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Webinar: live or replay Investing in Farmers, experiences from India

Invitation to Webinar!

Details

Date: 18 April 2018
Time: 18:00 -19:00  CET
Host: Invest in Peace http://investinpeace.tssef.se
Theme:  Where climate-friendly farmers need investment
Objectives: To hear progress from India involving some 20,000 farmers with achieving climate and friendly food production – bringing functioning soils, carbon mitigation and food security
Register: Follow this link Read More…

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Speaking engagement: The Future

I will be talking about how we need to love phosphorus and nitrogen in new ways.

See the latest video film offering here!

EXPLAINER: capital, sustainable development and peace

As world population expands, and the demand for a better standard of living drives the world economy, it is becoming clearer to many that using up the world’s resources will actually put us at risk of ending up with a lower standard of living. It could even drive conflicts. Insecurity and lack of the capability to produce the basics are likely to fan the flames of conflict and undermine peace in the world. We urgently need a new mindset – one that focusses on bringing security of the basics to everyone whilst preserving and indeed increasing the capability of society to provide.

Part of this new mindset requires us to rethink capital. This article breaks down the importance of capital to society, and how the economy should manage capital if we are to transition to a sustainable and peaceful future. Read More…

Towards a pattern language for a new economy

Maybe it is just a sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you think of the global economy, or maybe you have delved into the depths of economic thinking. Either way we are not alone if you are concerned that the great human invention – money – is dysfunctional. Many are commenting on how our economic system – often called capitalism although that is hard to define exactly what it is – is coming apart. The comments are coming from the direction of Marxists, conventional economists, free thinkers and even the World Economic Forum.

In other words, the way we use money is not fulfilling the purpose of distributing wealth, ensuring the basic for survival, or driving stewardship of land and minerals.

People have started taken action. Although in their infancy, alternatives abound, including the REconomy movement – a branch of the Transition Towns movement that seeks to help create social, resilient enterprises based on local conditions. REconomy is very much a grass-roots movement. Those involved in REconomy locally have very little time for coordinating with others, sharing knowledge or engaging in EU-funded large projects. Making something happen on a local basis takes a lot of effort. Despite the initial enthusiasm you can whip up initially, it is a long, hard slog to get your high-street, if you  are lucky enough even to have one (most are gone in Sweden), free of the domination of global brand chains. Indeed its hard enough just to get a local bakery started.

But it IS working. In several places the REconomy movement has increased the number of jobs in local firms, seen businesses be more sustainable and helped foster a sense of community,

The REconomy movement doesn’t have to start its own brand chain. Like many other movements it sees itself as a community of practice (COP). A community of practice is a network of practitioners helping each other get on with their practice, or business. A community of practice does not have to have its own organisation, rules, by-laws, membership fees, shareholders, stakeholders or the like. Just people sharing experiences. It COULD have some or all of that – if it helped – of course. You can commercialize a community of practice. Do that in a fair way and you get a platform co-operative.

A shared language of patterns

One thing that helps communities of practice is to develop a shared language. Terms appear that only practitioners understand the real meaning of – like names of tools used by people pursuing the same craft. But how do you share experience? The answer came from Christopher Alexander who put forward a ‘pattern language’ approach. He believed – and proved it – that you can describe something in a way that others pursuing your craft can follow. They can at least get started, copy what you describe and learn from experience from there.

As Alexander says: “no pattern is an isolated entity.  Each pattern can exist in the world, only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns within which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it.  This is a fundamental view of the world.  It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it”.

We need to name the patterns in operation. And evaluate them

This is huge. As Peter Senge pointed out in his book the Fifth Discipline, we all go around with patterns in our heads of “good ways to get stuff done” without even knowing. For practitioners of a craft, as their surrounding context changes, for them to change with it they need to be aware of the pattern (or paradigm) they are applying and question whether it will take them into the new context.

This is REconomy : Bringing to the surface the patterns that are hidden but operating, putting them together with the new context, questioning their fitness for purpose and developing new ones.

What follows is a first attempt to create a pattern for how to describe an emerging pattern for REconomy , based on experience.

 

  • What is the underlying economic paradigm that is working, hidden.
  • What is the context that it is operating in.
  • Explain how the paradigm is unfit for purpose.
  • Summarize the problem or challenge that the REconomy pattern you have discovered will address. you can use question form like “how can we increase employment in locally-owned companies?”
  • Explain what this new pattern will do, how it will help
  • Give your explanation as succinctly as possible with enough detail that it can be tried elsewhere.
  • Include: number of people, the time-frame, the geographical reach and resources needed.
  • Explain how your pattern addresses the initial challenge
  • Provide additional information including other patterns this pattern works with, reference links and next steps to move forward.

More reading

Very useful in this context is to understand the two loops theory of system change. We are in a dying system and a new one is emerging.

 

Footnote: you might be asking for an example of the way this pattern language could work in practice. If you revisit the article you will see it is written using my proposed structure. Still needs work but a start at least!

 

 

 

EXPLAINER: The funnel concept of reduced available resources

The funnel concept, introduced by Karl-Henrik Robert  Founder of the Swedish Natural Step, explains how increasing pressure on resources reduces the options of future generations to maintain a standard of living. Stress like that on populations  radically increases conflict and undermines peaceful societies. In the diagram below,  the width of the funnel represents the opportunities to continue society’s per capita resource usage. The depth of the funnel represents time. Read More…

Opinion: rethink “technology” to save the planet

Photo: Maj-Lis Koivisto

What we call “technology” is actually a narrow  description of a practice including mechanics, electronics and computer science. This confusion is hampering human development, especially when the expectation is on not developing financial and social technology but demanding mechanical solutions when simple agreements could suffice. Modern technology is failing, we are not addressing the challenges in front of us. Our very use of language in this case is holding us back and preventing us from thinking clearly.

What is sustainable technology? Can technology development drive sustainability? I argue that more clarity around what we mean by technology and sustainability would be helpful  – let me attempt to break it down.

What we actually mean by technology – test yourself

To illustrate what I mean, let us first conduct a thought experiment. We go to the University round the corner, the leading institute of technology, and ask the brightest students to produce the most sustainable way of keeping people out of property they can think of.

Now many would imagine, and I am sure they would be right, that these students would diligently pursue their task. Perhaps they would look into the definition of sustainable and maybe come across the work of the Natural Step, talking about the system conditions, and their connection with cradle to cradle. Sustainable would mean that minerals, technical nutrients, once extracted would cycle continuously around in society. Once part of a finished product, then reclaimed and put into raw material to wait for the next manufacture. Never would these minerals return into the biosphere. Nor would they return to the Earth as that would mean a waste of the energy required to extract them in the first place. Following system conditions and cradle to cradle they would maybe design the lock of materials that could be recycled easily to more locks or other products. They would design it so it meant the minimum of emergy or embedded energy (from fossil fuels) in it; this would reduce its footprint.

And it would be designed to need the minimum of energy over its lifetime. Of course, it would be interesting to consider the economic potential of this the new technology although this was not given in the assignment. It could be that this new technology has some advantages over existing locks – for example they have minimum materials in them and do not need a key – or they are cheaper or they are stronger. If the new design has an economical advantages maybe the students could set up a start-up to market and sell their new invention.

Let us, then, imagine the description of their invention. Perhaps you have one of your own.

This device is mounted on doors. It is highly sustainable as it is made of recyclable materials has a low footprint from manufacture, low maintenance costs, and does not emit toxins to the environment. It prevents people passing the door, and only lets through people who the owner of the building wants to enter.

But I digress: the purpose of this exercise is to explore sustainable technology. I hope you have written down YOUR idea. Let’s try a new tack. What do we want a lock for – is it to keep some people out and let others in? Maybe a sort of compromise between having the strength of a wall but the convenience of having a door to open. Privacy, as well, and a feeling of security. If someone wants to get into a locked door they can always break it down. But that creates a sound. There is something about the lock that is hard enough to stop people but easy enough to let people in that should come in. And then a lock can always be picked as we see in police shows on TV.
I was thinking that the lock is a recent invention. Aboriginal tribes do not have them, so how do they achieve security and privacy etc? I suppose a lot of it is about trust. Maybe they put up a symbol for who can enter and who cannot – or they just agree among themselves? So why not consider, instead of a mechanical device, replacing it with a whole load of trust, social signals, communication and agreements?

This device consists of only a few atoms, uses no energy in manufacture or use, its purpose is to ensure that only people who the owner wants enters a certain designated, defined space. It is highly flexible and can be applied to large spaces and small one.

You might want to look back at your own description of your invention at this point.

Now, is this that we are replacing the physical locks with technology? This depends how you define technology. If you define it as inventions to solve a problem, then social inventions like agreements are technology too.

Agreements are technology

But don’t you find this line of inquiry uncomfortable? Is there is something inherently wrong with calling innovations that do not require physical things technology?

Not really – many definitions of technology encompass applying what you have and what you know to what you want to do. You want to keep people out of a certain area? You go and talk to them and create an agreement.
So the first point I would like to bring out is that when discussing sustainable technology

the sensible approach is to regard technology as a capability and body of knowledge that can be applied practically.

This means all kinds of application in engineering, but also social and financial innovations should be termed “technology”.

Somewhere along the line we bought into the mindset that the best approach to solving a need was to create a mechanical-based solution.   This is so ingrained that at our University of technology you will probably find that they are studying engineering – and mathematics and computer science. The social side – designing agreements – is almost completely left out.

The second point is that we cannot expect “technology” to solve a problem if we apply conditions that are too narrow. This is not an easy point to get. By conditions that are too narrow we can mean things like requiring the invention of technology to drive sustainable development when we at the same time require that it function within a certain financial system, be a mechanical device and make money. You are rather widening the requirements and narrowing the opportunities.

One conclusion you can draw from this is that when someone says “technology will drive sustainable development” they are probably, without considering it, thinking that it is possible to solve the problem and keep most of the causes of the problem in the requirement.

I believe that we confuse thinking about sustainability by coming from the point of view where we have a high financial capital – that is to say we take for granted there is money to purchase mechanical solutions. On the other hand, we assume there is a low social or trust capital. If we had a high trust capital we would need fewer mechanical solutions. Yet – and I do it too – we reach for a high finance low trust solution to start with.

Reflection on  the lock exercise highlights that a high trust – low mechanical physical solution removes the need for work. If work is reduced, economic activity is reduced and the basis of our prosperity is removed given we keep the financial system that requires monetarism.

The third point touches on the second. If you want the economy to drive the introduction of sustainability, then if perfectly good ideas have to be thrown away because they are not viable in the economic context, then it is the economic technology that is at fault, not the technology itself.
Technology is not restricted to mechanical devices. Technology is not restricted to computer software. If you want to restrict the concept of technology to machines then you need to develop a new term for the application of knowledge.

Fourthly, this example uncovers another concept that is confused. – that of work. Work in purely physics terms – put simply – is to move something. For a book resting on a table no work is done, but if the table rises then work is done to change the position of the book.

You could say that WORK is to bring a change in an object.

This can even be applied to the work of changing the state of information. Some experts have said that information is a change in uncertainty. If you have more information after a change of data then you are less uncertain.

This has a neat parallel with the idea of doing work from an economic sense: if you done something that has created a change in an economic relationship (for example written something) then economic work is a change in what is owed to you. After the work is done you are owed more than when you started.

This brings us to another way to look at technology. If technology is an invention to solve a problem then work is the application of an invention to solve a problem. But not only inventions are used to solve a problem, but real resources this could be energy like muscle power and fossil fuel but biological resource like wood and mineral resources like iron.

We even have a term for these resources: capital. Human capital, financial capital, natural capital. Technology is part of social and human capital. An increase in inventions is an increase in capital.

This is where sustainability comes in: Sustainable implies the capability to continue. Applying technology to solve a problem in a sustainable way implies that capital is not depleted.

So sustainable technology is the invention of how to apply resources to solve problems in a way that retains capital. Work is the application of that technology to solve the challenge. If a solution depletes natural capital but increases financial capital then it can hardly be seen as being sustainable.

The trouble is, no accounting technology has been developed to measure the capital depletion of natural systems and minerals whilst comparing with financial capital. This is a serious flaw in modern-day accounting, and addressed in other articles on this site.

One attempt to remedy this has been proposed by the economist Anders Höglund, with his proposal for floating emission charges connected to phase out goals with the revenue diverted back into the economy via a citizens’ refund. Basically, the principle is that all depletion of natural capital is not allowed. A certain period of time is given to market actors to cease depletion. If the rate of reduction is in line with targets, nothing happens, but if it is less, the emission charge is raised. And it is raised until the rate of change is reached. This is a kind of price discovery mechanism: the price of pollution – natural capital depletion- is the cost of not polluting.

I suggest that the lock exercise shows us something more: that when we discuss technology we omit to define the problem technology shall solve on a broader basis. If the technology we have today should be judged in broader terms we could argue that it is doing a poor job: one sixth of the world are undernourished, access to clean water is limited to more than a billion people, poverty is widespread and so is war.

We have to leave mechanical thinking

If we are to progress with creating the sustainable society all forms of technology, especially financial but even social, need to be developed rapidly. Maybe it is as simple as applying the ancient technology of kindness. Maybe we need more technology of equality. This is not the time to stand still in old thinking hung up on mechanical devices. We need to move forward. We need more trust and more zero-atom technology!

Read More…

A place where people earn money helping others recharge

At the Transition Town Hubs gathering in Santorso, Italy we were given a task to do on our own: How can we recharge together? I lay down in the green grass in the park, put my tape recorder on and did an imagestream.

Imagestreaming; You just describe and dictate what you see.  

The idea of imagestreaming is you give yourself an assignment to visit a place that has already solved the problem. You just describe and dictate what you see. The first thing you do is frame the assignment.  I normally start the tape recorder to do that so I capture everything. Here is the tapescript. Edited for clarity.

The assignment is to take me to a place which has a culture of personal recharging and a culture of recharging together. The place I want to visit is an industrial capitalist and consumer society.The first thing I see is a lift in front of me with RECHARGÉ  written on it.

I get into the lift, notice it is covered with kids’ pictures. I press the button, I ascend and the doors open onto a  bridge over to an old town, like a French town. The sun is shining, a market is going on selling all kinds of stuff.

Rechargé is a planned event that takes place on market days.

I ask around about how people recharge. It has to do with the market. Rechargé is a planned event that takes place on market days. Beyond the market it looks like a fete or party is going on. I see a sign “RECHARGÉ ” and times for various activities.

People are sitting in a circle on the grass in the park- I sit next to them. Inside the circle people are moving together, unscripted, like some kind of movement choir, like a game. Anyone can join at any point  – anyone can give up at any point.

I watch the choir move. It’s very funny. You have to forget yourself to get into it. It requires people stepping aside, falling over, doing silly stuff. Like an amoeba, people stick out here and there. People seem to know the rules.

I go and “borrow the eyes” of one of the participants’ so I can, in my imagestream, see what they are seeing and feel what they are feeling.They move fast; you have to concentrate and be really aware… you cannot think, you need to be right there. All in a fun spirit. All in silence. People are sitting watching. You need to be in the front row if you want to join in, I realise. So it seems there there are quite strict rules.

On market day, there are “new games” offered throughout the day, including this movement choir. These are subsidized by local businesses. It is good for business. These new games are non-competitive and run by paid facilitators belonging to the RECHARGÉ commons. (More on that later)

You recharge by taking yourself out of a situation and put yourself where you have to relax and get out of your head.

This one, the movement choir, is for adults, kids can watch but there is other stuff for kids.

The day is a designated PLAY DAY that means the kids lead the play, telling their parents what should happen.  It seems to be a great way to hang out with your kids, being in the play space with them and other adults, parents, with all kinds of activities going on.

I sense there is a facilitator here,

“Explain it to me,”I ask him.

“You recharge by taking yourself out of a situation and put yourself where you have to relax and get out of your head. Doing games that you have to relax to do. With the kids outside in the fresh air, lots to do, lots of other kids and the pressure is off you can relax in a safe space with the children knowing they are happy and you are together with them.”

Then there is the healing garden.  That is another kind of space available during Rechargé and even at other times.

I get it. There is a part of the town given over to Rechargé on market days although some things are permanent. It’s a place you know you can always go to. The healing garden offers smoothies, made from what is grown there,  you can shoot yourself full of vitamins: I take one, sipping at it as I go looking around more.

This part of the town has created a name for itself as the the Rechargé quarter. With the green and the garden it offers space, a culture of revitalization, new games without stress – a place to be with your children and friends. And always a place you can go back to for more.

Rechargé is a brand run as a commons

It is highly lucrative too…  they have built up their reputation and attract many people at the same time so it can be done effectively. All the facilitators, massage therapists, personal trainers etc earn good money.

From a business perspective, Rechargé is treated as a commons.  All the local actors own the concept. Like a brand. Combinations are important; the more diverse the things that they offer the stickier the place is that keeps people coming back. That the place is easy to get to is important. It is like a day trip place for outings, especially weekends. It serves the county. And the more people who come, the more people come back. The place has a brand which for each commons member means it si much more effective to share resources like marketing, PR, offices, etc.

A cooperative owns the brand and works with marketing, you  as a Rechargé supplier buy their services.

The facilitator team are good at what they do and they have practices in the town. There are special theme days as well, a bit like a fairground!

In the winter they have less. Maybe they will develop it, like with winter break services. There are plenty of long walking footpath routes already so rechargé even acts as a starting point and can sell bed and breakfast nights on the top of it.

My Analysis:

I am surprised in a good way about the business model. Often, play and games are not good jobs. Combine it with market day and you get a win-win. Parents can shop and kids can play and facilitators can earn.

The shared brand is kind of new to me but I am sure it could work.

FIND OUT MORE

About imagestreaming

About how to learn imagestreaming

 

You might like the idea of a Center of Wellbeing…. from an earlier imagestream.

 

 

What happens when you envision a sustainable city?

Cross-section of the sustainable city concept

A long time ago – maybe around 2003 – I gave myself the task of envisioning what a sustainable place might look like. Instead of using conventional invention techniques I chose to use Imagestreaming. Imagestreaming is an instant-answer method that was invented by educationalist Wim Wenger based on his studies of past geniuses. Read More…

5 P WORKSHOPS: exploring potential for local economy, markets and enterprises

Recruiting to local enterprises

“Shopping”

Economic progress has been uneven to say the least. People and the environment are still experiencing stresses even in countries with higher living standards. Could re-focussing the local economy be part of the answer? A regenerative local economy includes all citizens, recirculates money to ensure thriving local businesses and it works to ensure a sustainable use of resources.

But there is a lot to learn. You could organise presentations and lectures from experts. Another way to explore the potential of revitalizing the local economy is to simply simulate the experience to see how far a group of people can come. Read More…

New guides to the circular economy available

Understanding the circular economy needs you to have a grounding in physics, biology, economics supply chain and several other disciplines.

To help you apply circular economy thinking in your work we have developed a series of guides, presentations, videos and workshops that gives you the essentials without having to study these disciplines.

For example:

A GUIDE TO THE ESSENTIALS OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

First presented at the Caux Foundation conference on Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy (TIGE), a 40-minute overview of the absolute essentials explains:

  • Two main cycles – and the absolutely essential crossover points that should always be monitored.
  • Three  elements of the circular economy, their cycles, their essential differences and why understanding them will help you grasp circularity.
  • Four spheres, their interaction points essential to pinpoint in all supply chain and economic activity.

Read more here.