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How to Draw the Economy? Putting Care and Nature Back to Economic Models
A reflective approach to alternative economic models that helps students understand how much of the economy is not included in mainstream models.

By: Lucie Sovová (Masaryk University, Wageningen University)

Session type: Single session, Undergraduate level, Small/Medium size


  • Alternative economies

  • Critical thinking

  • Care

Introduction to the teaching example:

In this activity, students become familiar with a variety of economic models. It challenges them to think critically about the limitations of conventional economic models in their account of reality. Then, students creatively explore models that might more accurately reflect the economy and involve care work as well as the natural world.


Following the introduction and discussion of the two-sector economic model utilized in mainstream economics, the session includes the following two activities: 


In Activity 1, "Different perspectives", students explore examples of activities that do not neatly fit into mainstream markets (e.g. carework, volunteering, “services” provided by nature). This leads to a discussion on the two-sector model and the invisibilities it might produce. This activity typically requires 5 minutes for preparation and 15 minutes for group discussion. 


In Activity 2, "Improving on the model," students create a visual representation of an economic model that would include the social and environmental care typically omitted by mainstream economic models.  Apart from the students’ own creations, the teacher introduces existing alternative models, such as Hazel Handerson’s layer cake, J.K. Gibson-Graham’s iceberg or Kate Raworth’s doughnut. 

This activity typically involves 30 minutes for drawing, 15 minutes for sharing (depending on how many groups there are), and 10 minutes for teacher input. 


To conclude the session, students review the activities from  “Different perspectives” and attempt to fit them into the alternative models. This contributes to a debate about how various models affect how we perceive the world. Time allocation:  5 minutes for preparation and 15 minutes for sharing and conclusion.

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