By Sara J Wolcott

Hardly surprisingly, the implications of the Financial Crisis of 2008 was a sub-theme of the Symposium. Several participants noted that there seems to be less money than there used to be – funding for the cutting edge projects that advance alternative knowledge systems is harder to come by than it used to be. Photo: Xiulan Zhang by Lance Bellers

Xiulan Zhang, Dean of the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University in China, discussed how first the Asian financial crisis and now this current one is presenting the opportunity to reshape social policy and create a new welfare state agenda, including making cities attractive places to live, investing in children, greater safety nets and giving skilled rural migrants greater access to loans.

There are, however, other ways that the Financial Crisis of 2008 is relevant to a discussion of innovation. First, financial innovations are, themselves, sites of technological innovation – and quite influential on the lives of people around the world, as recent events reminded us. Second, and in some ways more important but harder to tease out, are the ways of thinking that pervade the financial system. Finance is often called the ‘brain of economy’. This ‘brain’ has a certain way of thinking, of making decisions and determining values. That way of thinking influences the rest of the socio-economic system. Shifting how this ‘brain’ interacts with the world whose destiny it so often influences is vitally important.

Right now, the New Manifesto does not include or emphasize financial innovations –a field few have true expertise in. I certainly don’t. But if the Manifesto can find ways to connect science and finance, it will take some important steps towards enabling that ‘brain’ to be critiqued; and to enable multiple ‘brains’ to direct and shape the socio-political-economic system.

Sara is an MA student in Science, Society and Development at the Institute of Development Studies