Is it time to fundamentally rethink economics - its theoretical foundations, activities and processes; its purpose and goals? How should we reimagine and redesign our economic models to better reflect and serve human needs and wants, and the flourishing of all life on our one planet?

It is often said that the world faces challenges that are complex and systemic. But in fact, the world is a complex, interconnected “system of systems”. These complexities and interconnectivities amplify the global challenges facing us, whether economic, social or environmental. They also mean that a deep understanding of the behaviour of these systems is critical to solving these problems for the long-term.

Leading evolutionary theorist David Sloan Wilson and influential economist Dennis Snower have long advocated for an improved understanding of economics as a complex system.

Across a recent series of major articles, they argue for a paradigm shift away from the orthodox, neoclassical model of economics, which focuses on individual challenges to be tackled through decisions by individual decision-makers and views ‘externalities’ as a phenomenon to be ‘corrected’ through government intervention, in favour of a new multilevel paradigm, based on insights from evolutionary science. This is a model that takes proper account of the complexity of our social natures and relations, and the centrality of collective challenges in our lives – challenges that can only be effectively tackled through a carefully orchestrated, context-specific combination of social, political and institutional mechanisms.

Though such a paradigm shift has long proved elusive, Snower and Sloan Wilson argue that is an achievable goal, and one that’s more necessary now than ever before, at a time of economic and ecological crisis, when new narratives and new modes of cooperation will be critical to building successful multilateral alliances for innovation and change. Join them at the RSA to explore how to put the multi-level paradigm to work, to ensure that economics becomes a truly purposeful discipline, reimagined and redesigned to support the pursuit of wellbeing in thriving societies on a thriving planet, now and in the future.