About John Thackara

John Thackara is a writer, advisor and bioregional designer. He curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference for 20 years – first in Amsterdam, later across India – and was commissioner of the UK social innovation biennial Dott 07 and the French design biennial City Eco Lab. Since 2011, Thackara has curated place-based xskool workshops in 20 countries on the theme: Pathways to sustainability: Urban-Rural Reconnection. He studied philosophy before working for ten years as a book publisher and magazine editor. He was the first director (1993 —99) of the Netherlands Design Institute. Today, he is a senior fellow at the Royal College of Art; adjunct professor at Tongji University in Shanghai; visiting professor at School of Visual Arts in New York, and at Pontio Innovation in Wales; and curator of the Social Food Forum. His most recent book – How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today – has just been published in China.

Bioregioning: Pathways to Urban-Rural Reconnection

My 6k words paper for She Ji. Keywords: Bioregion | Urban-rural reconnection | Civic ecology | Social infrastructure | Smart villages | System change | Knowledge ecologies

2022-10-04T10:10:09+00:00April 13th, 2019|urban-rural|

Social Food Forum: the takeaways

Social food projects re-make relationships between people, food and place | They reconnect urban and rural | As a medium of hospitality, they create solidarity and mutual understanding | They diversify income for farmers | They enhance the health and well-being of socially-isolated people | They can increase biodiversity ...

2022-10-04T10:10:09+00:00March 23rd, 2019|commoning, food systems|

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 [continue …]

2022-10-04T10:10:09+00:00October 31st, 2018|development, knowing, most read, urban-rural|

From Neighbourhood To Bioregion: The City as a Living System

The Greek physician Hippocrates described the effects of “airs, waters, and places” on the health of individuals and communities. 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. (Chapter for a new Cite du Design book)

2022-10-04T10:10:09+00:00October 24th, 2018|food systems, newsletter, urban-rural|

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

Most of the component parts for ultra-light mobility ecosystems are on the table - from cargo bikes, to sharing platforms. But how to make them work together as a city-compatible system? My advice to city managers: First, visit India and marvel at the richness of bike-based commerce. Second, go to Indonesia and marvel at the range of services available on the Go-Jek platform. Next - well, read on

2022-10-04T10:10:10+00:00August 29th, 2018|moving|

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

What is the a co-op grains movement, and how does it work? In this case, sixty citizens have each invested in a farmer's field for a year. Together with the farmer, they decided what to grow, how to grow it and what happens with the crop. It's a shared farming experience that supports farmers financially, and emotionally, and connects city people to what it takes to grow food.

2023-04-18T07:32:19+00:00May 25th, 2018|food systems|

Welsh Chapels and Coworking

The 6,426 chapels in Wales were once the heart of community life in remote communities. These 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.

2023-04-18T07:32:18+00:00May 18th, 2018|development|

Connected Botanic Garden

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 National Parks are looking for new ways to engage citizens as active participants, not just as paying visitors. These new relationships need to be designed, enabled and supported.

2023-04-28T10:52:52+00:00May 18th, 2018|knowing|

Social Farming

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 designed....

2023-04-18T07:32:14+00:00May 14th, 2018|food systems|

Coders in the Countryside

Soil health, human health, microbiomes, biodiversity, the climate - they all are connected. Digital tools can help us perceive the living world - and care for it - in new ways. Design be transformative where citizen science, and digital craft, converge.

2023-04-18T07:32:10+00:00May 8th, 2018|urban-rural|

Arborists Arising: From Tree Care to Tree Camping

Hundreds of cities around the world are planting trees. But planting trees is just the start. A wide variety of activities and equipment - and a lot of knowledge-sharing - are involved in the management of tree popultions. Trees have to be climbed, pruned, inspected, and surveyed. All this involves equipment and services - most of which still need to be designed.

2023-04-28T10:53:37+00:00May 7th, 2018|care, nature-connection|

Beyond Adventure

Founded in 1941, Outward Bound began as a school on the coast of Wales that trained seamen for the harsh life of working at sea. The model expanded to include outdoor, adventure-based, programs. Could Outward Bound be reinvented today as an urban-rural co-operation platform for today?

2023-04-18T07:32:07+00:00May 7th, 2018|urban-rural|

Field-to-Face: Beauty in Biorefining

The elements of a thriving bio-economy exist in Wales - but they are disconnected. The country’s uplands, for example, are filled with grasses, and colourful wild flowers. One project scenario could be a product-service platform that links biorefining and beauty treatments.

2023-04-18T07:32:05+00:00May 7th, 2018|urban-rural|

Wellness In A Regional Context: New Masters Course

Wellbeing is intimately linked to connection - to other people, but also to place, and the living systems that inhabit it. Relational design creates those connections (I helped design this Masters in Relational Design course for Bangor University; at this time - September 2022 - it has not been re-started since Covid).

2023-04-18T07:32:22+00:00April 28th, 2018|care|

When Value Arises From Relationships, Not From Things

I’ve come to an inconvenient conclusion: production is not the purpose of life. I say inconvenient because many of us depend on industrial production to meet our daily life needs. But the perpetual search for new forms of production - whether ‘clean’, ‘green’ or ‘circular’ - is not where our future lies. (Interview with Valentina Croci of Domus Magazine)

2022-10-04T10:10:12+00:00March 8th, 2018|earth repair, food systems, nature-connection|

Connecting the “what is?” with the “what if?”

“The future will be all about cities” – say people who live in cities. Endlessly. Our xskools, in contrast, are about reconnecting with rural communities and looking, together, for ways ways to unlock value. Here is an invitation to check out our updated xskool page.

2022-10-10T12:58:34+00:00December 8th, 2017|urban-rural|

Is Peak Car Headed for Seneca’s Cliff?

Two hundred people per second now climb onto a dockless bike somewhere in China. The bigger story? We may have reached a peak-car tipping point - a moment of system transformation - that's been slowly 'brewing' for a very long time. (This text follows my keynote at Seoul Smart Mobility International Conference).

2022-10-04T10:10:13+00:00October 23rd, 2017|moving|

From Gut to Gaia: The Internet of Things and Earth Repair

On a recent visit to @IAAC in Barcelona, I was charmed by their Smart Citizen platform. It enables citizens to monitor levels of air or noise pollution around their home or business. This innovation is impressive - but it leaves a difficult question unanswered: Under what circumstances will possession of this data contribute to the system transformation that we so urgently need?

2023-04-21T16:33:29+00:00October 21st, 2017|civic ecology, earth repair|

john chris jones at 90

I’ve been re-reading "the internet and everyone" by john chris jones. I’ve been astonished once again by the sensibility of an artist-writer-designer whose philosophy – indeed his whole life - first inspired me when I was a young magazine editor more than 30 years ago. Like another muse of mine, Ivan Illich, John Chris Jones was decades ahead of his time.

2022-10-04T10:10:14+00:00September 18th, 2017|knowing|

Back To The Land: Design Agenda For Bioregions

To effect the system change we yearn for, we need a shared purpose that diverse groups people can relate to, and support, whatever their other differences. My candidate for that connective idea is the bioregion. A bioregion re-connects us with living systems, and each other, through the places where we live. It acknowledges that we live among watersheds, foodsheds, fibersheds, and food systems – not just in cities, towns, or ‘the countryside’.

2022-10-10T12:59:02+00:00May 29th, 2017|urban-rural|

Earth Repair In Your Bioregion: Short Course at @SchumacherColl

Ecological restoration adds new kinds of value to planning and design. On this short course, I introduce you to projects, framed by their bioregion, in urban, peri-urban and rural contexts: regenerative agriculture; civic ecology; green infrastructure; river recovery; wetlands restoration; blue-green corridors; pollinator pathways; urban forests; and the use of plants to restore polluted soil

2022-10-04T10:10:15+00:00April 8th, 2017|urban-rural|

Signals of Transformation and How to Read Them

The design priority now is to foster better and richer connections between people, places and living systems - to reawaken a joyful sense of being at home in the natural world. This is where art and storytelling come in. (Interview with Sarah Dorkenwald for her book Visionen Gestalten).

2022-10-04T10:10:15+00:00February 28th, 2017|knowing|

Making as Reconnecting: Crafts In The Next Economy

The 'gig economy' and the 'precariat' may be uncomfortable novelties for people in the North - but for eighty percent of the world's population they are the old normal. As welfare and solidarity innovators, we have much to learn from different times as well as from different places. (An an edited version of my keynote to the Craft Reveals conference, Chiang Mai, 2016)

2022-10-12T15:25:56+00:00February 27th, 2017|development|

Manifesto For Utopias Are Over: Cities Are Living Systems

I was asked to write a provocation for DAMN magazine in Italy.

1         Change and innovation are no longer about finely crafted ‘visions’ of some future place and time. Positive change happens when people reconnect – with each other, and with the biosphere – in rich, real-world, [continue …]

2022-10-08T16:07:22+00:00September 19th, 2016|most read, urban-rural|

No organism is truly autonomous – including us

An interview with Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, the editor and publisher of STIR magazine.
Current and back issues of the magazine are available in the online shop

Jonny Gordon-Farleigh: Your new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy, explores practical innovations in [continue …]

2023-04-21T16:16:47+00:00March 26th, 2016|most read, urban-rural|
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