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Building a 4D Economy by using all of our assets

The way our economy works and its colonialist roots lie at the heart of many of today’s biggest challenges and creates many of the problems that the State and philanthropy spend resources trying to fix.

Our economic system produces and reproduces inequality, environmental degradation and undermines responsible business behaviours and positive social interactions. It shouldn’t be this way.

As we write this, the UK faces a growing cost of living crisis. Energy prices are moving beyond affordability for many people and yet energy companies are reporting record profits. Those same energy systems are not making the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. This is the outcome of an economic system that services neither people nor planet.

Over the past ten years the gap between the richest in society and the rest of the population has widened both in terms of income and wealth. In 2022 ONS data shows the wealthiest 10% of households own 43% of Britain’s wealth. The bottom half own only 9%. And these wealth inequalities are directly correlated with other marginalised characteristics – such as race, disability and gender.

The climate emergency is the biggest challenge we currently face, yet normal practices in our economic system are based on the extraction of natural resources without consideration of their renewal, carbon intensive and unsustainable (dig-make-use-discard). Investment markets remain dominated by the fossil fuel sector and where companies extract, refine, distribute, ecologically damaging resources and products.

This new strategy builds on the work we have been doing on economic systems change since 2012 and there is a great deal of continuity. There are also some key differences:

Old programmeNew programme
Mission: Fair and Sustainable Economic SystemMission: Fair and Sustainable Economic system
Systems changeNew overarching theme the 4D economy: Decarbonise, Decentralise, Democratise and Diversify
Local EconomiesSupporting a strong diverse movement and new economic thinking
Diversity, equity and inclusionSupporting the transition to the 4D economy
Fair TransitionTransforming financial systems
Ownership, power and controlActive use of investment tools to achieve our mission.
Applicants can hold numerous grants at the same timeApplicants can only hold one grant at a time.
Maximum grant of £200,000Maximum grant of £100,000
Grants paid in arrearsGrants paid quarterly in advance.


We deliver this by:

  1. Utilising our endowment, including using our influence as an asset owner and shareholder to talk to companies directly on key social issues , and making direct investments in social companies that contribute to our mission.
  2. Giving grants to organisations that challenge the current economic system and work to create and campaign for new ways of doing things.
  3. Using our power to convene, communicate and support the global movement of people changing things.

What do we mean by the 4D Economy

Our vision is of a fair economy characterised by 4D’s: Diversified, Decarbonised, Democratised and Decentralised.

Democratising the economy

Power within the economy lies focused within formal institutions and large corporations, with few opportunities for others to take part in economic decision-making. A fair economy would contain a range of ways for people to have more of a say in economic decision making, either by breaking power structures from the top down or creating channels for participation for the everyday person to get involved. By creating these opportunities we can foster a sense of ownership and accountability for all.

Decarbonising the economy

We need to decarbonise our entire economy, and quickly. Individuals or businesses operating alone, or offsetting their carbon, is not enough. There needs to be a strong challenge to big economic systems and interests to remove fossil fuels from investment portfolios. Governments need to incentivise and support the changes and we need to find other ways to power our energy and transport systems in particular. All of these changes need to happen in a way that doesn’t put workers and communities as most at risk from the transition to a low carbon dependent economy.

Decentralising the economy

We need to break up the concentrations of economic power in our country. Systems such as banking and energy are hugely centralised, the value of what is being produced is not distributed evenly and mostly flows away from local communities. We need to build wealth at a local level and retain that value locally

Diversifying the economy

We want the people making decisions within our economic system to have a diversity of thought and experience that fairly reflects our society. We feel this is how we will create an economy that is better and fairer. Voices that are often not heard need to be given an equal say in order to create a fair system where no one is left on the margins.

The 4D’s (above) represent what we believe to be the key characteristics of a fair and sustainable economy and our strategy is focused on financing activities and creating an environment that grows institutions and practices with these attributes.

  • Our role

    We recognise our role in addressing the climate emergency and inequalities, together with the power we have to influence and change thinking, policy and practice.

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  • Our focus areas

    Our programme has three main focus areas, these are: Movement Building, supporting a fair transition to a 4d economy, and transforming financial systems.

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  • Work with us

    If you would like to work with us - by applying for funding, co-investing, participating in our work on Foundation accountability and practice or collaborate in some other way plea...

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