For a number of decades, wealth has been rising across the UK, improving living standards and quality of life. However, the gap between the rich and the poor has been widening at an increasing rate. In the advent of the financial crisis in 2007, the top 1% of society have been able to consolidate and grow their already incredible wealth. As a result it has become even more important in the last decade to ensure economic inequality does not continue to worsen to a point where a comfortable level of wealth is unattainable to the majority of society.

Luckily, because of this, there have been a number of positive movements towards promoting economic justice across the UK and the world. There have been some fantastic organisations working on key issues such as personal debt, economic empowerment and racial inequality. In this blog post, we look at some of the most innovative campaigns working on these issues from grassroots organisations across the UK.

Ending personal debt


Personal debt across the UK has been increasing as people struggle to get by on low wages and high living costs. One of the most prevalent forms of debt are high interest, short-term “payday loans”. Companies offering these loans typically target low income workers with enticing adverts offering easy cash at the push of a button. With little prior knowledge of an individual’s financial situation, these companies charge incredibly high interest rates. This means that a £10 loan can sometimes become £200 in a matter of weeks, causing a vicious cycle of debt for some of the most vulnerable people in the UK.

This year, actor Michael Sheen launched the End High Cost Credit Alliance which is campaigning for fairer sources of borrowing and an end to the loan-shark style payday loans. By bringing together over 50 organisations and individuals, this coalition pools together its resources to work towards making fair lending the mainstream in the UK.

Working at the other end of the campaigning spectrum, Bank Job Pictures is an organisation working to creatively solve personal debt from the bottom-up. They print and sell their own unique banknotes, using the money to wipe £1m of local payday debt and fund four charities working on homelessness, affordable food and youth projects.

Empowering people with economics


Understanding how your life is affected by economic policy empowers you to make political decisions best suited to your own needs. By making economics more accessible, it ensures that people understand the implications of their vote. Set up in 2015,
Ecnmy.org aims at providing simple and fun economic news, making the subject more accessible to a wider range of people and empowering them in the process. Economy engages with television, radio, pop-culture, online trends and press. Unlike a lot of influential organisations, they aim to reach audiences at both sides of the political spectrum, ensuring their work is seen universally.

Similarly, by educating people and influencing policy, Positive Money campaigns for a money and banking system that enables a fair and democratic economy that works for everyone. They run campaigns, educate people and try and influence public policy to create a positive economic environment promoting economic justice and social equality.

Reducing economic and racial inequality


Economic justice and racial inequality are strongly connected. Discrimination against people of colour looking for jobs and housing still persists, and even policies such as immigration checks at NHS hospitals create a barrier-filled environment for people of colour within the UK economy. In order to progress with an economic justice movement, the aspect of race must be addressed as part of it. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter, race is becoming a more central part of the debate around economic justice.

Behind this emergence are organisations such as the Runnymede Trust, the leading independent race equality think tank, which has been promoting its research addressing race equality issues in public policy and debate for over 50 years. They believe that a consistent dialogue between communities and policymakers is key in addressing these problems. To see their vast amount of authoritative research, visit their website here: https://www.runnymedetrust.org/

State of the movement

With inequality rising, these are just a few of the many organisations that make up the wider movement working to reduce the divide between the rich and the poor in the hope of creating a more fair and equal society. As the rapidly changing global economy evolves, so must the movements innovate to meet the scale of challenges that come with it. This month we will continue to highlight the innovations being made to ensure everyone has access to economic security.

P.S. Responsible Finance are recruiting participants for their new Leadership Programme in partnership with Clore Social Leadership. The programme’s objective is to create a new generation of leaders within the responsible finance and broader social finance sectors.