How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Preface to the Chinese edition

A cultural disconnection between the man-made world and the biosphere lies behind the grave challenges we face today. We either don’t think about rivers, soils, and biodiversity at all – or we treat them as resources whose only purpose is to feed the economy. This ‘metabolic rift’ – between the living world, and the economic one – leaves us starved of meaning and purpose. We have to heal this damaging gap.

This book is about the design of connections between places, communities, and nature. Drawing on a lifetime of travel in search of real-world alternatives that work, I describe the practical ways in which living economies thrive in myriad local contexts. When connected together, I argue, these projects tell a new ‘leave things better’ story of value, and therefore of growth. Growth, in this new story, means soils, biodiversity and watersheds getting healthier, and communities more resilient. 

The signals of transformation I write about are not concepts, and they are not the fruits of a vivid imagination. They are happening now. But in conversations about the book, I am often asked the same question: Are small local initiatives an adequate response to the global challenges we all face? Read More »

Posted in city & bioregion, development & design, learning & design, most read, social innovation & design | Leave a comment

Chinese Book Launch of “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”

Pre-order: "How to Thrive in the Next Economy", in CHINESE

Pre-order: “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”, in Chinese

I’m in Shanghai for the launch of the Chinese version of my book: “How to Thrive in the Next Economy”.
As of today you can pre-order it! (click the image)

Posted in [no topic] | Leave a comment

From Neighbourhood To Bioregion: The City as a Living System

I wrote the following text for a new book, Human Cities: Challenging The City Scale (published by Cite du Design and Clear Village).

The Greek physician Hippocrates described the effects of “airs, waters, and places” on the health of individuals and communities. For a short period, the industrial age distracted us from this whole-systems understanding of the world – but we are now learning again to think of cities as habitats, and as ecosystems, that co-exist on a single living planet.

Humanising the city in this context – making it healthy for people – therefore means making it habitable for all of life, not just human life. It means thinking of the city as a local living economy, not as a machine. And it means the embrace of biodiversity, and local economic activity, as better measures of a city’s health than the amount of money that flows through it. Read More »

Posted in city & bioregion, food systems & design | Leave a comment

Two-wheeled logistics: a city manager’s 19-point to-do list

(Above, in 2018: large areas of Shanghai have fallen silent thanks to the widespread use of electric cargo bikes; there’s hardly a white van to be seen)

City Manager’s To-Do List

1. To see what your city’s two-wheeled future could be like, visit India and marvel at the richness of bike-based commerce. Then go to Indonesia and marvel at the range of services available on the Go-Jek platform.  And visit Shanghai, where large areas of of the city have fallen silent thanks to the widespread use of electric cargo bikes; there’s hardly a white van to be seen

1   Next, develop a shared vision among stakeholders – an approach pioneered in Denmark’s Kickstand Policy Training

2   Encourage the creation of multi-actor meeting and market places  – such as the Cargo Bike Festival

3   publish a catalogue of business models to aid decision-support

4    provide small business support, as anticipated in the EU’s GoPedelec programme

5   encourage the provision of micro-finance

6   create hard infrastructure – such as the Dutch cycle superhighways

7   organise logistics hubs such as  Germany’s ‘Bentobox’ system

8  address nitty-gritty governance issues – for example, the regulations for city parks – in Municipal Decision Maker Workshops

9   secure buy-in from place-based retailers

10  provide topographical decision support to cargo bike operators (in the form of real-time data on isohypses and isoenergetes)

11  like Vienna, subsidize cargo bikes for citizens

12  copy Vooralberg, which has made 500 pedelecs available to city workers

13  support fiscal measures that incentivise company pedelecs

14  frame your city’s procurement policy on batteries: rent not buy

15  encourage bike trailer rental of the kind pioneered by Israel’s Tel-O-Porter platform

16   tell everyone to check out online knowledge sharing platforms such  as endless-sphere

17  enable bike-riding lessons for all, as happens in Albania’s Shining Cycle Culture

18  find ways to upgrade your city’s bike repair infrastructure, as they do  in Slovenia)

19  partner with firms like Germany’s ChargeLockCable to enable secure bike storage

Most of the component parts for ultra-light mobility ecosystems are on the table – from cargo bikes, to sharing platforms. Social and technical innovations are transforming relationships between people, goods, energy, space, and value.

The sale of transformation is huge. Having studied the potential of what’s out there, Germany’s Institute of Transport Research reckons 85 percent of all parcel deliveries in a city like Berlin could be made by two-wheeled vehicles such as bikes and pedelecs.

But as the grotesque piles of discarded dockless bikes have shown – not to mention the plummeting expectations for autonomous vehicles – logistics systems are harder to deploy than toy train sets.

Multiple actors are involved in bicycle commerce, for example, and they often have differing or conflicting agendas.

For one-act firms like Mobike, managing the ecosystems of infinitely diverse cities is simply too hard. You can’t just plug the bits together and walk away.

This is why cities need transport ecosystem managers. As I learned when writing Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City in 2014, co-ordination and connection are key success factors.

The private sector, it’s true, is now selling ‘mobility as a service‘ (MaaS) platforms. But with a business model predicated on the perpetual growth of trips, private actors simply cannot steward the social and ecological health of the city as a living whole. Only city halls can do that.

Platforms such as Munich’s Gscheid Mobil, with its focus on reducing car traffic, is an exception right now. But for the hundreds of cities now thinking, at least, along similar lines, my modest contribution is the following list of mostly small and inexpensive steps to get them started.

Caloryville: The Two-Wheeled City

Posted in mobility & design | Leave a comment

From commodities, to connection: A platform for the co-op grains movement

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here below is a project scenario.

Between Autumn 2015 and Autumn 2016, in an artist-led project called A Field Of Wheat, a collective made up of 42 members of the public, the food industry, farming community, artists and researchers become active stakeholders in a field of wheat in Branston Booths, Lincolnshire, England.

Following two years of research into the culture and economics of wheat growing on a local and global scale, the Field of Wheat project meant building relationships with the region’s farmers, representatives of the farming industry, local historians, and researchers.

A direct outcome of this experiment is a project called – the live prototype of a co-op grains movement. Sixty citizens have each invested in a farmer’s field for a year. Together with the farmer, they decide what to grow, how to grow it and what happens with the crop.

#OurField is a shared farming experience: It supports farmers financially and emotionally, and  connects mostly city people to what it takes to grow food.

#OurField is brilliant experiment. It has huge potential. But building on this opportunity is easier said than done. As is true for most pioneers, the founders and organisers of #OurField lack the time and space to build the co-operation platform they know is needed.

So, one project scenario for the #api_MRRD masters is easily described: an ideal candidate would spend spend a year developing the prototype of an #OurField platform – together with the movement’s founders, a farmer from the North Wales region, and relevant other partners.



Posted in food systems & design | Leave a comment

Welsh Chapels and Coworking

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here is a project scenario.

The 6,426 chapels in Wales (like Capel Salem chapel in Pwllheli, above) were once at at the heart of community life in remote communities.

There are numerous ways chapels could be be part of the next economy, too – but these ways need to be designed, and with diverse collaborators.

Possibilities range from CoWoLi (Coworking-Coliving), or new kinds of creative residencies, to learning hubs and new kinds of school.

Scroll down for other #api_MRRD project ideas.


Posted in development & design | Leave a comment

Connected Botanic Garden


At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here is a project scenario.

When the first botanical gardens were established 3,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, they combined scientific enquiry with public education.

Today’s botanical gardens, ecomuseums – and, in the UK especially, #National Parks –  are looking for new ways to engage citizens – and as active participants, not just as paying visitors. These new relationships need to be designed, enabled and supported.

One #api_MRRD project scenario could be to work with Tregorth Botanic Garden (top); develop new relationships; and design a platform to enable them. 

is needed  in national parks the world over. An inspiring example of this approach was envisaged by @DubberlyDesign in their project Engaging members to re-imagine National Geographic

Scroll down for other #api_MRRD project ideas.


Posted in learning & design | Leave a comment

Social Farming

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here is one project scenario: develop a service, or platform, to meet the growing need for social farming. Scroll down for other project ideas.
(Shown above: a formerly abandoned city farm in Milan has been given new life as a multi–functional centre).

We all have to eat, and the health of the soils, watersheds and biodiversity is in all our interests – so why should farmers do it all on their own? Interest is growing in ways by which citizens can play a practical role. The social, educational and health benefits of social farming can be huge – but they need to be organised. Read More »

Posted in [no topic] | Leave a comment

Coders in the Countryside

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region.

One project scenario could be to develop a tool, and a collaboration platform, to monitor the health of nature in new ways.

Just one gram of forest soil can contain more microorganisms than there are people on earth, and hundreds of meters of fungal mycelia. Two questions arise: how did they count them? and, second, what’s that got to do with human health and wellness? Read More »

Posted in [no topic] | Leave a comment