New Dream Happenings: 2019 Year-End Update

November 21, 2019

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The latest on organizational priorities, active programs, and strategic partnerships

It is easy to forget that in the late 1990s, when we were founded as the Center for a New American Dream, there were no other organizations focused on the intersection of over-consumption and materialism, and social and environmental well-being. 

Today there are dozens of groups and communities working on different aspects of our founding work—from the rapid rise of makers and the DIY movement to the mainstreaming of minimalism, buying used, sharing, and FIRE. It’s now common to encounter critiques of consumption, and of the underlying systems that create the demand to consume, in broadcast media. 

In this evolving, expanding landscape, New Dream has completed an audit of our assets and programs, to identify where we can deliver the most value to broader efforts to improve well-being for people and the planet, especially in the face of the growing climate crisis. We will continue to provide important translation across academic research and science, and what we know about individual behavior and the ingredients for human flourishing, and how inequality manifests in our communities. 

We are thrilled to share news about two exciting partnerships with collaborators that will be leading and building on some of New Dream’s most successful historical work. 

Partner Spotlight: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC)

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and New Dream have been collaborating on behalf of healthy childhood development for years. When we assessed our programs this year, and ways we might best support New Dreamers looking for well-balanced approaches to screen time and brand exposure for youth, we knew that were already strong leaders in the field like CCFC. We knew that our resources on these issues might offer more depth for CCFC’s community, while adding new perspectives and pathways for action around timely, related issues for New Dreamers as well. 

New Dream is proud to transfer our well-loved Kids & Commercialism resources to CCFC, to support its vital work equipping parents, educators, and caregivers to take informed action on the ways that brands reach and interact with children. CCFC has long championed a child’s right to commercial-free homes, schools, and public spaces, including taking on some of the largest toy and technology companies in the world. Their work spans individual-level actions of all kinds, including direct advocacy for policies that protect children from insidious marketing and invasions of privacy. 

Partner Spotlight: Center for Biological Diversity

There are few organizations more committed to the frontlines of life under threat than the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center was founded by four young leaders—with backgrounds in philosophy, conservation, medicine, and working with high-risk youth—and the organization has spent 30 years working to protect endangered species and create the conditions for the flourishing of all life. 

New Dream’s perennially popular Simplify the Holidays program will soon find a home within the Population and Sustainability Program at the Center. This program addresses the connection between exponential human population growth and threats to endangered species and wild places, with an explicit focus on consumption. We are confident that New Dreamers will enjoy connecting more dots between over-consumption, conservation, and species health and diversity. In addition, Simplify the Holidays will be guided by the leadership of Kelley Dennings, former New Dream fellow and current Advisory Council member, and specialist in sustainable behavior change. 

What’s Next for New Dream

We are excited to continue highlighting the important work of CCFC and the Center for Biological Diversity in the months and years to come. The partnership of organizations like these, who are leaders in their own fields, is so critical to bringing needed depth and expertise to New Dream's community. 

New Dream’s Question Consumption program will remain our primary focus. Question Consumption sparks connections across generations and other dimensions of identity—race, class, gender, and more—to find solutions to adopting sustainable lifestyles, while centering the needs and perspectives of those who are most directly impacted by the high costs of consumption and the global climate crisis.

Going forward, we’ll do this work through our Question Consumption Stories Project (we heard you—there will definitely be more storytelling in 2020!) and an exciting new workshop and discussion series to help people understand the varied and nuanced ways that consumption drives destructive behaviors and offers few good choices for people living in marginalized communities. 

Building on New Dream’s history as a first mover in the consumption conversation, we’ll explore how we can leverage the courageous leadership of our founders and longtime environmental activists to support the new leadership and vision of young people. As “OK, boomer” exemplifies, there are painfully few opportunities for real, authentic dialogue across generations—the ones who have led us in the past and the ones who are just picking up the torch now. 

In addition to our renewed commitment to youth and multigenerational dialogue, we’ll be working together with international partners to build a movement to confront the outsized role that consumption plays in driving the global climate crisis. 

In addition to our renewed commitment to youth and multigenerational dialogue, we’ll be working together with international partners to build a movement to confront the outsized role that consumption plays in driving the global climate crisis. We are excited to work across geography, race, class, gender, and more, and do what we have always done— to normalize sustainable lifestyles and improve well-being for people and planet—this time at a more intentionally global scale. 

One thing that has been true of New Dream since our founding: we have remained committed to delivering positive, solutions-oriented resources to our community, as evolving norms, behavior, scientific research, and environmental crises create new context for our work. As our landscape has shifted, in part as a result of our efforts to normalize new behaviors, we have adapted and shifted the way we work as an organization, and what we offer.

Through it all, New Dream has always centered human connection—the beating heart of well-being—in our solutions to the problems of runaway consumption. At its core, our effort to Question Consumption is meant to help us see our connection to one another, across ages, cultures, and belief systems. We believe now more than ever that this focus will serve us well, as we continue to evolve.

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