This is our 3,000th post, not too bad for a site that's only been around for 20 months. Good things are happening with WorldChanging, and even better things are coming -- and we owe all of our success to the support and enthusiasm of the WorldChanging community. Thank you.
As you know, in celebration of the 3,000th post, this week we've been posting contributions from guest writers; we still have a few more days' worth of posts to go, so even though the milestone's been reached, the celebration continues.
Along with the guest pieces, we also have personal notes from our current set of contributors. Click into the extended entry to find out what's up with everyone from Alan to Zaid...
Well, I've just returned from 10 days in the south of France with loved ones. So I'm in recovery ... from the love-a-thon, the wine, the food.
Also had a lovely dinner with Nicole in Paris. You know, meeting f2f still makes a huge difference in this world. Thank you for that time Nicole, and I look forward to repeats.
About my current activities:
1. You know about my recent Bangkok trainings from the WC post. That event was typical of what I've been doing in the last few years, and what we're continuing to build: a network of users, via advanced trainings for people using our methods. Those methods accelerate/make real sustainable development processes, by integrating multi-stakeholder/multi-disciplinary group thinking/planning methods with indicator analysis, systems modeling, innovation theory and strategic planning. Came to find out the stuff has spread faster than I realized, and that training will "accelerate the acceleration" esp. in Asia. This is a long-term commitment for me, with the goal of building the competency of "sustainability change agents" around the world.
2. I'm struggling to write my second book, mostly drawing on number 1 above.
3. I'm promoting Natural Advantage of Nations, whose review on Worldchanging helped to bump its profile as a book worth owning. It's a collection of the best "duh! this works!" arguments for mainstream sustainability, plus it's where the Goa work my friends did and the Pyramid process we use are both documented.
4. I'm doing a press event on July 6 at the Frontline Club in London in connect with 3, and WC Londoners -- being good members of the press -- are invited. Write me for the flier.
5. I'm chairing the program this year for the Balaton Group meeting in Hungary -- Balaton being a 24-year-old network of sustainability researchers/doers founded originally by Donella and Dennis Meadows. Meeting this year has the formal topic of "Regional-Scale Models for Sustainability", and will include both very hard-core computer-based and data-intensive modeling, and Asian/African/L American "grassroots" modeling, if you will. Anybody in this network have thoughts about good modeling to inform sustainable development at the region scale, I'm all ears.
A couple of other projects in the works that I look forward to regaling you about, as soon as I'm told that they are real enough to be regaled.
And other than that, I'm just trying to be a decent Dad, with two pixies aged 3 and 1.5. And I have a long-ish post on Inclusive Wealth Theory that I will post any day now, I promise, Alex.
I hardly know where to start!
Things couldn't be going better here at WorldChanging. We're going pro, here: growing a small nonprofit in which to house ourselves, seeking funding, building a small team to run the business side of things. We're also expanding our focus, adding new contributors and columnists (more on this in coming weeks); doing a mild redesign of the site (we're hoping to make it easier to understand and navigate); having discussions about doing a Worldchanging book; and working with readers to create Spanish and Japanese versions of the site, with future plans for Brazilian Portuguese and Chinese versions (these will be volunteer projects, so if you speak one of these languages and would like to help by joining the team of translators, please let us know!). There's a ton of other stuff going on -- and we'll be posting a longer update soon for those who are interested -- but the short version is that we're looking to make WorldChanging both sustainable as a project and even better as a website.
On a more personal front, I'm living in Seattle, where I just bought a house (my first!), and traveling and speaking quite a bit. My next trip is to the UK, where I'll be speaking at the TED Global conference, visiting ally Ben Saunders, exploring London (recommendations welcome!) and going on a holiday to Wales. I've also begun learning yoga, which I really like, in a sort of masochistic way.
I continue to wake up excited to go to work.
I've been in an amazing six-month fugue/flowstate, working around the clock on projects such as: getting together a still-under-wraps project for National Geographic; major initiatives for clients ranging from GE to Sun Microsystems; getting PopTech 2005 together; growing Z + Partners; evangelizing and seeding new approaches to foresight and ecological innovation to dozens of companies. I've been spending lots of time in Australia (scubadiving the Great Barrier Reef and going deep into the rainforests) and Europe (hanging out with futures researchers, urban theorists and designers).
I feel bad for not posting on a more regular basis but it has been the busiest 6 months of my life. The majority of my attention has been focused on reconstruction efforts in India and Sri Lanka but there are also a number of projects that my organization, Architecture for Humanity, has been involved in.
Thanks to the community of Somkhele, South Africa, Siyathemba, a youth sports and HIV/AIDS healthcare facility, has finally found its architect and design. In late June we are holding an onsite development workshop with the designer, stakeholders, community members, health care providers, teachers and others to further refine and develop his scheme. The project will break ground in the fall and will open this December. If successful the regional Education and Health Ministers want to replicate this pilot project to 20,000 children before the 2010 world cup comes to Africa.
We have also been working on developing an education and boarding facility for the non profit foundation, Kids with Cameras, who are founding a school for the disenfranchised children of the Calcutta brothels; helping set up soccer leagues for street kids and AIDS orphans in Kenya; contributing to the SAFE exhibition that opens at MoMA this fall; developing an open source architecture database in collaboration with Creative Commons and tackling issues of homelessness in inner-cities in the US.
I will be in Istanbul, Turkey from July 3rd-9th for a meeting with architects from around the world to tackle task 11 of the UN Millennium Development Goals. This task deals with improving the lives of over 100 million slum dwellers and is the focus of our next international design initiative, Rethinking Tent City. We recently were awarded an NEA grant for this project.
Finally my partner Kate Stohr and I are in the final weeks of compiling a book on architectural responses to humanitarian crises a real labor of love. In this book, entitled Design Like You Give a Damn, we choose not to profile the worlds problems but to focus a number of possible solutions. If you want to see poverty, war, famine, injustice turn on your television, listen to your radio, look at the photographs of Robert Capa, Don McCullin or James Nachtway, go out to back alleys of your towns and cities. These are things we see everyday, but it is in our nature try to ignore them.
Rather than create a document of despair we have chosen to make one of hope. We believe that through the power of design we can make a difference and that architects, designers, planners and scientists have the technology, the skills and the knowledge to create a better world. Metropolis Books are publishing this compendium of good design and it is expected to be on the bookstands late 2005 early 2006.
In October Im going on walkabout - destination unknown.
I've been working away at my 9-5, and thinking about a few things of interest to WC. First off is energy and pragmatic ways of moving towards carbon neutrality. And really, who's NOT thinking about this? Anyway, earlier this year I was involved in helping some folks think about the role that nuclear power may or may not play over the coming years; see here and here.
More recently, I've been involved in a number of projects regarding the impact that bottom-up, independent media creation is having on government orgs, public broadcasting, telecoms, and advocacy groups. Many of the changes underway are not big news to net-savvy WCers, but it is very heartening to see major corporations and organizations from many industries paying attention. Andrew Blau and Pete Leyden from GBN produced a fantastic series of documents late last year on independent motion media that is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.
It being summer, I'm mostly interested in the space between projects - but things roll on. Down in Windsor, Ontario, we've broken ground on our pedestrian bridge, a walkway over the wall of trucks that wait to cross into the US. We're now finally watching all our work manifest on a huge scale; as a Designer of Small Things, this part has been pretty cool for me. We've designed the bridge to hold trees and plantings along the walkways and across the span, so I'm mostly impatient for a later point, three years on, when all the green has filled in. We're now working on a second phase of that project, funding wind turbines for the bridge (to power lighting and irrigation) and integrating constructed wetlands on adjacent properties to clean stormwater runoff.
We wrapped up our third interdisciplinary Green Corridor course at the University of Windsor, where our students are now designing river-powered turbines, integrating environmental monitoring into public art, green-roofing campus buildings, and retrofitting houses. They get better and better, with more grad students and returning volunteers, so the initiative has really taken proper root out there.
I've also been working with Noel Harding Studio on a Public Art Master Plan for an American airport, which has involved happily seeking out terrific artists. Some new favourites from my hunt include: Cai Guo-Qiang (Chinese); Isabelle Hayeur (Canadian); Craig Walsh (Australia); Greyworld (UK); Do-Ho Suh (Korea); & Ben Rubin/Earstudio (US).
I'm taking my time reading Ed Van Hinte's newest, semiprecious Eternally Yours: Time in Design (which I promise to review soon). I also thoroughly enjoyed In The Bubble by John Thackara (who also wrote the preface to the original Eternally Yours, now long out of print). He says so many really fundamental things about design that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere with so much clarity: "We've built a technology-focused society that is remarkable on means, but hazy about ends. It's no longer clear to which question all this stuff - tech - is an answer, or what value it adds to our lives".
What else: we held our first Toronto Green Drinks event last week. Looking forward to upcoming trips to the UK, and Newfoundland. I've been working to steer things in a slightly different direction, surprising even myself by starting a graduate program in Sustainable Business this fall, so we'll see what that brings...
Its been an interesting year for me - one that has shown me that possibilities can be turned into reality. It started with the tsunamihelp blog we set up right after the devastation and i have shared my personal reflections and observations on why it was so viral, why it all worked despite being on such an out-of-control ride. Sadly, it took a shocking disaster to demonstrate the magic of a decentralised self-organising, interdependent community that demonstrated how social tools can be a natural extension of rapid adaptation to chaotic conditions. We used what I like to call "technology with heart". I have learnt so much from this experience. Nature is humbling. Human endeavour can be more so.
On the 'paid' work front, I've had research projects flowing in from all over the world. Blogging brings visibility for sure, and I am convinced that a blog is a much better marketing vehicle than any cold website or stock corporate presentation. A few ethnographic research projects, other projects around conusmer insights and strategic research on brands. I've tried and integrated some of my learnings around social tools into my research work, and although slow to adopt some of these, as large organisations typically tend to be, I am absolutely delighted that one of my clients has adopted blogs and wikis as part of our project. As more and more teams are collaborating globally, we need tools that enable us to forget physical and cultural boundaries exist. The challenges are in developing common 'brainspaces', in understanding the process & motives of emergence manifest in social behaviour and social media. Client is delighted and their feedback on it says a lot in telling us how these tools can change the way we work in the future - "we now forget boundaries exist"
Its also going to be a year with a lot of international travel for me. I was at Reboot7 earlier this month and made a presentation on Social Tools for Research and Collaboration (the reboot site seems down - but they do have a sort of transcript of my talk there). It was great to share stories of using social tools like blogs, wikis, sms, voip, tagging, aggregators, podcasts and skypecasts in the research process.
In July, I will be participating in a panel discussion at BlogHer in San Jose, and am excited to be a part of the team there. Then Poptech time in October, and in November client and I are hoping to present a paper called Accelerating Change through Social Tools at Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference in Redmond, WA.
Its been a fun year ... and so much more. I do hope to write more for Worldchanging through all this and have more conversations with our readers.
Dreaming of travels to places with lots of ice: Baffin Island, Fox Glacier, Ross Sea. "You wait. Everyone has an Antarctic," wrote Thomas Pynchon in V. For now, I content myself with summer kayaking on Jamaica Bay and other waters in and near NYC. Reading: "Ultimate Journey" by Richard Bernstein, about his journey retracing the steps of Buddhist monk Hsuan Tsang, who set off across Asia in 629 in search of the Ultimate Truth. Keen.
Writing: Ongoing freelance gig with Grist. Situation thus far: It's the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine. Pursuing other writing opportunities. Remember that little thing I tossed off about Atlantic coast bioregionalism the last time we wrote these updates? Spent many hours this past fall and winter researching and grantwriting around just such a project -- no funding in the offing thus far, but found some great new allies and clarity about the concept. I will be starting it up as a blog at OneAtlantic.net ... any ... second ... now ... stay tuned.
TV: About 30 days until "Battlestar Galactica." Movies: About 100 days until "Serenity" (not that I'm counting or anything). Looking forward to Spielberg's take on "War of the Worlds," one of my favorite armageddon epics, for my popcorn quotient, plus a feast of Asian films: "Howl's Moving Castle," of course, and also several offerings at the New York Asian Film Festival 2005 like "Princess Raccoon", "Kekexili: Mountain Patrol", "Tetsujin-28", "Vital". Music: What do you recommend?
I'm still living in the beatiful Berkshire mountains of Western Massachusetts, though I'm actually home less often than I would strictly like. The early June heat followed by a week of rain means that the 24 high-bush blueberry plants I planted in a month ago are thriving. Which, in turn, means that all is well with the world.
For reasons that remain opaque to me, the good folks at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School continue to employ me as a "Research Fellow". Wearing that hat, I'm continuing to hammer away at my research on media attention, and am working with Rebecca MacKinnon on Global Voices, our joint project to feature the writings and voices of bridge bloggers from around the world. Lately, we've been having fun doing "skypecasts" - audio interviews over skype from India, Spain, Singapore and China - distributed as podcasts.
In my "free" time, I'm working with the Open Society Institute's Information Program on technology and social change projects around the world. And giving the occasional speech here and there. All of this means that I've travelled over 100,000 air miles since February and visited friends in Spain, India, Japan, Jordan and Ireland so far, with trips to Italy, South Africa, Jordan and the UK on deck. Which is why it's a very good thing the blueberries are on a drip-irrigation system controlled by a battery operated timer.
I'm working with a Canadian team on implementing collaborative tools and environments. We've had a lot of success with the MusicGrid project, which used broadband videoconferencing to further music education and practice. For me, audio/video over gigabit networks feels like email and newsgroups did back in the early 1990's: an exciting sense of possibilities and connections waiting to be made.
Recently, I've moved into trying out research and problem-solving sessions - turns out that it's often harder to get the right people together than it is to set up the technology, so my next challenge is to reduce the time to put together high-performance teams. I'm also excited about the potential of simple, seamless videoconferencing for empowering remote communities, language training, reduced travel, collaborative intelligence, and working sessions and cultural contacts with people from around the world.
With the inimitable Yi-Cheng Zhang, I'm writing a book on reputation systems, which is moving back into high gear after a quiet period. Hopefully it will be done this fall (where "done" means "ready to send a complete version around to colleagues to be mercilessly improved"). Like a number of others, we are also working on the theory and practice of collaborative evaluation, so you could store, share, and analyze your preferences for many kinds of items in a simple way.
Since 2003 I've been doing some foresight work, which has been a blast - a great chance to marry speculative thinking with scientific and social knowledge. My feeling is that the best foresight work of the next decade will combine scenarios with rigorous work on options and constraints. It would work like this: you figure out what the range of future possibilities is for key areas, where it's possible to do so (easy with demography, medium with tech now in the lab, hard for political changes or far-out tech). You then map out what options you have to work with: human and financial resources, social mechanisms, "effectiveness amplifiers" like social computing, etc. Finally, try some intelligent extrapolation and scenarios to get a sense of what future paths could be followed, and "backcast" to the present to see what current implications are.
It's great being part of WorldChanging. I look forward to interacting on more levels with our readers, and adding "action research" and collaborative projects to our activities!
What am I up to? You can see on the pages of WorldChanging every day...
My days are filled with horizon scanning and digging through ephemera, looking for interesting early indicators of the bright green future. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. I'm trying to strike a balance between investigating issues about which I'm already familiar (and can write about at length) and issues about which I need to learn much more. Fortunately, there's a wealth of material out there, and every day I am further convinced that the solutions we need are at hand.
Away from my desk, I haven't been quite the showman that Alex has been of late, but that's slowly coming around. My talk at Meshforum last May has led to an invitation to present at the upcoming Accelerating Change 2005 conference. I'll be talking about the Participatory Panopticon there, too, but in a much briefer presentation.
Looking ahead, aside from ACC2005, I'll be continuing to blog daily on WorldChanging, and will be working on other WorldChanging projects.
Further out, my wife and I are still mulling a move to London. We both want to do it, but are still trying to work out the logistics (suggestions are welcome).
Okay, here's me in a nutshell:
"Help, help! I'm trapped in a nutshell!"
oh, wait, no...
Here's me in a nutshell:
This spring I spent an amazing month in India after going there for a small talk at the Doors of Perception conference. Last month I spoke at IEMDC 2005 (the IEEE's International Electric Machines & Drives Conference) in Texas.
I'm still working on the biomimicry database for Rocky Mountain Institute and the Biomimicry Guild. We keep getting closer to our alpha-release, in that Xeno's Paradox kind of way. I'm also still working for Chorus Motors, and exciting things are happening with their Boeing partnership.
Seattle continues to treat me extremely well, so I plan to stick around here instead of going to the UK (the only place in the world more rainy and grey). I'm currently trying to start up a local O2 chapter (or maybe expand the nearby Portland one), so give a shout out to any product designers you know in the pacific northwest who might be interested.
I've been really busy the last few months, and so many of the threads of projects I've been into run together that it's not always easy to sort 'em out. I'll give it a shot, though.
My company does custom web development; much of my time is spent on a combination of business vision, business management, and evangelism for our approach to projects. We're growing, and business demands are increasing, but I still make time to work on various side projects. In the first months of this year I worked with the Activist Technology coalition to organize panels for SXSW Interactive on political uses of social technology, followed by a meeting of activists and technologists the day after. At the same time Mitch Ratcliffe and I were finalizing our book Extreme Democracy for print publication (it was already available online), and, working with GroupJazz and Rheingold Associates, I helped organize an online conference in February, OSN 2005. (OSN = Online Social Networks).
During the Texas legislative session that just ended, I was involved with a group, Save Muni Wireless, that successfully opposed a ban on municipal broadband networks. I helped plan the Open Space Austin Community Networking Conference in April, and I spoke about Extreme Democracy at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York in May. (Clearly I've been parked at the intersection of politics/civic engagement and technology for much of the year). I've also joined the board of SalsaNet, a San Antonio community network, and begun working on a Digital Convergence Initiative for a region that runs from San Antonio to Waco and includes Austin. I was invited to join the Board of Advisors for the University of Texas' Science, Technology, and Society Program, and I became Vice-President of Austin Wireless. I also continued as President of EFF-Austin, formed an Open Source Business Alliance, and went to 'way too many meetings.
Greetings from foggy Halifax where I've managed to find a Cafe with free, albeit flaky, access.
If I were to write in astrologer-speak, I'd say something vague like "this year has been about reaping the rewards of past investments over the years." And this is mostly true, albeit somewhat sacrilegious for a foresight specialist to invoke such a mystical method. Tant pis.
First off, in the domestic department, we've bought an apartment near the Bastille area in Paris, a process that has been both culturally fascinating and frustratingly complex. I never knew there were so many kinds of ownership in France, or that it had so many steps, or that many of the rules of the game are fuzzy at best! But don't worry. I won't be so unoriginal as to write an account of this, à la Peter Mayle's Year in Provence. All I can say is that I've become significantly less "Anglo Saxon" in mindset as a result of this experience.
Probably a good thing too, since in France this cultural disposition seems to be a serious handicap.
This is also year two for
As they say, change happens first at the individual level. So not surprisingly education seems to be figuring strongly in my cards these days. I'm a program director for
development center co-located with
Speaking of which, I'm also working on a book. It's about adapting the tools for foresight -- option planning, scenario planning, and uncertainty management -- to the individual level. I got tired of not having anything to offer the many people who approach me with questions about what they should do with their lives. (It always scares me when they think I have the answers!) In any event, it's time to democratize what's been in the hands of elite organizations for average people, so they can create better futures for themselves. Time to fill the vacuum left between the worlds of strategic thinking and self-help literature, much of which is really bad and even harmful. So stay tuned and forward me any reference or set of ideas I should be looking into. And lastly, forgive me if I'm writing less on WC because I'm focused on this big project. Who knows: being a writer just might be what I'm supposed to be when I grow up :) Our work is our work.
i'm writing, consulting and talking at conferences about the (mis)use of technology by artists, hackers, interaction designers, etc. Many of them manage to capture the zeitgeist of our society better than some sociological surveys, and I'm in particular interested in how their work can influence the market.
"I'm still trying to gather my bearings after the tsunami, and trying not to secure my place in the Guiness Book of Records as "The Most Frequently Fired Writer, Ever". I'm also doing some research in cybernetics, psychogeography, pervasive gaming, and the history of Bombay. Copious amounts of alcohol and various contraband devices are being used to enhance the wonderful, and often terrifying experience of being me. If you find yourself soaked to waist in this Bombay monsoon, gimme a holler and hot tea will be served."
Argh. My browser just deleted the wonderful para I wrote for you. Here's another one.
"I'm currently in Halifax, Nova Scotia co-facilitating a workshop called "Solving Tough Problems" where we're applying the U-Process (see www.generonconsulting.com) to the issue of immigration and integration. We've been working the last few months at Generon to launch an open source developer community on the process work that we do. This will allow us to share much more broadly the work that we've been doing. I've also just come out of a series of meetings focused on taking Pioneers of Change to the next level - we've been creating new organisational and governance structures around the idea of self-organisation. I'm going to be starting work on a project here in Canada about the relationship between aboriginal communities and mainstream Canadian society, with an initial focus on aboriginal teenage suicide. Finally I'm hoping to spend a few weeks this summer working on my book, which is about active responses to the destruction of cultures around the world. A thought occupying my mind these days is 'the pattern is set at the start.'"
Congrats to WC, and congrats to everybody involved!
Truly a great site that will - I hope - influence many, many people.