I was thrilled – we did not finish the lecture!
We spent a lot of time talking about economic diversity and working on the exercise. The students asked great questions that indicated to me that they were really processing this idea of “the diverse economy”. For example, Jamie asked “where is the government in the diverse economy?” And of course my answer was along the lines of “Everywhere and nowhere. It depends.” Isn’t that just the most infuriating answer for students! So we looked at some examples. We talked about food coops and CSAs (as this is one thing Jamie is interested in). We talked about how the government is present in that it sets the context by laying down rules about is permissible and feasible (e.g. about ownership structures). But we also talked about how what people are doing can change what is feasible (e.g. the Community Interest Company in the UK has come about as people want a different sort of enterprise structure). But we also talked about how government can be a strong presence when it owns an enterprises such as … well, Hong Kong’s MTR (Mass Transit System). So we went through how the students thought it operated as a partially state-owned corporation with responsibilities to the public to provide great public transport.
Another question that really told me that students were “on the ball” was when Jason asked why (in the exercise handout) the columns on pages 4 and 5 started with Enterprise while on the other pages it started with Labor! Great pick-up and great question! So I explained how the different tables were done at different times and how at one point in time we thought we might write TBTE starting with the surplus/enterprise chapter, but once we started writing it seemed best to start with labor/surviving well. It was a great opportunity to talk about how as thinkers/writers our ideas are never set in stone but always evolving as we work on them.
Then I was even more thrilled with “the diverse economies of …” that the students produced. As you’ll find when you look at them, the students produced diverse economies of Apple IPhones, Church, Food Production in HK and Restaurants in HK. I loved how the students incorporated Cantonese as there are some concepts that just don’t easily translate from one cultural setting to another. (How many words for snow are there in Inuit? How many seasons are there in different Aboriginal calendars for different parts of Australia?).
As is my practice, the teaching assistant and I left the room to let the students work on this activity without having us looking over their shoulders (of course, first making sure that the students knew what they had to do and knowing why we were walking out on them!). So the wonderful Helen and I went to the staff tearoom and we did the diverse economy of … The Occupy Movement in Hong Kong. It was so much fun thinking through who was involved and what made Occupy feasible in Hong Kong. As most of the students had been involved, this became a great talking point when we presented it to the students. So between all “the great diverse economies of …” we ran out of time to talk about the other two key concepts: Community Economies and The Politics of Research. “No worries” we’ll pick this up in Week 3.