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The Ingenuity Project: Fueling and Feeding the Future
Hassan Masum, 12 Dec 04

Developing sustainable energy and food supplies for the world will be tough - yet many potential solutions are already known.  The fledgling Ingenuity Project aims to publicize the best ideas on big challenges like these. It is "...an annual effort to bring together bright minds from around the world in order to provide practical and ingenious solutions to the complex problems facing the world."

A formative influence for the Ingenuity Project was "The Ingenuity Gap", which argues that our civilization faces a growing gap between the need for solutions to complex problems and the actual supply of those solutions.

The first book was published in 2003:  Fueling The Future.  Along with the hydrogen economy, nuclear challenges, efficiency measures, and renewable technology, the ideas include more system-oriented topics like integrated energy planning, soft path analysis, and the triple bottom line in the energy industry.

I found it interesting to read how the project got off the ground (from the preface of "Fueling the Future"):

"The best ideas often emerge over a drink, which is why about a year ago we asked some friends and colleagues to meet at a bar. ...We asked everyone two simple questions: What are the problems that concern you the most?  Are there solutions to fix them?

One person was worried most about infectious diseases here and in the developing world.  Another was interested in environmental issues and the effects of climate change.  Another was concerned about poverty and yet another with the ineffectiveness of government.  The list went on and on.  But to all of our surprise, for each problem there was a possible solution: low-priced generic drugs were available for AIDS patients in developing countries; ideas like full-cost accounting and new technologies like hybrid cars might help alleviate certain environmental problems; microbanks were providing another tool to fight poverty.  Everyone had examples of someone supplying a solution to help solve one of these seemingly intractable problems.  The mood shifted from one of despair to excitement, and we were quite sure the drinks played only a minor role in the change.

As the conversation in the bar got more intense, it became clear to everyone that the challenge was not necessarily to invent the solutions to the problems, rather it was to create a link for people who were already out there solving them. ..."

This year's event will be "Feeding the Future", and the project includes co-productions for TV, radio, and Web on Canada's CBC.

Books covering these topics are not uncommon (e.g. Lester Brown's Plan B). It's not just the topics chosen, but also the approach that makes the Ingenuity Project interesting: producing an annual event, using different media simultaneously, filtering a variety of voices with a smart editorial team, keeping the goal of "increasing social ingenuity" in the background - and focusing on positive solutions instead of just describing the problem.  Very much in the spirit of Worldchanging itself.

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Comments

This, of course, is something we could have written here!

"As the conversation in the bar got more intense, it became clear to everyone that the challenge was not necessarily to invent the solutions to the problems, rather it was to create a link for people who were already out there solving them. ..."

Can't wait to check these resources out. Thanks, Hassan!


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 12 Dec 04



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