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Remembering James Robertson

  • by JW

founder of The Other Economic Summit and the New Economics Foundation


This blog is about Sidmouth – but also about how issues beyond our borders might effect the Valley, from housing design and housing policy to all sorts of ideas around sustainability to the latest technologies which might help us move forward.

A public figure at the centre of much of this for much of the twentieth century is not a well-know public figure – but is nevertheless credited in pushing the debate on many of the key issues. That person was James Robertson, who died late last year at the age of 95.

As Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of the New Economics Foundation says in his newsletter: 

As we look to the future, I also want to take the time to remember those to whom we owe a great deal of thanks. In particular, James Robertson, a co-founder of NEF, who sadly passed away at the end of last year. James has left a legacy we will always remember and strive to continue.

The outgoing CEO Miatta Fahnbulleh added in the NEF Review of 2023:

One of the driving forces behind the founding of NEF, James Robertson, died late last year at the age of 95. James spent the early years of his career in the civil service, where he wrote Harold MacMillan’s famous “Wind of Change” speech. After leaving Whitehall, drawn to green and feminist values, in the 1970s James played a leading role in bringing together the nascent new economics movement. In the 1980s, along with his wife Alison, he helped to galvanise the group of economists and environmentalists who founded first The Other Economics Summit (TOES) and then NEF. From his home in Oxfordshire, James continued to research, work with local, national and international organisations, and write influential books, papers and articles right up to his retirement in 2018.

On behalf of everyone at NEF past and present, we thank James for his unparalleled contribution to NEF and to the field of new economics and send our condolences to Alison, his family and friends. You can read more about James’ life in his obituary in the Guardian. 

James Robertson was particularly interested in reforming the money system, but the bigger picture for him was the New Economics of Sustainable Development – from the 1984 The Other Economic Summit [co-founded with Jonathan Porritt and Sally Willington founder member of the British Green Party] to the 1986 and beyond New Economics Foundation.

The foundation has 50 staff in London and is active at a range of different levels. Its programmes include work on well-being, its own kinds of measurement and evaluation, sustainable local regeneration, its own forms of finance and business models, sustainable public services, and the economics of climate change.