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There has been a long interest in economic reform partly due to my father's involvement with the Social Credit political party in New Zealand and my own thinking on Christian community. However, since coming to the UK in 2009 and having to face the consequences of yet another economics downturn, I have become more motivated to promote economic reform. This has seen me become involved with Positive Money including the running of an economics reading group in Birmingham, UK.

Although the monetary reform promoted by Positive Money is a foundational change, I am more concerned that real change has to come from transforming the assumptions upon which our economic thinking is built. To that end, I am endeavouring to create a research project that will draw together a number of the threads that I am involved with. That is learning theory, game or scenario-based learning, adaptive or smart learning environments, peacebuilding, and economic reform.

Peacebuilding innovation through transforming economic thinking


We are more likely to live in a peaceful world if we were less dependent on the profits of war and more dependent on the prophets of peace.


As the world stumbles from one economic crisis to another and there is a growing concern about conflict situations and acts of violence against wealthier nations, is there an alternative that will build equality and harmony rather than conflict? Economists and monetary reformers debate alternative approaches to building economies. Peace builders explore ways of building understanding between differing communities and belief systems. Underlying both economic thinking and thinking that leads to conflicts are assumptions that influence behaviour and ways of dealing with others.

The objectives of this work is to explore ways of fostering change in our underlying assumptions by exploring ways of opening up our space of understanding. To achieve this goal, the research will explore the use of variation theory to open up spaces of learning around critical aspects that influence our economic assumptions.


Ramsden (2003) contends that the perception of the task influences the approach to the task and consequently the outcome of the task. Lee (2010) explores the influence of problem solving on inducing conceptual change. Vosniadou (2012) contends that learners have preconceptions that have developed from their “lay culture before they are exposed“ to formal education. The underlying mental domain model that a learner brings to a learning situation can cause difficulties for the learners in understanding texts that challenge their mental model. There is a need to have these mental models reformed (de Leeuw & Chi, 2003).

For many citizens, their understanding of economics or cultural differences isn’t from formal education but rather relies on the cultural environment. Their preconceptions are reinforced by the decisions that they make. Ben Okri (1997) said:

“In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them.

One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, we are also living the stories we planted - knowingly or unknowingly - in ourselves. We live the stories that either give our lives meaning, or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change or lives.” (Okri, 1997)

Our society lives by stories that are reinforced by our news media and by leading figures in our society (Stibbe, 2015). There are dominant stories or framing stories that influence the behaviour of members of society and form the basis upon which communities structure their lives. The challenge for peace-builders and economic reformers is how to change the cultural context in which these preconceptions develop.

Having a dominant framing story doesn’t mean that there are not alternative stories or disputes about what story is dominant. It simply means that there is a story that underlies society and the main stories that are told about how society should live and behave.

The argument of this research is that in order to influence the behavior of society, we have to bring about change in the dominant framing story for that society. To foster this change, this research needs to look at the nature of the current dominant framing story and the alternative framing stories that might be possible. It also needs to examine ways in which change in these framing stories might be achieved. This means that this research has to cover a number of different theoretical areas and knowledge. The initial foundation is exploring economic theory since this is predominantly the story that is the focus of change. However, we are framing the story in the context of peace building so theories around peace-building need to be explored as well as examining strategies that are currently being used by the peace building community and researchers.

This research also seeks to apply educational theory to enhance the possibility of bringing change to the framing story and to build learning environments that adapt to the learner as they become more accepting of alternative framing story possibilities. We recognize that the path of learning may not be the same for all learners and that people will be ready to adapt their framing story in different ways. As a result, the learning environment needs to be able to determine key characteristics of the learner’s framing story and to open up variations in their awareness (Marton, 2015) that they will not reject outright, that is those aspects and features that are within their vision to examine and possibly accept (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986).

However, it is not intended that this learning should simply occur within the context of formal education. As Ben Okri (1997) stated these stories have developed as we have lived our lives so it is important that the attempts to change framing stories also becomes part of the lives that we live. As a consequence, this research will incorporate the use of games-based learning (Pivec, 2009; Prensky, 2001). The key to the research is the integration of these ideas to maximize the impact of the strategy for changing the framing stories.

Positive Priniples

During 2016, I have been working with a group looking at alternative principles by which to organise our lives together. The principles were released in March 2017 and are:

We have some ideas of what these principles may mean in terms of policies but to some extent, this is secondary to understanding the direction and intent of the principles as a way of shaping the future that we would like to see.


de Leeuw, N., & Chi, M. T. H. (2003). Self-explanation: Enriching a situation model or repairing a doman model. In G. Sinatra & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Intentional Conceptual Change (pp. 55-78): Erlbaum.

Lee, C. B. (2010). The interactions between problem solving and conceptual change: System dynamic modelling as a platform for learning . Computers & Education, 55(3), 1145-1158. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2010.05.012

Marton, F. (2015). Necessary conditions of learning. New York and London: Routledge.

Okri, B. (1997). A Way Of Being Free (pp. 46).

Pivec, P. (2009). Game-based Learning or Game-based Teaching?

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to teach in higher education (2nd ed.). London: Routledge Falmer.

Stibbe, A. (2015). Ecolinguistics: Language, ecology and the stories we live by : Routledge.

Vosniadou, S. (2012). Reframing the Classical Approach to Conceptual Change: Preconceptions, Misconceptions and Synthetic Models. In B. J. Fraser, K. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.), Second International Handbook of Science Education (Vol. 24, pp. 119-130): Springer Netherlands.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes . In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Soberman (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language (A. Kozulin, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.