The policy document you are about to read is the result of a very particular political and democratic experiment, driven by the belief that more people know more. Back in November 2013, when we first presented The Alternative to the public, we gave each other the political and organizational challenge to formulate our political principles and a party program through what might be called a political open-source process. This means that we invited all of those who had the time and inclination to be co-authors of The Alternative’s political program to participate in the creation. The only condition was that you subscribed to the party’s six fundamental values, as well as the party’s political direction and ambition – the serious sustainable transition of Denmark.
The Alternative’s six values: courage, generosity, transparency, humility, humor and empathy
This transition is characterized by the courage to imagine a radically different future, both for Denmark and for the rest of the world. More than 700 people accepted this invitation and have contributed with concrete proposals, critical questions and curiosity.
They have done so through their participation in the many political laboratories and workshops that were conducted during the spring of 2014. Meanwhile, The Alternative’s Transitional Council has continued to have constructive discussions on the more fundamental political issues that appeared in the individual political laboratories. All of these written and oral contributions together form the basis of this document.
Political Program (PDF)
Denmark, the best country for the world
The 21st century is the environment’s, entrepreneur’s and community’s century. It calls on the individual’s creative power, the community’s thoughtfulness and sense of solidarity, and a common recognition of the need for fundamental change. We will work to ensure that Denmark is not just the best country in the world, but the best country for the world. This is The Alternative’s political ambition.
We know that these are big words, and we know that the challenges we face are both massive and complex. Therefore, our ambition requires courage, determination, ingenuity and entrepreneurial force. The time for stop-gap measures is over. Minor adjustments and the treatment of symptoms are no longer enough. What we need instead are new forms of cooperation, new decision-making processes and a new approach to the allocation of global resources, where economic growth and material consumption are no longer the goal of everything. The Alternative is therefore seeking to redefine the established perception of welfare and value.
A sustainable society
In The Alternative, we work every day for a sustainable society. The world needs nations who take sustainable transition seriously and show the way to a vibrant, creative and inclusive society. This is the society of the future, and our ambition is to create a Denmark who dares to take the lead in that direction.
Sustainability is about being wise. It is about long-term thinking and taking responsibility through action. It is about respect and cooperation between people and nature, as well as amongst people. The Alternative fundamentally believes that a sustainable society is a considerate society that does not prey on either animals, the environment or people.
A sustainable society is about finding balance. It is the balance between our consumption of natural resources and nature’s ability to restore itself, the balance between the community and the individual, and the balance between trust and control.
A society characterized by environmental sustainability
In The Alternative, we want a serious environmental transition in which sustainability is paramount. The current growth ideology leads us directly beyond the environmental edge. We have to deal with a new reality where the depletion of natural resources is no longer negotiable.
In Denmark, we have great technological competence and experience in developing quality products, alternative energy, eco-efficient housing and energy saving measures, but this potential is not exhausted.
We must become much better and more daring, and set even higher ambitions.
The Alternative wishes to further develop Denmark in a direction where protecting the environment is essential. We will prioritize the maintenance of nature’s dynamic balance, and we are willing to organize the socio-economic model accordingly.
Technology and efficiency alone can not solve our problems. The current situation requires an evolution towards a different form of organization and the rethinking of basic elements of our society. The Alternative will fight for this transition, and we are ready to take the necessary political responsibility in order to do so.
A society characterized by social sustainability
We live in a diverse society. Fortunately, people come in all variations and we possess a variety of talents. The Alternative sees this as a basic strength.
Unfortunately, we have developed an all too clear-cut picture of right and wrong. Contemporary society is characterized by an entrenched idea of how we should live our lives. We have fostered a society where more and more people feel uncomfortable, maladjusted and left behind. The Alternative does not want such a society. In The Alternative, we believe in people. We believe in the good in all of us, and we want a society based on trust rather than social control. We salute active citizenship, entrepreneurship and diversity. We believe that people are at their best when they are motivated, engaged, and have the opportunity to develop their talents and make a difference without having to compromise who they are. Different people want different lives, and we will create a society that responds to this diversity. We believe that social inventiveness, dynamism and democracy are key to achieving a society in which people thrive.
The Alternative recognizes that not everyone has the same opportunities in life, and we will work hard to change this. Our goal is that everyone should be able to achieve a good life, where they experience justice, enjoyment, engagement and meaning in everyday life. The Alternative believes, namely, that human well-being is fundamental for a socially sustainable society.
We will work to ensure that Denmark is the most equal country in the world. The vision is about economic distribution, but also about working against marginalization, discrimination and social injustice.
The Alternative believes that all people should have equal opportunities for participation and expression, freedom and security, development and meaningfulness. Flexibility is a key word. We will work to ensure that Danish society is characterized by a greater orientation towards presence and flexibility in both private and professional life.
The ambition is a society that emphasizes the individual regardless of orientation or experience. The Alternative believes in a balance between the individual and the community, where concepts such as proximity, empathy and community do not stand in the way of individual development opportunities.
A society characterized by economic sustainability
It is high time that we place the current economic model under scrutiny. It is necessary that we have the courage to ask ourselves this question: Who and what should the economy benefit?
We want an ecological economy where the concept of growth is redefined. We will work for a well-functioning, stable and dynamic economic system that is subject to environmental conditions and human needs. It is an economic system that limits greed and barren speculation, and instead increases sustainable investment and economic equality. Such an economy will require a new way of economic thinking, where value creation, production and consumption are no longer conceived of, and conducted in isolation and in the short term.
Our economic system must instead work for long term value creation and a corporate culture that works in responsible cohesion with both the environment and local communities. In this economy, companies will not only be measured by the bottom line, but by all three aspects of sustainability – the economic, the social and the environmental.
This can be achieved if we dare to change the conditions that currently make it possible for a few to achieve an exorbitant amount of wealth at the expense of the community. The Alternative dares to do this. We will work hard to change the economic structures so that it is attractive for both businesses and consumers to adopt economically sustainable choices.
Time for new social forms
Sustainability is a central and common challenge for all citizens, businesses, public organizations and political parties. It requires broad cooperation between unequal partners and forces. If we are to achieve sustainability, we need everyone on board. Today, it is obvious that private companies alone can not solve the challenges facing the world, but that it also requires public authorities and the voluntary sector.
Therefore, we need to work together across the three classic sectors of society, while supporting the development of a new fourth sector of society.
The fourth sector of society is characterized by enterprises, institutions and organizations that combine the best of the private, public and voluntary sectors:
- Economic thinking and understanding of customers from the private sector
- Focus on the common good from the public sector
- Diversity and purpose-driven organizational culture from the voluntary sector
The Alternative believes that Denmark must take the lead in developing this new fourth sector of society that has the same community development potential as the cooperative movement 150 years ago. We have done it before and we can do it again.
2 A new political culture
Several places in society are producing concrete solutions to the challenges of the future. A breakthrough is on the way, and individuals, associations, companies and organizations are increasingly exhibiting admirable democratic accountability and public engagement.
An effective and dynamic democracy depends on public engagement and is based on the community. Fortunately, we have a politically active population. The turnout is still high in Denmark – both at national, regional and municipal level. The fact that close to 200,000 people petitioned regarding their dissatisfaction with the decision to sell off DONG Energy to, among others, Goldman Sachs, testifies to a population that wants to get involved and be heard.
Although the election turnout in Denmark is generally very high, there are still obvious challenges within the current political culture. Public confidence in the elected is at a historically low level, and never have so few Danes been members of a political party. The distance between Christiansborg and the population is getting larger and larger.
The Alternative believes that this is due to a political and media culture where mudslinging, tactics and media spin occupies too much space.
Politicians’ low credibility and the media’s tendency to interpret politics as a tactical game contributes to worsening the political climate. It damages people’s desire to participate in politics and can ultimately destroy the possibilities to solve society’s real challenges.
If we are to take the action necessary to make a sustainable transition, we need the population’s support and belief in the utility of participating and engaging in politics.
We want a dynamic and participatory political culture in Denmark – a political culture that can build a democratic bridge between citizens and their elected representatives. We want it to be attractive and possible to get involved in politics, whether you are a scholar or craftsman, or whether you can contribute eight minutes or eight hours a day. We think that it should be obvious that active citizens are purposeful, and that engagement can help to create better solutions for society.
Therefore, The Alternative wants to promote a new political culture that is much more transparent, honest and attentive than the present one. We want a culture in which it is easier for everyone to participate, even if they do not want to engage in partisan work, and where citizens are presented with the political calculations and not just the results.
The Alternative wants a political culture where there is room for internal disagreement in the political parties, but also room for agreement across party lines, and where the negotiations and debates that are essential for a functioning democracy are not kept in the wings.
We do it ourselves
In The Alternative, we start with ourselves because we recognize that all change must necessarily come from within. Therefore, The Alternative has identified a number of mandatory criteria for how we will operate and act as a political party.
2.1.1 Tenets of debate
The Alternative’s politicians will debate from The Alternative’s tenets of debate. We do not believe that politicians must be omniscient oracles who can not admit that there is something they do not know, or that politicians cannot recognize a good argument, even though it came from a political opponent.
The Alternative’s tenets of debate:
- We want to draw attention to both advantages and disadvantages.
2. We will listen more than we talk, and we will meet our political opponents where
3. We will highlight the values that lie behind our arguments.
4. We will openly admit when we cannot answer a question and admit if we
have been wrong.
5. We will be curious towards those with whom we have conversations and debate.
6. We will openly and impartially argue how The Alternative’s political vision can be achieved.
The Alternative recognizes that citizens can only be involved and engaged in politics if they actually hear about it. The media plays a crucial role as a facilitator, interpreter and critical watchdog on behalf of citizens. The Alternative will use the media actively and will therefore
take the effort to consider carefully how messages are communicated. We will make a media declaration that accurately accounts for what, how and why we communicate a message to one or more media source. In this way we ensure that The Alternative’s deliberations are transparent. Citizens, political commentators and other interested parties will always be able to read about our motive for telling a story to a specific media outlet or a particular journalist in a certain way.
Loosely speaking, The Alternative also makes spin. We are just open about it.
Transparency of the process
The Alternative will enter into political negotiations with the clear aim to involve citizens in the whole process and to account for how the individual results from the negotiation process are obtained. The Alternative will always openly discuss the intermediate results in political negotiations.
Political Ombudsman Council
The Alternative will create an Ombudsman Council to serve as The Alternative’s political watchdog. The Ombudsman Council will consist of five public debaters with a media, political or rhetorical background. The Ombudsman Council will be the external reviewer of The Alternative. It will make sure that we do what we say, and say what we do. The Ombudsman Council will annually publish an assessment of The Alternative’s ability to live up to our own values, and give constructive feedback on how we can improve.
The four points discussed above are The Alternative’s internal assumptions about how we, as a party, will exercise a new political culture. It is our hope that by taking the lead, we can inspire other parties, politicians and the media to consider how they too can help to develop a better political culture.
What we will work for: The further development of democracy
The Alternative will work for a new political culture in the whole of society – both in the political parties, in the legislative process, and in the individual citizen.
We have three specific proposals to strengthen both transparency around the economic interests that characterize the current political culture, and the opportunity for citizens’ direct involvement and participation in political processes.
Full disclosure of party support
There should be no doubt about whether political decisions are influenced by financial donations from the business community, organizations or others who have an interest in a particular policy development.
The Alternative believes that there must be full transparency of all donations and general membership to political parties in order to enhance the trust between people and politicians. As it currently stands, there is only openness about donations over 20,000 kroner, and there are many loopholes that make it possible to donate millions without it being revealed who is behind the support. We believe that the people have a right to to know where the money comes from.
Opportunity for a citizen-driven bill
In The Alternative, we believe that is makes good democratic sense to listen to the citizens. Today, citizens only have a limited opportunity to comment on a bill during the consultation process. This opportunity should be expanded radically so that citizens can suggest a new bill directly to Parliament.
In Finland, a collaboration between a volunteer-driven initiative and the Parliament created the platform, Open Ministry (Avoin Ministério). Here citizens as well as established organizations submitted new bills, which after a screening and formal approval of the Ministry of Justice, were put to vote online. If the proposal obtains 50,000 votes, it will be read in the Parliament alongside other bills. This process has so far led to five bills that have been sent for reading. The citizens’ votes are legitimated through a web-based infrastructure that guarantees that each citizen only has one vote.
The Alternative will work to ensure that a similar project will become a reality in Denmark. We believe that it will strengthen the connection between Christiansborg and the population, help to foster citizen engagement, and lead to good, innovative bills.
Center for Democracy, Policy Development and Public Participation
Denmark should be a leader in the development and research of democratic processes, citizen participation and policy development. To be that, we as a society have to constantly examine and challenge our understanding of democracy and politics. Only in this way can we ensure that we constantly improve the democratic organization and decision-making processes.
The Alternative therefore wishes to establish a research and knowledge institution inspired by the abolished Technology Council and the existing MindLab. We call this practice-oriented research institute the Center for Democracy, Policy Development and Public Participation. The center will consist of both researchers and practitioners and regularly involve citizens. It will be based at Christiansborg in order to promote cooperation with ministries and parties. The center’s mission will be to gather information locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, and to present and test new solutions to democratic challenges in cooperation with Parliament, ministries, regions and municipalities.
3 Environmental sustainability
We have known for decades that the planet is threatened by serious climate problems. Yet this global challenge has not been met with the political seriousness that it deserves. Instead, there is a blind belief that technological advances will solve all of our problems and enable us to continue with the tremendous growth in population and consumption that has characterized the past century.
In The Alternative, we do not believe that environmental and climate problems can be solved with technology alone. These problems are closely related to industrial production and the increasing consumption from ever more people. If we are to avoid undermining nature’s ability to support our life and society and the diversity that exists on earth, we need to transform our way of life so that nature is given more respect. The Alternative believes that there is a need for an efficient and controlled sustainable transition.
A controlled sustainable transition means that we do as much as possible on humanity’s premises because the transition will occur either way. The pressures that we put on nature and its long-term balance are in no way a viable solution to the challenges we currently face. The environment and climate crisis is where action is required today, not tomorrow.
The Alternative wants to put environmental sustainability at the top of the agenda. We will work hard and persistently to phase out the current consumption of fossil fuels by instead using renewable energy sources. At the same time, we must increase the amount of CO2 that is bound in plants and soil, so that the greenhouse effect is reduced and soil fertility increases.
We also want to phase out the use of environmentally hazardous substances. This will be done by initiatives in the EU as well as in Denmark. The Alternative’s ambition is not just to preserve existing natural areas, but to also work to create new, natural areas that can increase biodiversity substantially and support life’s natural evolution on Earth.
A sustainable transition of Denmark is not easy to realize. The process will result in a significant upheaval of our current social structures, and there will be practices in everyday life that we must be ready to give up. That is a fact. In The Alternative, we are in no doubt that the ecological conversion will also lead to new initiatives that create exciting ways of living.
We know for certain that the sooner we act and the better prepared we are for such an upheaval, the better we will be able to get through it, and the brighter our future will look. Citizens and businesses must work with the public sector to find sustainable solutions. We must, in solidarity, make sure to create the frameworks that can help us to change our conduct and our habits.
The individual key issues in The Alternative’s vision for environmental sustainability are as follows:
- Controlled and effective transition to renewable energy
- Conversion of the transport system
- A wild and diverse nature in Denmark
- Sustainable production and consumption
- Sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing with room for nature
- Strengthened research in sustainability
Controlled and effective transition to renewable energy
The UN’s climate panel has determined that the world community needs to phase out the use of fossil fuels faster than reserves are running out. Otherwise, we will do lasting damage to the climate. We know that we cannot base the future’s energy supply on oil, coal and gas or the burning of waste.
Burning fossil fuels must be phased out as soon as possible, and investment in exploration and extraction of fossil fuels from new areas must be stopped. There are far more fossil fuels in already known reserves than it is responsible to burn, if the goal of keeping us under a temperature increase of two degrees to be achieved. Therefore, it makes no sense to look for even more, further burdening the environment in the process.
The Alternative therefore thinks that Denmark should refrain from continuing to explore and exploit oil and gas from the Arctic and other vulnerable areas. Similarly, The Alternative believes that Denmark should refrain from the exploration and exploitation of shale gas from underground.
The Alternative will work for an effective and controlled transition of our energy sector to 100% renewable energy within the next 25 years.
Solar energy is a field of technology that is developing rapidly, and research is ongoing on more efficient, flexible and economical solutions. Nevertheless, only a fraction of our energy is currently derived from solar energy.
The Alternative believes that there is great potential for further investment in this area, and will work for better conditions for the exploitation of solar energy by increasing support for the establishment of solar cell- and solar heating systems. This will be done by, for example, requiring that all new public buildings incorporate solar energy and by increasing the incentives for installing solar energy systems on existing buildings.
Sustainable waste management
30 years ago, Denmark restructured its waste management from landfills to incineration. We are therefore experts in waste incineration today. But even though our waste incineration is effective, it is not sustainable and is accompanied by a range of problems, such as loss of important resources, environmentally damaging cinder and air pollution. When it comes to organic waste, we can get more energy and value from waste through anaerobic digestion.
Therefore, we urgently have to significantly reduce waste incineration. Instead, we should focus on reusing and recycling materials and products. We can learn a lot from our neighboring countries and from the municipalities that have already transformed their waste management and chosen to focus on biogas. The ambition is that all of our waste will, in the long term, be considered an untapped resource, and that Denmark will be a leader in the field and focus on creating the breeding grounds for the growth of a green industry in the waste sector.
Energy Cooperative Movement for local supply
If Denmark wants to be better at exploiting renewable energy sources in the future, there is a need for an advanced and efficient energy system and distribution network. Around 40% of current electricity production comes from a few key coal plants, whereas The Alternative’s vision of a renewable energy system is based on a number of decentralized renewable energy producers.
In order to support investment in locally based energy generation, The Alternative wants to support a sustainable energy cooperative movement. Just as many communities have set up jointly owned waterworks, we will strengthen the opportunities for communities to invest in the establishment and operation of joint, sustainable energy production and energy infrastructure. This will be achieved by providing favorable conditions for cooperative associations as well as by making it possible to reinvest green taxes. These conditions naturally presuppose that the local associations meet a number of criteria and requirements for the sustainability of energy production.
We are convinced that local ownership can help to make it much more attractive to disseminate wind turbines and solar panels in the Danish countryside, for example. It can contribute to greater local engagement with the environment.
Conversion of the transport system
Most of us rely on our transport system to get through the day. In Denmark, we have well-functioning infrastructure and public transport. This is obviously both convenient and good for our mobility, but from a sustainability perspective, there is room for improvement.
The transport system is almost entirely based on fossil fuels and is thus responsible for a considerable share of total CO2 emissions.
Therefore, The Alternative wants to work for a traffic policy that both aims to promote behavior that reduces surplus traffic, and establishes an efficient transport system based on renewable energy sources.
In The Alternative, we will work for the implementation of nationwide road pricing. The technology is ready, so a road pricing concept should therefore be able to be rolled out over the country relatively quickly. Road pricing provides a powerful tool to regulate traffic, both in terms of congestion and environmental problems. The latest systems are incredibly advanced and can both distinguish between urban and rural areas, and determine an individual vehicle’s specific environmental impact.
Focus on public transport
The Alternative wants an ambitious focus on an expanded and sustainable public transport system that can reduce CO2 emissions, solve congestion problems in cities, and reduce car use in general. First, we want to make public transport attractive by strengthening its links to other modes of transportation. This can be done through the establishment of several park-and-ride stations, better opportunities to take bikes on trains, and by lowering ticket prices. Second, we want to make public transport sustainable and completely based on renewable energy. Although some of the money can be found in the introduction of a nationwide system of road pricing, there will be talk about investment. We believe, however, that the investment will pay off in the long term.
Biofuels in freight transportation
Heavy freight transportation accounts for substantial CO2 emissions through the use of diesel power. This should be drastically reduced by changing the fuel. The obvious alternative is biogas. A transition to biogas on a large scale requires a waste sorting system, based on an effective separation of green organic material, which, under controlled and centralized conditions, must be gasified along with manure from farming. Manure should be used exclusively in a transitional phase, up until a conversion to organic farming with a smaller and more sustainable meat production.
In this way, we can effectively concentrate and exploit the natural gasification from our organic materials – a gasification that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere. The result is a biogas that is an efficient fuel that we can use in large vehicles. We will start the implementation process in the public sector with buses and refuse trucks. Later, it will be expanded to all trucks through a phase-in plan that will introduce an increasing number of requirements for the transportation industry’s use of biogas.
This conversion will take place alongside a phase-out of natural gas heating in buildings in favor of geothermal and district heating. In this way, natural gas can be prioritized for heavy transport. In the long term, we will begin to transfer the technology to international transport, such as airplanes and ships, which is responsible for a large proportion of the environmental impact from the transport industry.
In Denmark, we already have both the knowledge and technology in the field of biogas, and there is a great opportunity for us to become a leading player in a new green market.
A wild and diverse nature in Denmark
For The Alternative, it is of central importance to make a determined effort to regain a diverse and wild nature in Denmark. We want a society that provides space for biodiversity and the wildness that is needed for evolution’s creativity to unfold.
Globally, biodiversity is in rapid decline. Because of man’s behavior, we increasingly see species disappear and ecosystems collapse at a much faster rate than new ones can emerge.
Denmark is no exception. It is the most intensively farmed land in the world. Plowing, fertilization, drainage and spraying of our soil has led to a huge decline in biodiversity in which our landscape was formerly rich. Intensive farming at sea has also polluted our marine ecosystems. Overfishing, mining and unsustainable fishing practices have put further strain on marine life.
It is so bad in the countryside in Denmark that many of Denmark’s natural habitats and species are on the verge of disappearing from our country. Even if we convert to 100% organic farming and provide more space for nature, it is unfortunately not enough to stop the loss of biodiversity in Denmark. The Alternative will work actively and diligently to protect the few good natural areas we have left, and restore the ecosystems that have broken down.
It is The Alternative’s goal and priority to stop the decline of biodiversity in Denmark by 2020.
The Alternative also sees a great need to strengthen research on Danish biodiversity and to ensure better monitoring of it, so that we can more accurately keep track of, and support the preservation of nature.
There is also a great need for more knowledge about nature amongst members of the Danish population. At The Alternative, we believe that it makes sense to start with the children. Therefore, The Alternative will work to promote outdoor education at all grade levels in primary and lower secondary school. This can ensure a broader basic understanding and knowledge of nature.
From national forestry to national natural forests
Although the state owns large forested areas in Denmark, the forests’ biodiversity is severely restricted. The primary reasons for this is that the desire for a high yield of good timber means that forests have been drained, that dead wood has been removed, and that there are too few large grazers. The Alternative will therefore work for a shift from national forestry to national natural forests, where no form of forestry activity can take place.
The transition will require one-time investments to restore natural hydrology and to support the release of large forest grazers, such as the European Bison, which can help to create the clearings and natural dynamics in the forests that are so badly needed.
Targeted action for marine nature
Only a very small part of the Danish marine waters are currently protected. The Alternative will work to set up a number of reserves in the sea, where marine nature and wildlife can expand as freely and naturally as possible.
The Alternative will work for the restoration of marine nature. A large part of the Danish reefs have disappeared due to decades of rock fishing and bottom trawling. Reefs are also called the sea’s oases because more animals and plants live here than anywhere else in the sea. Stone fishing is forbidden today, but important nature has disappeared to the detriment of biodiversity and fish stock recovery options. The Alternative will work to ensure that more marine restoration projects are developed as a tool to rebuild fish stocks and increase the biodiversity of the sea.
Sand and gravel is extracted from the Danish marine waters. Much of this extraction takes place close to land and sometimes collides with the inshore fishing. The Alternative will work to change the mining laws so that sand and gravel is not mined in fishing banks and fishing areas, and so that extraction occurs in areas where the least damage to nature will occur.
More diverse natural areas
The biodiversity of Denmark is very limited and continues to fall. The Alternative will work to protect the few diverse natural areas we have left in Denmark, and work for larger areas of contiguous wild nature, since we appreciate a landscape marked by diversity and healthy ecosystems where natural dynamics can unfold.
In Denmark, we have some of the best farmland in the world. The good land should to be cultivated and used for both local sales and exports, but there must also be room for a Danish landscape rich in biological diversity and beauty that Danes can enjoy and benefit from year round. The Danish Planning Act is unique, and we must protect it, but the law must be improved so that there are areas in Denmark that have biodiversity as the main objective. The Planning Act and the Nature Protection Act must be revised so that planning becomes simpler and more efficient, so land cannot, as is the case today, simply grow into and out of protection.
The expansion of natural areas and the removal of poor farmland for natural purposes should predominantly occur around the few valuable natural areas we have left, and around the small natural areas that are protected today. In this way, we ensure that the endangered species can spread from existing natural areas to new ones.
There will be a need for local stewardship of nature restoration and nature management, so it is important that the public largely cooperates with private landowners.
In the cities, it is also important to get a richer and more diverse natural landscape. Here it is possible to create an interplay between people and a diverse natural landscape. As there are no production requirements for introducing nature into the city, there is room for wild plants and animals. It only requires that we dare to give up some of our control of the green areas and let them be wild. More nature in our cities will ensure that more Danes have a greater knowledge and understanding of nature.
Sustainable production and consumption
The global population increases year after year. At the same time, more and more people worldwide manage to escape poverty. This results in increased global consumption.
We in the Western world have become accustomed to consume and throw away without thinking about what it means for our shared world. In the world’s oceans, the currents have collected large islands of plastic waste, and many people in the poor parts of the world live wretchedly by picking valuable parts out of the waste lying in landfills. Denmark is currently one of the countries in the EU that produce the most waste per inhabitant.
All of this is at odds with economists’ and politicians’ constant message that we should consume more, so that we can create growth and new jobs. Of course we should allow for more meaningful jobs, but we should not consume more.
Rather, we must consume less. Where we now strive for growth at any price, we should instead do what we do best – namely, use our heads and hands wisely. There is a need for us to switch our production and consumption to a circular model and away from the linear model that dominates today. In a circular economy, responsibility lies in recycling waste as new raw materials, as well as in extending the life of products through effective recycling. In such a model, raw materials are used again and again instead of being downgraded to pollution through waste incineration.
The Alternative will work to promote circular and sustainable production and consumption. We will work to promote initiatives that make it easy for individuals and businesses to make the right choices in relation to changing our infertile consumer culture.
A person does not need more protein than that found in 300 grams of meat a week. As it stands right now, we consume on average about 240 grams of meat a day. If we bring the total meat consumption down to a level equivalent to 100 grams of meat a day per person, it will have numerous benefits. Such a transformation will free large areas of the Danish landscape, which could be used for natural landscapes or plant production and is far less nutrient-demanding. Moreover, reduced meat consumption contributes to a more diverse nature, a more sustainable agriculture, and increased public health.
As such, The Alternative will work to implement nationwide campaigns for more vegetables in the Danish diet. We will propose the implementation of a weekly, nationwide “eat green day”, which will initially be put into effect in all public institutions in the hope that it can become a popularly accepted event.
Demand for greater durability and transparency of products
We will work to ensure that all consumer products are subject to mandatory labeling that clearly states the product’s real environmental impact, and informs about the product’s origin and production process, as well as whether the working conditions where the product was produced meet the requirements for a good working environment. Labelling must therefore be able to communicate the ethical basis for product creation.
Labeling should both convey the real environmental and social costs associated with the product, as well as the health and purity of the product. This must be based on an easy-to-read scale that shows the product’s sustainability score. Such a system would result in completely new and better competitive conditions for sustainably produced goods that today cannot compete on price alone.
Finally, we will work for a law that prohibits the planned failure of a product as a turnover strategy practiced by the producers. Defects and failure mechanisms must not be part of a product’s design and fabrication.
Active use of deposit systems
We have a well-functioning deposit system, which for several years has worked for plastic bottles, glass and metal packaging. The deposit system is an effective instrument to promote recycling and reduce resource consumption. We will promote the development and dissemination of a deposit system that can handle many more product types. For a start, the current system should be expanded to include bags and electronics. We will work to ensure that producers take their share of responsibility for the development of the system.
Perhaps in the future we should, to a greater degree, rent rather than own our various consumer goods. This could help to ensure that manufactures improve the quality of products and think about recycling and reuse already at the design stage. Perhaps it should even be the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that the old product is returned to the company.
Global resource tax
An environmentally correct price of raw materials is a prerequisite for market mechanisms to function properly, and for resources to be efficiently allocated. Effective steps towards global economic sustainability therefore requires proper pricing of resources and raw materials.
A global tax on resources that are pushing commodity prices up, in a rent equivalent to the price of producing/recycling raw materials with sustainable methods, will create a more prudent allocation of precious resources. It will also make it economically viable to recycle many materials that today are either incinerated or put in a landfill. Overall, such a tax would be an enormously powerful tool to promote a sustainable global economy.
Recognizing that the international community currently lacks the necessary political structures to implement such a system, The Alternative will work for the creation of the necessary knowledge of how such interventions can be done in the long term, and for the thorough examination of the effects of various scenarios. The proceeds from such a tax could possibly go to the world community and be used to promote a sustainable transition and global justice. The optimal use of the proceeds, however, will be a natural part of the study that must necessarily precede such an extensive global change of course.
As a consumer, it can be nearly impossible to find out how large one’s ecological footprint is. How much does an individual’s consumption affect the environment?
In The Alternative, we are convinced that if we give people easily accessible information on the volume of their ecological footprint, people can be motivated to change.
The Alternative therefore wants to invest in the development and promotion of tools that make it easy and simple to see which behavior change makes the most sense in environmental terms. Is the best thing to do for the environment to drop one´s flying habits? Or should people give priority to buying organic? Or is it better to invest in an electric bike so people can leave the car behind when they go shopping?
Sustainable agriculture, forestry and fishing
Denmark’s most important natural resources have always been our fertile land, our forests and our gardens. The goal of The Alternative’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries policy is to create interaction between society’s need for natural resources and a diverse natural environment. Therefore, we will work for greater integration between people and nature. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, human settlements and nature should interact instead of being separate entities.
If present and future generations are to have a safe food supply, it is essential to conserve soil fertility and expand sustainability practices in agriculture.
In Denmark, we have some of the best farmland in the world, so of course it should be cultivated and used both for local sale and export. We have also some of the most inventive and creative farmers, which means that our industrial agriculture is effective, high-tech and rich.
Despite the Danish agricultural sectors´ success, industrial agriculture is facing some huge challenges. The dependence on expensive fossil fuels and fertilizer, and increased global competition is pushing farmers to increase productivity to survive. The result is increased pollution of our environment and a loss of biological diversity. This is compromising animal welfare and the environment.
The Alternative will work to promote organic production as an alternative to resource-intensive meat production. For meat and milk production, the focus will be on getting more animals grazing freerange in environmentally planned production systems.
There is also a need for innovation that challenges monoculture as a form of production. It will require research and development in the long term, but will allow more opportunity to harvest biologically mature crops to interact with more complex landscapes.
We will work towards agriculture that can supply us with healthy raw material. There must focus on quality rather than quantity. Farms must be smaller and employ more people.
Our vision is that Danish agriculture will be part of the cultural landscape, rich in biological diversity and beauty. This way, Danes can enjoy it and benefit from it year round.
Pesticides and fertilizers will no longer be used in agriculture and forest production. The Alternative will work for 100% organic forestry.
There is no need for plantations with invasive species in Denmark. The need for wood from coniferous forest can be met by imports from Sweden, where pine forests grow bigger and better. Forestries will focus on indigenous species and mainly deciduous trees. They are better suited for the Danish climate and soil, and they provide better conditions for biodiversity.
The state’s forest land should preferably be designated for natural forests without forestry. Some forests can be commercially exploited to bind CO2 from the atmosphere in biomass. In other areas, we can experiment with new, innovative ways of producing food on a large scale, such as forest gardening.
Fishing in Denmark has in recent decades been marked by larger and fewer fishing vessels that catch far more fish at a time. This damages not only the fish stocks below, but also the communities along the Danish coast because most fishing quotas are now held by very few people. The Alternative would like to strengthen low-impact coastal fishing and limit the big super trawlers’ work.
Conversion to 100% organic production before 2040
The Alternative will work for the transformation of agriculture, so that it is 100% organic by 2040. 100% organic farming, through reduced consumption of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, will have significant benefits for the environment. A positive effect will also be felt on the population and on public health when we have healthier, more nutrient-rich and cleaner vegetables.
A conversion to 100% organic production can be supported, for example, by exempting ECO labeled goods from VAT. A rise in VAT on non-organic products can also be a solution. As these proposals may be perceived as a distortion of the market and thus be opposed by the EU, it may be necessary for us to team up with other EU countries to push this forward.
If 100% organic production is going to be able to provide high enough dividends to both feed the Danish population and contribute to exports, there is a need for innovation in cultivation methods so that crop production is less dependent on the supply of nutrients from livestock production. Moreover, we must be even better at avoiding the leaching of nutrients from the fields and at reclaiming phosphorus and nitrogen. The Alternative will strengthen innovation in both areas.
This restructuring will undoubtedly affect the companies that currently live on processing Danish produce. It is important that we address this challenge and create the best possible framework for the restructuring, which could also lead to new and exciting opportunities for the industry – especially in export markets.
It is also important that the rules on the handling and packaging of organic products do not pose a daunting barrier that stands in the way of the transition to organic in practice. It must, in other words, be made easier for manufacturers, distributors and retailers of organic products to provide them to the consumer.
More local farming
It should be possible to subsist on less and more labor-intensive agriculture. Few currently can afford to buy a farm, as the debt burden is often massive. The Alternative will fight for a specific subsidy scheme for small farmers, which will result in more jobs in rural areas, as well as an ecological focus and a greater variety of crops.
We will work to implement a system where a public fund buys indebted farms. This could be done in cooperation with the Financial Stability Fund and banks focused on investments in agriculture. The acquired land must be sustainably managed and based on organic food production.
The Alternative will also work to relax the regulatory framework for production and processing, in the case of small-scale production for local marketing. Bureaucracy can be reduced without compromising food safety.
Supporting low-impact fishing
Fishing has, over many years, become increasingly intense, with a trend towards larger and heavier vessels that bottom trawl. This development of the fleet has been at the expense of the inshore, low-impact fishing practices that are better for both fish stocks, the marine nature, and the local communities along the Danish coasts. The Alternative will work to support low-impact coastal fishing. This will be achieved through a redistribution of the Danish quota to this type of fishing, the creation of a public brand for sustainable fisheries, ensuring that any public procurement as far as possible comes from sustainable fisheries, and ensuring that access to certain areas is subject to fishing with low-impact gear.
Low-impact fishing has numerous benefits for nature. Due to the reduced impact on the seabed, low-impact fishing boats can fish virtually without discarding fish. Fuel consumption is also significantly lower than that of large bottom trawlers. Low-impact fishing also creates more jobs for the smaller vessels in the primary fisheries and strengthens small coastal communities from where the fisheries arise.
Strengthened research in sustainability
The UN climate panel has made it clear that concerns about changes in the global climate are real and serious. The Alternative believes that it is time that we begin to look these challenges in the eyes and search for solutions. We therefore want an action-oriented research focus on solutions to the problems we face. The Alternative wants to develop a knowledge platform, where people with expertise in relevant areas are gathered to conduct research and experiments that can tell us something qualified about the opportunities we have to secure the future of Denmark.
The ambition does not stop here. We need to spur ingenuity, enterprise, knowledge-sharing and collaboration across sectors. We need to institutionalize the informal knowledge that can arise in collaboration with interested, active citizens. This means that the population should be far more closely involved in the development of new solutions. Citizen must not only have access to general knowledge, but rather have the opportunity to acquire expert knowledge about complex issues in society. Finally, citizen must also have access to a platform for action, with the possibility of becoming an active co-creator of future solutions.
National laboratory for sustainable transition
If we really want to follow through with the sustainable transition of Denmark, there is a need for research and controlled experimentation. Therefore, The Alternative will establish a national laboratory for sustainable transition. The purpose of the laboratory will be to conduct research focused on the transformation of society. The laboratory must be a creative, imaginative and curious institution, where action research makes up a significant component in the creation of solutions for a sustainable transition. Unlike traditional universities, where success is measured by the number of scientific publications, the center’s success will be measured on the basis of the impact and quality of the readjustment initiatives that are implemented in cooperation with citizens, businesses and public authorities. It is important that the description of purpose makes it clear that the work of the laboratory has to go far beyond the general knowledge on sustainability.
4 Social sustainability
In Denmark, we have built up a strong welfare state in many areas, and have a good starting point for the development of a socially sustainable society. But we also have many social challenges. It seems that in some fundamental areas, we have stalled or even declined.
Abuse of alcohol and drugs is a challenge and loneliness has been a general problem in the population. Many Danish young people are unhappy and feel marginalized. Stress and the use of psychotropic drugs is increasing, and confidence in the labor market is declining. In other words, we are facing a psychological challenge as much as we are facing an environmental one.
Sustainability is at its core about circulation and balance. Social sustainability is thus not only about material equality and social security, but also about human equality and the experience of contributing to society and of being valued as an individual. People who feel valuable take responsibility for themselves and for society, and are better able to relate to their environment. Today, there are too many people who, for various reasons, are marginalized within Danish society.
The transition to ecological sustainability will necessarily largely be done locally. It can be hard to know what to do at the individual level, but a lot can be done collectively. Today, however, people are no longer automatically a part of a local community. It is therefore important to restore local communities and groups who can act together and boost this sustainable transition.
Cohousing, ecovillages and cooperatives are already well underway. These are examples of groups in the informal economy (civil society) that are important players and should be supported and further developed through more local initiatives that can create change from below.
The Alternative thus wants a dynamic and engaging society that creates social and health-related equality and justice. We should all have the best opportunities for creating an individual life as part of the community. This is best accomplished by increasing social mobility and eradicating negative social legacies.
The Alternative wants a society where everyone can contribute to the community. We want a society where there is room for diversity and opportunity for all citizens to develop themselves. We will have to reorganize society so that we can break the inequality curve and increase equality and confidence amongst population groups.
The Alternative will therefore challenge the socio-political agenda through bold experiments. We have to bring the focus back on well-being, and we have to dare to invest in people.
The Alternative has three key issues within social sustainability:
- Balance in everyday life
- Investing in people
- Everyone should be able to contribute to society
Balance in everyday life
Over the last 30-40 years, there has been a marked change in the way we live, work and conduct our daily lives. Family life is often characterized by the fact that both parents work full time, whether they live together or not. The former division between the time we spend at work and the life we lead together with our family and friends, is collapsing.
We have a work culture and family life that for some is characterized by great personal enjoyment, but for others is associated with major challenges. Some cannot imagine a better life. Others are unable to get a work and family life balance, either socially, economically or emotionally.
For The Alternative, a socially sustainable society is a society where the individual citizen experiences a life characterized by meaningfulness, quality and social significance.
Flexible work life
The Alternative wants a labor market characterized by greater organizational flexibility and diversity – a flexibility and diversity that reflects the different needs that we as humans have over a lifetime.
There are periods in a person’s life where he or she can and wants to work a lot. On the other hand, there are also times when a person either cannot or does not want to work at the same high level of intensity.
It should therefore be possible to save working hours up if a person, through a period of time, puts in a lot of extra work effort. The excess hours should be able to be put into a time bank, out of which they can again be drawn if there is a period in a person’s life where he or she wants to reduce the time spent working or stop working altogether. The different parts of the labor market should participate in developing a model for the time bank.
Balance between family and work life
The Alternative will work with Danish parents with young children to create a much better balance between family and work life. This starts and ends, of course, with each parent. The Alternative believes that businesses, the different sections of the labor market, and not least the public sector, must assume a social responsibility for us to create the best possible conditions for a good family life and thereby a good childhood.
The Alternative will take as its starting point, the Family and Working Life Commission’s 31 specific recommendations to relaunch the public debate on the condition of families with young children. This will be done through a series of public debates around the country in the autumn of 2014 and the spring of 2015.
Experimenting with new housing, building and ways of living
Accommodation facilities that are designed around the possibility of social interaction are generally very popular, and Denmark has historically been the frontrunner for experimenting with new forms of housing and living. The Alternative wants to build on this tradition in the transition to sustainability because new forms of housing and living are a way to reduce our collective ecological footprint, while at the same time achieving greater human well-being.
There are already many such social and environmental projects around the country, but we want to make it much easier for citizens to try out different forms of housing, building and ways of living – both in the countryside and in the city. This could be done by making public land available, through easier exemptions in the Agricultural Zone Law, through targeted requirements for local plans, and by providing assistance in the form of guidance, research and financial support to the establishment.
The Alternative also wants to prioritize public investment in residential areas and projects, where the social, ecological and cultural aspects are thought through and integrated into an overall solution designed to benefit children and adults of all ages. We also believe that social needs must be incorporated more into urban planning in general, creating natural and attractive spaces where people can meet, and where social life can unfold.
Investing in people
The ways social funds are awarded today do not work. Money is awarded without clear objectives as to what social challenges it is meant to address, and too many resources are wasted on maintaining a bureaucratic system. The current system does not provide the best conditions for the creation of new, holistic solutions, targeted at solving social challenges. It also does not create knowledge about what works or why it works.
That Alternative will change this. We want to turn the system on its head. In Denmark, we must see social spending as investment in people; an investment that benefits all of us. Not everyone has the same starting point in life, and it is important that society invests in giving all people the prerequisites for creating a good life. We need to create the best conditions for new, holistically-oriented solutions in the social domain that prevent people from ending up on the sidelines of society. Sustainability, both socially and environmentally, is naturally rooted in the local community. It is therefore natural that sustainability initiatives should be anchored locally and use local involvement as an engine for change.
Fourth sector experimental zones
We as a society are in need of massive rethinking. It is totally unrealistic, however, to believe that, through politics alone, we can think our way to optimal solutions to the complex challenges we face. The Alternative therefore believes that we must live our way into the future of sustainable solutions through visionary experiments.
Many of the best sustainability initiatives come today from below; from grassroots social entrepreneurs and innovative companies. In The Alternative, we believe that the most viable solutions will come from people who are prepared to invest themselves and their money in creating sustainable enterprises and entrepreneurial communities. The state obviously plays an important role with respect to basic infrastructure, but we particularly believe that it is in the interaction between citizens, businesses and the state that breakthrough solutions will emerge.
The experimental zones can thus be seen as types of entrepreneurial greenhouses for completely new kinds of initiatives, broadly categorized as fourth sector businesses. We anticipate three different categories of experiments: regional technological experiments, where new sustainability solutions are developed and tested; municipal social experiments, where, for instance, strategies to mobilize the resources available for local, pioneering projects on a smaller scale (up to about 1,000 people) are tested; and experiments in a geographically defined area, where radical solutions that involve a combination of economic, social and technological innovation can be tested.
One could also imagine that the initiative for the experiments comes from the state in the form of a wish to try out different strategies for sustainability on a smaller scale, or from grassroots organizations who want to test the viability of their own ideas. The Alternative considers both types of initiatives to have social relevance.
The biggest strength of the grassroots-driven experiments is that citizens themselves are prepared to invest their own time and money in the projects, ensuring accountability and entrepreneurship, and probably greater long-term viability.
In the attempt to think outside of the box, it should be possible in the more pioneer-like projects to experiment with radical changes, such as the implementation of local money systems, new internal taxation models, new ownership models, and new rules for public benefits and the handling of social problems.
The experiments have the aim of letting the engagement and creativity of the population loose, and can only be realized through a transparent, democratic decision-making process. Apart from direct project support, the pioneering projects should be cost neutral to the surrounding community. They should also be designed so that they have a sound social balance and serve a clear public purpose.
The Alternative will create social investment funds focused on the prevention of social and health-related problems. The social investment funds should develop the best conditions for the creation of new preventive solutions. They should also create a new understanding for, and use of social resources.
The social investment funds should set clear targets for the investments, and all investments should provide knowledge about what works, why it works and how it works.
The Alternative will work to ensure that we can test the social investment funds as quickly as possible in Denmark, so that we can gain experience with how to shift the funding of preventive work from expenditure to investment.
Everyone should be able to contribute to society
All too many people today do not have the opportunity to contribute to society with the resources that they have, and the cost of the economic crisis has disproportionately fallen on society’s weakest.
The Alternative wants to create a society where all people are valuable, and where there is confidence in knowing that everyone wants to contribute to the community. Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in community work, whether as a full-time or part-time employee, a trainee or a volunteer.
Our employment system must be reformed so that the system creates the best possible environment for everyone to fulfill their potential. The focus should be on the individual person’s resources.
Guaranteed basic service instead of social welfare programs
The Alternative wants to simplify the current system. Social welfare programs will be replaced by a guaranteed basic service without specific control measures. We also want to remove the mutual financial responsibility for co-resident, non-married partners. Citizens should be treated as individuals. There should not be undue barriers to social welfare recipients that prevents them from moving in together with new partners.
The employment system should be focused on how we can best support those who need it. The employment system should be a resource that citizens can benefit from through the provision of advice, guidance and other support. Ongoing guidance and discussion should be offered to individuals, so that we do not leave people outside of the labour market to themselves.
The employment system must, to a much greater extent, take into account different professions, including people who have seasonal and project work. An example is artists, whose ties to the labour market are often marked by project work, and who need to develop and maintain their talent continuously.
Regarding the conversion of social welfare programs, The Alternative also wants to strengthen the sense of community and solidarity amongst members of society. The Alternative wants to support voluntary work in all its forms, whether it be visiting a friend at a nursing home, tutoring, coaching at a local sports club, or mentoring newcomers. There should always be an opportunity to do volunteer work, even if you are unemployed or at the edge of the labor market.
A significant simplification of the social system
In the longer term, The Alternative wants a significant simplification of the current system so that sick pay, unemployment benefits, social welfare and pensions are replaced by a basic service that includes the possibility for some additions depending on the citizen’s actual situation.
In addition, workers should be able to draw unemployment insurance, so that they can maintain their income through shorter periods of unemployment. A transition to a new system will naturally require thorough preparation and time to adjust.
The purpose of the simplification is to reduce the enormous resources that case workers use today to clarify their clients’ status every time amendments are made to the law, or when a client switches from one service to another. As it is right now, practical experiences show that psychologically vulnerable people run into problems every time they switch services and, consequently, caseworkers.
The many different systems create an overdriven focus on diagnoses and expert opinions, and the extensive bureaucracy in this area risks increasing the experience of powerlessness amongst individual citizens. A simpler system will be able to channel the many resources that today are used to diagnose and categorize individuals into more productive activities.
5 Economic sustainability
The Alternative’s economic policy seeks to promote human well-being, quality of life and equality without threatening the ecosystem’s sustainability. We will, briefly stated, fight for a stable economy that is based on human needs and nature’s limits.
The Alternative believes that the neoliberal economic system that has dominated the world over the last three decades has reached the limit of what it can contribute in terms of growth and economic prosperity. Neoliberalism leads today to greater inequality, where the poor become poorer and the rich get even richer. The Earth’s ecosystem, moreover, has been the biggest loser, and The Alternative believes that it is now time to go in a new direction.
The past 100 years of economic growth have created a society in Denmark about which we, in many ways, can be happy and proud. But economic growth has also been accompanied by some extreme costs, the seriousness of which we are already beginning to see. The Earth’s energy and water resources are being used up at a tremendous pace, and fertile soil is becoming more scarce.
At the same time, pollution is increasing to such a high degree that there are many places in the world where it is directly harmful to go outside. It is clear that people in the future will not be able to live on Earth if we continue the development path we have followed over the past 100 years.
The current neoliberal economy will lead to enduring temperature increases, food shortages, mass migration, and sooner or later a collapse of the ecosystem – also in Denmark. Therefore, economic policy should not promote growth as we know it today. It should instead promote a green transformation of our society.
The economic system should promote fairness and quality of life for all without damaging the environment. The economy must never be an end in itself. The economy should only be a means to achieve a sustainable society, where everyone takes care of the planet, each other and ourselves.
That is what The Alternative is fighting for. Denmark should be a frontrunner for serious sustainable economic policy that works both locally and nationally, and that inspires other countries to participate in the transition. It requires radical reforms for which The Alternative is fighting.
The Alternative has five key issues on the economy:
- New growth concept
- Increased public investment in sustainability
- Businesses and citizens must work for a sustainable transition
- A stable banking and finance sector
- Denmark as a pioneering country
New growth concept
Many economists agree that if we are going to boost growth, consumers must have their wallet out of their pockets. In The Alternative, we will calculate growth in a new and more nuanced way.
Growth must be about our ability to develop society for the better. Therefore, growth must be about better human well-being and happiness, and more environmental and economic sustainability.
So far, society’s economic progress has been calculated on the basis of economic growth through increased production. This has been measured by increased Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Alternative wants to break with this approach.
Production should not be at the center of our vision for society. Rather, it is the way that we produce and create growth that is the most important. We must find meaning in what we do and measure that which gives us meaning.
The Alternative does not consider GDP as a good measure of success. We believe that GDP measurements alone do not provide a true picture of society’s real condition. What we need to know is whether we as citizens thrive, whether we take good enough care of nature and the environment, and whether our economy creates equality and ensures that money is invested in the right, sustainable initiatives.
The Alternative will therefore introduce a new concept of growth with new goals for sustainable prosperity.
A growth concept that measures well-being and happiness as well as the degree of environmental and economic sustainability
The Alternative wants to set up a commission to examine how a new concept of growth can be put together in such a way as to support a serious sustainable transition. This requires a change so that growth is not measured solely on the basis of economics, but also on social and environmental conditions.
We can measure, among other things, well-being and happiness, but also on the basis of other important parameters, such as high employment, equality, increasing leisure time, community spirit, fulfillment of basic needs, and participation in democracy. These are all elements that contribute to social justice and a meaningful life.
The new concept of growth should also measure, as already mentioned, the degree of environmental sustainability in society. This can be done using existing methods such as the “ecological footprint”, for example – a measurement method that calculates how much of the Earth’s resources a person in a given country consumes.
Increased public investment in sustainability
The Alternative will make the public sector a much stronger driver in the sustainable transformation than it is today. The public sector must, in all that it does, act on the basis of social, environmental and economic considerations.
Sustainable decisions in the public sector
A law should be adopted that ensures that all public investments and subsidies, purchases and the like, are from now on assessed on the basis of environmental, social and economic considerations. This means that the public sector in particular will provide support to occupations and sectors that create a better environment and a better sense of well-being. Examples could be organic farming, green and socio-economic enterprises, etc.
In general, the public sector should support initiatives that try to find sustainable solutions to our social and climate-related challenges, whether these occur amongst grassroots and volunteer organizations, or at bigger or smaller businesses.
All the initiatives that are currently underway, both locally and nationally, should be helped along the way and, at the same time, be studied so that we can promote the experiences that work, and change those that do not work. In this way, the public sector can be a powerful engine in the transformation of society.
The public sector should not only help others to a sustainable transition. The public sector should also work with sustainability itself, and money should be set aside for this transition. Municipalities should, among other things, have more freedom for long-term investments in new initiatives in the areas of transport, energy, food production and climate adaptation. The municipalities should also have more freedom to support local, social and green initiatives.
For The Alternative, the state and the municipalities can easily be entrepreneurial players in society. The development of the Internet, for example, was in its time only possible because the state invested in the necessary research and technology.
In general, it makes sense that the public sector actively supports research and new technology when it comes to investments in a green transition. It often involves so much basic investment that private companies cannot complete the transition without assistance from the state. Ultimately, this means the difference between a prosperous Denmark in the future and a Denmark that is lagging behind.
Pension funds should invest in sustainability
The pension funds invest a lot of money that fundamentally belongs to all of us. They should therefore be a key player in the transformation of our society. It is inappropriate that the pension funds primarily seek the highest possible return on their investments instead of helping to transform society in a positive way through their investments.
The Alternative wants the law on pension funds to be changed so that the funds use criteria for their investments other than the highest possible return. It should be established by law that investing in sustainability and other socially beneficial investments are equally as important for the board of directors as the direct return. The taxation of pension funds’ investments must also be amended so that sustainable investments are more worthwhile, just as higher taxation should be introduced on financial investments that do not contribute to the transformation of society.
Businesses and citizens must work for a sustainable transition
We should all be encouraged to help with the green, sustainable transition along the way. Both businesses and citizens should have the room to experiment and the inclination to invest in the development of sustainable solutions.
A very large part of the climate problems that our growth economy has created is attributable to cheap natural resources and the fact that it costs very little to pollute.
Businesses and citizens will, from now on, be required to produce and consume in new ways that take the environment more into account. Today, neither companies nor citizens are encouraged enough to take part in the transition. We believe that it should be easier for both individuals and businesses to make the right environmental choices.
The Alternative will make it more expensive for companies to produce products that pollute the environment, and more expensive for consumers to buy them. Similarly, it should be cheaper to both produce and buy environmentally friendly products. All of this will be resolved through tax policy. Through taxes, goods and services will be drawn in a more environmentally friendly direction, and by shifting tax from labor to wealth, we will create a more stable economy and a fairer distribution of values.
Tax reform for the benefit of the environment and equality
The Alternative believes that we must introduce more green taxes. In this way, we can give companies financial incentives to improve production on environmental grounds. Production must in the future be converted radically to focus far more on recycling. Green taxes give citizens economic incentives to use less energy, buy cars that run longer on less fuel, build homes that are more sustainable, buy organic food, etc.
It is not reasonable, however, for the green taxes to go into a general fund that is used for things other than the green transition. We will redirect green taxes so that citizens and businesses have the opportunity to receive the taxes back if they make green investments. Earmarking the green tax will reward those citizens and businesses that actively work for a sustainable transition. The Alternative believes that this is only fair.
An alternative tax reform will not only address environmental challenges, but also counter the growing inequality in Denmark. One of the fundamental reasons for the growing inequality is that the return on capital is far greater than the return on labor. The consequence is that the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. The Alternative will shift the tax burden so that labor is taxed less, while capital such as wealth, housing and inheritance are taxed higher and more progressively.
Stable banking- and finance sector
The finance and banking sector have been far too great and powerful. This is not just a problem for businesses and society, but also for the economy as a whole.
The finance and banking sector prevent the development of sustainable production because they invest most of their money in speculation. This is unfair and inappropriate. It has been difficult for ordinary businesses to borrow money, and especially companies that are working to create new social and environmental solutions.
As a result, it has been difficult to establish new production companies. The finance and banking industry are not consistent with the interests of a sustainable community. On the contrary, it promotes the current system of inequality, rising debt, instability and economic crises. This must change.
Reform of the financial and banking sector
The financial crisis demonstrated how the financial sector could force the entire global economy to its knees. Therefore, the state must take back control over the creation of money from private banks. The Alternative wants to back this process up by dividing the finance and banking sector into two sectors – one with ordinary commercial banks and another with the remaining financial institutions. The commercial banks should exclusively serve households and businesses. It is essential that they are stable and can safeguard the money that is saved. In addition, the possibility should exist to take out loans on reasonable terms. As such, the commercial banks should not work with uncertain speculation.
Such a shift would not only benefit citizens, but also businesses. In order to safeguard citizens’ and commercial enterprises’ money, Denmark’s National Bank should be responsible for ensuring that commercial banks with large deposit deficits are kept under extra supervision. Similarly, the National Bank should ensure that banks in deficit pay an interest penalty, as is already common practice in Sweden. The Alternative wants the same procedure to be introduced in Denmark.
By creating a separation between commercial banks and other financial institutions, we can introduce a state guarantee on all deposits. If a bank goes bankrupt, it should not be citizens’ or businesses’ money that is lost. The Alternative thinks that this is only fair.
Moreover, The Alternative wants to, in the short term, introduce a tax on financial transactions and prohibit speculative ventures such as hedge funds and and private equity funds, as well as those financial instruments that are the reason for the financial crisis. In the longer term, The Alternative will work to introduce stronger capital controls so that private investors and speculators do not have the possibility of creating large adverse effects on the national economies of individual countries. In this way, we can prevent speculation and ensure that we have democratic control over our economy to a higher degree than we do today.
100% reserve requirements for the banking system
In The Alternative, we propose the establishment of a working group to investigate the possibilities of restructuring the monetary system to a “full reserve” banking system. Under such a system, banks can only lend out money that they have already received through customer deposits or through loans from the National Bank. This system would be in line with how most people already believe that the monetary system works.
Banks will obviously still have a role in society, but will now have to offer an incentive for people to choose to place their money with a bank instead of neutrally with the National Bank. Under the current monetary system, the money supply is created and controlled by the private banks. In practice, every time a person receives a loan, an equivalent amount is added to the person’s account at the same bank, by which new money is created out of nothing. Under current law, this account deposit is a credit note – proof that the person who received the loan can at a later point in time raise “real” money in the form of cash created by the National Bank. In practice, however, it is only gradually that this credit note is used as money.
Apart from the immediate benefits of no longer being forced to loan one’s money to the banks every time a person receives a payment, a payment system that runs directly via the National Bank and bypasses the normal banks will also have a number of secondary effects. It will be easier and faster to transfer money, as transactions will occur without the banks’ bureaucratic and slow settlement systems. As such, it will be much cheaper to transfer money. At the same time, the system gives the individual citizen greater ownership over his or her own money, as one can opt out of being a part of the banks’ credit system.
Societally-speaking, the system will result in a more stable money supply, lower housing prices, greater equity, and profit by creating money that flows to communities instead of a small banking elite.
The challenge of the transition to a money system that is not directly based on debt, is the partial settlement of the current debt in an appropriate manner.
One way of solving this problem could be to support a monetary policy that slowly spends new money that is free of debt in the economy. Such a decision must be taken with caution. A separation must be maintained between those who decide how much money should be spent in the economy, and those who decide what this new money should be spent on. Today it is the big banks that, through their credit ratings, both decide how much money and how new money should be introduced into the economy.
In addition, there is a fear that there will not be enough credit in the system, since most people will just want to keep their money in the National Bank. This is a reflection of just how poorly the banks today perform this task. Only about 12% of bank lending today goes to businesses, of which a large portion is subject to guarantees from the state’s growth funds. Banks today predominantly only lend with security already in existing assets – primarily to housing. A full reserve system should be able to provide better support to new methods of financing entrepreneurs and businesses outside of the traditional banking system, such as crowdfunding, for example.
Denmark as a pioneer country for sustainable economic policies
Globalization and international competition means that today it is very difficult for a single country like Denmark to undergo a serious sustainable transition. Therefore, The Alternative will also work actively to ensure that a sustainable transition is given a much higher priority internationally.
One of the global challenges that necessarily has to be handled internationally is the fact that businesses today can produce more cheaply in countries with low environmental and social standards. The World Trade Organization (WTO), the EU Treaty, and the future free trade agreement with the United States allows multinational companies unfettered freedom to move money across borders. This undermines nation states’ control over their economies and, by extension, also the transition to a sustainable society. The Alternative will work intensively to change this.
The Alternative will also work for higher environmental and social standards globally, and for multinational companies to take responsibility for the societies of which they are a part. Multinational companies, just like other companies, should ensure proper working conditions, give consideration to the environment and pay taxes. This must be ensured through international law and cooperative agreements that provide financial transparency, a break with tax havens, and an agreement that ensures that multinational companies pay a proportionate amount of tax on their total profits in keeping with their turnover in the countries in which they are engaged.
International sustainability reforms
The Alternative will work to change the rules and priorities of the World Trade Organization and the EU so that sustainability becomes a top priority.
We want to change the current international rules in the WTO, so that a country can, without consequences, declare imported products that are produced under lower environmental or social standards than those applied nationally. Such a change would have two important consequences: 1) it would create incentives to place higher environmental and social standards on national businesses because they would be protected against unfair and unequal competition from abroad; and 2) it would create incentives for foreign manufacturers to improve their environmental and social standards if they want to access the “pioneering countries’” markets.
Denmark should also work through its membership to the EU to ensure that sustainability is given a higher priority than economic growth. The EU is possibly the only organization in the world that has sufficient clout to lead the way when it comes to such necessary global reforms. If the EU takes the lead, there is no doubt that other countries will follow. The EU has a unique historical opportunity to lead mankind, and it is important that the institution does not abandon its citizens at this crucial moment.
6 Education and lifelong curiosity
Good education, for The Alternative, starts and ends with the students, regardless of age. Whether in kindergarten, primary and lower secondary school, upper secondary school, university or continuing education, the student is at the center of The Alternative’s education policy.
The Alternative wants to to break with industrial society’s way of thinking about teaching and education, where everyone has to learn the same thing at the same time and in the same way. In the 21st century, we should no longer have to learn in step. Rather, learning, self-insight and professional development is a personal process. We learn differently, at different times and at different speeds. The Alternative’s ambition for education and lifelong curiosity is driven by a wish to equip our children, youth and adults professionally and personally, so that they are prepared and ready to face the future.
Our educational institutions and training environments should build on this recognition. This would be a major change in itself. We need both a far more flexible way of thinking about teaching and pedagogy, and a far more nuanced concept of professional qualifications and competence.
It is no longer enough to have knowledge unto itself. You must also be able to translate your knowledge and insight to create value for others. Therefore, the ability to analyze and create meaning, the ability to work together, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, and to resolve conflicts and adapt if the work situation requires it, is crucial. The same applies to the ability to create tangible, positive results to which others attribute value.
With the challenges that we as a society are facing, we need all the creativity, entrepreneurial energy, critical analytical thinking, system understanding, cooperation and power to act that we individually and collectively can muster.
The Alternative wants our educational institutions and environments to take into account that learning, self-insight and professional development are personal processes for the individual in relation to, and in dynamic with others. We therefore want an increased focus on well-being, happiness and a sense of security for all students in our educational systems.
We want our children and youth, through their school and educational training, to acquire both deep professional qualifications and broad personal skills.
We want the student’s educational environment to be characterized by a high culture of motivation, clear technical feedback, a good balance between theory and practice, and dynamic relations with relevant external, local and global partners.
The individual key issues in The Alternative’s education policy are thereby as follows:
- Focus on the students
- Theory and practice go hand in hand in practical training
- Entrepreneurship, innovation and a focus on sustainability at all levels
- Revitalization of the skilled crafts tradition
- Support to vulnerable youth
Focus on the student
A good educational environment is among other things, characterized by a high culture of motivation, clear technical feedback, and a good balance between theory and practice. Here the student is met and respected for the person he or she is, with the expectation that the student makes an effort in everything he or she does. Last but not least, it is an educational environment where the student both happily attends and feels comfortable participating.
The quality of instruction, guidance and evaluation, of course, plays a crucial role in creating a meaningful and dynamic classroom.
Good teaching depends on good teachers. The Alternative therefore wants to strengthen teachers’ and trainers’ professional competences and skills in the management and facilitation of learning. Efficient and considerate classroom teaching requires specific managerial, pedagogical and social-psychological understanding.
Improving the evaluation culture
The Alternative proposes a reform of the grading system, where the 12-point scale is supplemented with more personalized evaluation and technical feedback. In both primary and lower secondary school, and upper secondary education, the preparation of the current curriculum is a step in the right direction. But we must also move towards a more individualized system of evaluation in higher education, where the focus is as much on the student’s professional and personal development potential as it is on specific academic achievements.
Strengthening teacher leadership
All teachers and educators working in primary and secondary schools, higher education and adult education should, through their training, be taught in leadership, facilitation processes, communication, group dynamics, conflict resolution and other management tools. In this way, they will acquire the necessary tools to be able to optimize their teaching and use classroom dynamics to bring out the best in each individual.
Theory and practice go hand in hand in practical training
The Alternative believes that it is time that we create a more solid bridge of knowledge and experience between an individual’s education and the surrounding world.
The Alternative would like a portion of the assignments that students work with to involve external partners – that is to say, businesses, institutions, communities or associations that are relevant to the vocation in which the student is working.
The aim would be to ensure that the student experiences a direct and natural link between theoretical knowledge and the practical experience one gets by solving a given task in close cooperation with external partners. At the same time, the close cooperation between educational institutions and external partners would help to inspire and revitalize the academic and professional environment at the educational institutions. This practical training method would enhance both the creativity, idea development and level of understanding of the student markedly.
All educational institutions must formulate an external networking strategy
All educational institutions, from primary and secondary schools to higher education, should formulate a proper networking strategy. This means that the institution must decide which environments, businesses, institutions, research environments, think tanks and individuals are relevant to the subject knowledge of the given place – not just locally, but also nationally and internationally.
Such a deliberate network- and collaboration strategy would help to ensure that the necessary bridge of knowledge and experience is built between individual educational institutions and the professional, cultural, social and political surroundings. Together with these identified key actors, it would develop collaborative projects for the benefit of the students’ and the institutional partners’ professional development.
Entrepreneurship, innovation and a focus on sustainability at all levels
The Alternative believes that the 21st century is the century of entrepreneurs, both out of inclination and out of necessity. Out of inclination because we attach value to an entrepreneurial culture in and of itself, but also out of necessity because so many of the jobs that we took for granted in the last century, either disappear or move to other parts of the world.
The jobs of the future are going to be about finding solutions to social and environmental challenges, so that we all work for the transformation of society and simultaneously, create new jobs and working methods that can embrace the challenges we face.
If we want a more entrepreneurial, self-dependent culture that can work for a more sustainable future, we require an entrepreneurial educational culture with a broad focus on social and environmental challenges. The Alternative wants an educational culture where students move from the notion that you take an education to get a job after graduation, to taking an education because you want to create a job.
Entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability as interdisciplinary subjects in primary and secondary education
Entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability are complex, involving both craftsmanship, a certain way of thinking and a way of approaching life. Therefore, the topic should be introduced as a continuous and compulsory interdisciplinary course in primary and lower secondary school, which can later be followed up in upper secondary school and higher education.
For example, students in primary and secondary education should, at each grade level, either individually or in groups, develop their own business ideas or sustainable projects that benefit the local community. The business idea or sustainable project should be taken from “concept to reality” and finally, the result should be presented to an external expert panel of local professionals. Depending on the choice of topic, the panel could consist of entrepreneurs, business people, or people from organizations or public institutions. The panel would assess the project’s sustainability potential, both economically, socially and environmentally.
There should be entrepreneurial incubators at all levels of education after primary and lower secondary school. That is to say, good physical working environments where students can develop their business and project ideas parallel to other educational activities.
These entrepreneurial incubators should be assigned staff to provide students with the necessary technical discussion when it comes to idea generation, the development of a business plan, economy, organization- and team building, networking strategies, and communication and sales. The entrepreneurial incubators should be characterized by a consistent focus on sustainability, so that students’ business ideas live up to the triple bottom line: economically, socially and environmentally.
Revitalization of the skilled crafts tradition
It is an independent key issue for The Alternative to get professional pride and societal status back into the skilled crafts.
Unfortunately, a certain snobbery currently exists when it comes to higher education. The general attitude is that the longer the education is, the better it is.
The thing is, however, that society needs both bright minds and skillful hands. Especially now, as the demand for quality products, technical ingenuity and environmentally sound ways of thinking will continue to grow into the future. All this is something that was previously associated with Danish craft and design: solid craftsmanship, an understanding of the working of materials and the ability to create constructions, furniture and design at the highest level. These traditions, skills and knowledge must not be lost, but rather further developed so that they also have a beneficial impact on the technical developments across various subject areas. Denmark should once again be a proud skilled crafts and design nation, open to future opportunities and challenges.
The Alternative will therefore revitalize and make visible good craftsmanship. We must focus on the technical possibilities inherent in taking an education in the skilled trades, and we must be better to emphasize the completely essential role of craftsmanship in society.
Young people must be able to both see and feel that they are entering a dynamic industry with a strong professional identity, high social impact and excellent career opportunities. For this to become a reality, there is a need for a conscious change of culture in many of the vocational and skilled trades schools.
Postgraduate education with a focus on sustainability for all trades
It should be possible in all the trades to upgrade one’s skills to focus on sustainable construction, production, design and product development. Supplementary education can, for example, be developed in cooperation between the skilled trades schools, the design and architecture schools, the Technical University of Denmark and the IT University of Copenhagen, with the aim of achieving a national boost in education and skills for all the skilled trades targeted at a sustainable transformation of society.
Nationwide campaign for good craftsmanship and the craftsman’s life
The Alternative would like a nationwide information and attitude campaign in cooperation with the skilled crafts schools, the sector’s specialist press and Danmarks Radio. There should be a campaign where known and unknown artisans, through their own life story and the businesses they have worked for or helped to create, showcase good craftsmanship and its importance for society. The campaign will initially target primary and lower secondary school graduates.
Support to vulnerable youth
Too many young people today find it difficult to continue in education after lower secondary school. Some are declared “not training ready”, while others come in with an upper secondary education, but fail to complete their course of study.
At vocational schools, for example, the dropout rate is over 45%. That means that almost every other person accepted into this training, does not manage to complete it. The schools believe that the reasons for dropping out are predominantly about the lack of personal and social skills.
When so many youth withdraw from upper secondary education because of a lack of personal and social skills, it provides an opportunity to examine the school system that should be qualifying young people to find and maintain employment or education. Primary and lower secondary school has to be better at supplementing academic training with social and personal training that can contribute to forming the students.
The Formation Toolbox
Primary and lower secondary school must at an early stage identify those students who do not have the social and personal skills that are necessary to complete an education. An interrupted education later in life can be avoided if, for example, guidance counsellors identify those students with special needs across the student cohort. It would thus be possible to intervene early with training and guidance, possibly in cooperation with local upper secondary schools, where the students could get engaged in collaboration with their regular schooling. This could also be done through project work or internships, where students meet and develop the personal and social skills needed in the workplace, during education and in society.
Better pedagogy in primary and lower secondary schools, in vocational schools and in the skilled crafts schools
The Alternative believes that all teachers and trainers that are going to work in primary and secondary schools and in higher education should, through training, strengthen their skills in leadership, facilitation processes, communication, group dynamics and conflict resolution. They would thus have the tools necessary to optimize individual and group learning, so that students achieve more active and engaging everyday lives and schooling. Opposite vocational schools and skilled crafts education, we will require, moreover, systematic and targeted work on developing pedagogical tools to reduce the all-too-high dropout rate.
Strengthening the informal education market
When Danish youth leave the education system after primary and lower secondary school, they often end up in the informal education market. This could be at production schools, day folk schools, with private actors, in local job training or in upper secondary full-time education. Altogether, up to 300 informal learning organizations in Denmark form the framework for 20,000 youth’s everyday life. These learning organizations all have in common the need to qualify young people to get back into education and work.
The Alternative will work for an upgrade of the informal education market, where youth come in closer contact with local education programs and businesses that are responsible for carrying youth forward. The local education programmes and businesses must help to formulate what youth need to learn in order to maintain education and work. The informal learning organizations must, in this respect, become experts in cultivating precisely the skills of young people. The relevant skills will be taught through internships, project partnerships and other initiatives where young people can meet the professional and personal requirements that exist in secondary education and in the workplace.
The learning that youth receive at the informal learning organizations will be documented so that the youth always have documentation on what they have learned. This will strengthen youth’s ownership of the learning process, and the young person will have the opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do.
7 Art and culture
For The Alternative, a diverse, vibrant artistic and cultural life is crucial so that we as individuals and communities can develop our human self-awareness, our intellectual vision, and our historical memory. Self-awareness, intellectual vision and historical memory are the fundamental building blocks for what we somewhat unclearly define as our common cultural identity – the cultural position from where we meet the world in all of its complex cultural diversity. This is not least the case today. We currently stand in the midst of change, where values, attitudes and traditions are shifting, and we are in need of an artistic and cultural life that can both challenge us to put question marks on the established, and help to put words and pictures to values other than material and economic growth. Because it is not a question of more or less growth. It is a question of defining completely other forms for growth: personal growth, intellectual growth, emotional growth.
The Alternative will prioritize the artistic and cultural dimension in all areas of society. Cultural policy should be gone from being an area of marginal political interest and be lifted to the center of all policy development.
We want a non-hierarchical cultural policy, where there is room and respect for both underground art and popular culture. Both have value for our society.
We want a cultural life and an art scene with a strong, vibrant and talented base, where there is room to experiment and make mistakes, but where there is also a solid bridge between the base and the professional cultural institutions – a bridge between innovation and experience.
We want a society where we not only meet art and culture at our cultural institutions, but also in the public domain, in our workplaces, in the daycare, primary and lower secondary school and in upper secondary education. And of course also in the hospital and the nursing home.
We want Danish artists and Danish culture to be out in the world, and the world’s art to enter into Denmark. That type of exchange enables us to better handle cultural encounters and strengthen our ability to exploit the opportunities that globalization opens for us economically, socially, intellectually, and culturally.
We want cultural policy to reflect that Denmark today has a variety of social and cultural communities and realities. This cultural and social diversity should be visible in the artistic productions at our theatres, at the cinema, at the museums, on the television and the radio, and it is important that it is clearly expressed in the Ministry of Culture’s support as well as in arts educations.
Not least we dream that a society’s wealth is not defined by material and economic growth, but to a much higher degree by cultural, intellectual and personal growth. It is not least through culture and art that we can have the courage and inspiration to imagine a radically different sustainable future.
The Alternative’s two leading issues in art and culture are based on the above visions and attitudes, and read as follows:
- More art, less brick and more free zones
- Art and culture should be at the center of policy development
More art, less brick and more free zones
It is essential for art and culture that there are good opportunities to become and be a practicing creative artist. Art and culture are not created by brick, but of people. Therefore, we want to have a cultural policy that brings the focus back on the people who create, practice and disseminate art and culture, be it on a professional level or as promising artistic talent.
More creative free zones
There should be easier access to good physical surroundings for artistic creation and better opportunities to be and become a practicing artist. There are already several private and public initiatives that work to create better surroundings and The Alternative will increase support for them.
In many cities in Denmark, there are currently experiments involving the use of public spaces for cultural “playgrounds”. Inspiring initiatives such as GivRum.NU in Copenhagen and Detours in Aarhus have already shown the way here at home, and in Canada, the project Artscape has brilliantly shown how to create good environments for creative and artistic expression through an ambitious urban policy.
The Alternative believes that we must increase support for this development through the creation of several creative free zones with room for art and cultural production.
We will support the idea of the free zone by creating better opportunities for artists to use empty buildings for project work and artistic expression. In addition, The Alternative will work to incorporate art and culture into the planning of new buildings to a much greater degree than is the case today.
Reallocation of funds from bricks to artistic production
Too much of the state, regional and municipal cultural budget is tied up in buildings and operations. Although several of the major construction projects in cultural life are partly financed by private funds, the operating costs alone for the new buildings are so striking that much of the money that could go to artistic production, ends up in bricks and administration instead. We will change that.
The Alternative proposes a reallocation of funds so that a larger part of the state’s budget is spent on actual artistic production and cultural development. This can partly be achieved through a general cap on how much of the state’s culture budget can be spent on operations related to production, and partly through a critical assessment of the current institutional structure in the culture area. This applies not only to the distribution of funds between the capital and the rest of the country, but also in relation to the number of state-supported theaters, museums, orchestras, etc.
Art and culture at the center of policy development
The Alternative wants cultural policy to be integrated to a much higher degree with other policy areas. This means that the cultural perspective should not only inspire, but also challenge other policy areas, and thereby the way we think about, among other things, urban development, industrial policy, education policy, social policy, environmental policy and foreign policy. In other words: The cultural perspective should permeate the way in which we understand our society.
Below we give four proposals on how to connect the area of culture with other important areas of society – namely, education, foreign policy/public diplomacy and health – to a much higher degree.
Art should be a subject in primary and secondary education
When children start school, most want to sing, dance, draw, do theater and play instruments. Much of this desire perishes in music lessons or visual arts, when the whole class must deal with something that is only of interest to a minority of students.
The creative subjects in primary and secondary education must be based on a broad and general approach to the arts, where each student can learn about and try out the different artistic disciplines. By testing and experimenting with different artistic expressions already from day one, students in primary and secondary education will experience the freedom and pleasure that are some of the cornerstones of artistic expression. In the context of art, it should and has to be the desire that drives the work. Only when this is the case, will the children find that they can get really good at what they are dealing with.
The purpose here is not to make all children into artists. The aim is to allow all students to have the opportunity to maintain the creative streak that the majority of children make significant use of before they start school.
Such a shift in focus in the education system will fundamentally give children a stronger connection to art, which will broaden their horizons as future arts and cultural users in Danish society – the kind of enlightened and creative people we need.
Education in culture and culture in education
The Ministry of Culture, together with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science, should formulate a common strategy on how all educational institutions in Denmark, from primary schools, vocational training to higher education, can formulate a networking strategy for their cooperation with relevant local cultural institutions and environments.
Relevant local cultural institutions and environments here cover both established cultural institutions, such as theaters, music venues, museums, art cinemas and libraries, as well as cultural centers and youth cultural environments. They also include sports life – both organized and unorganized, such as street sports.
Such a cultural networking strategy should be supported by development funds from the three ministries concerned, in order to make it possible for educational institutions to seek out art on art’s own institutional home ground. Art and culture should also be invited into the educational institutions, not only in the form of guest visits, but also in the form of actual binding cooperative projects.
There are already several inspiring examples from which we can learn. In cooperation with VUC Odense, the artist collective, Sister’s Academy, has run an experiment where, in collaboration with the permanent staff, they have developed new learning spaces for students. The aim of the project was to integrate the artistic process and methods in the normal teaching of subjects. In Vejle, all children in the municipality’s primary and lower secondary schools can go out and experience professional art and culture as part of the project Kulturrygsækken. Both projects are good examples of the kind of effective collaboration across societal institutions and actors that The Alternative means to promote.
Denmark out into the world, the world into Denmark
The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should formulate a new ambitious internationalization strategy for Danish art and culture.
The Alternative wants a strategy and an action plan that stands on the shoulders of the current internationalization strategy, but that is able to take this work to the next level. It is important that the strategy involves real and long-term economic cooperation between ministries, the Danish embassies and cultural life in Denmark.
The internationalization strategy should be driven by a desire to bridge the gap between relevant cultural environments in the countries concerned and their comparable cultural environments in Denmark.
That is to say that there is talk of a collaborative project based on a real artistic or cultural co-production between Danish artists and their international colleagues.
The aim is not just professional artistic exchange, but also the construction of intercultural relations at the grassroots level.
The latter is particularly important for the Foreign Ministry, which, through such an initiative, would build up local relationships that are not supported by official diplomatic channels or local institutional structures. There would instead be talk of fruitful relations of trust between people who have worked closely together on concrete cultural and artistic productions, and it is precisely these types of connections that Denmark needs much more of in the world.
A new internationalization strategy will require development money for the concrete artistic and cultural cooperative projects. Similarly, there will also be a need to invest in upgrading the staff at the Danish embassies so that the staff come to include more employees with artistic and cultural backgrounds.
Here Denmark and the Danish Cultural Institute should take inspiration from the experiences of, among others, the British Council, the Goethe institutes, and China’s significant global cultural focus through its Confucius Institutes.
Culture on prescription
The Alternative wants to experiment with giving culture on prescription to people who are in a particularly vulnerable situation in life. Various locations in Denmark and Sweden have already successfully piloted projects with culture on prescription, and The Alternative will support similar initiatives so that in the longer term, the phenomenon can flourish in the whole of the country, if the positive effects still can be demonstrated. The Ministry of Culture, together with the Ministry of Health, should conduct a pilot project in three selected municipalities in Denmark. Respectively, in one large, one medium and one small municipality. The aim is to test the experiment’s potential in a more focused collaboration between cultural life and the health sector.
The inspiration comes from the project “culture on prescription”, which has previously been successfully implemented in, among other places, Helsingborg Municipality, Scania and Bornholm. The pilot project will investigate the effects of prescribing art and culture to people that are, for example, affected by life-threatening illness, loneliness, depression or dementia. The thesis is that culture on prescription enhances quality of life significantly, and all the results so far indicate that it works.
8 Entrepreneurship and social ingenuity
Let sustainable entrepreneurs loose in the 21st century.
There is need for a much stronger entrepreneurial and business culture in Denmark that is useful for the community. This applies in schools, in education and training, and in the workplace. We must be far better at grasping the opportunities we have in order to get started, whether alone or with others. The Alternative therefore focuses on the community’s, as well as the individual’s creative power. It is entrepreneurial diversity at its best.
In Denmark, we have a labor market and a social safety net that can help to support an even more dynamic entrepreneurial culture, but it often seems as if we are afraid to let our entrepreneurial talents loose. Why should students and the unemployed, for example, spend more time searching for jobs that in actuality do not exist, instead of getting support to start their own business? Small companies can become big companies. So let us pay tribute to the small, green pioneers that every day go against the grain, and let us give them a real chance to take command. Why are established businesses the public sector’s preferred partners? Let us give hope to the small, start-up entrepreneurs. Let us show that there is room for innovation.
The Alternative’s ambition is that Denmark should be a pioneer in sustainable entrepreneurship and job creation. Social ingenuity and entrepreneurship must be anchored in the Danish mentality, culture, and process of personal formation. We will recognize and promote entrepreneurship in general, but we want, in particular, to create better conditions for the entrepreneurial forces that take a serious, sustainable responsibility for Denmark and the world.
The Alternative has three key issues:
- A new sustainable entrepreneurial culture
- Internationalization of the Danish entrepreneurial environment
- Diversity, creativity and the fourth sector
New sustainable entrepreneurship in Denmark
The Alternative will work to develop a strong and sustainable entrepreneurial culture in Denmark. Here, we believe that the public system, which is designed for a more rigid and traditional labor market, needs to be able to support entrepreneurs and new businesses to a much higher degree. It should simply be possible for unemployed people to become entrepreneurs.
Educational institutions should help to provide future entrepreneurs with the best requisites to think about entrepreneurship and sustainability together. We also believe that it is in our educational institutions that a change of attitude must take place, from that of taking an education to get a job after graduation, to taking a course to create jobs in the community.
Two-year targeted entrepreneurial performance
People in the unemployment benefit system with entrepreneurial ambitions have difficulty starting their own businesses as they must be available for work. Moreover, many Danes refrain from establishing themselves as entrepreneurs due to the fear of going bankrupt.
Against this background, The Alternative suggests a more targeted entrepreneurial allowance (80% of the normal rate of unemployment benefits) and specific advice for people with the right qualifications.
The allowance would be awarded to people on the benefit system who have the skills and intentions of pursuing a life as an entrepreneur. The allowance’s reduced size ensures the state proceeds and that only motivated people make use of that option.
After more than two years, the entrepreneur should be able to receive his or her own wages through the newly established company.
It is vital that the entrepreneurial allowance is targeted at unemployed people who want to develop a sustainable business idea and have the courage and will to work as independents. Therefore, a tailored training and mentoring program will be offered with one or more competent business consultants, professional coaches and personal coaches who will continuously evaluate the business plan, economics, leadership, etc.
There will be continuous reporting back to the unemployment fund, which will evaluate the company each quarter. It is therefore vital that the entrepreneurial allowance is targeted so that at least 50 per cent of businesses survive.
Increased education, training and awareness of sustainable entrepreneurship
The Alternative suggests that primary and secondary schools and higher education increase entrepreneurial education under the title ‘from job taker to job creator’.
In studies from the Foundation for Entrepreneurship (figures from 2012/13), only 10.6% of the primary and lower secondary schools’ 700,000 students, 31.5% of the 270,000 upper secondary school students, and 10.9% of the 258,000 students in higher education have participated in education and specific activities within entrepreneurship. At The Alternative, we have the ambition that all Danish students during the course of their studies experience stimulating and creative teaching in the startup of businesses, projects and other initiatives.
At The Alternative, we believe that an entrepreneurial culture must be incorporated into, and form a natural part of the teaching or setting of all subjects, and not just act as a separate course on entrepreneurship. The training must ensure that students are enriched with insights and knowledge, acquire the courage to act and the skills that enable them to transform potential into concrete sustainable solutions and fruitful business ideas.
The future model for cooperation between businesses, municipalities and the state must be based on new social cooperative agreements and contracts – the promise of better framework conditions in return for companies undertaking to create a sustainable society. Examples here include creating jobs, setting up internships, conducting research, investing in the environment and increasing businesses’ focus on social responsibility.
There is a need for research, information and the development of ideas on how we in Denmark can create better framework conditions for sustainable entrepreneurs and businesses.
Some of the issues to be examined are:
– How can the public sector cooperate to a higher degree with small start-up companies that compete on quality and not only on price? How can the public sector create better conditions for green entrepreneurs? How can the state engage small businesses and entrepreneurs as suppliers?
– Green Lab should be an inter-agency development unit that involves both citizens and businesses to create new, sustainable solutions and projects that provide increased value to society.
– In addition, employees in the public sector should be able to come together to create a new type of business that ensures employees’ ownership of the public companies in a “not for profit” framework. This could, for example, be an independent institution and apply to schools, nursing homes or kindergartens, as well as to recycling centers and other publicly owned enterprises.
– Therefore, new business types and structures should be developed similar to the private institutions that are discussed above.
– Green Lab should be a public entrepreneurial zone, meant to inspire creativity, innovation and collaboration across ministries and in the public sector.
Internationalization of the Danish entrepreneurial environment
One of the Danish entrepreneurial culture’s mental challenges is that business ideas that see the light of day in Denmark are often too locally oriented. This trend is detrimental to the unfolding of business potential and the professional development of the relevant industry in which the entrepreneur operates. We will therefore work to develop an international approach to sustainable entrepreneurship, where international cooperation and partnerships are supported, celebrated and valued. We believe that a future Danish sustainable entrepreneurial culture has the potential to be successful worldwide. We also believe that a strong sustainability culture can create entrepreneurs who are not just good for Denmark, but good for the whole world.
Danish entrepreneurs out into the world
The Alternative wants to motivate the new generation of entrepreneurs to see the economic as well as professional opportunities of engaging in international collaborative projects. Therefore, 100 international labor and travel grants (equivalent to 3 months of research stay) will be offered a year for particularly promising young Danish entrepreneurial talents. 50 of these work and travel grants are earmarked for stays in the Nordic countries.
The criteria for obtaining these work and travel grants are a combination of the entrepreneur’s past performance, the potential business idea measured in terms of economics, social significance and environmental sustainability, as well as the international partner’s professional reputation.
The international entrepreneur grants will be administered by the The Danish Agency for Trade and Industry, but the responsibility for the selection of the 100 scholarship recipients must be with an independent disciplinary committee consisting of experienced entrepreneurs and business people.
The publication of the year’s scholarship recipients must have the character of an award that aims to celebrate the next generation of exceptionally talented entrepreneurs in Denmark.
Attracting international entrepreneurs to Denmark
Equally important as having our own entrepreneurs spot those opportunities that lie outside of Denmark’s borders, is to have foreign entrepreneurs see the possibilities in Denmark.
Therefore, it should be easier for particularly talented foreign entrepreneurs to obtain work and residence permits in Denmark if they can demonstrate a working relationship with a Danish company.
100 work and residence permits should therefore be offered a year for particularly promising international entrepreneurs. The work and residence permits will be for two years and will depend on effective collaboration with a locally anchored Danish company.
The established Danish companies should be encouraged to provide space for one or more international entrepreneur who wants to start up within the company’s industry.
The international entrepreneurship program is based on similar experiences from abroad. In Chile, for example, for over a number of years, there has been a focus on attracting international entrepreneurial talent by giving them both work- and residence permits, work spaces, and start-up capital.
The scheme will be affiliated with the same department in The Danish Agency for Trade and Industry that administers the work and travel grants to particularly promising entrepreneurial talents.
Once a year, a conference will be held with the Danish grant recipients and the foreign entrepreneur participants. The aim of the conference is to strengthen the exchange of experience and business potential between Danish and foreign entrepreneurs.
Diversity, creativity and the fourth sector
Both inside and outside Denmark, we have seen in recent years a wide range of socio-economic initiatives and new cooperative enterprises emerge in response to local, social, environmental and economic challenges. These initiatives are reminiscent of a similar period in the late 19th century, when social ingenuity was also paramount.
It was a time when we in Denmark and in Scandinavia, among other things, invented the folk high schools, the cooperative movement, and the Nordic labor market model. It was initiative that helped to form the basis of the welfare state that we take for granted today. Perhaps we are now witnessing the rebirth of the cooperative movement? This is what The Alternative hopes, and it is what we will work for.
The Alternative wants our social entrepreneurs, immigrants and cultural enthusiasts to get the attention they deserve. Therefore, The Alternative will work to create a regulatory environment at both local, national and European level that supports social innovation and strengthens the partnerships that arise at the interface between the public sector, the private sector and NGOs.
Local entrepreneurship should be valued
Public debate and media coverage of entrepreneurship in Denmark tend to emphasize either the high-tech entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs within the creative industry.
There can be many reasons for this, but Denmark should also appreciate entrepreneurs in the traditional retail and service sectors. This includes the many entrepreneurs that today start businesses in areas as diverse as the green trade, small businesses, the purchase- and wholesale business, bicycle repair, hairdressing and cleaning.
There is a vital entrepreneurial undergrowth that enriches Danish society, both in terms of goods and services, but also by maintaining important jobs that ensure the necessary diversity in the Danish labor market.
These traditional workplaces, however, often need a professional and organizational skills upgrade if the business is to develop. Companies must not necessarily grow, but improve in quality so that the customer base can be maintained and expanded.
The Alternative proposes the establishment of a specific initiative that is targeted at traditional service companies. The advisory service should be placed at the regional centers of growth and should include both outreach and coaching at a high level so that this particular group of entrepreneurs feels recognized and respected.
The creative industry must be strengthened
The creative industries in Denmark consist of a minimum of 11 branches: architecture, books, the press, design, film and video, game production and computers, arts and crafts, music, fashion and clothing, furniture and interiors, television and radio, and advertising.
The creative industries have an obvious potential and represent a significant part of the Danish economy. A report from the Danish Design Center estimates that the creative industry in 2010 employed around 85,000 (FTEs) in both service and production, and generated about 200 billion kroner. The creative industries thereby make up 6-7% of the total turnover in Danish industry.
Knowledge sharing between the creative industries and other professions can be strengthened, for example, through regional centers, targeted creative entrepreneurs, and by supporting equal cooperation between creative and traditional businesses.
At the same time, it is important to understand that the creative industry often has a different organizational culture than the more traditional industries. There are other recruitment channels, there are other development processes, and there are other basic rules of the game in the markets.
Therefore, one can not simply transfer the experiences of existing entrepreneurial incubators to the creative entrepreneurs. Instead, we must learn from such entrepreneurial environments as the Københavns Projekt offices, Republikken and The Hub in Copenhagen, Spinderierne in Vejle, and Frontløberne and Lynfabrikken in Aarhus. Based on the experiences from these environments, as well as the experiences from the Center for Cultural and Experience Economy and the Danish Design Center, a new national focus on the creative industries in Denmark should be devised.
The campaign should accommodate both the creation of regional creative incubators, research projects based on the experiences of CKO and CBS targeted at support to exports, and internationally oriented training programs for particularly talented leaders from the creative industry.
The fourth sector must be promoted
The Alternative will, at local, national and European level, work for regulatory frameworks that support social innovation and strengthen the partnerships that arise at the interface between the public sector, the private sector and NGOs. This supports the formation of a genuinely new sector in society. The so-called fourth sector is characterized by companies, institutions and environments that combine the best of the three old sectors: the private, the public and the voluntary.
There have already been positive experiences with the Centre for Social Economy in Copenhagen, and several municipalities have implemented actions to support their socio-economic enterprises. If you, like The Alternative, want a genuine reinvention of the cooperative movement in Denmark, then it is necessary for an ambitious national effort in close collaboration with national actors and relevant international research environments and think tanks, such as The Urban Institute in Washington DC or Demos in London.
There is not just a need to develop the right framework conditions and regulatory basis for these new hybrid companies. There is also a need to further clarify what defines a fourth sector company in relation to a purely private or purely public company.
The Alternative therefore wishes to establish a national knowledge- and advisory center for the fourth sector companies. This includes the establishment of a national database of knowledge about the most inspiring and promising examples of new Danish and international hybrid companies. The database will consist of companies that not only work across the three classic sectors, but that have also developed their own sectoral identity. The database will also contain relevant research articles, the latest statistics, business models and professional networking initiatives.