Futurescapes bought together a range of expert thinkers, designers, futurologists, writers and the public to explore the opportunities and challenges of life in 2025 and to consider the potential contribution that technology and entertainment could make in shaping a better, more sustainable future.
It was a fun experience, we met some good folk and massive props to Sony and Forum for creating the dialogue and collaboration on this. Really positive seeing big business opening up to uncertainty and disruption and seeing collaboration with diverse networks as key.
Anyway we hatched a concept coined ‘HyperVillage’ with some of the team and developed it a little further.
The HyperVillage is an idea, a vison of what could be, an alternative to the emerging mega-cities, seen by many as the most sustainable future way of living for humans.
But we’re asking the question, what about rural and remote communities?
HyperVillage is about imagining a thriving, self-reliant, yet connected rural community – in the developing, or developed world. A place well stocked with software and hardware, connecting up individual homes and people as well as community hubs like the pub, but also mindful of the wonders and creativity of wildness, a place which encourages a hybrid way of life – hi tech hi nature.
In this context technology and hyper networks could create stronger links with nature and enhance the ability of rural communities to live more sustainably. For example technology can be applied to improve stewardship of natural resources, more collaboration around transportation, renewable energy independence, as well as open up distributed market places to local business and connect virtual classrooms.
HyperVillage is about exploring ways to create more equity between rural and urban communities in the pursuit of a more sustainable future. It’s about realising the enormous value in remote and rural areas, not just for the communities that live there, but for urban communities as well. This is beyond just physical experiences and materials; it’s also about the transfer and sharing of knowledge and intelligence.
We’re hoping we can now bring a collaborative group together, who share the curiosity in the concept and a willingness to innovate through doing. We’re seeking willing rural communities and some partner organisations to prototype and develop a ‘Hyper Village’, to experiment and learn together around real human and nature needs.
If that sounds interesting to you, please do get in touch.
As a dad of three young kids, any warm weather means park time. My children are a bit older now so once in a while I get to sit back and take in the view. Aside from the bonkers parkourists doing back flips off benches, the main thing I have noticed is ads. Big billboards leer in between the trees around our local London park. One is flogging beer and another one is for a mobile network. I have never paid them much attention, but now my kids have started asking me about these and other ads I have started taking more notice.
When you look you see tons. Everywhere you go in London there are ads. Banksy is right when he says that no one ever asked our permission to load our common spaces with sales messages. I don’t like my sons asking me what Yoda is saying on the big red board outside our house and I don’t like the fact that my daughter is being exposed to the same tired old beauty messages day after day. Ads are way too dominant in our cities. It’s not just here, in Rome they have even been cutting down ancient trees to squeeze in more billboards.
It doesn’t need to be this way. There are cities out there where ads do not straddle every vista. Sao-Paolo has been pretty much billboard ad free for 5 years. The mayor banned them because he said they constitute visual pollution. Check out these photos and you can feel how much more peaceful spaces feel when the ads and signs are removed.
I would like more spaces in London with no ads. Not just parks, but in the built environment too. So come on Ken and Boris whichever one of you gets in next time round, do something useful and clear some ads off our streets.
It might freak the ad people out a bit, but in the long run it would be good for them. Without the billboard barrage to rely on the brands might be up for doing something more meaningful and useful to engage people instead.
© Image Urban Screens
When I first met Tom and Tom back in early summer 2010, one of the things we did together was explore more deeply the stuff that was really troubling us in the world. And in the work we’d been doing in 15 years of our careers working across brand and business innovation, design and communications.
Personally I’d emerged from nearly three years working with Nokia on sustainability engagement and communications and was a year into a life changing and awesome Masters program in Sustainability and Responsibility.
A powerful program which exposed me to the darkside of humanity, business and consumption and demonstrated how the current operating system that we’ve created over the last couple of hundred years is the wrong one to take us into the future.
We were asking ourselves a lot of difficult questions. We still are.
We mashed up a film to try and express some of the tensions, fears and challenges of our time – it’s quite heavy, because it is what it is.
The uncomfortable truth.
We believe it’s critical to really understand that and to accept it in order to move on. To re-imagine and try to create a new, better and more resilient future.
We called this film SHOCK. 18 months on it feels more relevant than ever. So here it is again.
It’s one thing to reflect on this but what about the response, where’s the action?
What does a new operating system look like?
Well the bit we’re focused on is innovation at the messy intersection of business, brands, community, society and ecology.
Because it’s all part of the challenge and the solution – the interconnectedness of everything.
It’s what we call innovation with purpose.
Innovation with purpose happens when doing the same thing you’ve always done just doesn’t feel right anymore.
When your heart says enough of this.
Innovation with purpose happens when you’re truly open and honest – when you start to say and do what you really feel in your gut.
Even though that may feel quite uncomfortable to start with.
For a business, Innovation with purpose happens when it openly accepts impossible resource constraints, unacceptable waste, and the unsustainable negative impacts of ‘doing business’ as usual. Like InterfaceFlor have.
It happens when a Business starts to consider and explore the massive inequalities in the societies and markets in which it plays. Like Who Made Your Pants do.
It happens when it acknowledges what it takes from nature to function everyday and doesn’t put back. Like Puma are.
When it accepts that landfill is full.
When it realises that deeper meaning and purpose beyond profit and growth at all costs will inspire a committed and innovative workforce like nothing else. Like Seventh Generation have.
When you have the space, freedom and safety to bring your whole self to work.
Innovation with purpose should begin by asking the question ‘what’s the role of a 21st century business?’
We’re passionate about business that has a social and environmental agenda alongside a commercial agenda, that seeks to solve environmental and social problems as well as making a profit. Like Finisterre.
Business that strives to create shared and distributed value – value for customers, communities, all employees and the biosphere that its everyday existence depends upon. Like Grameen and Danone.
Business that reaches out and collaborates with the grassroots communities and the social innovators, where networks for profit collide with networks for purpose and new hybrid products, services and enterprise emerge.
Ideas which use all the great things about business: scale, reach, speed, intelligence, organisation and creativity.
Ideas that start to hack a new operating system
One which nurtures fairer, resilient, more diverse, more creative, healthier and happier societies and economies.
Innovation with purpose is a lot of fun too.
This mash-up is called AWE. It’s some of the ideas, people and stuff that we felt and still feel inspired by and expresses parts of what this new type of business and operating system is about.
So grab a cuppa, stick your headphones on and have a watch.
We’d love to start a conversation on all this, so please do let us know your thoughts and reflections.
I’ve just been in the mountains.
Every morning I’d look out of the window to see what the weather was doing.
Very occasionally I’d know it would be a good day.
But most of the time it would change. Very quickly.
Making planning almost impossible.
2012 will probably be a bit like that…
Patches of uncertainty, turbulence and disruption.
Interspersed with flashes of hope, progress and opportunity.
So instead of writing detailed business plans, loaded with assumptions.
We set out 10 big things we’d like to do in the year.
Making our goals public.
Open to everyone.
Just in case you can help, or would like to get involved
We’ll definitely report back on how we get on.
So, without any further blah, here’s what we’re having a crack at this year…..
1. Set up more ‘speriments that link up the big and small
Bring an experimental approach connecting up big organisations and small social innovators making small bets and learning by doing
2. Do more ‘nature’
Establish an imaginative and meaningful way to ‘get’ nature into our work with organisations as both a catalyst and guide for accelerated thinking and doing
3. Take ‘Good for Something’ out of beta into action
Get 5 or more organisations to do Good for Nothing, supporting and growing the community and making GFN more financially self-sustaining
4. Expand impact of GFN community as a disruptive force for good
More people, more places (UK and maybe beyond?), more investment via development of local chapters, a fund and a toolkit for making GFN go off…
5. Build a web platform to support the Good for Nothing community
Iterate our way to making the whole GFN experience work as well online as it does in the gigs…and have a bigger impact from start to finish
6. Evolve 50/50 into an open learning platform for collaborative experimentation
Partner with a technology business to translate 50/50 into a new product and approach to build community around purposeful innovation
7. Go on some Good (Ad)Ventures
Prototype ways of taking stake and ownership in the development and growth of high potential social businesses – put our money where our mouth is…
8. Have more ‘hands in the air moments’…
Get GFN going at a festival and/or on a beach and/or at our own ‘rave’….
9. Make a tool to measure our (and other’s) impact
Balance, purpose, empathy, collaboration, action - find a smart way to track, learn about and share what’s most effective over time
10. Lean into uncertainty and discomfort
Take on missions that challenge us as individuals and as a team, pushing our comfort zones, tackling tension and learning new stuff
Here’s a photo from the mountains about 3 hours after the shot at dawn.
Isn’t it amazing when the darkest mornings turn out to be the best days?
Looking back, 2011 was really a bit bonkers wasn’t it?
For us last year was mainly about learning by doing, collaborating and experimenting…
As a small, and unperfectly formed gang living in a topsy turvy world of disruptive change, we’ve been trying to ‘lean into uncertainty’ - it’s been an exhilarating ride.
Our mission is to help others and ourselves innovate with purpose – connecting networks for profit with networks for purpose. And hopefully have a bit of a laugh doing it….
As we set our sights on 2012, we’ve looked back at the 10 things we challenged ourselves to do in 2011. Some stuff worked really well, others less so. Some stuff just didn’t happen.
Wishful thinking or optimistic idealism – whatever you call it, these challenges are becoming our version of a business plan.
So, in no particular order here’s what we got up to…
1. Do more Good for Something 8/10
We love it that we’re increasingly being asked more challenging questions. Tackling the hard stuff is about being brave enough to take leaps – so a massive thanks to everyone who’s supported and challenged us with those on our journey to date.
All of our projects have involved helping pioneering individuals and teams build deeper purpose, meaning and empathy into their organisations and brands. Highlights include missions into community energy innovation, student engagement, sustainable fashion innovation, purposeful travel and lingerie (yep!), sustainable banking and booze R&D.
Oh, and we also did our first ever Good for Something project which was ace – the first Good for Nothing gig inside an organsiation – more on that below.
2. Do more Good for Nothing 9/10
2011 was a big year for Good for Nothing.
We put on 7 ‘gigs’, supported 19 social and environmental causes, had 6 ‘socials’ which involved ale and collaboration in that order, made a newspaper and a stack of films and were chuffed that over 500 great people have got involved in the community via our online platform - Good for Noth-Ning.
We had a pop at a 4 hr gig with 50+ design students at the D&AD New Blood Festival which rocked. And buddied up with Innocent’s creative team do a a 24 hour blast of Good for Nothing for Brixton social enterprise – The Remakery. And challenged the St Bride Library Critical Tensions conference to do Good for Nothing resulting in a 4 hr gig for the Hackney Yoga Project.
Then there’s 50/50 Make or Break – a collaborative digital fundraising effort for the famine in East Africa. In the aftermath of the London riots, we put on a 2 day gig touted as a ‘Creative Love Riot’ with an emphasis on “making stuff, not breaking stuff”. Kicked off by us and the awesome team over at Made by Many, the project ended up involving hundreds of very talented people across 9 countries. Together this international network created 43 internet-based projects in 50 days (hence 50/50) to increase donations and awareness for the famine. To date 50/50 has been featured on BBC Click, Good, PSFK, Adage, AdWeek, Common/Fearless, Eye Magazine, Protein, Creativity Online, MTV, Mashable and on Mexican TV! The Chemical Brothers made a bespoke audio-visual mix as a project, and as a ‘platform’, it won a bronze Lovie award!
Oh, and it’s raised nearly £250,000 which is amazing…
3. Make something useful 6/10
We set out to create a thing that we (and anyone else) can use to innovate with purpose.
50/50 is really just a lightweight platform + payment gateway. We learnt tons about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to collaborative digital fundraising.
Next job is to package it up into a “product” to share openly with others to find lots more new uses for it…
4. Share our Manifesto for Innovation with Purpose 5/10
This is ongoing and we’ve not nailed it yet. It will never be perfect.
2011 was about building a new set of questions and practices - many of which we’re learning from our Good for Nothing and 50/50 experiences. We wrote about what’s needed and what’s possible which frames much of our work. We’ve also been capturing and developing a toolkit of stuff that works (and doesn’t) from Good for Nothing so we can get more people doing GFN in more places this year.
The thing about innovation is that we know that process sucks compared to practice. Especially when you want to do shit that matters. So, this has to be a constantly evolving toolkit which will continue to be updated and shared as we learn more and more, by doing.
5. Meet more diverse people to open up new avenues of innovation 8/10
Doing Good for Nothing and 50/50 has introduced us to so many amazing, soulful and purposeful people
We’ve started working with quite a few of them more regularly, and it’s changing how we approach our projects.
6. Move into a new basecamp 0/10
Er. A massive #fail. Must do a LOT better…
We’re feeling the need to get nomadic so if you know of any space in Central London with like-minded makers and doers and room for 4 or 5, please shout!
7. Finding porpoise 6/10
We love our friendly little porpoise – he scouts the world for the latest, neatest ideas with purpose and shares them here. He’s been pretty active this year seeking out new stuff to the tune of 37 ideas.
8. Make more movies 9/10
We’ve had a lot of fun with this…
Check out our vimeo to see the kind of stuff we’ve been making…but perhaps the best film we’ve been involved in was this launch film for 50/50 – animated by Max Brown from Hypernaked and illustrated by Loz Ives of Because Studio.
9. Link up big business with social enterprise 8/10
By luck more than design, we’ve had a go at this twice by doing Good for Nothing gigs with both Ecclesiastical and Innocent Drinks…
In the late summer, we piloted the first ‘Good for Something’ gig in partnership with Ecclesiastical – an ethical insurer who works a lot with charity and the 3rd sector. In essence, we help them to do Good for Nothing and it was pretty amazing. The film below tells the story…
10. Get out and get active 7/10
A big highlight of the year was our team trip to the Lake District to walk, talk and plot for 2012 – we’ll post those plans up next, but in the meantime here’s a little film we made of the fun and games…
I’ve been to Southern Germany quite a few times over the last couple of years. I’ve travelled to the big places like Munich and to smaller villages hidden away in the countryside. I’ve noticed the obvious things like the wealth, the organisation and the industriousness, but I have never seen it as a hotbed of social innovation. So I was surprised to read about the success of the ‘Chiemgauer‘, Bavaria’s alternative currency. How have the seemingly uber-conservative Bavarians managed to make their currency take off while the more outwardly progressive transition town folk of Brixton have seen their alternative pound stay stuck to the ground?
There are some practical reasons for the Chiemgauer’s success like its location in smaller, more clearly de-marked towns and the relative strength of the region’s town centre artisanal markets versus our chain dominated high streets and out of town hypermarkets.
But it also feels like there is something deeper going on here. The philosophies behind the approaches in Bavaria and Brixton feel markedly different. The Bavarians used innovative structures (the Chiemgauer depreciates if you don’t spend it) and existing systems (you can get a Chiemgauer debit card) to get the currency up and running fast. Put simply the Bavarians behind the Chiemgauer are hacking their currency systems rather than trying to go around them.
The lessons from Bavaria are important. We need to speed up change and we need to root our approaches as much in efficacy as in ideology. The end justifies the means.
Vorsprung durch hacking!
I’ve been out in the middle of the countryside for the last few days. I left London before the riots kicked off and it has felt very surreal and disturbing watching the unrest unfurl from afar. One of the things that has struck me as the media pick over events is that no one really knows who to blame for what has happened. This is making it hard for people to digest.
Some people have been blaming brands for what has happened. It is ‘aspirational marketing’ that is behind the culture of consumerist greed that has driven the looting frenzy. I think this is superficial. The root causes of the riots go deep into our culture and society and probably deep into every so-called ‘developed’ society in the western world. It is our culture and society that created the conditions where the only way in which a section of our community could express their angst is through the violent stealing of stuff. The rioters’ focus on brands is a symptom of the underlying problem with how we live life in the developed world, it is most definitely not the cause.
There is a sense that these have not been ‘proper riots’ because the cause is not clearly articulated and because the protagonists have not hit the streets waving placards. I think this misses the point. Even if the rioters are not articulating their issues ‘correctly’, the events still reflect an outpouring of anger and frustration that is every bit as real as the frustrations that drove the student riots we saw earlier in the year.
The ‘robber rioters’ of the past few days have real grievances even if they choose to express these grievances by nicking brands rather than waving placards. Social mobility levels are now at their lowest level in the UK since the 1930’s. The majority of those involved have very little hope of progressing in their lives whether they want to or not. Set against this backdrop is it surprising that they express themselves by stealing stuff?
It is no surprise that the words of the now famous hackney lady fell on deaf ears as the people she was shouting at just do not think the way ‘proper’ rioters do. The ‘robber rioters’ have sent the world a message in the only way they have available to them, and it is one we should heed if we have any sense.
So what should we be doing? A good place to look for clues to solutions would be the work of Manfred Max-Neef and the school of ‘Human Scale Development’. To quote Wikipedia, ‘Max-Neef and his colleagues developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their “wealths” and “poverties” according to how their fundamental human needs are satisfied’. Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that many communities across the UK exist where the current system is not supporting people’s access to these fundamental human needs. It also doesn’t take a genius to work out that creating more positive conditions for a broader swathe of society isn’t going to happen overnight. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be trying to do something positive as individuals, as communities, and also as brands and businesses.
How many of the brands being stolen by the rioters can stand up and say that the products, services and communication they make are really helping to foster and provide for people’s fundamental human needs? Max-Neef and his colleagues created a matrix to accompany the needs around the existential categories of having, being and doing. This is well worth reading in the aftermath of the riots. It highlights how much is wrong with how we are living today and pinpoints how we can start fixing things. Giving up on people is not an option, whoever they are.
Photo: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images via Creative Commons/Flickr
We met Ewan through his dad, Paul who we’ve recently worked with through our ongoing social mission Good for Nothing. Paul is the chief exec at the UK charity Mentor who do ace work in alcohol and drug protection for Britain’s young people.
Ewan is 17 and has just finished his first year of A-levels. He’s a pretty speedy runner, cyclist and tri-athlete as well as a keen snowboarder. We compared training notes and even considered going out for a run, but wisely decided that he was a bit too fast for us, and quietly backed down….
Like many of his friends, Ewan’s starting to think ahead to what’s next and what the future holds. In our first meeting of the week, with Tom Pakenham from Green Tomato, we chatted about a book called “The Jilted Generation – How Britain has bankrupted its youth”
This struck a chord with Ewan. We asked him to write a short blog post type thing – whatever he wanted, however he wanted. We were keen to get his perspective on how he and his generation are thinking about stuff….
Ewan got busy, and the results of his efforts are here in a Tumblr called Stuck in a Jilted Generation. If you want to get into his headspace, it’s worth a read – nicely put together and brought to life with different perspectives and media.
It’s clearly a pretty challenging time for Ewan and his mates….
Having recently also spent time with 50 or so young design graduates running a mini-Good for Nothing gig at the D&AD Newblood Festival, there’s clearly a huge opportunity for society to tap into this all this latent talent, desire and energy to drive positive change – creating jobs that can pay as well as do something useful and positive – to have a bit more meaning.
My favourite piece was the lyrics to the Lower than Atlantis song – I’m not Bulimic. Says it all really…
The article makes all sorts of great points about branding being about multiple small ideas, not just single big ideas and creating patterns (and coherence), rather than repetition (and consistency).
More simply, I just loved the fact that as long as you start and finish clearly, you can mess about as much as you want in the middle. There’s freedom to play!
Felt a lot like Good for Nothing to me….get the briefs up, set a deadline, create a fun space and watch the chaos, creativity and collaboration do their magic….
Being comfortable with the ‘messiness in the middle’ seems like something we could all learn to do much better – not trying to control or pre-determine the outcome but letting patterns and coherence emerge from the chaos.
It’s remarkable how often this happens – the harder you try, the tougher it gets. But relax, let your sub-conscious kick in, do something different and new patterns start to emerge. And then boom, there’s the spark of energy and the high that comes from creating that new perspective and making a unique connection.
From an innovation perspective, there’s definitely a clear pattern emerging….
It’s the lows and the highs that make projects, and indeed life, interesting.
So like addicts in search of their next fix, maybe innovators should also be looking for diverse and interesting experiences that help them to swim around in the mess for a bit? Hunting out real difference? Looking for new patterns?
Given none of us have really got a clue what’s going to happen anyway, this seems as good a way of any of figuring something out and running with it.
Why not have a go, and see where it leads you?