into this moment enters a new government in Washington that has promised to “Build Back Better.” But should we build back better only from what the last president called the “American carnage” of recent years, or must we also find ways to overcome the mounting crises of recent decades?

A rising tide of community-based movements and initiatives offer the possibility that from this period of systemic decay may emerge a next system that is more democratic, sustainable, and just. Join us for a meaningful discussion among leading policymakers, innovators, community organizers, and academics working to prepare our society for a transition to a system that provides the best outcomes for all.

Featuring keynote U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (2nd CD, WI), Kali Akuno (Cooperation Jackson), Dr. Gar Alperovitz (Democracy Collaborative), Dr. Amy Best (George Mason University), Roberto Jesus Clack (Warehouse Workers for Justice), Dr. Diane Fujino (UC Santa Barbara), Dr. Emily Kawano (U.S. Solidarity Economy Network), and Dr. Ben Manski (George Mason University).

This discussion is timely in part because George Mason University is now the first academic institution to offer courses, community-engaged research, and other programs in next system studies. Next system studies involve the study of next system design, systemic movements, and system change. Together we will move beyond identifying and critiquing problems. Join us.


KEYNOTE: Representative Mark Pocan (2nd CD, Wisconsin) is the co-founder and Co-Chair of the House Labor Caucus, where he works to advance the needs of the labor movement, combat the issues facing working families, and connect legislators directly with unions and union leaders. He is also the Co-Chair of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus. In the 117th Congress, Representative Pocan serves on the House Appropriations Committee and three of its subcommittees, as well as on the House Education and Labor Committee. For more information:

PANELIST: Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson and co-editor of “Jackson Rising: the struggle for economic democracy and black self-determination in Jackson, Mississippi.” Akuno served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city. For more information:

PANELIST: Gar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. For fifteen years, he served as the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. Alperovitz is the co-chair of The Next System Project, a project of The Democracy Collaborative and is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Atlantic among other popular and academic publications. For more information:

PANELIST: Emily Kawano is Co-Director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, which is seeking to create an engine for new, community-based job creation in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses located in the inner city that will provide job training and entry-level jobs to unemployed and underemployed residents through worker-owned cooperatives. Kawano also serves as Coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network. An economist by training, Kawano served as the Director of the Center for Popular Economics from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, Kawano taught economics at Smith College, worked as the National Economic Justice Representative for the American Friends Service Committee and, in Northern Ireland, founded a popular economics program with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. For more information:

PANELIST: Roberto Jesus Clack is Executive Director of Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), a worker center dedicated to fighting for stable, family supporting jobs in Chicagoland’s warehouses. In the course of this struggle, Clack has worked to build ties between environmental justice groups, community organizations, labor unions, and workers organizations. Last year, WWJ led the formation of a new Earth Day to May Day coalition emphasizing the need for a worker-led transition to a climate safe and sustainable economy for all. For more information:

ACADEMIC RESPONSE PANELIST: Amy L. Best is Professor of Sociology and Chair in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University. Her research focuses on the study of youth, identity formation, culture, and social inequalities, with a particular interest in how gender, ethnicity, sexuality, race and class differently shape the social experiences of contemporary American youth. She is interested in qualitative and feminist approaches to social research and program evaluation. Best is author of “Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture” (2000 Routledge), which was selected for the 2002 American Educational Studies Association Critics’ Choice Award and “Fast Cars: Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars” (NYU Press 2006), and editor of “Representing Youth: Methodological Issues in Critical Youth Studies.” (NYU Press, 2007). Her most recent book is “Fast Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines and Social Ties” (NYU Press, 2017), which was selected for a 2018 Morris Rosenberg Award by the DC Sociological Society. For more information:

ACADEMIC RESPONSE PANELIST: Diane Fujino is a professor of Asian American Studies and former director of the Center for Black Studies Research at UC Santa Barbara. Her research examines Japanese and Asian American radical history as shaped by Black Power and Third World decolonization. Her latest books are, “Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake,” and “Black Power Afterlives: The Enduring Significance of the Black Panther Party.” Her earlier books focus on Yuri Kochiyama, Richard Aoki, and Fred Ho. Fujino argues for a racialized gendered analysis of Yuri Kochiyama’s leadership, situated as “centerperson leadership” in, “Want to Start a Revolution: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle.” She has been featured on Democracy Now!, KPFK, KPFA, WBAI, NPR, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribute, Hyphen magazine, Rafu Shimpo, and community and scholarly venues. Fujino is currently organizing with a new project, Cooperation Santa Barbara. For more information:

MODERATOR: Ben Manski is Assistant Professor of Sociology at George Mason University. He studies the participation of ordinary people in the deliberate constitution of their societies. Manski’s work takes in social movements, law, politics, climate and ecology, and the corporation, focusing on democracy, democratization, constitutionalism, next system studies, and he has published widely on these themes. He has a JD from the University of Wisconsin (2005), a PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara (2020), and is an Institute for Policy Studies Associate Fellow, Next System Project Research Fellow, and a Critical Realism Network Associated Fellow. Manski founded, co-founded, or helped instigate many pro-democracy mobilizations and organizations, including the Democracy Teach-Ins (1996), 180/Movement for Democracy and Education (1998), Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution (2004), Move to Amend (2010), Wisconsin Wave (2011), and the Global Climate Strikes (2014). He practiced public interest law for eight years and managed national non-profit organizations, direct action campaigns, and political campaigns and parties for twenty five years. For more information:


More Information
This is an Earth Week Event co-hosted by George Mason University’s Center for Social Science Research, Democratizing NOVA project, and Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
Co-sponsors include Mason’s Office of Sustainability, SIS Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL), Public Sociology Association, Graduate Student Sociological Association, Green Patriots, UndocuMason, and Movement Engaged Research Hub, as well as the UCSB Blum Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy, UCSB Department of Asian American Studies, Center for Social Research at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and also community-based supporters at the Democracy Collaborative, U.S. Solidarity Economy Network, Move to Amend, Liberty Tree Foundation, Cooperation Humboldt, Alliance for Democracy, Round Sky Solutions, and Warehouse Workers for Justice.