6th foundational economy conference 2023 Vienna: Exploring the fondational economy for a just transition

© Katharina Helml

6th Foundational Economy Conference, Vienna, Austria

September 14th to 16th 2023, University of Technology, Vienna (TU Wien)

Exploring the Foundational Economy for a Just Transition
Call for Papers & Contributions

From the 14-16 September 2023 we welcome the 6th Foundational Economy Conference in the heart of Vienna! During the course of our conference there will be keynote speakers and plenary sessions, parallel sessions as well as working groups and city walks.

Multiple crises – war, global warming, disasters, famine and social injustice – are generating heightened insecurity among populations and trigger the search for security and stability. Defending, strengthening and expanding accessible, affordable and sustainable foundational goods and services is thus a cornerstone of an eco-social transformation that can secure everyone's basic needs. This conference brings together academics and practitioners to critically engage with the concept of the Foundational Economy and explore potentials for strengthening and building better foundational systems. A key concern thereby is to put approaches to the Foundational Economy in conversation with feminist and intersectional perspectives on social provisioning  and eco-social transformation.

We invite researchers, practitioners and organisations to submit

  • individual or co-authored academic (theoretical-conceptual, methodological and/or empirical) papers
  • individual or co-authored policy papers
  • self-organised thematic sessions with 2-3 academic and/or policy papers as well as
  • self-organised panel sessions focussing on practice

Abstracts should be between 500 and 1000 words. We strongly encourage the submission of parallel sessions that include different kinds of input (e.g. a combination of scholarly research, policy papers and contributions from practitioners) and actively create the space for interactive debate and mutual learning.

The registration and upload, öffnet eine externe URL in einem neuen Fenster of papers and contributions is open until April 15th.

Themes & issues for papers & contributions to parallel sessions

While we welcome papers and proposals for self-organised panel sessions on all topics relating to the Foundational Economy, we particularly welcome submissions addressing the following themes and issues:

The waged and unwaged work of social reproduction that is done when caring for children, for the elderly or for those who are sick are all part of the Foundational Economy. This labour is at the core of the economy and constitute its background condition, while being the foundation for life and for survival. In recent years the conditions under which this work is carried out have been the subject of much public debate, not least due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In many countries across Europe care givers and recipients are experiencing a  growing care crisis. Among the root causes of the crisis of care are a lack of funds, a lack of staff, as well as a lack of adequate value attributed to these feminised and often racialised forms of work, along with the consequences of the privatisation and marketisation of care.

Submissions should address (all or some of) the following questions:

  • What do feminist and intersectional perspectives bring to the Foundational Economy approach? Why it is crucial to include a social reproduction lens and account for unpaid work within the framework of the Foundational Economy?
  • How can municipal care infrastructures be strengthened? What challenges exist for expanding and democratising public provision? How to address those challenges?
  • How can the work of caring be reorganised and redistributed in socially just and ecologically sustainable ways?
  • How to address the huge demand for qualified workers in the care sector? 
  • What new experiences are there of linking the care sector with municipal infrastructures in order to strengthen local economies and make them more democratic?
  • How can care be democratised? What are dimensions of the democratisation of care?
  • What new models for care provision are needed to address the needs of care recipients and ensure adequate working conditions for care givers – paid and unpaid - and to ensure care for all?

Foundational Economy perspectives call into question the standard economic policy approach that focuses attention and resources on specific industries. They call for a re-evaluation of the ways in which different sectors of the economy relate to one another and how they can secure a 'good life for all' within planetary boundaries. For instance, to ensure that everyone has access to adequate mobility, current transport infrastructures need to be transformed. The current industrial ecosystem that is premised on automobile production requires conversion. Similarly, well-conceived forestry can help address ecological crises (biodiversity, climate emergency) and become an industrial resource with which to build and retrofit the low carbon homes of the future. Also, the expansion of renewables opens up possibilities for meaningful work in new industries such as batteries or solar panels. 

Submissions should address (all or some of) the following questions:

  • What are the conceptual implications of placing the Foundational Economy at the core of economic and public policy-making and organising other parts of the economy to support it?
  • What are the conceptual and practical implications of doing so for strategic economic, industrial and regional policies?
  • What are new and historic examples of successful industrial renewal?  What are challenges in this process? How can they be addressed? 
  • What potential alliances are involved in this restructuring?  What is the role of trade unions, employer associations and civil society actors?
  • What role can public procurement policies play in this process?
  • How could a reorientation of industries be aligned with the goals of a circular economy?

Following an initial phase of laisser-faire, in which digital platforms were able to expand relatively unchallenged, the tide has turned. Most prominently in recent years, the EU has increased its regulatory efforts towards Big Tech. At the same time, there has been an increased interest in harnessing the potential of digitalisation to further develop provisioning in existing foundational sectors. For instance, well-conceived mobility platforms allow cities to steer mobility patterns towards more sustainable modes of transport. As with health data the development of existing assets also provides opportunities for improved health services.

Submissions should address (all or some of) the following questions:

  • How can the regulatory power of the EU be used to develop digital infrastructures and platforms aligned with the aims of the Foundational Economy?
  • What type of regimes for mobility, health and energy data are needed to support the Foundational Economy and the public provision of infrastructures and services?
  • What experiments and new approaches exist in different fields of the Foundational Economy, such as, but not limited to mobility, health and energy?
  • What is the role of strategic economic policy-making in creating and shaping provisioning in this field?

At present, the governance structures of energy production and consumption neither serve the interest of the public nor do they further the purpose of environmental sustainability and ensure a swift move towards the decarbonisation of energy production. The consequences of the war in Ukraine, the tremendous hikes in the cost of energy and the slow pace at which energy regimes are shifting from fossil fuels to renewables all make this very clear.  We are particularly interested in submissions that address the impacts of market liberalisation on energy production and provision in the European energy sector. We are also interested in submissions that consider the governance requirements for fully decarbonising energy production and ensuring affordable energy for everyone, taking into consideration planetary boundaries. 

Submissions should address (all or some of) the following questions:

  • How has market liberalisation impacted on the production and provision  of energy in in the European energy sector?
  • What needs to change within the EU and its member states to provide people and businesses with affordable decarbonised energy?
  • What governance frameworks, structures and organisational logics are necessary for attaining a fully decarbonised economy within the EU (and globally) that is also aligned with planetary boundaries?

The Foundational Economy provides essential goods and services and is thus key to meeting human needs. Strengthening the Foundational Economy is a prerequisite for avoiding shortfalls in our shared “social foundations”, the inner circle of Kate Raworth’s doughnut model. A central problem here is that any expansion of foundational infrastructures also increases the pressure on existing ecological limits, which are already overstretched. In response, attempts to relocate the foundational project within ecological limits follow a tripartite strategy: (1) extend low-carbon services (e.g. education, health, and care); (2) decarbonise high-carbon foundational sectors (e.g. food, mobility, and housing); (3) build new foundational systems that promote the low-carbon substitution of existing materials, support biodiversity, and tackle carbon sequestration (e.g. afforestation). While this strategy includes key components of an eco-social transformation, it risks remaining trapped in a green welfare-capitalist framework, relying heavily on misguided hopes of absolute decoupling. To avoid this, we need to explore synergies and contradictions, along with potentials for a common eco-social project between the Foundation Economy and Degrowth communities.

Submissions should address (all or some of) the following questions:

  • How can research into the Foundational Economy and post-growth approaches benefit from one another? What are concrete synergies? What are (productive) contradictions?
  • What do we – as a society – need to stop doing? What do we need to exnovate? What needs to shrink?
  • What is the role of the Foundational Economy in post-growth strategising? Can the Foundational Economy enrich concrete utopias and forms of revolutionary realpolitik?
  • How can a focus on the Foundational Economy support and broaden the possibilities for building alliances with post-growth social movements?
  • How to organise, plan, finance, maintain and administer the Foundational Economy in a post-growth world?
  • How can we make sense of and conceptualise foundational, i.e. ‘essential’ and ‘critical’, work assessed against the aim of creating a social structure compatible with a post-growth future?
  • How to reduce societal dependency on high-energy and materially intensive foundational goods and services?
  • How to reshape foundational systems to regenerate earth systems

Many goods and services of the Foundational Economy are produced in and by the public sector, mostly at the local and urban levels. These goods and services include water, mobility, energy, waste management, education, health and social care. Expanding and strengthening those sectors as well as decarbonising them requires large public investments.

Submissions should address (some of) the following questions:

  • Who currently regulates, funds or provides those infrastructures and who should do so in order to achieve social, ecological and climate goals?
  • What challenges and new approaches emerge with regard to the financing of such goods and services? What regulatory and budgetary rules need to change at municipal, regional, national, European levels in order to secure the financing of the Foundational Economy and a 'good life for all'?
  • What forms of governance and public decision-making are required to regulate, provide and fund the goods and services of the Foundational Economy? What are the roles of the public, private and non-profit sectors?
  • What changes are needed with regard to laws, social insurance and other regulations at the national, European and global levels in order to ensure a good life for all'?
  • What role do the public sector and public services play in achieving social and ecological justice and planning for transition?
  • What is the role of urban and regional development and planning for Foundational Economy infrastructures?

In an era of multi-faceted challenges, there is an urgent need for integrated approaches to foundational infrastructure provision. The intersection of different infrastructure systems is essential to meet the major challenges of our time, both locally and globally. However, calls for sustainable transformation across different infrastructure systems encounter a mismatch between integrated approaches and silo-thinking, but also between globalised economic structures and locally-specific transformation pathways. Cross- and intersectoral cooperation is needed to break down traditional sectoral silos and enable innovation in intersectoral cooperation and multi-sectoral action. We face the challenge of bringing together and discussing various approaches of cross- and intersectoral analysis of foundational infrastructure systems towards a just and sustainable transformation.

Submissions should address (some of) the following questions:

  • How do we bring together different sectors around common interests to secure foundational infrastructures and enable sustainable transformation?
  • Which sectors are already conducive to sustainability transition and which sectors require further investigation (e.g. energy and food, mobility and health, digital and social innovation etc.)?
  • How to overcome political, professional, and bureaucratic challenges within governance mechanisms for coordinating policies in the face of different interests and priorities?
  • How to overcome the global-local divide for sustainable path-creation through foundational infrastructure systems?

Submissions of academic papers will be reviewed by an academic committee; submissions by practitioner for panel discussions will be reviewed by the organising committee.

Basic principles for parallel sessions

  • Individual paper presentations will take place across parallel sessions time-tabled by the organising committee.
  • Proposals for panel discussions or for a full parallel session consisting of 2-3 papers presentations and/or 2-3 different contributions on a related theme can also be submitted.
  • Proposals for two consecutive parallel sessions around a specific theme can also be submitted.
  • If a proposal for a full parallel session is accepted, the group that submitted the proposal is responsible for organising the session (e.g. chairing/facilitation, the cost of bringing participants to the event etc.).
  • We will provide basic guidance on how sessions should be conducted.

We strongly encourage parallel sessions with different inputs (e.g. a combination of presentations by researchers and practitioners) and the creation of space for interactive debate.

We also strongly encourage early career researchers to submit their work.

The conference language is English. The conference will be held at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien). Further information on registration, the conference programme and other organisational issues will be made available on the conference website in due course.

The local organising committee of the conference consists of:

  • Michael Getzner, TU Wien
  • Leonhard Plank, TU Wien
  • Astrid Krisch, TU Wien & University of Oxford
  • Richard Bärnthaler, WU Wien
  • Alexandra Strickner, Kompetenzzentrum Alltagsökonomie, Vienna

For any questions as regards the conference programme please contact: alexandra.strickner@alltagsoekonomie.at

Conference administration

  • Ilse Bednar, TU Wien
  • Katharina Helml, TU Wien
  • Mina Chamraci, TU Wien


Day 1 - 14th Sept 2023

Day 2 15th Sept 2023

Day 3 16th Sept 2023


Opening of the conference by the organisers


Opening – keynote


Julie Froud, University of Manchester

The Crisis of Everyday Liveability & what is to do about it


Keynote 1

Corinna Dengler, Vienna University of Economics and Business – Caring societies: towards a caring economy, caring commons and caring policies


Keynote 2

Adrienne Buller,

Common Wealth Think Tank
Owning the Future – Building democratic ownership

Working meetings

(Rooms for project meetings, PhD workshops or presentations can be booked in advance)


Coffee break

Coffee break



Parallel sessions

Parallel sessions





City walks


Parallel  sessions

Parallel session



Coffee break

Coffee break



Plenary session

Plenary – closing



End of day 1

 End of day 2



Reception at City Hall (tbc)




6th foundational economy conference 2023 Vienna: Exploring thei foundational economy for a just transition

© Katharina Helml

Deadlines & organisation

6th foundational economy conference vienna

© Katharina Helml

Deadline for submissions: 15 April 2023

Acceptance notification for self-organised practice-orientated panel sessions: mid-May 2023

Acceptance notification for academic and policy papers: Early/mid June 2023

For papers to be included in the conference programme at least one author has to be registered for the conference by 3 July  2023.

For a full parallel session to be included in the conference programme  it has to be confirmed by the group or organisation that submitted it by  3 July 2023.