From philanthrocapitalism to an eco-social economy

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This scary hand smashing through the wall to get you is the logo of last month’s Insead conference on social entrepreneurship; its slogan was “Reaching For Impact”.
I’ve written critically here before about the assumptions that underly “design for development” – so I won’t repeat the whole argument. And as I said here we are all emerging economies now. So let’s just say that I’m troubled about the term “design for social impact” when the desired impact is on someone else’s turf, not on the designer’s own.
The language of Nesta’s new “Re-boot Britain” programme also strikes me as off-key: a complex society in transition is not best imagined as a faulty machine.

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From permaculture punks to anaerobic digesters

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I came across a fascinating essay about permaculture and energy descent in Mexico that introduces me for the first time to the existence of so-called permaculture punks in Mexico City. Its author, Holger Hieronimi, has spent the last seven years developing a permaculture based homestead there- so he knows the difference between theory and practise. The picture above, which shows a stage in the construction of an anaerobic digester, is just one among a whole sequence of fascinating visual stories. I also never heard of bocashi composting, either, until today.

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Metrics and Aesthetics (cont.)

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I can understand why Enrico Giovannini, Chief Statistician of the OECD, is so pleased with with his new visualzation tool, the OECD Factbook Explorer. Few people on the planet can be responsible for a larger volume of statistics than he is – or so aware that the more data proliferate, the harder it is to extract meaning from them.

The new tool has been developed by Mikael Jern and his group at the National Center for Visual Analytics at Linköping University in Sweden. Four large research funds are jointly supporting Sweden’s national focus on the creation of advanced and interactive visualisation tools for complex and multidimensional amounts of data.

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New questions for the Internet of Things

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For Gunter Pauli it’s the sight of electronic devices that need batteries or electric wires in order to function. For me it’s hard or paved surfaces. For Usman Haque, it’s these pigs in a poke.

These curious obsessions reflect new questions being raised about the design of things.

My obsession first. After being mesmerised by his talk at the Transition Towns event in London, I read Stephan Harding’s book Animate Earth. Animate Earth brings the world of rocks, atmosphere, water and living things vividly – and literally – to life. Harding blends science with intuition in such an extraordinary way that, before I had even finished his book, I found myself looking at tarmac surfaces and concrete runways as criminal artefacts.

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DOORS OF PERCEPTION PORTFOLIO

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Below you will find short descriptions of the main projects we have produced since 2000. We also publish Doors of Perception Report, a free monthly email newsletter here.
Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)

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Four Days Halifax (week of sustainability events, Halifax Nova Scotia, 2009)

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Doors of Perception helped to organize Four Days Halifax – a time-compressed mini-festival whose aim was to help the city get its hands muddy in a green economy
Our starting point in Four Days was that many elements of a resilient Halifax already exist in embryonic form – but not all of them are visible in their own backyard. The most important preparation work was to identify these local assets: people, mainly, but also projects and places.
Peter Wuensch and Rachel Derrah from Breakhouse, a Halifax a design firm that’s headed strongly into social innovation, and Joanne Macrae and Sera Thompson from The Hub Halifax, duly rounded up some inspiring people and projects.
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2012 Imperative Teach-In (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2009)

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Designers have an important role to play as enablers of the a transition to a sustainable system. As a society, we have the capacity to create systems that will allow us to live within the limits of the earth’s ecosystem. But the necessary changes are not being made – or not fast enough. How might we help design education focus more urgently on the transition to sustainable One Planet Living? Jody Bohnert conceived and produced 2012 Imperative Teach-In as “a massive social learning project” – based on the example of a similar teach-in, held in 2007 at the New York Academy of Science, that reached a quarter of a million people from 47 countries. The idea was to embed ecological literacy in design education by 2012 – to help students, faculty and staff re-frame design in the context of resource depletion, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. Doors of Perception contributed a speaker and promotional support to the event.

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Do we need any more things?

Well, it’s a question. All objects use resources, and have consequences. It’s one of the topics i touched on during my lecture at the LIFT conference in Marseille last week.

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Urban farming: the new dot com?

In September a new event called Agriculture 2.0 will introduce a select group of alternative agriculture entrepreneurs to investors. SPIN-Farming LLC, together with NewSeed Advisors will co-host Agriculture 2.0 in New York.
Roxanne Christensen, co-author of the SPIN-Farming online learning series, says a wave of innovators is developing profitable models for sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture. These new entrepreneurs are developing breakthrough technologies, approaches and business models that, she says, “can help create a post-industrial food system that is less resource intensive, more locally-based, and easier to monitor and control”.
When I first wrote about SPIN-Farming here last July, I was intrigued by the idea of a franchise-ready sustainable farming system that could be deployed quickly and on a wide scale. (That is the concept behind SPIN Farming; it stands for S-mall P-lot IN-tensive).

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