The unconditional basic income is a project of the future, but how do we make the future a part of our present? The answers to this question are just as varied as the proponents of the basic income are diverse. Considered in the long term, the will to change alone is not enough and without a vision, it is impossible to sustain available budgetary resources. Vision, the will to change and the necessary resources to do so all depend on the willingness to intellectually embark on the idea of the basic income. This means the desire to understand what makes up the basic income – and the pros and cons it involves – in an impartial and objective way. These prerequisites serve as the crash barriers along the road to the basic income. The question as to why there should be a basic income, and possible solutions to the difficulties that are bound to accompany it, have been placed in the foreground of the debate, as well as the possible steps for its design and implementation. Reflections concerning the political-strategic orientation, practical alliance politics and the real political possibilities for implementation all play an important role for civil organizations in the discussions on a basic income.

The congress is deliberately open to these questions and the multiplicity of their theoretical and practical dimensions. As an academic event it should discuss the theoretically possible ways to a basic income: Which paths are desirable, realistic and/or possible? Which barriers and challenges – whether intellectual, institutional, (alliance-)political, social, economic or financial – must be overcome? Which barriers are perhaps insurmountable? And what are the intellectual, social, and institutional influences that promote the implementation of a basic income? The congress provides the opportunity to discuss the practical and political courses that have already been set against the background of various types of international social services, respectively health and welfare systems as well as economic, cultural and political features of the particular regions, countries and continents. The congress also offers room for discussion on the global opportunities for (gradual) implementation of a basic income.

In addition to the possible ways to the basic income, the course of action should also play a role in the discussion. Actors from civil society and politics will be given the opportunity to speak. Are new democratic, perhaps even direct democratic instruments needed? How could they facilitate implementation of a basic income? What kind of challenges would they harbor for its implementation? Are concrete suggestions for reform initially needed? How would they impact the further path to a basic income? These are all possible questions. Various political objectives which could also be pursued with the implementation of the basic income and which influence its concrete design and adoption should be illustrated.

The unconditional basic income is a cross-cutting issue. The diversity of the various basic approaches and avenues leading to the topic can be meaningfully structured by the selection of appropriate subject areas:

  1. Geographic (“where”): country-specific debates, pilot projects, European and global perspectives

  2. Factual (“what”): economic, fiscal, ethnic, equity-theoretical, ecological and gender specific questions, etc.

  3. Political (“how”): similarities, differences in actors; barriers in political, civil society; political feasibility, etc.


1.1 Subject Area WHERE: Regional, National, Global – Basic Income on a Small and Large Scale

BIEN is a worldwide network. The unconditional basic income is a topic of discussion in over 30 countries and in a few of these, regional pilot projects which pay a “basic income” have been introduced which demonstrate what happens when the future becomes reality: a reduction in poverty, more self-determination (including for women), strengthened economic activity and a positive investment climate, as well as a strengthening of social cohesion. The unconditional basic income is also a topic of discussion in the area of development aid and in connection with the debate on Social Cash Transfers (SCT). Think global, act local: The various health and welfare systems require various path dependencies of institutional development on the way to the basic income.

The reports by the individual BIEN sections have just as much a place in this subject area as the question concerning the paths to the basic income under consideration of the development and welfare systems of various social states or the discussion about different basic approaches to the implementation of a global basic income. Thus, the biannual congress is also a place in which to learn from one another.


1.2 Subject Area WHAT: From Incentive Effect to Amount of Payment – on the Factual Issues of the Basic Income

Concepts for the future should not just be well-intentioned. They must also be in keeping with the functional relationships of the respective system and adequately address the existing structural problems and challenges according to the situation and to the problem. The consensus on the basic income at BIEN is that a minimum income must be guaranteed to all on an individual basis without a means test or work requirement. How high should the amount be? To whom should it be paid and according to which method? How should the amount be financed? Should social benefits additionally be paid and if yes, which ones? The proposed solutions of the various models are quite diverse and also have a position in this subject area, just as their effect on distribution, the national economy or the various demographic groups has (for example women, migrants, physically challenged, adolescents, and retirees, among others).


1.3 Subject Area HOW: The Big Picture – Social and Political Dimensions

The idea of the unconditional basic income is linked to value patterns which run counter to the political situations and finds approval with various – and in some cases contrary – political and social groups. This subject area should especially promote discussion on how the implementation of an unconditional basic income can be fostered, respectively should be fostered. The discussion should also focus on which political and strategic alliances and projects should accompany implementation. The idea of the basic income always includes the question of democratic processes. Who has the ability to create a reality out of the future? Planners and politicians are no longer the only ones to make decisions concerning the future; it is up to the concerned citizens, respectively the social movements, who have their own concept of a decent, ecological, peaceful future that is worth living and who would like to have a say about the society in which they live.